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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read- Fun and Scary!
I really enjoyed this book, best horror book I've read in ages. Reminded me ALOT of early Steven King (before he went way dark, sorry Steve, sad but true).

If you liked Salem's Lot, you'll probably enjoy this book. A very quick read. Three adolescent boys, best pals, on summer vacation dealing with their respective family issues, stumble into true horror. A...
Published on February 18, 2007 by Mrs. Fitz

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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good parts, but mostly disappointing
Brian Keene's debut novel won the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel that year, and set off a storm of publicity announcing him as the Next Big Thing, which has only increased in the intervening years. Unfortunately, I found that novel, The Rising, to be a huge disappointment, and I avoided reading anything else by Keene until the premise for Ghoul proved to be...
Published on February 15, 2007 by Craig Clarke


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read- Fun and Scary!, February 18, 2007
By 
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book, best horror book I've read in ages. Reminded me ALOT of early Steven King (before he went way dark, sorry Steve, sad but true).

If you liked Salem's Lot, you'll probably enjoy this book. A very quick read. Three adolescent boys, best pals, on summer vacation dealing with their respective family issues, stumble into true horror. A real monster, bloody murders, an old cemetary, dis-believing adults, a nasty dog, what horror fan can ask for more?

I do agree with some previous reviewers about the somewhat "rushed" ending but other than that,this book was fun! Enjoy!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Brian Keene Novel, February 3, 2007
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
I have read Brian Keene's "The Rising", "City of The Dead", and "Terminal" and they are three of my favorite books in my personal collection. "Ghoul" is a great read but I think it falls short of the quality of the books mentioned above. I found the three young boy characters to be very believable and likeable and the villians nasty enough to root against. The plot was strong overall but I felt at times Keene tried too hard with his 1980's pop culture references to bring his readers into the world of June 1984. He used them to the point of being a bit distracting. I also noted a couple of instances where he was a bit repetitive describing some of the people and places in the novel. I got deja vu reading these passages the second time and felt they were unnecessary. The ghoul himself was a nasty piece of work and a lot of fun to read about. He was a great villian. I also liked Keene's realistic ending and themes concerning the changes we go through as we pass from children into adulthood. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly reccomend it. I just felt it is not quite as good as the other three novels that I have read by Brian Keene. I certainly look forward to reading more books by him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A creeptastic love letter to youth, the 1980's and childhood friendship, July 11, 2011
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
In Ghoul by Brian Keene three 12 year-olds struggle to enjoy another endless summer despite their abusive and misunderstanding parents and the incursion of a newly awakened Ghoul in their summer haunt, the local cemetery. The year is 1984 and Timmy Graco and his two best friends contend with sexual abuse, physical abuse, death, oncoming puberty, mean local dogs, and one very creepy supernatural menace. This tightly wound thriller is the perfect summer read, especially for those who remember what it was like to be young in the 1980's.

In Ghoul, the real monsters are the parents, at their worst they are domineering, alcoholic and insensibly vicious. At their best, their ineptly destructive and deaf to the warnings of the desperate children that have begun to unravel the horrific mystery of why the graveyard has so many sink holes and why people keep disappearing.

More than anything, this is an ode to youth, innocence, friendship, and the 1980's. I loved Ghoul, from its understandably wretched antagonist to its brave and wonderful protagonist. Timmy's love of comic collecting/reading mirrored my own at that age, and his turning to these and his monster manual for help was faithful to the imaginative boys of my generation. If you like horror mixed with the sweetly sad nostalgia for things unrecoverable, like innocence and child hood friendship, then you will love it, too.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good parts, but mostly disappointing, February 15, 2007
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
Brian Keene's debut novel won the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel that year, and set off a storm of publicity announcing him as the Next Big Thing, which has only increased in the intervening years. Unfortunately, I found that novel, The Rising, to be a huge disappointment, and I avoided reading anything else by Keene until the premise for Ghoul proved to be irresistible.

This was partially because it shares its title with Michael Slade's best novel, but it was primarily because of its coming-of-age motif. In horror, the coming-of-age novels are generally the ones that are talked about for years (think of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dan Simmons's Summer of Night, and Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life as just a few examples), and I did not want to miss out on a potential classic by this highly popular author. But high expectations often lead to huge disappointments, and that was the case with Ghoul.

It is summer 1984. Timmy Graco and his friends Barry and Doug spend most of their time in their new underground bunker, or hanging out in the cemetery where Barry's father is the caretaker. Other than his friends, though, Timmy's grandpa seems to be the only one who understands him. Meanwhile, a being has arisen from underneath the cemetery. He is a ghoul, and he is hungry. Enlisting Barry's father to acquire more food for him leads to a summer that Timmy and his friends will never forget.

