Dec 15, 2013



Lovers of the icky and depraved might want to take note of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Spencer Black, an astounding (and first) novel by New Jersey native E.B. Hudspeth. A story about an anatomist named Spencer Black who, after growing frustrated with his inability to educate the modern world about natural deformities, plummets down a rabbit hole of animal experimentation - later becoming human experimentation - in an effort to create his own brand of mutation.

Presented as a fact-based account or dossier, Hudspeth fills in the reader on Black's history, his rise to fame and infamy, his increasing madness, and his mysterious disappearance. Accompanying this narrative is a book within the book, The Codex Extinct Animalia, Dr. Black's personally penned and self-described "Gray's Anatomy" for animal mutations. Page after page features beautiful illustrations of mythical creatures of which you're already like aware: the chimera, the minotaur, and even the mermaid. Each creature has pages and pages dedicated to their anatomical breakdown, and their every layer is sketched with artistic and scientific precision: the skeletal system, the muscular system, the epidermis, and the "final" presentation.

The first part of The Resurrectionist is less than a hundred pages, but an awful lot of gruesome details and events are packed into them. It ably paints a portrait of a man suffering from madness and delusions of grandeur over a specific time period, spurred by the untimely deaths of his children and the scientific community's constant dismissal of his theories and ideas. The text is comprised of historical accounts, snippets of correspondence, "reviews" of his work by his colleagues, and cleverly vintage advertisements in support of Dr. Black's later colorful career.

I am drawn to creations such as these that skew as closely to reality as possible while still being a work of complete fiction. Likely the same reason why I'm attracted to films of the found-footage/fake documentary format, or those likely bogus ghost-hunting shows that every network seems to have these days, I want to be fooled. Occasionally I want to realize what I've been reading or watching has made me take a step back to determine if it's possibly real. Even within the text of The Resurrectionist, Dr. Black is painted as a man clearly losing his grip with reality. By the end of Part One, you're ready to see the man committed and removed from society entirely. But then when you begin Part Two - The Codex Extinct Animalia - and you see him approaching these mythical beasts with a scientific and analytical mind, and you see all the fancy Latin terminology he's using to label each and every single appendage, you can't help but think, "Shit, maybe this guy wasn't so craze-balls."

That's when you know you've got a good book open in front of you.

To reiterate in complete amazement, this is E.B. Hudspeth's first book. I can't wait for the next.


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