Literal Daze is back in lucky 7th edition form. Let’s dive right in!
Ghost Story (Peter Straub)
This is my first Peter Straub book. As I go back and try to catch up on all these books I missed out on growing up, I find myself saying that a lot. “This is my first XXXXX XXXXX book.” It’s too bad, but it’s also good in a way, because now I have all of these great books and authors to look forward to. After reading Ghost Story, I know Peter Straub will be one of my new favorites.
Ghost Story is about a group of elderly gentlemen in a small town in upstate NY who call themselves “The Chowder Society”. They dress up in fancy suits and smoke cigars and drink scotch and generally just have a good old-fashioned time. That is, until one of them mysteriously turns up dead at a party. After that, they continue their meetings, but the tone of the gatherings take on a darker shade as each one takes a turn telling a story that answers the question, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
Eventually, strange things begin happening in the small town, and the group has to bring in outside help from a young relative of the man who died. As they unravel the mystery, they also have to deal with the consequences of an event that happened to them earlier in their life, and it’s repercussions could end up tearing the town apart.
At first, I had a hard time getting into this. The opening is bizarre, and even after we get into the meat of the story it’s pretty slow going. However, the slow, dreadful build eventually works in its favor, and by the midpoint in the book I found that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I loved the tone of the whole book. Everything felt off somehow, like every single character in the book was just ever so slightly imbalanced and out of touch with reality. It made for a tense ride, and ending had a great pay-off for sticking around.
I’ll certainly be reading more by Mr. Straub. I see he has a few books with Stephen King. Now THAT might be worth checking out.
World Without End (Ken Follett)
After burning through Pillars of the Earth on audiobook, I knew I had to pick up its sequel. I didn’t even care what it was about, just that I needed it. It was even longer than the first, but it was definitely worth it.
World Without End takes place in the mid-fourteenth century, about 200 years after the events in Pillars, in the same fictional city of Kingsbridge. Though none of the same characters are still around from the first book (as you can imagine), several of them are descendants of the originals, like Jack and Tom Builder. This is a good thing though, as it gives us a clean slate to work with, a whole new crew that interact with each other and create this intricate tapestry of a story. Like it’s predecessor, WWE tells its story from several different points of view and follows significant portions of the character’s lives. Though there are some shadows of the first book that seem to pop up, they are unique and wholly different than those in Pillars, and watching how they all interact with each other (for good or bad) is a lot of fun.
If there’s one thing I can fault the story for, it’s that it seems to lack the overall structure of the first book. Pillars, though its story was all over the place, always had the backdrop of building the cathedral to tie everything together. It begins with the need for a new one, and ends with it being built, and everything that happens in between contributes to that overall arch. World Without End doesn’t seem to have that same driving goal to tie everything together, and so at times the story feels a bit aimless, like we’re just following these people around (fascinating as they might be) until they die or their story isn’t interesting any more. The ending especially felt jarring, in that there’s little in the way of climax or catharsis. There’s simply no more story to tell and it ends.
Overall though, that’s actually a minor gripe, and it didn’t take away from how wonderful this book is. Follett once again shows that he’s a master storyteller, and I will no doubt continue reading his work for as long as I can. As for the audiobook, there’s not much to say other than that John Lee knocks it out of the park once again. Such a great narrator. If I had the money I would hire him to just follow me around and narrate my life.
In the next edition, expect to see fellow Darkfuse author Lee Thompson’s novella Iron Butterflies Rust, as well as the audiobook of Day by Day Armageddon. Horror edition number two, perhaps? Come back and find out!