Original Publication Date: 1922
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
Topics: Reanimation, scientific experimentation, God complex, unreliable narrators, the undead
Review by Chrisbookarama:
Herbert West, Reanimator is one of the few H.P. Lovecraft stories in the public domain. It was first published as a series for Home Brew in 1922. In it, the narrator tells of the experiments conducted by Herbert and witnessed by himself alone. The narrator’s story is told in six parts. At the beginning of each instalment, he sums up what’s happened in the previous ones. Just in case you didn’t save enough pennies for the last issue of Home Brew you won’t be lost. Herbert is a doctor of the mad scientist variety. He concocts a special solution that he injects into his deceased human subjects in the hopes of bringing them back to life. He and the narrator must continually find “fresh” bodies to reanimate. The results aren’t pretty. Basically, these guys are making homemade zombies.
Let’s talk about the narrator for a moment. This guy’s story is sketchy. He says he was afraid of Herbert. He “shudders” at some of the things he does, but he still hangs out with him. He knows the guy has no scruples and committed at least one murder. Why doesn’t he catch a train to As Far From Herbert As Possibleville? Does he owe Herbert money? I think he’s way more into it than he says.
As for the experiments, I would think that after the first couple of times I created an uncontrollable monster, I’d reconsider the whole endeavour. Herbert wants to reanimate a human with the former intellect intact but all he makes are Hulk Monsters. His obsession with finding the right solution and obtaining enough bodies to test those solutions turns him into a monster himself. Herbert finds opportunities for body snatching disguised as a physician treating the sick or wounded. He even resorts to murder. Herbert’s reasons for reanimating corpses don’t stem from some noble cause like curing his poor old mother or anything. It’s just scientific curiosity. While the narrator believes in the soul, Herbert doesn’t. The soul isn’t a factor. The bodies just aren’t fresh enough, in his opinion.
Be warned that H.P. Lovecraft’s terrible racism and xenophobia reveals itself big time about halfway through the story. You’ll be happy to know, however, that we’re all human-flesh eating monsters under the reanimated skin.
Herbert West, Reanimator is an interesting literary artifact as it’s an early zombie story. In it, the undead run amuck munching on the living, until they are destroyed and disposed of. The viral zombie trope appears later in the literary canon (I Am Legend’s zombie-vampire is the first one I can think of). Herbert has the power to create the undead through his solution only, the bite of his creation will not infect others. The creature will live through various states of decomposition, until shot and “killed.” The 1985 film Re-Animator is based on Lovecraft’s story.
This was a Librivox recording by Phil Chenevert. He doesn’t have quite the chilling voice I’d expect for this story. The audio version is about 90 minutes long.
Download Herbert West- Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft at Librivox