REANIMATORS by Pete Rawlik, Night Shade, p/b, Â£9.99/Kindle, Â£5.99, Website
Reviewed by David Brzeski
This absolutely fascinating novel introduces us to Dr. Stuart Hartwell, a colleague and contemporary of Lovecraft’s Dr. Herbert West, who initially sets out to destroy West by uncovering the secrets of his terrible experiments, only to himself become that which he despised: a reanimator of the dead.
It’s a very complex book. Along the way, Hartwell’s ambitions constantly change as external events influence his life. Herbert West is by no means the only Lovecraft character to feature in the book. We also meet assorted Whateleys, Carters, Peaslees and many other names very familiar to devotees of Lovecraft’s work.
What Rawlik has done here is tie many of Lovecraft’s original stories into a coherent timeline, explaining how these events influence and/or were influenced by Dr. Hartwell. Along the way he details what happened to various of Lovecraft’s characters before and/or after the stories they were involved in, and just how the residents of Arkham managed to survive all the horror they were put through. In addition to all the Lovecraft (not to mention Derleth and Bloch) references, he also squeezes in crossovers with the work of Dashiell Hammett, Earl Derr Biggers, John P. Marquand, Mary Shelley and Rex Stout. He even manages to sneak in his own version of a zombie outbreak, without putting me off; a clever trick, as zombies are one of my personal pet hates in horror fiction. That he’s managed what amounts to a huge crossover novel without in any way sacrificing the story to the details is frankly astonishingâ€”especially considering it’s his first novel.
I did find myself wishing that I was able to read the book from the standpoint of someone not familiar with most of the source works. I know I didn’t get all the references, but I’m familiar enough with Lovecraft’s work to have got most of them. It’s hard to judge exactly how well the book would read for someone who wasn’t at all familiar with Lovecraft’s work. I’d like to think it would not only work, but it would encourage those readers to check out some Lovecraft books. I’d personally very much like to see an annotated version at some point, just so I could track down any references that I may have missed.
There are, apparently, two more books to come in this series. I, for one, can’t wait.