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The Resurrectionist Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 8, 2008

39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

In four previous novels, Jack O'Connell has established a reputation as an author of literary-suspense and thriller-noir. This time, with The Resurrectionist, he has consolidated and surpassed that reputation with a story so mesmerizing that the reader can't figure out what is real and what's imaginary, what is threatening and what is make-believe.

The wraparound story in this multi-layered tale is about Sweeney, a pharmacist by trade, and his young son, Danny, the victim of an accident that has left him in a coma. Sweeney moves Danny to a hospital specializing in comatose patients, the Peck Clinic. The Doctors Peck, father and daughter, claim to have "resurrected" two patients from the void of deep coma. Prior to Danny's accident, he and Sweeney had been reading a fantasy series of comic books called Limbo, and it is around these stories that things get really interesting. There are circus freaks, weird stunts, an apparent "resurrection" or two, a long odyssey in search of a lost father--any number of plot lines and characters overlapping between what is real in Sweeney's life, and what might be a dream or drugged reality, and what is storybook fiction.

Alongside all the strange and convoluted events of the novel there is a compelling meditation on the power of story, the meaning of madness and sanity and the very nature of consciousness. This is more than fantasy; it is a masterful and wholly imaginative invention based on the sad reality of a father and son trying to find one another again. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Two worlds wrapped tight in gloomy gothic trappings vie for dominance in this engrossing, elaborately staged exploration of consciousness from O'Connell (The Skin Palace). Sweeney, an Ohio pharmacist, brings his comatose son, Danny, to the Peck Clinic, "a sandstone monster on fifty acres of private land near Quinsigamond's western border." Danny is all Sweeney lives for; he even studies the comic book Limbo, featuring a troupe of circus freaks led by the visionary Chick the chicken boy, for what his son may have imagined when his brain functioned normally. Like Stephen King in Richard Bachman mode, O'Connell digs for darkness as Chick and his companions, who inhabit the fantasy realm of Gehenna, encounter Dr. Lazarus Cole, "The Resurrectionist" (stoned to death only to walk again) and dread the inevitable showdown with their nemesis, "the mad doctor called Fliess," in his "enormous laboratory castle, the Black Iron Clinic." Meanwhile, in the real world, cultists kidnap Sweeney in hopes of using fluid from Danny's brain to transport them all to Gehenna. This strange brew is sure to enhance O'Connell's growing cult status. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125762
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125766
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,348,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jack O'Connell's first novel, Box Nine, won the Mysterious Press Discovery Award. His second novel, Wireless, was chosen by the Los Angeles Times as one of the top ten crime novels of 1993. O'Connell is also the author of The Skin Palace and Word Made Flesh. His latest novel, The Resurrectionist, was chosen by as one of the top-10 SF novels of 2008. The winner of Le prix Mystère de la critique and Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire in France, the novel was also nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. O'Connell lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a strange book--a roller-coaster ride through a fun house, up and down, in and out of the light. I certainly will keep you off-balance. We have 4 basic threads woven together. First, the pharmacist Sweeney and his comatose son Danny, newly-arrived at the Peck Clinic in O'Connell's decaying city Quinsigamond. Second, and not as extensive as the other threads, is Peck himself, his daughter, and his pet salamander. Third is Buzz Cote's biker gang The Abominations, including Nadia Rey, who works at the clinic. Fourth is a comic-book (using the term loosely, since it's unlike any comic most of us will ever read) world of Limbo, Gehanna, and circus freaks. Danny was/is[??] a huge fan of Limbo, as are the Abominations.

Initially, everything seems rather straightforward and distinct, but Clotho weaves these threads together so that the distinctions begin to blur, and then blur in a major way indeed. You'll find that by the end of the book, things are very different from what you thought they were, and you may have a hard time trying to separate reality (such as there is) from fantasy. But you'll also find that the ending seems to make perfect sense, in a bizarre and convoluted way.

