[Possibly spoilers ahead so be warned!]
So, I am a wimp when it comes to horror. I will never willingly watch a scary movie. Even my beloved Doctor Who and Supernatural can send me diving behind pillows and finding reasons to leave the room but let the scene play out and then come back when it’s fun and games again. A brave soul, I am not. That said, I can read scary stuff a lot easier than I can watch it. I think it’s because my imagination knows what I can handle and sugarcoats what I can’t. However, horror is still not a genre I much care to read though I’ve read a lot of the classics (Frankenstein, Dracula) and those are fun in the origin story sort of way. Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist is about as scary a book as I’ll pick up and man, does he like to emulate the originals.
The Monstrumologist is the story of Will Henry, a brave 12 year old orphan who has been taken in by the brilliant but (how to say this nicely) singularly focused Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a monstrumologist. A Monstrumologist is exactly what you think it is; a “doctor” who studies monsters. The story begins with a grave digger bringing a singular specimen to the doctor’s doorstep, an Anthropophagi (no head, teeth like a shark in its mouth/stomach, and oh yes, eats humans). It only goes downhill from there. I mean, there is a character who is sort of one of the heroes and is also probably the person who becomes Jack the Ripper so that might give you some indication of the level of gore and horror Yancey takes this 12 year old to by the end of the book.
There are so. many. words. in this book. I get that he was going for the traditional horror story trope – a story written after the fact so you can throw in lots of foreshadowing and reflection by the narrator but heavens, I got bored at times. I took to skimming through some parts to get to the next action sequence. It’s not that I disliked the narrator’s voice but found him sort of boring. His child self, Will Henry, on the other hand, I just wanted to hug. Will Henry is someone who realizes how wrong his life is and how awful the people in his life are but also knows he has no where else to go. And he’s only 12. Because the story is being written by a much older Will Henry, I imagine some of the adult is pressed into the child’s character but he’s still a pretty aware little kid. Of course, he’s also hunting monsters with a man who has his own demons so I imagine he’s had to grow up pretty fast.
I kind of love Dr. Warthrop even though he’s an awful man. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, blinded by his own ego and what he assumes his own mental superiority to everyone else around him. So, your typical mad scientist. That said, Warthrop has potential or maybe Yancey just managed to introduce a worse character than him that Warthrop looks good in comparison. I speak of course, of Jack Kearns, or Richard Cory, of John J.J. Schmidt as he introduces himself at one point (think for a minute, it will come to you the reference). Jack is evil, pure and simple, and yet you still somehow kind of like him. Even the fact Yancey basically says he was Jack the Ripper at the end of the story doesn’t make you like him any less. Instead you go, “that makes perfect sense!” and enjoy the fact that in fiction, the mystery is solved.
I don’t know that I care to read the rest of the series (for series this is – gah, I am so over serieses (sp?). It seems like every book I pick up these days is the start of a trilogy), but I am glad I tried out a fairly unread genre for me and enjoyed it mostly. If you are a fan of horror and like books in that genre that lean more towards the intellectual and historical, I recommend this. And don’t be fooled by the fact you’ll find this book in the young adult section of the bookstore, it is an excellent read no matter your age!