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Review: The Resurrectionist – The Lost Work and Writings of Dr Spencer Black / Author: E.D. Hudspeth / Publisher: Quirk Books / Release Date: May 15th

A few years ago, there was a series of books called The Spiderwick Chronicles written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Some of you might remember them, in which case you will also remember the Spiderwick Field Guide that they released as well. We remind you of this not to suggest the book under review is some sort of spin-off but to give you a rough idea of what to expect from The Resurrectionist. Of course, it’s not a book for children (unless your children happen to be particularly interested in the macabre and the occasional exposed breasts of fictional creatures), but it does construct a fictional narrative around a guide to beings of legend.

This one happens to be the work of one Dr Spencer Black, a grave robber and anatomist in 1800s America. The book purports to be his life’s work coupled with a biography of the man himself. The biography runs to about 60 pages of the 200 page book; the rest is given over to his guide (called The Codex Extinct Animalia) to creatures that he hypothesised to exist as our evolutionary ancestors.

Now you know roughly what it’s about, how does it all come together? Let’s start with the narrative: one of the great charms of the biography is that it makes you forget that you’re reading about a fictional person. Eric Hudspeth creates a great story and weaves it around occurrences that, to the layman who can’t be bothered to look these things up, might well have happened. As Hudspeth also illustrated the book, we must praise him for that as well. The illustrations are superbly done (especially that of the dragon) and the notes that come with them make for interesting reading.

Taken individually, the constituent ingredients of the book are good but not remarkable. After all, fictional bestiaries and biographies of people who don’t exist are nothing new. However, rather appropriately when you consider the roots this tale has in books like Frankenstein, bringing them together makes them something more than the sum of their parts. Which is to say, an absolutely superb book.

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