A great start to the back half of season 4. Early world has the ratings for Be All My Sins Remember’d up almost 20% from the premiere, Adrift. I also hear that up to 60% of our audience is time-shifting the show to watch at a later date. Interesting.
Okay, I’d like to kick off the January Book of the Month Club discussion by weighing in on the first of the three selections I read: Ghost Story, by Peter Straub. Now, normally, I don’t read all that much horror literature, but I decided to include horror as a BOTM option: a) for blog visitors who may prefer it over scifi and fantasy, and b) after reading and being pleasantly surprised by some of Dan Simmons’ work in the field (ie. Song of Kali, The Terror, Summer of Night).
Ghost Story is considered by many a classic, one highly recommended by Stephen King no less and, overall, I was not disappointed. Straub is a wonderful writer who demonstrates a mastery of the macabre, crafting an effectively creepy tale that left this reader on edge through most of the book’s 500+ pages. No cheap scares or needlessly gratuitous scenes of violence. The horror is controlled and measured, inexorably building on the looming sense of terror bubbling just beneath the surface of the quaint town of Milburn. A lot of terrific scares throughout, my favorite being the scene in which the wheelchair-bound woman watches helplessly through her bedroom window as her long-dead brother makes a shocking return visit to his farm.
I loved Straub’s ability to build the tension by never rushing the narrative or giving away too much too soon, however, there were instances where I felt the pacing suffered. Also, as much as I loved the world he created, I sometimes found myself wondering whether he’d been a little too meticulous in introducing minor character who, while interesting, served little purpose beyond establishing the picturesque yet claustrophobic Northeastern community.
While the book is called Ghost Story, it really has nothing to do with ghosts – although you could argue that the members of the Chowder Society are, in effect, haunted by their past. The evil forces they battle are actually near-immortal shape-shifters that live to wreak havoc on this mortal world. All well and good, but by going from ghosts to shape-shifters, I felt Straub undermined a significant amount of what made Ghost Story so enjoyable. The members of the Chowder Society were struggling not only with the secret of what they had done, but the guilt that came with it. They murdered a woman and finally, decades later, they were being made to pay for their sins of the past. Great, but if the woman was an evil shape-shifter from the start, we let these men (not to mention the reader) off the hook and the story suddenly loses some of its depth, shifting away from a rich tale of supernatural vengeance to a more straight-forward tale of good vs. evil.
Also, even though we are told that Eva and her cohorts are shape-shifters, there are times when they seem to possess decidedly ghostly abilities. On the one hand, they can, as physical beings, influence their physical surroundings. On the other hand, there are instances in which they are able to pass through physical space unnoticed (ie. The scene at the university where, apparently, only Peter Barnes can see Gregory Benton approaching).
And, a couple of more questions while we‘re at it –
Why does it take Eva so long (50 years!) to exact her revenge? Why does it take her nearly a year to resume her quest for vengeance after killing Edward Wanderly (given that the subsequent victims are dispatched in fairly quick order)?
Why does the Chow Society contact Don? Is it because they’ve been having nightmares and the novel he has written just happens to deal with a supernatural predator? Is this mere coincidence?
What was the deal with Alma Mobley? Why does Don meet her so early? Why was she targeting Don when she could have been targeting the members of the Chowder Society?
Even though I was initially put off but what felt like a second, anti-climactic conclusion, in retrospect I appreciate Straub’s attempt to book-end the tale and pay off a very intriguing opening.
Overall, an enjoyably creepy read.
Back in the office today where I was greeted by many familiar faces – and a modest mountain of parcels (more on those goodies in tomorrow‘s blog). We spent the day discussing important matters like football, the holidays, and, oh yeah, the sets we’ll be needing for our first three episodes. I also received my hard-won prize money for winning this season’s NFL dark horse pool (Thank you, Cleveland).
Today’s pics: I settle back into the office settling; Alex Levine opts for a more laid-back approach, Brad, Rob and tech-geek Marty G., we called M.I.A. Binder to find out how he’s holding up in L.A., Rob Cooper makes his loyalties clear, Alex Levine presents me with my winnings.