“Ghosts don’t do things to you. Ghosts make you do unspeakable things to yourself.”
I came across Sean Stewart after his striking work writing the Halo 2 ARG (Alternate Reality Game), ILovebees. Stewart’s latest offering shares little in common with the virtuoso science fiction setting he crafted for the world of Halo, but his main asset as a writer remains well intact: his stories focus on the human aspect of the events they depict, and they’re quite believable.
Enter William “Dead” Kennedy (DK for short), stage left. He’s seen ghosts his entire life, black and white specters that are easy to mistake for the living at night. Though I’m no English major, Stewart seems to draw heavily from magical realism, a genre in which magical elements appear in an otherwise realistic setting.
DK is one of those thirty-somethings who has slowed down so much life is starting to pass him by. He can’t even keep a job steady enough to pay his air conditioning bill, leaving him to roast in the Houston heat. (Regionalism permeates the novel with great lines like “East Texas has four great natural resources: heat, oil, mosquitoes, and cousins.”)
Though vengeful spirits abound, this is no mere campfire horror story. Poor DK realizes that to his ex-wife and the rest of the Kennedys he’s nothing more than a ghost everyone can see, and his subsequent struggle to reconcile with his daughter Megan is alternatively touching and heartbreaking. Neal Stephenson’s seemingly outlandish claim on the cover that Perfect Circle is “Stephen King meets Ibsen” might not be so far off after all…