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Monday, October 1, 2012

HPL Review: Herbert West - Reanimator

Herbert West: Reanimator was originally written as a serial that was published in several installments in a weird fiction magazine.
Watching the Reanimator movie again prompted me to finally read this short story. As much as I love the movie with all its campiness and over-the-top gore effects, I think I enjoyed the written version even more.
The story is told by our protagonist, who was a colleague of Dr. West and can only speak of the events which he shared with West in the most hushed of tones and with some fear and trepidation.
A bit of a longer read than the other pieces I've discussed, this one took me two sittings to digest.
In a nutshell, West is a medical student who believes that a man's life force is purely chemical and physical in nature. To wit, if one could procure a body in decent shape, one could effectively reanimate that corpse artificially and prolong life indefinitely.
Shunned by the science and medical departments at Miskatonic University, West turns rogue and begins terrible experiments to prove his theory.
Through one ghastly failed experiment after another, his creations (the ones that technically work but appear to be devoid of any intellect) escape and pop up later as monsters of a sort. West repeatedly blames the lack of freshly deceased specimens, and he begins his quest to try his procedure on fresher and fresher corpses, until the day comes when he kills a man himself in order to try his reanimation serum out on the freshest possible corpse.
In the end he gets what's coming to him, but I don't want to give it away.
It was definitely an enjoyable read - well written as always, with some great descriptions, genuinely creepy moments and some surprisingly laugh out loud humor. That last attribute I was not expecting. Lovecraft was apparently a pretty witty fellow somewhere behind that grim, long face.

GLOSSARY:
Supernal: adj / of exceptional quality or extent / My second cousin Melvis is by far the most supernal numbskull with whom I ever had the displeasure of sharing a sham of a political discourse.

Sumptuary: adj / relating to laws limiting private expenditure on food or personal items / a communist society enacts sumptuary laws because a person's capital is best used on expenditures that benefit the community as a whole.

Acidulous: adj / sharp, bitter or mean-spirited / My seventh-grade social studies teacher had an acidulous way of responding to challenges to her flawed essay grading methods.

Lubberly: adj / big and clumsy; oafish / My supernally idiotic cousin Melvis was a lubberly fellow who reminded me a lot of John Coffey or the death-by-hugs guy from Of Mice and Men.