You know you’re onto a good thing when a book opens with a group of doctors in those creepy bird-like plague masks surrounding a bound woman, who then proceed to slice her up. Yes, just a few pages into this one I knew I was going to love it.
Where do I start? I suppose at the beginning. The scene mentioned above is delivered in such gruesome and graphic detail, it really set a high standard that the novella certainly lived up to until the very last page. Straight away you’re fearful of these doctors and their experiments in killing and dismembering.
But they don’t just experiment on live victims, some need to be sourced from the grave!
The main doctor dude, Dr Hereford has seen death before. During the war he spent many a time on the battlefield with wounded and dead soldiers, which would mess most people up I’m sure. But add to that a strange, ethereal smoke that seemed to pass from nearly-corpse to severely-wounded body, stealing the life force from them; well, you’re not going to be the same afterwards.
Think Martyrs with a Lovecraftian twist. Oh yes, the Great Old Ones make an appearance here and do so with plenty of insanity and blood-soaked violence in their wake, as is the way they usually roll!
The story not only follows Hereford and his evil doctor cronies in their quest to discover the answers of resurrection. We are also introduced to Salem Hawley, a black guy who rightly feels anger towards the white doctor dudes who rob the graves of his neighbourhood for their illegal activities. He wants vengeance and begins a campaign to right the wrongs enrapturing his city.
When one particularly nasty bastard doctor mocks the family of one of the corpses he’s ‘experimenting’ on, all hell breaks loose and suddenly there’s an uprising. The hospital is swarmed by the angry mob who will stop at nothing to avenge their deceased loved ones.
What was even more awesome about this book was finding out in the afterword that the events are based on actual history. I admit I’d never heard about the New York Doctors’ Riot of 1788, but as soon as I finished this book my good friend Mr Wikipedia filled me in. Obviously there were no beasts from other realms at play there (or were there????).
Anyway, things reach a perfect crescendo as the masses congregate upon the hospital, baying for the blood of these doctors, only to realise that the gates of somewhere-much-worse- than Hell have been opened.
The final battle was the highlight for me. In some stories prolonged fight sequences can get a bit repetitive and lose their punch, but here Hicks manages to up the ante with every monster and every kill. There was just no taking my eyes from the pages. Brutally awesome stuff.
Lovers of Lovecraft, violence, and gore need look nowhere else.
Categories: book review