The Friendship of Mortals

Rated 4.67/5 based on 6 reviews
Herbert West can revivify the dead – after a fashion. Miskatonic University librarian Charles Milburn agrees to help him, compromising his principles and his romance with Alma Halsey, daughter of the Dean of Medicine. West’s experiments become increasingly risky, but when he prepares to cross the ultimate border, only Charles can save his life – if his conscience lets him. More
Available ebook formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html
First 10% Sample: epub mobi (Kindle) lrf more Online Reader
About Audrey Driscoll

Three quarters of the way through a career as a cataloguing librarian, Audrey Driscoll discovered she is actually a writer. Since the turn of the millennium, she has written and published several novels and a short story collection. She gardens, juggles words, and communes with fictitious characters in Victoria, British Columbia.

Read Audrey Driscoll's Smashwords Interview
Learn more about Audrey Driscoll


The Friendship of Mortals book trailer #2
This is the second book trailer for The Friendship of Mortals. It is essentially the same as the first one, but includes pictures.

About the Series: Herbert West
Four novels, in which Herbert West, a scientist obsessed with reversing death, is transformed into a physician of last resort. From ancient Arkham to the agony of the Great War, from Acadie to the islands of the West Coast, a brilliant but amoral physician is subjected to travails and entanglements, to become a source of healing -- and of peril.

Also in Series: Herbert West

Also by This Author

Reviews of The Friendship of Mortals by Audrey Driscoll

PJ O'Brien reviewed on Dec. 11, 2022

When I first read a sample from this book on a hot summer day, the writing style reminded me somewhat of Edgar Allen Poe. I was in the middle of several other books, so I added it to my reading queue with a mental note to save it for the fall. I’m sure I read descriptions and reviews of it when I first came across it, but when I picked it up months later, I’d pretty much forgotten everything about it.

I slid easily into the story, adapting myself to the pacing and conversation style of the 1910s. It still reminded me a little of Poe’s writing, so I was prepared for some literary despair and dread, beautifully phrased. The Friendship of Mortals supplied this, along with an interesting glimpse into the world of university library staff and the struggle of young professional women of that era for autonomy and suffrage. And I loved learning about library cataloguers and wondered whether the demand for them has increased or diminished these days.

As I read further, still very engrossed, I felt that there was something about this book that I should keep in mind, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. It added to the increasing dread as I began to suspect what one main character was up to and if the other could stop him from going too far. It was only when I was describing it over lunch one day that things became clear. I was asked by a surprised family member, “Are you reading Lovecraft? You have to be if it’s set in in Arkham. Arkham and Miskatonic University are in Lovecraft Country.”

I wasn’t reading H.P. Lovecraft and the closest I’ve ever gotten to his country was Matt Ruff’s book of that title and the series based upon it. But that reminded me of what I’d forgotten from the reviews I’d read months before: it's a retelling of Lovecraft's Herbert West—Reanimator. I realized that the lives of the library staff and university faculty were about to get freaky. But it was Halloween season so I simply warned the characters and kept reading.

I have to caution those who are looking for shocking amounts of blood and gore to go elsewhere for them. What horror there is in this retelling of the Herbert West series has humans at the source of it. I understand (through the magic of Wikipedia) that Lovecraft wrote the original as a parody of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and that it was not considered one of his better works (even by him). But my Lovecraft ignorance aside, I thought author Audrey Driscoll's exploration of it was very good. It managed to stay fairly faithful to the main plot points (as far as I can tell, again from Wikipedia) and manages to do so while adding depth, context, and development of characters like the narrator, who Lovecraft never names or provides much understanding for. This version identifies him as Charles Milburn and makes him a conflicted, relatable person and not a narrative device or sycophant for Herbert West. (I did want to shake him a few times, but understood that there were plot points that had to be followed.)

Driscoll also does an excellent job in developing Herbert West into a complex person and showing various perspectives for his actions. He is still single-minded, narcissistic, and duplicitous in her telling of the story, but he is also thoughtful to his housekeeper and takes good care of his (non-dying) patients. You certainly wouldn’t want to have a near death experience around him or let him anywhere close to the body of a deceased loved one. (But anyone who’s read anything about the history of the medical profession through the 18th – 20th centuries might have the same unease about what others have done to advance knowledge or develop techniques for what they perceived was the ultimate good.) I could never completely trust or hate West, and often did both in the space of a few sentences.