O'Connell is able to draw a picture of a fascinating world. It's a very different world--unsettling, disturbing, jugular. It's strong and effective writing, and it resembles some sort of odd underground comic without pictures. Powerful stuff!
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Cameron on April 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
April 15-28, 2008

Here is the heart of "The Resurrectionist" by Jack O'Connell (page references are to the Algonquin hardbound edition):

"...he understood that the universe, the fabric of reality, was composed of nothing more than particles of longing, a kind of quantum desire for absolute connection. Dr. Peck understood that, from moment to moment, we are profoundly asleep and, so, profoundly alone. ...He knew that every arousal he achieved would bring him closer to answers that had more to do with the nature of consciousness than of coma." (143)

"...this was what he lived for: that instant of pure, galloping potential, that feeling of downrushing epiphany. ...But calling forth fresh thought was, like summoning demons, a precarious process. And, for Dr. Peck, it required an instinctual blending of the right amounts of whimsy, research, fatigue, daydream, alcohol, and stress. It also required the right environment.... Finally, the summoning required a marriage of humility and patience that could allow the idea to reveal itself in its own manner and time. The idea, it must be understood, is always in charge." (145-146)

"...the calling to medicine -- at least the kind of visionary medicine to which he aspired -- was more than a vocation; it was destiny. And as such, it called for a radical lifestyle. Doctors, like monks, were forever at risk of infiltration by the domestic world. He concluded... that they should be solitary, if not entirely celibate, creatures. ...set apart." (146-147)

As in his earlier work, "Word Made Flesh," O'Connell has staked his claim on the phenomenon of creativity and developed a glossus of images to convey his theories and exasperations.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Veroneau on November 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm fond of dark, surreal universes. Favorite authors include Gaiman, Kafka, and Martin. Cerebral and morose narratives are what I thrive off of. In reading O'Connell's novel, I found that many elements of a fleshed out mindscape came into play, and I very much enjoyed the switch between Danny and Sweeney's stories throughout the novel. O'Connell's descriptions are very thoughtful and vivid. Unfortunately, I found that the more Danny and Sweeney's stories converged, the more convoluted the plot became. I might have forgiven this in retrospect, but the bare-bones resolution of this story left me with more questions than answers (and not thoughtful ones) and a bitter taste in my mouth.

This is a book I wish a re-write was available for. I would have rated it much higher had more of the threads spun earlier in the novel came to fruition in a more tangible manner.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Val Lillyput on March 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
WOW! What a book. I read this is less then 24 hours. I could not put it down. I was hook by the first chapter and the rest was history. The pace of the book was fast and the dialouge kept me intrigued. From Sweeney and Danny to the Cirus freaks you enter a world like one you have never seen yet by the end you realize maybe its not so different then your own! A must read, I only hope there is a sequel....
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Crawford on December 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It intrigues me that two people can read one book and have such stunningly different experiences. While I would be the first to admit that The Resurrectionist is a roller-coaster pot pouri of styles and characters I would take that as a blessing rather than a curse.

To be sure, in his four previous novels O'Connell has been guilty of flaying a man alive in visceral prose and a bout of dwarf throwing. He has also brought us some of the most riveting prose in contemporary American literature, managing to combine highly cerebral ideas with riveting narrative structures.

I have recently read three blog critiques which have left me wondering about the Giordian knot that O'Connell has entangled himself in by simply being ambitious. They have also left me wondering about the cognitive abilities of certain readers. Thus this missive is directed at G.B.H. Hornswoggler (who, just via his/her presumed pseudonym is probably not to be taken too seriously), Carrie Laben and Mike Meginnis (who, in his blog, admits that "I'm not writing in order to be a productive critic..."). All three have taken a sledgehammer to The Resurrectionist and all three, I believe, read a very different book to the one I have now delved into twice with total relish.

It is more than a little difficult to contextualize O'Connell's writings. He's become, deservedly, something of a cult [and sadly I have to stress cult] favourite via his first four books, The Skin Palace, Box Nine, Wireless and Word Made Flesh - all of which I can heartily recommend as well. These were all categorized as `crime' novels, which didn't even start to encompass their bizarre depths.
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