Category Archives: peter straub

Ghost Story

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Ghost Story

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…”

Perhaps the best first line I’ve ever read from any book. I was immediately entranced by this novel and wanted to find out what this horrible, dreadful thing was. The prologue of the novel thrusts you right into the thick of things and definitely keeps you, as the reader, on your toes. You’re kind of getting the end in the beginning and then need to work backwards from there to figure out how this character got into the desperate situation he currently finds himself in. And that journey is one wild ride.

To break it down, since I don’t want to give anything away, the novel is about a group of older gentlemen who are exceptionally close friends. These gentlemen have a sort of club called The Chowder Society where they get together and tell each other ghost stories from their past, conveniently circumventing the story they are all involved in. When their dreams begin to become unbearable they decide to invite the nephew of a deceased member of the group to help them figure out what is going on. Each man, Sears, Ricky, John, and Lewis, have the same dream where they enter a house and watch the others die. Since the deceased member’s nephew, Don Wanderley, has written a book about paranormal events they think that he is the best person to help them figure out the strange events surrounding their small New York town and explain what is happening in their dreams.

Enter Don, who is currently living and teaching in Berkeley, and has met a mysterious and beautiful girl he immediately falls in love with. Things between the two escalate quickly and just as quickly fall apart. She’s a strange character and Don begins to suspect horrible things about her. Then as suddenly as she blew into his life, this girl, Alma Mobley, disappears without a trace. To only be found engaged to his own brother in New York. Don tries to warn his brother about the girl but his warning isn’t enough. Disaster strikes and his brother David commits suicide. His life in shambles, he decides to go and meet The Chowder Society.

The plot takes on a frenetic pace when Don arrives in Milburn. Whatever supernatural plans that started with The Chowder Society are fully actualized once Don enters the scene. Everything hits the fan and the town turns upside down. The worst possible things that can happen do, and it’s up to Don and The Chowder Society to find a way to repair the damage and save the town from it’s ghostly presence.

I know this all sounds a bit vague but I don’t want to give even a hint away. This is a novel that must be savored, and I don’t want to take that away from anyone who wants to read it.

I will tell you, this novel scared the pants off me. It took a while to build up but once it got there it was worth the wait. I spent many a night looking down the hallway making sure nothing was lurking there. I even thought about plugging in a nightlight. To me, this novel was the ultimate kind of scare. Like the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this novel dealt with entities invading your mind and taking control over your thoughts to show you things that aren’t real. They use your own thoughts, emotions, desires, and regrets to take control over you and make you do what they want of you. These entities muddy up the waters of perception and memory until you’re so confused you don’t know what’s up or down. You lose control of your faculties and are plunged into a facade of your desires before you realize that what you’ve entered is really a nightmare.

Even Stephen King has said that Ghost Story is one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century. For anyone that loves a good psychological scare, I would highly recommend this book. This novel, however, is a lot more than a horror novel. It’s a psychological look at the human condition and how the mind can be such a powerful force for good and for evil. It shows that perhaps the worst nightmare can be one of our own invention.

Rating: 5/5 Go out and get a copy immediately.

And please stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

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Tales Told Around the Campfire

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Tales Told Around the Campfire

Next up in Book Battle 2015 Ghost Story by Peter Straub. This book was recommended to me by my local used book store owner. He said that Straub is one of the originators of the new horror genre. This book is a bit of a continuation from last time since it’s a book that scares you. I had a had time with this one at first, like the book that will make you cry or laugh, because how do you know if you will be scared if you haven’t read the book before? So I took it out of my hands and asked google for the scariest books and this one came up. Since it was already recommended to me, and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I bought it, I knew this was the one.

From the book jacket, the plot sounds intriguing. It’s supposed to be a take on Henry James’s Turn of the Screw and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories. In the vein of more psychological Hitchcockian suspense as opposed to the slasher horror genre. I can’t wait to see if it’s true. I loved Turn of the Screw, and the movie with Deborah Kerr which scared the bejeezus out of me. Suspense based scares are my favorite. I don’t particularly like super gory. I like the scares that make you think a little about the future implications and ramifications to the characters and the story universe. Psycho stands out in my mind as a good psychological suspense story, true with a bit of gore. The end scene of the movie with Norman Bates gives me the chills.

As the title suggests, this story is going to be a ghost filled one, whether that’s ghosts from the past coming back to haunt you or real actual ghosts I don’t know. We’ll find out together.

Stay tuned for the review of Ghost Story. Happy reading!