I also appreciated the character of Alma Halsey and sincerely hope that she has a bigger role in subsequent books in the series.

All in all, it was a good read for me. I understand that some reviewers found it long or slow in some places, but I thought the pacing neatly matched the spirit of the time setting. While this could still be considered a zombie story since it technically has a few in it, it’s more along the lines of The Monkey's Paw. Like the latter, it’s ultimately about the dread of death, and the sometimes unexpected consequences of trying to control fate to undo the pain of loss.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)
Dave Cline reviewed on May 29, 2020

TFoM is a character driven, Victorian era'esque story of the reanimation of the dead. Audrey's writing is superb and is absolutely consumable—I don't think I found one flaw in the copy. The base premise exposes obvious moral/ethical questions which the main characters attempt to skirt, but only after Audrey explores the quandary the act of revivification poses.
I'm usually a plot focused reader—wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am kind of stuff. However, I enjoyed Audrey's character driven story. I think Audrey may be the next Mary Shelley...
(reviewed 68 days after purchase)
Michelle Proulx reviewed on Jan. 17, 2015

This was one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking stories I have ever read. It’s told from the perspective of mild-mannered archivist Charles Millburn, but the real story revolves around the incredibly fascinating, mysterious Herbert West and his necromantic attempts. I absolutely loved this setup – Herbert West’s story became so much more intriguing when viewed through the eyes of another. This is definitely what the author intended when she wrote this gorgeous piece of literature, and I feel she pulled it off beautifully.

Herbert West alarmed, enchanted, and terrified me all at once. He is ruthless in his ambitions, confident that he will not be discovered, and willing to do whatever it takes to get his way. He should have been the villain of the piece but, perhaps because the story is told through his loyal follower Charles Millburn, I was instead sympathetic for him, and wanted him to succeed despite the fact that what he was doing was morally questionable at best.

The only complaint I can really make is that I felt the story dragged in places. The first half of the story was absolutely gripping, but once the characters separate and go their own ways for a bit, I wasn’t quite as enthralled – although once they get back together, the story picks up pace again.

Overall, a gripping and fascinating insight into a brilliant and disturbed mind (Herbert West, not the author!). I would definitely recommend this to any fan of H.P. Lovecraft, fans of sci-fi/fantasy, and anyone who just enjoys excellently written literature.
(review of free book)
ReadersEbooks reviewed on Nov. 8, 2012

‘The Friendship of Mortals’ took an unusually long time for me to read, because the language used, quite apart from the story, is a work of art in itself. On several occasions, I felt a need to read a particular sentence or paragraph to my associates and friends. On each of those occasions, the response was of profound admiration for the skill of Audrey Driscoll. This book is a work of art, a lesson in writing. It is a book that I will read over and over, simply for the pleasure that the use of the language gives me.
(review of free book)
Glenn Vanstrum reviewed on July 30, 2012

Audrey Driscoll can flat out write. Her magnum opus, a trio that is really a quartet, begins with The Friendship of Mortals, a stunner of a whopping novel. A character study set from 1910-1938, the book combines historical fiction with strong dollops of Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James, Mary Shelley, and Stephen King.

The Ahab-like central character, renegade physician Herbert West, lures our Ishmael-like narrator, the meek Charles Milburn, to assist him in increasingly dangerous and illegal experimental activities involving, well, revivification. The plot, aided and enriched by the finely wrought journalist, Alma, slowly envelopes a reader until reaching a fever pitch at the climax.

To get back to the writing: The tone is sure, the descriptions and word paintings lush, the action inevitable, and the reader's suspension of disbelief complete. I spent many an evening reading this tome (it's not a short book), and relished every minute.

I'm looking forward to reading the next three in the series. Experience tells me I won't be disappointed.
(reviewed 30 days after purchase) Young reviewed on July 28, 2012

Normally I don't read supernatural novels. Fantasy yes; supernatural thrillers, no. But I am totally addicted to this trilogy. I couldn't put it down when I first read it and I couldn't wait for the next volume. That's a mark of how well it's written and how compelling the characters are.
(reviewed 2 years after purchase)

Print Edition

Report this book