I asked him what that meant.
‘…We may assume it is a manifestation of the toxin. This aligns perfectly with the literature, which claims the victim, in the final stages, becomes little more than a beast, incapable of reason but fully capable of a murderous, cannibalistic rage. Certain indigenous tribes of the Lakshadweep Islands report whole villages wiped out by a single exposure to the pwdre ser, until the last man standing literally eats himself to death.'”
Dr. Pellinore Warthrop is a monstrumologist, a scientist specializing in horrors, a monster-hunter. He and his apprentice, Will, are current on the trail of the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology”-a beast whose very saliva causes those infected to lose their faculties for reasoning, and become filled with the desire to destroy and eat each other. The search brings them to the locus of the infection, a remote island where packs of the sick roam, preying on each other. Together, the pair faces a nightmare beyond anything they’ve experienced.
I am the kind of person who keeps her eyes clamped shut during bloody scenes in movies, and I’ve only read one Stephen King book. Horror just isn’t really my thing. That said, I am powerless in the gravitational pull of The Monstrumologist series. This is the third installment, and it didn’t disappoint. Rick Yancey crafts a gory, chilling literary world full of original monsters, literary references, and characters so real that you’d know them instantly if you saw them in the street. The books are narrated by the young Will Henry, the son of Dr. Warthrop’s previous assistant. Will was orphaned and the doctor took him in and began initiating him into the world of furtive autopsies, international travel in search of things that undoubtedly want to kill them, and scientific research on the stuff comprising nightmares. It’s not a life for a child, but Dr. Warthrop is all Will has in the world. Where else would he go?
The brilliant part of the series is the setting: the stories take place during the later half of the nineteenth century, during the Industrial Revolution. This is the time of scientific societies, Darwin, and empiricism (only believing in what you can measure with numbers), concepts that form the backbone of Dr. Warthrop’s belief system. Reason is his deity, and the scientific method is his salvation. Will and Dr. Warthrop live in a gritty New England, with frequent trips to the dirty, rough London that appears in Sherlock Holmes stories. Actually, Dr. Warthrop is a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the poet Rimbaud. (They both make appearances in this story!) The books are saturated with the scientific beliefs of the time; the interweaving of philosophy and moral issues adds another level of appeal. In short, these are gruesome horror stories told by a master who carefully frames his gore in a meticulously accurate historical setting. Horror fans will want to stay up all night, and the writing is compelling enough to snare poor non-horror lovers like myself, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: the first book in the series is a Printz award winner.
Author’s website: http://www.rickyancey.com
Yancey, Rick. The Isle of Blood. Simon & Shuster: New York, 2011. 558 pp. Ages 16 and up (a brave and unsqueamish 16).