Thursday, April 21, 2011
This is a dark and disgusting, yet well written, horror novel that is listed as young adult, primarily because the protagonist is 13 years old. I think it could work just as well for an adult audience, and in fact the age range for this book is definitely high school rather than middle school. Gore abounds, but more than that the tone is unrelentingly scary, very much a Lovecraftian spirit including its late 1800s New England setting.
Will Henry's father worked for Dr Warthrop, a hunter and student of monsters. Will's father and mother died, leaving him only the Monstrumologist Warthrop to take him in as his new apprentice. The fact that he is fulfilling the role that cost his own father his life is not lost on us. Their relationship adds saddness to this macrabe tale. Will desperately needs love and affection but the doctor is wholely commited to his work. Their growth and relationship as they face the horrors awaiting them holds the book together.
And what a horror indeed! The anthropophagi, shaped like men, except with no head, instead claws, lidless eyes in their shoulders and a fang filled mouth in its stomach. And their sole food is us...
This is no reflectionless scare fest. The clash of the cold Darwinian approach of Warthrop, the Constable's traditional Christian values, a third character, Dr Kearns, who represents the worst of Nietzsche's nihilism (he finds the anthropophagi admirable in many ways even while hunting them), all against the backdrop of Henry, a youth confronted by a world of nightmares he'd rather have never known existed. The author doesn't make judgments, though faith may seem to come off (as often is the case in horror) as at best a blind hope when nothing else is left in such a horrible world. Kearns is annoying in his nihlism, but no one truly seems to discredit him. Though one could argue Will never truly surrenders to Nietzsche's abyss, as Kearns has.
Still a page turner and a well written novel. If you have boys who are fans of Darren Shan's Demonata series, I'd reccommend this to show them a horror book with superior writing.