Written by: Wrath James White (2009)
A man who has the ability to raise the dead to life decides to use his gift to explore his darkest fantasies.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I’m really enjoying starting to read again, despite the fact that I’ve focused my new habit on the more extreme end of the horror literature spectrum. My most recent read, Wrath James White’s The Resurrectionist, was a trip, a unique story about a man with a bizarre ability to raise the dead to life. What happens, though, if someone with the power of Jesus was actually a deranged sexual sadist? White explores this possibility through the story of Dale McCarthy, who discovers his fascinating ability when his methed-out father murders and dismembers his mother when he is a boy. He attempts to give his mother mouth-to-mouth resuscitation like he’s seen on television, despite the fact that her body lays in multiple pieces around the room, and somehow it works. Her body begins to knit itself back together, she breathes again, and the police who have recently shot her murderer to death are now mystified as their murder victim is completely whole again.
Dale decides to use his gift for evil, as I imagine you could’ve guessed due to the type of books I tend to review. He’s a short, runty little dude with acne and absolutely nothing going for him, so he has a hard time getting the opposite sex to appreciate his company. He decides to become a rapist and a murderer, exploring his most disturbing violent fantasies and feeling justified and innocent because his victims are left without a scratch or memory of what he has done to them. He lives his life this way, taking what he wants by force and continually getting away with it, until he meets Sarah Lincoln. When he becomes obsessed with Sarah and her brutish husband Josh, things begin to spiral out of control, and the young couple may be just what it takes to stop Dale’s murder spree for good.
White’s idea for The Resurrectionist is a fascinating one, a truly unique concept that I hadn’t seen done before. I commend him for that, because it’s a world that I wanted to explore as soon as I heard what the book was about. There are some great things about the plot that are well worth examining, but unfortunately that’s largely where my favorable feelings about the book end. I figured when I got into the extreme horror literature genre that the writing wouldn’t be up to snuff with more mainstream lit. The ideas are there, ideas that could flesh out a great novel by someone with more talent. Unfortunately, White just doesn’t show it with this one.
The novel is amateurish, written from the perspective of someone who almost wants to see this stuff actually happen, someone who seems to side as much with the killer as the victims due to his personification of the victims. The victims’ trains of thought are repeated ad nauseum, their disbelief that they’ll “ever get over it” or Sarah’s repeated insistence that she was this sexual being whose entire identity seemed to be based around sex. Not that there aren’t people like that, to be sure, but I don’t particularly want to read a novel about them either. The Resurrectionist felt like a novella that should’ve been maybe 100 pages, but in order to make the story novel length, White copy/pasted random sections from one chapter to the next.
The characters continually made stupid choices, but not in the way that horror movie characters usually do. At one point, the couple at the center of the story realize that they need to get protection from their attacker, but they don’t have a lot of money. They are hiding out from the killer, buying a gun and wanting to potentially purchase an alarm system and some type of surveillance as well. Luckily, Sarah hits the jackpot on a slot machine! They then proceed to go out to a fancy dinner, including caviar, and spoiling themselves by buying new clothes from the shops on the Vegas Strip. While they’re in hiding from a serial killer and trying to prepare for when they would have to return to their home across the street from him. It’s just a bizarrely stupid choice that makes the characters come across as vapid dumbasses rather than people that we don’t want to see get massacred. They go dining and dancing, and then something would bring them back to their anxieties. And then they’d dance and eat again, and then get anxious again. Recycle and reuse, over and over again. Josh, the husband character, is portrayed as this macho asshole who seems to constantly harass and try to beat up people who slightly wrong him, and yet Sarah continually talks about how he’s non-confrontational. Girl, he just beat the shit out of three people for cutting him off in traffic, what the fuck are you talking about?
The police characters are not a whole lot better. There’s the larger black woman detective, the Hispanic “machismo” officer, the hippy detective gunslinger character… while they’re not necessarily the police officers that you see in every movie, they’re cookie cutter examples of previously existing characters rather than unique, individually established human beings. At a certain point, we’re kinda rooting for Dale to do his worst to these folks, itching to see how far White will go with the next kill. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps these books don’t need to be well-written as long as they contain descriptions of the worst humanity has to offer. Is it too much to hope for both, though?
Who this book is for: Extreme horror fans, Serial killer devotees, Gore-over-substance readers
Bottom line: The Resurrectionist has some interesting ideas with some not-so-great writing. There are some truly gnarly kills throughout and the ending was filled with hugely surprising potential, though it was rushed as all hell. All in all, it’s not a bad extreme horror novel, but it’s not a particularly good actual novel. If you’re looking for a book about someone willing to cut new holes in someone to stick his dick in, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a book that puts you into the story and makes you feel the way a book is supposed to make you feel, I recommend you look elsewhere. Five star concept, two star execution.