Read This!: Ghoul

Ghoul
By Brian Keene

Where do monsters come from?  Are they terrible creatures that haunt the night, feasting on the dead and the dying with their talons and fangs?  Or are they closer to home?  Are they the angry, drunken father?  The abusive mother?  Brian Keene explores these questions in his latest novel, Ghoul.

The hero of Ghoul is young Timmy Graco, a kid who just wants to spend his summer vacation with his best friends–Doug and Barry–and possibly hold hands with the preacher’s daughter.  At the age of twelve, Timmy’s world shouldn’t involve more than dirt bikes and the long boxes of comics he keeps under his bed, but the real world comes crashing down on him via the parents of his best friends and a series of disappearances that seem to center around the local cemetery.  Before the end of summer, Timmy’s world will never be the same, and he’ll have a whole new idea of what makes a monster.
Keene writes a gripping tale of lost innocence and the coming of age.  Unlike some of his previous novels, Ghoul takes its time, building to a sense of unrelenting horror rather than thrusting us into it.  We care about these characters, and so we travel through this hell with them as active participants rather than observers.  I was pushed to the brink of tears more than once.  Brian, it appears, knows how to twist the knife.

While many are calling Ghoul Keene’s best novel to date, I still feel that honor lies with Terminal.  These two books share the same sense of reality and the supernatural blending together to create a sense of doom, but Terminal resonated with me in ways Ghoul did not.  That’s a matter of opinion, of course, and your experience may be completely different.  Either way, for those new to Keene and his work, Ghoul is a great place to start.  It’s a fast read of high quality, and it might take a while for Keene to top it.

Recommendation: Very Strong-to-Must Have.  Keene rides again!