Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

I’m not usually a fan of the grotesque or Victorian-style gothic literature, but The Monstrumologist had me hooked right from page one.

The story begins with a brief prologue—the discovery of Will Henry’s three Folios in 2008, which turn out to be an autobiography of his time spent with Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, well-known philosopher and under-the-table monstrumologist who lived in the late 1800s. After which, we dive right into the Folio itself, and begin with the night that Erasmus Gray pulls up his horse and cart to Dr. Warthrop’s house in the middle of the night. He reveals that while grave-stealing, he discovered an Anthropophagi and a dead woman, "one wrapped around the other in an obscene embrace." Dr. Warthrop discovers that inside the woman is the monster’s fetus, and explains to twelve-year-old Will Henry that these monsters require hosts to incubate their young in. This discovery leads them to begin researching the sudden appearance of Anthropophagi in America, as they are usually only native to Africa and Madagascar.

For anybody who is a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne or Mary Shelly, then this is a must-read. Dr. Warthrop's character seems patterned after Aylmer from Hawthorne’s "The Birthmark,” and for most of the book, is the definition of crazy. He’s completely obsessed with his work, has little regard for human life above scientific appreciation, and treats Will Henry like crap half the time. But he’s an intriguing character regardless and—dare I say it?—almost likable because of his eccentricities. The style of writing was almost sterile in a way—or rather, analytical—but not uninteresting in the least. It was like Will Henry was making a study out of the monstrumologist. Because of this, it was easy to trust him as a reliable narrator, as I felt like he placed enough distance between his feelings and his memories to describe what was happening with calm and level-headed perception. It’s easy to see that Ricky Yancey is well read both in science and classics, as this knowledge comes through in his descriptions. Allusions are used on almost every page to describe the gruesome setting. Yancey also does a great job at building tension. Towards the end, there were scenes where I needed to pause in the middle of reading them because I was actually nervous. Don’t think less of me because I looked around to see if I was being stalked by monsters. This is the stuff nightmares are made out of. Can somebody say future horror classic? If Stephen King read this book, he probably clapped when he finished it.

Final rating: 7/8 Tentacles