03 June 2019

Review || The Resurrectionists by Michael Patrick Hicks


Having won his emancipation after fighting on the side of the colonies during the American Revolution, Salem Hawley is a free man. Only a handful of years after the end of British rule, Hawley finds himself drawn into a new war unlike anything he has ever seen.

New York City is on the cusp of a new revolution as the science of medicine advances, but procuring bodies for study is still illegal. Bands of resurrectionists are stealing corpses from New York cemeteries, and women of the night are disappearing from the streets, only to meet grisly ends elsewhere.

After a friend’s family is robbed from their graves, Hawley is compelled to fight back against the wave of exhumations plaguing the Black cemetery. Little does he know, the theft of bodies is key to far darker arts being performed by the resurrectionists. If successful, the work of these occultists could spell the end of the fledgling American Experiment… and the world itself.

The Resurrectionists, the first book in the Salem Hawley series, is a novella of historical cosmic horror from the author of Broken Shells and Mass Hysteria.
Historical cosmic horror. Those are words that don't often complement each other, aren't they? Yet in this case, suitably descriptive.  Somehow mashing a historical narrative with the hopelessness of cosmic horror, The Resurrectionists is a violent, often nauseating tale mostly about the evils of men and a touch of Elder gods. Extremely gripping, this is one story that takes hold and doesn't let go.

 Set during a time when medical dissection was on the rise and the need for cadavers far outnumbered the availability, graverobbing — while a contemptible business — became a profitable one. There's a very authentic feel to this world building. As for our main character, Salem Hawley is a free man, but in a time period where prejudice and racism spread unchecked. There was no distinguishing between slave or freedmen; both barely treated as human. When his friend's family is disinterred, Salem is stalwart in his will for justice against those whose terrorize his friends and community. 

The horror is vivid as is the hatred and malice, sometimes almost too much so. While I'm not ordinarily accused of being delicate, some of the scenes assiduously displayed in such pitiless detail were difficult to read. It was rarely the gore that turned my stomach but the depravity of men. Sometimes cheering for the monsters is the sensible thing to do as I soon discovered. In my opinion, the grotesqueries visited upon the cultists were not nearly sufficient.
Lovecraftian themes usually aren't my thing but there was something compelling about Salem Hawley's account. The Resurrectionists gives us an unblinking look at the monsters within as well as without.