Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Koko by Peter Straub

Review of Koko by Peter Straub

KokoIt’s been a while since I began a review by saying that the book in question was a recommendation of Stephen Donaldson’s, but, once again, this is true. Peter Straub is most familiar in my mind for having collaborated with Stephen King – and I’ve seen one film adapted from one of his books (it had Alice ‘Borg Queen’ Krige in it, and, bizarrely enough, an aged Fred Astaire).

Koko is a Vietnam War thriller with horror overtones … although it’s not set in Vietnam (except for a few flashbacks). Michael Poole is the main character, now a ‘baby doctor’, who teams up with some of his Vietnam comrades to track down a man who they believe is a serial killer. The recent murders echo killings done during the war where the victim is mutilated and is left with a card in his mouth marked with the word ‘KOKO’.

The novel didn’t engage me all that much for the first third or half of the story. I found the writing merely workmanlike, stodgy. This lack of interest was compounded by repeated confusions about the timeline. Very often, it seemed, there was little obvious distinction between the past tense narrative and the frequent flashbacks to earlier events.

After two or three hundred pages, the story gathered a little more momentum as the characters gradually unearth new pieces of information about Koko (as the killer is named) – and these pieces add up to successive revelations about his identity. There are also passages from Koko’s point of view, and passages that may be narrated by this character or by the man they originally think is Koko. It wasn’t made too clear. With the various perspectives employed, lots of hints are dropped about Koko’s true identity, and it all felt very heavy-handed. The book could well have been shorter and more tightly focussed.

Overall, not too bad, but not that good either.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
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