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‘Ghoul’ by Brian Keene

  Most horror readers know that the genre’s authors routinely copy each other, so much so that it is practically impossible to find an original story.
  “Ghoul” by Brian Keene is another one of these knockoffs, a retelling of Stephen King’s “The Body,” or whichever coming-of-age horror novel you want to plug in.
  Since I just finished another novel that fits this profile, I was a little disappointed to find myself in the middle of yet another kids-versus-monster story. That said, “Ghoul” is a good read.
  During the summer of 1984, Timmy Graco, 12, and his two best friends are excited to explore their surroundings and enjoy the underground clubhouse they dug in the town cemetery. But when people start going missing and graves start sinking, the boys begin to worry that something is very wrong. Timmy begins to suspect the culprit behind all the unusual occurrences is not a person, but a supernatural creature described in town lore. You can pretty much fill in the rest of the plot from there.
  Keene does create great characters. He describes the boys’ family lives, which don’t include picket fences. The brutality the boys face from their parents hammers home Keene’s theme that not all monsters are make-believe.
  The author also makes a theme out of the ’80s. He starts off in the author’s note saying that he has taken fictional liberties. “So if a character is listening to a song that wasn’t popular until months later, keep in mind that it’s a fictional timeline.” The timeline aspect didn’t bother me, though I think “Purple Rain” didn’t come out until July of 1984 and the novel is set in June, but I do know people who would be driven absolutely crazy by facts not being correct. I actually found it kind of fun.
  My friend and I had a discussion about this line: “On the Nova’s tape deck, ‘Darling Nikki’ blurred into ‘When Doves Cry.’ " OK, unless the Nova had a tape deck that automatically flipped the tape (whether “blurred” infers flipping I’m not sure) “Darling Nikki” wouldn’t run into anything since it’s the last song on side one of “Purple Rain.” Now granted, if “blurred” does mean the tape flipped, then I guess it’s OK since “When Doves Cry” is the first song on the second side.
  I know, I know, too much information.
  Many readers might tire of Keene’s ’80s references but I was entertained, as I was on a whole by “Ghoul,” whether it’s a knockoff or not.

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