Overview; Brian Keene’s Ghoul focuses on three twelve year old friends, Timmy, Barry and Doug. During the summer of 1984 the boys discover a number of monsters where they live.
Review; “The screaming stopped, but the sounds of slaughter continued.”
Brian Keen took a simple premise and layered great characters though out to create a novel about the loss of childhood to the world around you. The intricate and dependent relationship between the three boys is one of the novel’s strongest points. Barry and Doug are each victims of separate types of child abuse that are prevalent within our society today. This adds an additional depth to the interactions between the boys and the ghoul. The ghoul is not the first monster they encounter, merely the most easily defined. The ghoul in the novel, while horrendous and frightening is the only monster the boys are able to confront. The novel begins with a note from the author, giving the reader insight into how personal this story is to Keene. This sense of presumably his own childhood seeps through each scene with the boys. He frequently name drops books and authors who clearly influenced him. What could seem tacky and cheap works here, has an authenticity in its presentation. The only real weakness in the novel is a few characters are presented slowly with great backs story, but are clearly meant to be Ghoul fodder. While it is necessary in horror fiction to set up these elements Keene takes a little longer than necessary.
In the end;
Brian Keene’s Ghoul is a phenomenal coming of age story told with horror conventions. The story of Timmy, Doug and Barry in the summer of 1984 is a worthwhile read. The heart breaking epilogue to the story shows not only Keene’s talents as a writer and story teller, but his respect for reality. It is his understanding and presentation of the realties of human interaction that allows him to create plausibility in a story of a Ghoul beneath a graveyard. In May of 2011 a film version of Ghoul directed by Gregory M. Wilson is to begin shooting. Wilson’s previous film was the harrowing The Girl Next Door based on the novel of the same by Jack Ketchum.
In closing I leave you with another excerpt from Ghoul, “ Timmy thought to himself. And you didn’t live next door to a monster, or down the road from one either. The bad people aren’t just in my comics. They’re in the real world too.”