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Ghost Walk / Brian Keene

thGhostWalkCover.jpgLeisure / July 2008
Reviewed by: Jeff Burk

On his now-defunct writing blog, Brian Keene (The Rising, Dark Hollow) once wrote about how the demands of a professional novelist frequently involve juggling multiple projects and producing a large amount of work in a short amount of time. With the demands of four novels a year, he argued, some books would naturally not be as strong a work as others. With at least half a dozen books and several graphic novels coming out this year, Ghost Walk is the unfortunate first victim of the author’s admirable over ambition.

The titular “Ghost Walk” is a new Halloween tourist attraction in LeHorn's Hollow, the setting for Keene’s previous Dark Hollow. Reporter Maria Nasr has been assigned by the local newspaper to write a feature on it. In her research, she uncovers a history of murder and black magic. When she meets Levi Stoltzfus, a local Christian mystic, she enters a metaphysical war that threatens the entire world.

The characters spend much of the book running around from place to place uncovering secret after secret, but without any higher sense of purpose. The reader is told something bad is coming but is never given any reason why we dread this (besides vague ramblings about the end of the world). When the climatic massacre finally arrives, it is unusually restrained for a Keene book and over too quickly. After investing the time to read the novel, there is little sense of payoff. Fans of his previous blood and slime baths will be disappointed at this PG-13 offering.

While longtime fans will enjoy the book’s many in-jokes and references to other Keene works, new readers may find themselves feeling a little alienated. Without having read much of Keene's previous offerings, much of the importance of various characters and events will be lost on the casual reader. In the past, Keene used his mythology to heighten his work; here it feels as if he’s using it as a crutch.

One constant in all of Keene's work is his extremely engaging writing style. Though you might not know why and despite the unevenness of the story, you will remain interested in the book until the final page. It’s just a shame the plot is not of the same high a quality as the prose in the case of Ghost Walk.

Brian Keene has written some of the best horror novels to come out in the past ten years. As his name has risen in popularity so has his publishing output increased. With this comes the potential for a drop-off in quality and Ghost Walk is the unfortunate realization of this possibility. As a short story, Ghost Walk may have been interesting, but as a novel it feels more like a deadline obligation. Ghost Walk is one attraction not worth the admission fee.

Purchase Brian Keene's Ghost Walk.

Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 at 10:03AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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