Title: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Reviewed by: The Bookwyrm
Review Date: 2/8/14
Type of Book/Film: Fiction, Horror, Young Adult
Synopsis: First things first. Do not be fooled by the ‘Young Adult’ classification I gave this. Technically it is, but there’s also a whole lot of gore, and disturbing themes are present throughout the novel. Will Henry, a young boy, was left in the care of the eccentric Dr. Worthrop when his parents died in the Doctor’s service. Ever since the accident, Will has been left to take care of the Doctor and assist him in his endeavors. This is presents a challenge for several reasons. The first reason being that the Doctor is often detached and cold, not traits which normally lend themselves to taking care of a child, and he becomes easily irritated by Will’s attempts. The second being that Dr. Worthrop doesn’t exactly have a normal job. He’s a monstrumologist, a position that would seem ludicrous to most of society if they knew the truth, and a job which places them in increasing danger as the novel goes on. When an infestation of unusual, carnivorous creatures appear to have taken up residence in America, far from their native home, it’s up to the Doctor and his assistant to get to the bottom of the mystery and exterminate the threat.
Setting: This book takes place in the ever-so-popular Victorian period. In this case, it works quite well. The older atmosphere and more restrictive society which the two must work around makes the book a more entertaining read. If this had been set in modern times I think I may have been less impressed by the book as a whole.
Characters: They’re all extremely well written. Will and the Doctor are built off of common tropes (The orphan and the mad doctor), but they have enough depth to make them solid characters. They’re not always likeable, but they’re certainly very real. Young narrators have a tendency to become whiny, but Will never reaches that point and for that I’m thankful. He’s level-headed, clever and loyal. Dr. Warthrop comes off as aloof, but there’s much more hiding beneath that strict exterior.
Plot: Now this is where the book really shines. The plot is intriguing and Yancey really cranks up the suspense at times. I especially loved the monsters the title characters are forced to face. Known as Anthropophagi, Yancey drew on Greek myths for their inspiration and it’s a welcome change from the typical vampires, werewolves, and zombies that pack the shelves nowadays. The story is complex and rarely becomes predictable. The mystery of the Anthropophagi’s appearance and the desperate attempts to kill the pod drive the story forward and there isn’t a dull moment to be found.
General themes and special attractions: This should please horror fans in particular. Yancey pulls out all the stops and doesn’t censor his graphic descriptions. The Anthropophagi are quite honestly, a terrifying prospect. Not to mention, being a Monstrumologist’s assistant means that poor Will is going to see more than his fair share of gruesome things. The book also plays a lot with morality, a topic that’s always been favored by authors and readers alike. The Monstrumologist explores the many facets of human nature, with varying results.
What the reviewer liked: I haven’t been creeped out by a book for a long time. A bit of that may be desensitization, but really I think it’s because so much horror is lacking in creativity. This was anything but. Also, the dialogue is brilliant. It may not appeal to those who dislike flowery, descriptive writing, but I found it fantastic.
- “There are times when fear is not our enemy. There are times when fear is our truest, sometimes only, friend.
- “Yes, my dear child, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.”
- “A child has little defense against the sight of a parent laid low. Parents, like the earth beneath our feet and the sun above our heads, are immutable objects, eternal and reliable. If one should fall, who might vouch the sun itself won’t fall, burning, into the sea?”
- “So often the monsters that crowd our minds are nothing more than the strange and thoroughly alien progeny of our own fearful fantasies.”
- “All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”
Similar recommendations: The rest of the Monstrumologist series, certain Stephen King novels with creatures such as IT or Pet Semetary as opposed to Carrie or the Shining, and Frankenstein.