Monday, October 6, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Old Flames by Jack Ketchum

"Who's the scariest guy in America? Probably Jack Ketchum." - Stephen King

Stephen King is right. Jack Ketchum is probably the scariest guy in America. He's definitely one of my favourite writers and when his newest book, Old Flames was released, I rushed out to get it. I was disappointed when I realized it wasn't a full-length novel, just a book comprised of two novellas. But, as usual, Ketchum delivers.

Both novellas feature strong female characters. One as an antagonist and one as a protagonist. Old Flames is about a recently dumped woman, Dora, who uses a service called Flame Finders to find her high school sweetheart. To her dismay, he is married and has children. But that won't stop Dora from staking her claim. It's Fatal Attraction for the 00's. With so many people now looking up old flames and friends via Facebook and MySpace readers can easily relate.

This novella moves quickly and had me frantically flipping the pages. I couldn't wait to see what crazy Dora would do next. The writing is superb, as it always is with Ketchum. I wish it was longer so the characters were more fleshed out. They're fleshed out enough for a 130 page novella, but I think it would've been interesting to have more back story on Dora, and why she is such a psycho. I also thought the ending was confusing. I had to re-read the last chapters a couple times until I understood what happened. But I still enjoyed it.

Old Flames is a pretty good novella, but I think it would have made an amazing novel.

Rating: 4/5

The second novella, Right to Life, has previously been released on its own (see left). I was more excited for this one than the title story because I had been wanting to read it for awhile. But people who have already read Right to Life may feel ripped off buying a book for a 130 page novella.

Right to Life is about a pregnant woman, Sara, who is kidnapped outside of an abortion clinic by a pro-life couple. The couple, who can't have children of their own, intend to keep Sara as their prisoner until the baby is born.

Ironically, this is the better novella of the two. Sara is a protagonist who I really cared about and the couple who kidnaps her are villains I loved to hate. The story moves quickly, I read it in one sitting. Unlike Old Flames, Right to Life is the perfect length. It is very intense and has some brutal violence, which would be too overwhelming for novel length. I found myself disgusted with some parts, but I think my strong reaction is just a testament to how amazing it is. Readers who don't feel that way toward stories with brutal violence, may want to steer clear of this novella. Ketchum is great at writing realistic horror novels involving situations that you can see happening in real life.

Rating: 5/5

So, I would give both of the novellas together a 4.5/5.


Derek Anderson said...

Hi, Melissa. I'm new to your site. I'm really glad I found it because it rocks!

I agree with you about the ending of "Old Flames." It was puzzling and not a very good note to end on. That said, "Old Flames" is still a heart-stopping, breathless novella that features a memorable horror villain. I think a 4/5 is definitely justified.

Derek Anderson said...
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