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Doctor Arnoldi by Tiffany Thayer #BookReview

After an explosion in a New York subway, five men are buried in rubble. Three hours later they are dragged from it, miraculously still alive. At the hospital, newspaper reporter Happy Suderman learns that no-one else has died there since noon, and a few phone calls turn up no other reports of death across the country. Happy is the first to realize that no matter how badly ill or injured they are people can no longer die.

Book cover for Doctor Arnoldi

Title: Doctor Arnoldi | Author: Tiffany Thayer | Originally Published: 1934 | ISBN13: 9781605437125 | Pages: 253| Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Self-purchased

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Doctor Arnoldi Review

I don’t know how I first came across Doctor Arnoldi. Probably one of my searches for classic sci-fi that looked interesting. It is not well-known. Indeed, there have only been two printings of the book 79 years apart. All I know is that as soon as I read about it, I knew I wanted to read it. Mostly because of the hamburger scene. (Which was much less prominent than I had hoped it would be.)

This book, written in 1934, is flamboyant, memorable, and just fucking weird.

Death stops, right? That’s the whole point of the novel. Death stops and we can’t die even if we want to (or someone else wants you to). The implication (we’re royally screwed) is obvious early on and Thayer doesn’t play around with stepping us through all the high (or should I say low?) points with an ever-increasing speed.

Thayer’s characters are larger-than-life. The main character is an opportunistic journalist with no morals. The secondary character, Doctor Arnoldi, is an odd duck in that he is nowhere near as fascinating as everyone seems to want him to be. Basically he’s an old coot with a fatalistic outlook who’s been through some crap.

Some of the descriptions in Doctor Arnoldi are absolutely horrifying and yet weirdly fascinating. Perhaps where the author shines is in his ability to give no fucks and present to you the most outrageous types of post-apocalyptic scenes. Scenes modern day writers of the genre don’t seem capable of bringing to the table.

Though I don’t normally read epilogues, this one cracked me up because after a long list of the names of god, it ended with:

“…the next time You have an idea like this to give away, you send it to H.G. Wells, because I won’t bother with it.”

It should be noted that, again, this was written in the ’30s. So, yes, there are problematic items in this such as racism and the general view that women are simpering idiots incapable of doing anything other than wanting sex or love.

Overall, I can’t say I loved the book, or that I entirely think it was worth the $13.00 I paid for it, but it was one hell of a reading experience and I think it needs adapted into an audio drama immediately.


You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads; however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inScience Fiction Book ReviewsStarred Reviews
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