You know, when I started this book, I was thinking, “Oh, this is going to be another one of those weird books, isn’t it? Hmm.” And, well, it is pretty weird, but something about it really clicked for me. It’s got monsters, it’s got weird happenings, it’s got unresolved problems… it’s even got an unreliable narrator, which is like my favorite kind of narrator. This is my kind of book.
Our narrator is William James Henry, an orphan in the care of the eponymous doctor, Pellinore Warthrop. He, like his father before him, is Warthrop’s assistant, helping him in endeavors small (the purchase of raspberry scones) and large (the autopsy of giant scary monsters). One night, a grave robber comes by all, “I was totally not robbing a grave, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but with that as a given, I found this dead giant scary monster in this grave I was robbing.” The monster turns out to be an Anthropophagus, a word which here means a giant scary monster with no head, eyes in its shoulders, a 3000-tooth mouth in its stomach, and a brain in its groin. Oh yeah, and its favorite (and only) meal is humans. Nomnomnom. Nom. Ew.
So of course the monstrumologist and his assistant end up going out to see what’s what, and then someone dies, and then some more people die, and then some uncomfortable truths come out about just what a giant scary monster colony is doing in a monstrumologist’s backyard, and then the genocide begins, as it does when the race in question wants to eat you. Nomnomnom.
I think what I liked best about this novel was its matter-of-fact-ness. The conceit is that the story comes straight from the diaries of a now-dead hundred-some-year-old Will Henry, so the story isn’t all plot — it’s also about how Will Henry feels about living with Warthrop and dealing with monsters and generally being a twelve-year-old without a real family. There’s also a lot of moderately interesting ethical pondering (Should Warthrop have warned the eventual victims about their chances of being eaten by a giant scary monster? Would anyone have believed him?) that makes some good points without beating you over the head with them.
I quite enjoyed this book. There’s a hint of a possibility of a sequel within the frame story; this is one that I would be very interested in reading.
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