Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review - The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)The Monstrumologist
by Rick Yancey
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Simon & Schuster
YA Readers
Library copy

Premise: Ganked from Goodreads:

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.  
So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown accustomed to his late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was feeding on her, Will's world is about to change forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagi--a headless monster that feeds through the mouthfuls of teeth in its chest--and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatenning to overtake and consume our world before it is too late.  
The Monstrumologist is the first stunning gothic adventure in a series that combines the spirit of HP Lovecraft with the storytelling ability of Rick Riorden.

My Review:

I read this book as it came up in Calico Reaction's Theme Park book club. Happily, this means there are some great reviews available at her blog. Spoilers are acceptable for club discussions, but I won't give too many here.

Calico asks a couple great discussion questions...

The Monstrumologist is no doubt a horror story. Is the horror genre a part of your reading diet? If not, why not, and did this book encourage you to read more in the genre? What scares you personally, and did this book come anywhere close to touching on those fears?

*shudder* I don't read horror.

I always give the club books a "go", however, and I always knew there'd be an exception to my "I don't" conclusion. Truthfully, however, I did not read every word... I skimmed a little. In my defense, that was after I stumbled upon a graphic remembering of the horrors I'd just experienced a few pages before and it dawned on me that "this is a horror. These popping tendons are on purpose."

I don't mind being frightened when I read, it just doesn't take a lot to achieve that. Heights will do it, fighting scenes... shoot, even romances will get me all worked up with shivery worry over what might or might not happen. Pathetic, maybe, but books are great at pulling me right into their drama.

Horror usually likes gore. Frankly, I have to put my head between my knees (or faint) when I take kids to the dentist. I'm great in an emergency, but when the adrenaline fades, watch out!!  In character... I was right there with Will Henry and the Monstrumologist when they discovered the monsters in the graveyard in the dead of the night. I had no problems with the grave digger suddenly pulled under or even his brains getting splattered everywhere (gross!) I was still filled with adrenaline as they tried to escape. But wandering through the huge house afterwards contemplating the details of that gore and brain bits... amazingly well written, too, lemme tell you!!  I suddenly got all green and decided it would be ok if I didn't read EVERY word. *ahem*

How do you feel the frame story of "Richard Yancey" discovering these "journals" of a William James Henry affect your take of the story itself? Did it make the story more realistic and plausible, or was it a distraction?

I loved the discovery of the journals. I didn't need to know so much about who discovered them or who read them or why, etc, etc, but the author zipped through those pieces quickly and painlessly.  I learned some pre-secrets, though, like Will Henry died impossibly old. This adds a great twist to the story, especially since no evidence could be found to verify anything (nice!). He did survive this month-long monster hunt, obviously, although I forgot that fact repeatedly.

The journals also helps (a lot!) with swallowing the perspective. This story takes place when Will Henry's only eleven years old, which intensifies the situations he finds himself in. The story is that much richer for coming from his young perspective. I don't think I would have accepted such a young narrator if I hadn't been first introduced to him as older, if that makes sense.  The journals buffer the horror with time, making it seem more reasonable even to non-horror readers. Plus, every rush of adrenaline should be preceded and followed by the complete opposite, right? To better highlight the action!

En Fin...

This book gripped my attention every time I picked it up to read. I could hardly set it aside. But once I did set it aside (for life, etc) I was reluctant to pick it up again. With a little space, the horror drama felt more like horror drama (think emotional juggling). But the writing was so great, so seriously great, any time I started to read, I immediately forgave Yancy for jerking my emotions around until I set the book aside again.

You want a quote?!  I know you do!!!

Calico quoted this one, as well, so maybe I'm copying her (I do try!!) but this passage jumped out at me as incredible... as something I would not normally ever want to read and yet exactly why I was mesmerized by this writing:
Pebbles and twigs dropped from my tangled hair into the basin and clogged the drain, which rapidly filled with water stained to a delicate pink from his blood.
Bloody water was always slightly beautiful - what is twisted about that?!
Grimacing, I plunged a hand into the fouled water to clear the clog, morbid curiousity drawing my youthful eye to the gray globs of gore floating upon the surface. It was not horror that seized my imagination so much as wonder: sixty years of dreams and desires, anger and hope, love and longing, blasted away in a single explosive instant, mind and brain. The mind of Erasmus Gray was gone; the remnants of its vessel floated, as light and insubstantial as popcorn, in the water. Which fluffy bit held your ambition, Erasmus Gray? Which speck your pride?
Do you see?! Do you see how youth is mixed with fascination with gore with speculation and good writing?!  Together it's that much worse and that much more gripping. I did not know brains floated. Did not want to know. It never occurred to me to wonder which bits of brains did what. When separated.
Ah, how absurd the primping and preening of our race! Is it not the ultimate arrogance to believe we are more than is contained in our biology?
As for the rest of this book...

Will Henry is a great, muli-layered character. The Monstrumologist, the doctor, is also multi-layered. I loved their relationship. The doctor was so protective of Will Henry right from the beginning (I felt). He often claimed the boy as his assistant and nothing more, but he cared for his safety even more than for his own, so it was a gruff, un-admitted love. I didn't actually like either of them, which was weird. I didn't like anyone in the story, even if I grudgingly admitted familiarity with these two.

The monsters, the Anthropophagi, were well described scientifically. I got a complete grasp of what they looked like, acted like... how they ate, why they were so vicious, how big their brains were (small!), how long their claws (long!!), their funky eyes (lidless glossy black), horrible mouths, odd bodies... everything. Seeing them through the eyes of the doctor and assistant made the whole story feel as if it should just be accepted logically, while it was anything but logical. I really enjoyed that tension.

The New England setting in the 1800's was great and believable. Long enough ago to pay graverobbers for bodies in the middle of the night without (much) question. The limitations of the technology of the time added to the danger and gore (for dissecting things).

I recommend this book to anyone interested in reading it after this review. I explained my sensitivities to the sight of blood, which typically keep me away from the horror genre. If someone doesn't have that issue to overcome, this book is a great read. If you do... well, it's pretty freaky-gross!! - and you might get sucked in, anyway, just like me!!!

My Rating: 4 - Pretty Darn Good.  The writing, I tell ya, the writing is incredible & I have no real experience to rate the scary factor. I wasn't so much scared as grossed out. In a good way (if that's possible in my world.)

The Amazing Author:
Rick Yancey

Rick is a native Floridian and a graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago. He earned a B.A. in English which he put to use as a field officer for the Internal Revenue Service. Inspired and encouraged by his wife, he decided his degree might also be useful in writing books and in 2004 he began writing full-time. 

Since then he has launched two critically acclaimed series: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, for young readers, and The Highly Effective Detective, for adults. Both books are set in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Rick lived for ten years before returning to Florida. 

Find & Follow:

Get your copy:

The Monstrumologist:

  $9.99 @ Amazon, Barnes & Noble & The Book Depository:

 The Book Depository

So... do you read horror?!  What scares you?