Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: "Koko" by Peter Straub

Peter Straub’s Koko is easily the most travelled book I own. Back in 2014, it went with my friend an I as we drove up the East Coast and back and now, I read it a second time while I whiled away lonely hour after lonely hour in the City of Angels on my first solo vacation. The first time I read it, I really didn’t like it. I found it a boring follow up to what I had just finished, Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole. I sped through it, wanting it to end quickly and gave it a barely passable rating. It wasn’t until I read the other two books in the Blue Rose Trilogy, the off the wall novel Mystery and the surprisingly ingenious novel The Throat that my animosity turned to curiosity and I decided to revisit it on my trip. While I appreciate it more, especially some of the characters, I still find it to be the weakest entry in this thematic trilogy of novels. One thing I liked at first about this novel of Vietnam, murder and flip-flopping identities is its opening scene, where Michael Poole, arguably the novel’s center, saunters around Washington D. C. during the Vietnam Memorial dedication. It brilliantly flips between flashback and painful present that foreshadows the breakneck structure of the novels later parts, like the dreamlike sojourn in Bangkok and the rather weak flashbacks to wartime. Also, Koko’s narration in some chapters is quite chilling and a thrill to read alone in an unfamiliar hotel room. It’s vagueness both hinders and elevates the book: it makes its characters rather weak and hard to care about, but it creates some eerie scenes, like its somber final pages. Straub is so often overlooked in favor of his Kingly contemporary, and this trilogy of novels, giant in scope and audacity, show he is one of the great modern horror authors.

Rating: 4/5

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