Maciek's Reviews > Koko

Koko by Peter Straub
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's review
Dec 27, 10

bookshelves: owned-books, own-in-paperback, big-tomes, favorites, thriller-mystery-suspense, read-in-2010, reviewed, vietnam-war, own-in-hardcover
Recommended for: Those who like long, character driven stories
Read from December 21 to 27, 2010

Koko is a lenghty tome. My paperback copy spans 640 pages and promises great things - a haunting nightmare of four Vietnam veterans, reunited 15 years after the war, thrust back into the horrors of the war when they learn about a chain of murders comitted in Southeast Asia - the murderer always leaves a playing card with the word "Koko" scribbled on it. The word has eerie connotations for the four men - they believe that a former member of their platoon is behind the murders.

After Floating Dragon and The Talisman, Peter Straub wanted to try his strenghts in a different field. He worked four years on Koko, and in many interviews names it as his strongest work. He fooled those who were expecting a supernatural tale like his two previous novels; there is little (if any) of supernatural in Koko, but there's plenty of ghosts. The scariest thing is that they are all alive.

Koko is a long, complex novel where the travel is most important, not the resolution; it's most definitely not an easy thriller or a simple mystery. It's a tale of a group of men who travelled to hell and returned with their own personal devils. And when their past calls them back, they decide to take action, and pursue the killer: through Signapore and Taipei to Milwaukee and New York City. Peter Straub in one of the interviews said that Koko was his best writing experience, where he entered a flow state in which he was with his characters and discovered that he wrote whole pages without thinking about writing them. It shows; Koko presents a world so complex and real that the reader feels like he was living in it. It does tend to wander from time to time, but doesn't life? Koko is full of real emotions, poignancy, sadness and ambiguity. Pumo, Spitalny, Beevers, Linklater, Underhill are all real people who will stay with you, and Koko is the ghost that haunts them all. These are some of the most realistic and memorable character I've ever encountered in fiction. The narrative is rich, long, detailed, satysfying and haunting, and will stay with the reader for a long time. It stayed with me.

Peter Straub has achieved something extraordinary in Koko; when he says that this is his strongest work, a favorite, he has his reasons. A long, complex journey to the heart of darkness that is not really about who - it's about why. A rare gem, worth multiple readings.
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Reading Progress

12/22/2010 page 150
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David I read this book back in High School for a report circa 89-90. All I remember was struggling to finsh the last 250 pages or so, now some 25 years latter I'm gonna try again, after I finish Ghost Story.

Maciek Hope you'll like it better now, David! I actually liked it better than Ghost Story - which I also enjoyed (though with some reservations).

message 3: by David (new)

David I gave up on GS, got mad there were stories, in the story. Was reading about the school teacher and the ghost watching over the kids. I may go back to it.

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