Our society today has this morbid fascination of dark, cannibalistic creatures that prowl the night and pounce on the nearest unsuspecting human. These creatures, more often than not, possess excessive strength accompanied by an excessive physical beauty which makes them all the more attractive to the eyes of their prey. You are sorely mistaken if you think you will find such brazenly beautiful and lustful predators in ‘The Monstrumologist’. But what you will find will blow your socks off!
Hardcover|434 pages|Published September 22nd 2009 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|Edition language: English
Our narrator, William James Henry, dies at an old age home alone and without an heir. He leaves behind a few journals which seem more like a figment of his imagination than a real life diary. In it he claims he was born in the year 1876, which makes him 131 years old at the time of his death. If that is not unreal enough, he describes bizarre events that apparently occurred when he was an apprentice of a certain Dr. Pellinore Warthrop who is described as being a “monstrumologist”. He claims that the recalcitrant, singularly curious doctor discovered the existence of a seemingly mythical species known as the Anthropophagi – hideous, headless creatures with maws equipped with rows upon rows of shark-like teeth and large black, orb-like eyes set in their shoulders; their food of choice being Homo sapiens.
A twelve year old Will Henry, orphaned in a terrible fire that left him homeless and alone, is taken in by the Monstrumologist; who was also the employer of Will Henry’s father. Although they do not share a bond of love, the doctor and his assistant find a reluctant companion in each other. Everything takes a turn for the worse when a grave robber arrives at midnight on the doctor’s doorstep with an appalling cargo – a dead Anthropophagus wrapped around the corpse of a young girl in a sick imitation of an embrace. That is where the real adventure starts! Can Will Henry and his whimsical guardian overcome the infestation that has been brought to the shores of their town? And an even more unnerving question still remains – did the events described in the old man’s journal really occur, or is it a figment of his imagination?
The novel was pretty gripping, a sure page-turner. The character of Dr. Warthrop was equal parts whimsical, intelligent, sensitive and intractable. You cannot help but sympathize with his need for approval from a father who’s long been dead; a father who never loved him as a child. His intimacy issues are what make him a flawed character with a certain depth. And it is quite evident that he is carrying forward his father’s legacy, both in Monstrumology as well as when it comes to raising a child. He never treats Will Henry cruelly, mind you. But he never treats him as a child either. According to the doctor, “Will Henry’s services are indispensable” to him. His services mind, and not Will Henry himself; though I hardly expected the reclusive doctor to admit to it in the first few pages.
As for Will Henry (our narrator), he could have run away long before the gory events in the spring of 1888. But he sticks by the doctor’s side through it all. Answers to all his “Snap to’s” and “Will Henreeeee’s” without a complaint. He feels responsible for the doctor somehow. Maybe because his father felt the same way; or because, deep in his heart, he knows his father died serving the doctor. And he does not want to disappoint his father. Like the doctor, he too is striving hard for the approval that would never come.
The doctor is apparently unresponsive to Will’s demands at first. But as the plot progresses, and the mystery of the anthropophagi’s appearance in New Jerusalem starts to unravel, does the doctor start showing his lesser-known sensitive side. The character of John Kearns aka Richard Cory aka John J. J. Schmidt is a total treat! I don’t really know why I liked him so much; he was probably the most flawed character in the book. But he brings a brand of dark humor into the plot that the serious, strong-willed doctor could never have. He is pretty despicable, yes, but he is still the most interesting character in the story. And he is also responsible for the most gore aside from the anthropophagi. Wits and violence, I likey!
I must warn you though; there is a lot of graphic description of gore in this book. If you are not comfortable with that, you should not pick this as your next read. But if you are like me, meaning if you do not mind stories about blood and cannibalism, jump right in! I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. On the contrary, this is a fresh take on urban-fantasy-meets-historical-fiction.
Verdict: Don’t miss this for the WORLD!