Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ghost Country

So Wifey saw how much I enjoyed the last Paretsky book I read, and so dug up Ghost Country at the library. Total Recall was 2001, and Ghost Country goes back even further to 1998. Certainly not a new release, but a great read.

A side-note on Total Recall. The Paretsky book has nothing to do with the Arnie move, but in one of the recent issues of The New Yorker, I learned that the movie was based on a book by Philip K. Dick. Looking at Wikipedia, it says it right there (what doesn't Wikipedia know??), but the Total Recall movie was so unremarkable, other than being a great (albeit bizarre) action flick, that I never would have bothered looking it up. I'm not enough of a science fiction fan to go down this road, but if you are, you should definitely look into Philip Dick novels from waaaay back in the day. I'll admit I haven't actually read any of his novels, but the long (as all New Yorker articles must be) article made clear that his works are 'interesting' in the vein of H.G. Well's Time Machine or Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, though never considered on the same literary level. Dick, it seems was a prolific pulp writer. Time Machine and Martian Chronicles were required reading in high school lit, but at the time, they seemed confusing mumbo-jumbo. Thinking back, I guess my 15 year old psyche was not ready for the social undertones of such works. But it seems Dick also brilliantly addressed our human condition through nutty fiction novels. And please don't tell me Time Machine and Martian Chronicles were not nutty.

Whoa, that was quite an aside. Back to Ghost Country. Not as fast paced as VI Warshawski books, but engaging none-the-less. Here, Paretsky takes to the homeless underworld of Chicago. I can't help but wonder if she based it on some even happening in Chicago at the time, but I'm too tired to go googling for this right now.

The story takes a couple prominent families in Chicago, with family members of dubious character. These family members fall into the homeless underworld and all hell breaks loose. It wasn't as preachy as I thought it would be about homelessness. Which I'm glad. In my rec reading, I don't need social lectures, but it spoke strongly about human relationships, which I always enjoy. Let's just say it made me look at my sleeping daughters and strengthened my resolve to love, cherish, and support.

I am also a Stephen King fan. Needful Things was a superb work, though rife with tragic ends. In Ghost Country, there is a culminating scene at a church that took me back to the culminating scene of Needful Things. The savage results of mob mentality, in the name of religion. It was pretty powerful in both stories, though Ghost Country spent but a couple chapters, while Needful Things was devoted entirely to the topic. Religion was just the vehicle, though, in both stories. I also don't think mob mentality was really the focus, either. I think the real statement is about the ugliness inside us all. The horrible, ugly truths that lie just beneath our polished veneers. No-one is immune really, and our only salvation is in how we deal with it. So, let the knight say of you, that you have chosen wisely.... if you really do have free will at all.

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