Arun Divakar's Reviews > Koko

Koko by Peter Straub
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Jan 08, 2011

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Read from January 01 to 09, 2011

One question that always haunted me is to what the true nature of insanity could be like. What really happens in the minds where the neural circuits do not connect ? Does it only entail feeling normal as the other so called sane people ? History gives us an excellent example of frothing-at-the-mouth kind of insanity over centuries : War. Koko takes us into a war that sent shock waves through a generation in America. One that took place in Vietnam. Reading this book I was reminded of the tagline from Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket "In Vietnam the wind doesn't blow, it sucks" .

Out in the jungles of Vietnam, a good many teenagers lost their sanity in mindless battles.Countless atrocities,hardship and the mixed feelings of despair and futility would have driven soldiers over the cliff edges of a sound mind. Peter Straub recounts the tale of one such platoon in the jungles of Vietnam, an incident at a village named Ia Thuc and how it comes back to haunt four men later into life.Seen from locations as varied as Vietnam,New York,Singapore...a host of others as well. The tale is about a lot of things that go sour : families, sexuality,a steady job(s), alcoholism and many others which pave the way for a life of dissatisfaction for the men & women involved with such a war. Through these four men, Straub explores the scars a war can leave.

The long and short of it is that this is a mystery told on the grand canvas of the Vietnam War. Don't let the "World Fantasy Award winner " fool you, there is no fantasy here. It is a dark,grim work about what war does to humanity. There is a whodunit in here but the importance of that comes to the end of the tale and it takes to the closing notes for us to understand why the author leaves the tale the way it is. The tale meanders a great deal with a lot of branches and tributaries running every which way. It impedes on reading at places, but at other times feel justifiable (just like any author who knows his trade !!!). I honor the unspoken rule of never giving too much away in a review for a mystery plot and close my review here.

Recommended for those who would prefer a long drawn out read.
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