I knew little of Peter Straub before reading this novel. I had mostly associated him with Stephen King ala Black House and Talisman, and so basically considered a writer of similar things with lesser known qualities.
This is not quite wrong, for the thematic style of the two, namely everyday people who are not quite as everyday as they look at first doing things to stop something ancient and evil. The main difference is that while Stephen King embraces the everyday as the focus of his stories, Straub (much like Dean Koontz) has a tendency of merely peppering merely peppering Floating Dragon with them, while the main structure of the story is deeply in the "less than ordinary".
And, in general, this weakens his writing in my opinion.
The story is still quite effecitve, with a cast of quite sympathetic characters. Straub tells the reader of a handful of tragedies that are coming, and then lets the reader take their time to find them. It becomes less a novel of twists and more like a carnival haunted house ride where you allow the tracks to take you to the end and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I have heard it described as a "special effects" novel and I would say that counts. Skin that melts away. Fire "bats". Giant hell hounds. These are just some of the scenes that takes a large bite from the Hollywood presentation model. It is one of those facets of current horror that nearly every story and novel is written as though keeping the big screen treatment in mind. It works for this novel more than most.
There are two excellent aspects to this novel: the self-referential narrator (who is one of the charcters and breaks in and out of his voice from time to time) and the fact that the monster is something sort of unique in horror novels, at least unique for Straub's style of writing. I was actually concerned that it was turning into a vampire novel. Instead, I ended up pleasantly suprised.
My current plan is to read a few more Straub novels. He sold me enough on this one to give him a second run and see how that goes.
Recommend to fans of contemporary horror novels, fans of the psychic powers of the Shining, fans of "evil place" literature, and those that like somewhat over the top (though not quite epic) story telling.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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