Book Title: The Resurrectionists – The Salem Hawley Series, Book 1
Author: Michael Patrick Hicks
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Available on: Amazon as an eBook and as a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Stars
It’s 1788 and New York City continues to develop in a post-Revolutionary War period of America. Slavery is rampant, people are separated into haves and have-nots by demographic and economic status as well as skin color. As the medical field continues to flourish, corpses are needed for learning purposes, despite how illegal it is. So, this shortage leads many to steal them from cemeteries, especially Negro cemeteries.
Hereford and Bayley are medical doctors, seeking corpses not just for learning, but to perform sick experiments. Sending lackeys to acquire bodies for them by any means necessary, the indigent are found and killed in the name of dark science! Removing hearts from bodies while the people are still alive, what is their sinister purpose for doing so?
Meanwhile, Salem Hawley is a Negro soldier who fought to help liberate America from the British. He’s outraged at the desecration of his dead brethren and decides to fight back in the best way he knows how. But as he gets drawn ever deeper into this situation, what will he find at the heart of these defilements and will he be able to extricate himself from it without the loss of his life?
This is an intriguing premise for a novel and the author’s storytelling causes such a terror, it messes up your insides, like someone with a fork inside your torso and slowly wrapping your intestines around it like spaghetti. It induces a high sense of queasiness and moral outrage that rings very true as I read it. Using post-war America as a setting for horror is an unusual idea. The author maximizes it and fills it with captivating characters and tantalizing situations.
The doctors and their crew are a bunch of detestable, gruesome and loathsome individuals who are curious about something they learned about on the battlefields of the American Revolution. Armed with dark motivations, ancient books and a morbid fascination with the macabre, they struggle to find the right method to introduce themselves to a creature they find majestic and mysterious.
I would’ve appreciated a deeper exploration into Hereford and Bayley’s amoral origins and what drives them. This would’ve given me a better idea as to why they are interested in this creature beyond their curiosity. But since this the first novella in a series, I expect that will be rectified in the future.
Hawley is a deep character, richly drawn and filled with a lot of hurt and pain from his history as a soldier. As a free Negro who fought in the war, his plight, righteous indignation, fear for the future and his anger at how the resurrectionists defile Negro corpses makes him a more fully rounded character who the reader can root for. Despite the odds stacked against him, he uses his intelligence and cunning to manipulate the charged atmosphere between Negroes and Whites in the name of justice. As a result, these attempts to help rectify these wrongs is especially gratifying. His passion for helping his people is keenly felt over the course of this novella.
All of this combines into a conclusion where his enemies try to summon a creature from an otherworldly dimension. It’s a wild, horrifying cacophony of carnage, with blood, bone, gristle, exploding heads and strange creatures indiscriminately killing left and right. The situation reaches its apex and the intensity of the danger is disturbingly real. It’s a thrill ride the likes of which you have never experienced before. The conclusion is satisfying and leaving room for growth into the next novella in the series.
In the end, there is also an acknowledgments section, which shows the real world history the author researched in writing this book. I appreciated his utilization of certain historical figures, the sources for his research and how he skillfully incorporated all of this into this story.
I’ve read many stories by this author previously and the hallmarks of his storytelling style are all present: an otherworldly presence, heightened tension, visceral gore and characters I care about. However, in this novella, I felt there is something extra special the author has created here. The time period is a fantastic setting to explore horrors of a historical nature. Hawley’s situation and character seem even more enriching than his usual high-quality storytelling and there is especially palpable desperation and rage here, more so than I’ve seen in most of the author’s previous stories.
To me, the author appears really inspired by this story and hits on some really raw nerves in the process as the story unfurls. Since this is the first novella in a series, I really want to see where he takes this story and what otherworldly realms we visit next. Just don’t use my corpse for science before the next novella comes out, please. I want to see what happens next.
Please note I received an advance copy of this ebook through NetGalley.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Michael Patrick Hicks include “Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella“