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zondag 7 februari 2010

Koko by Peter Straub

The devastation of war

Not all memories from their time in Vietnam are fully understood by the four war veterans who gather for a reunion held at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. Michael Poole invited Tina Pumo, Conor Linklater and Harry Beevers to join him and share stories of the time they battled in the same platoon. But that’s not all they will talk about. The Stars and Stripes magazine recently ran an article on a series of ritualistic murders in the Far East. All of the victims had their eyes and one ear removed, but more significantly: a special playing card was slipped in their mouth. On the card each time one word was written: KOKO. This name has haunted the four veterans since they left Vietnam and is now going to completely change their lives once more.

Whereas the bibliography of Peter Straub mainly consists of supernatural thrillers, Koko is one of his most ambitious diversions from the genre. It not only reads like a great psychological thriller, it also creates a atmosphere that draws the reader very effectively into a grim and depressing post-war trauma. It sounds amazing that Peter Staub himself is not a war veteran, because it really reads like he has been there and experienced all that crazy shit that happened during this bizarre war. The pacing of the novel is a bit uneven where you have to endure some really big and thought heavy chapters to reach just a few suspense filled pages. In a way the story is not the main driver of Koko, it is the slow, creepy ghost of the devastation that jumps you at the gullet. Maybe in that respect it still is a supernatural thriller.

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