Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ghoul by Brian Keene


by Brian Keene

It's the summer of 1984, and young friends Timmy, Barry and Doug expect it to be an endless season of lazy days and (mostly) harmless mischief.  The last thing that they expect is that this will be a summer full of death:  first, the death of the coolest kids in town, then the death of a close relative, and ending with the death of their innocence (cliche as that may sound).

Well, that may not be entirely true.  The absolute last thing they are probably expecting is that monsters are real, and one of them--a ghoul--is living beneath their local graveyard, feasting on the rotting flesh of the deceased.  This, of course, is one of those situations so prevalent in horror:  a situation so terrible and bizarre that nobody else believes it, and so it's up to the boys to put an end to it themselves.

A publicity blurb from The Celebrity Cafe states that "Keene takes horror to a new level", which couldn't be further from the truth.  In actuality, Keene takes horror to an OLD level, a grand old level which hasn't been seen since the decade this book takes place in.  Ghoul is not only set in the 1980's, but it's also a stellar literary throwback to that era's particular brand of horror flicks, full of latex prosthetics and red-dyed Karo syrup.  It unfolds in a way that makes you wish it was a movie, one that you could watch over and over again.  One that you would keep on the shelf between your VHS copies of The Gate and Basket Case.

A blurb from Rue Morgue calls Keene "One of horror's most impressive new literary talents", and this is definitely closer to the truth.  Not only does he weave a scary tale that utilizes a seldom-seen mythological monster, and does so convincingly in a year now 25+ years gone, but he also evokes a very real terror, one that not even the ghoul himself can touch.

The title of this book may be Ghoul, but he's not the real trouble here.  A ghoul is a monster that can be stopped.  But the real monsters are those that walk secretly among us: the monsters wearing human skin.  These are the monsters that go on forever, the ones that can not be stopped.

Because when one of these human monsters is stopped, another, smaller version just steps up to take its place.



  1. Nice review. I remember reading this a while back and enjoying it as well. A nice simple, well put together book that is easy to sit back with and read quickly.

  2. solid review.... i hope you are drinking some coffee... in the 12th hour...

  3. Keene's stuff is a mixed bag, and at times I feel a lot of the attention he garners isn't entirely due.

    While some of his stuff is certainly worthwhile, is it only to me that he smacks of a slightly less prolific Richard Laymon rehashing the same basic plot lines of other, more influential novels over and over?

    Granted he does display talent in a lot of his books, but has he really done anything "new" beyond getting recognized for stuff Laymon, Ketchum, King, and Skipp & Spector did years ago?

    - Aaron


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