Friday, October 21, 2011
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2009
This is what you should be reading this October 31st.
The diary of Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with the eminent, albeit known only within certain circles, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, monstrumologist and scholar. Will's tale begins in 1888, when he is 12 years old. Dr. Warthrop has been told, secretly and in the middle of the night, of a strange and horrific creature found during a grave robbing. This monster, which he quickly identifies as an adult male Anthropophagus, is only one of a pod of the enormous, man-eating predators in the New Jerusalem area. Certain questions arise: Why are they in New England, when their natural habitat is in Africa? Why are they so many? And why have they suddenly emerged from hiding to feast on human flesh once again? Warthrop and Will must find out these answers, but they also must end this infestation before it is too late for the people of New Jerusalem.
There is a blurb on the front of this book from VOYA, which calls this novel "A cross between Mary Shelley and Stephen King." I really can't think of a better description. The horror and gore in here is so intense and ever-present, yet philosophy is threaded throughout all of this in Will's musings as he writes down his experiences years later. Morality, loyalty, duty, and inheritance are at the heart of the novel, interspersed with the action and horror.
I love that this is a framed narrative. The book begins with a modern-day author who is given the notebooks found in Will Henry's room after his death—the proprietor of the home he was staying is interested in looking for clues within the writing to the identity of the man who called himself Will and claimed to be 131 years old, born in 1876. The first narrator then shows us this first part of Will's diary, and when he is finished with that, tells us about his often fruitless research about finding more information or ways to corroborate the story within Will's notebooks. This hearkens back to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, for sure, a nice tip of the hat to early horror literature. It also provides us with a mystery and second storyline to follow in the subsequent books of the series.
The setting of the late 1800s makes this book seem much more like the classics we read in school, giving it an authentic taste of the Gothic that used to be so prevalent. The language is sublime and eloquent, yet still accessible for teens today. Not to mention the often breakneck pace of the story.
This is a perfect book to read around Halloween. Scary and creepy, full of suspense, plenty of blood and guts, and exquisite writing. I'll definitely be getting to The Curse of the Wendigo soon!
Disclosure: I won this book in some giveaway I never remembered entering. Seriously, this and the next book in the series just showed up at my house one day with a note telling me I won them but not what I won them for. Whatever. I'll take it.