Brian Keene,
Ghost Walk
(Leisure, 2008)

The concept, while not unique, is still inspired. Someone sets up a haunted attraction in the woods of York County, Pa., not realizing the woods are truly haunted.

But Brian Keene's novel Ghost Walk, a sequel to Dark Hollow, stumbles on several levels. Foremost among them is the villain itself.

In the past, Keene has dabbled with zombies and demons, giant worms and horny satyrs. This time, he sets loose an evil that is older than the universe, pissed off at God and systematically destroying all worlds -- including multiple Earths -- in God's creation. Now it's threatening our planet, wresting its way free of the small circle of, um, rocks that have held it captive for several years after it was trapped there by a, um, backwoods farmer.

Yeah. And we are expected to believe that so potent a force could be restrained by a rock pattern. It traverses galaxies and sucks planets dry, but those tricky rock circles really give it grief. And we're supposed to be scared of this guy?

OK, so the bad guy is lame. At least Keene writes interesting characters, right? Not this time, pal. This book lacks any sense of caring about the people -- or, for that matter, the places -- involved.

In Keene's previous books set in the region, I sensed a gruff fondness for southcentral Pennsylvania. In Ghost Walk, I sense nothing but disdain for York and Lancaster counties and the people who live there. That disdain carries through to Keene's characters, none of whom are very appealing. I kept looking for someone to like in this book and came up blank. And the one person who returns from Dark Hollow has been stripped of everything that made him interesting in the previous book.

I'm a little disappointed that Keene seems to have very little knowledge about the careers of a newspaper correspondent and a powwow doctor, both of which are mishandled here. Reluctant hero Levi Stoltzfus, a shunned Amishman, seems more caricature than character. (And dude, the Amish wear beards to show they're married, not to attract women.)

The ending is a huge anticlimax. I mean, really ... that was it?

Keene's work in the past has been hit or miss. Some of his novels have been exceptional, while others fell short of the mark. Ghost Walk is one you can probably pass by.

book review by
Tom Knapp

19 February 2011

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new