Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth

Title: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black
Author: E.B. Hudspeth
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Pub. Date: May 21st 2013
Source: Quirk Books

Book Description via Goodreads:

Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages—and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a grave robber, young Dr. Black studies at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from a childhood spent exhuming corpses through his medical training, his travels with carnivals, and the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story.



This book is nothing at all like I expected, and I mean that in the best possible sense. I think that The Resurrectionist is a book that all lovers of Gothic literature, the macabre, horror, and fantastical creatures will devour if they get their claws into it.

A beautiful hardcover edition, The Resurrectionist is divided into two parts. The first part reads like a text book biography of the fictional scholar Dr. Spencer Black. It narrates his unusual upbringing and how it influenced his studies as he got older and more educated. It chronicles his descent into a more bizarre lifestyle involving freak show-esque performances in travelling shows and circuses as well as his experimentation on animals and humans alike in order to piece together his theory of evolution: that the creatures we know today as myth once existed and that humans and animals breathing now are ancestors of these elegant beasts.

The first part of this book is fascinating in and of itself because it's written with such detail and precision- including dated diary entries, circus flyers, and letters of correspondence- that if I didn't know better I would swear to you that this was a well researched non-fictional account of a doctor's life. From the first few pages, when you learn that his father was a grave robber, the book continues with this really dark, creepy tone to it reminiscent of Poe. It was almost like a car crash: his life is so bizarre and almost horrifying that you hesitate to turn the page, and yet you can't quite seem to turn away either.

The second part of the book is the final research of Dr. Black: The Codex Extinct Animalia. The art in this section of this book is absolutely phenomenal. It is here that Black explains the so-called method to his madness: the evolutionary ties and the anatomical make up of fantasy creatures. From the hellhound Cerberus to harpies and centaurs, each creature is given multiple pages of medical artwork that give up close examinations of the skeletal structures, muscle make up, and other traits of the animals. It looks like a medical text book, but with mythical beings, and I absolutely loved it. So much thought, work, and effort had to go into making these illustrations. I would totally hang a few of them up in my room (then again, my room is decorated in the Goth style, so that may just be me).

This book is a quick one to read but a slow one to absorb and is filled to the brim with equal dashes of horror and fantasy. I'd really recommend it to those who enjoy the Gothic genre, historical history, fantasy, horror, or realistic fiction. Thank you so much to Quirk Books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.


  1. This is a fantastic review, I love it and it just makes me want the book even more. I'm so interested in it, especially after the recent season of American Horror Story: Freakshow.

    1. Thaaaat would have been an excellent tie in to make in this review.