The characters are impressively drawn, but Ghoul has many flaws that keep it from being the classic that I expected. First and most importantly is Keene's heavy-handed treatment of the subject matter. A coming-of-age novel should not draw attention to its loss-of-innocence elements. Subtlety is required to let the events speak for themselves, to let the reader do most of the work in effecting the emotional resonance. Instead, Keene gives us far too many self-aware passages like the following: "Part of Timmy was ... afraid of what it might mean for his friend, and for them all. A loss of innocence, a dark passage from boyhood into the beginnings of manhood."

It is vital that we follow along with the characters through their struggles and do not have the important! parts pointed out to us. The thing about the loss of innocence is you're never aware of it as it is happening. It only becomes clear upon later reflection, and certainly not before the fact.

Another problem is that, despite the ghoul's subplot, the title of the book is misleading. This novel isn't really about the ghoul at all: it is about what Keene calls human monsters. And in practically exploitive treatments of sensitive subjects like incest and domestic abuse, Keene beats his readers over the head with his agenda. Along these lines, Ghoul could also have used a pass at a copyeditor's desk. A good portion of my complaints could have been remedied there as passages that were previously effective (if a little overdone) lose all of their impact when they are repeated almost verbatim just a few pages later.

This is unfortunate because otherwise Ghoul has a lot going for it. The twelve-year-old voice feels genuine, and tender scenes of young love are handled skillfully. Timmy is a classic character, and his grandpa makes the desired impression in only a few pages (too bad he manages to be forgotten entirely for the rest of the book!).

The scenes featuring the ghoul are especially entertaining; the ghoul himself even comes across as somewhat sympathetic -- particularly when compared to irredeemable characters like Barry's dad and Doug's mom -- after all, it is hardly the ghoul's fault that he has developed a taste for freedom and self-preservation. His story is gruesome and suspenseful and imaginative -- everything that the best horror is.

I want to applaud Keene for at least grasping at greatness, but Ghoul falls short in too many ways to recommend it. Despite its flaws, however, its fast-paced plot drew me in from page one and kept me reading -- almost against my will -- all the way to the end. I have to say one thing about Keene's prose: it really moves, even if it sometimes runs off the road.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghouls: human and supernatural, August 3, 2011
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
Real life holds many horrors when seen through the eyes of a child.

It is the first day of summer vacation for best friends, Timmy Graco, Barry Smeltzer and Doug Keiser, and the last idyllic days of their golden childhood.

Timmy's grandfather, Dane, dies of a heart attack and Barry helps his dad, Clark Smeltzer, caretaker of the church cemetery, bury him. The minister's daughter, Karen, and her boyfriend, Pat, are missing. Tombstones are toppling and graves are sinking. There are no birds near the cemetery. Cows no longer come up to the fence that separates their pasture from the cemetery. Road kill vanishes in the night. Something is wrong and Barry's alcoholic and abusive father is involved.

When something living under the cemetery rips the world apart and three best friends face up to the monsters in their lives, friendship undergoes the ultimate test.

The three boys in Brian Keene's latest novel, Ghoul, are typical 12-year-olds about to leave childhood behind as they face the monstrous truths in their lives: the most horrific monsters are the ones they live among. Keene paints a vivid and all-too-common world in small town Pennsylvania rife with sex, booze, rock and roll, child abuse, incest and youthful angst.

Slipping all too easily into the 12-year-old mind is only part of Ghoul's charming and chilling reality. By looking at monsters--the ones in their midst and the one that reaches out of the darkness of an old cemetery--from a different perspective, Keene skews fantasy into a believable world that exists just the next block over that chills the blood. Ghoul is horror to savor.

Keene may be the opening act for fantasists like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, but he has become a very hard act to follow.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More honest horror from one of the genre's best, February 24, 2007
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
It's 1984 (if you ever forget that, Keene will remind you on the next page), and Timmy, Barry, and Doug are looking forward to summer vacation. Unfortunately for them, there's a ghoul living under the church cemetary that likes to eat dead bodies, and has recruited Barry's father (a monster in his own right) to obtain women for it, through whom it wishes to further its race. Sounds bad enough. But remember, this is Brian Keene we're talking about. So things are bound to get worse...much, much worse...

"The Rising" hooked me on Keene; it was one of the most original, scariest books I'd read in ages (the ending was a true horror classic; surprisingly, the sequel didn't ruin anything). "Terminal," "City of the Dead," and "The Conqueror Worms" (title lovingly borrowed from Poe) continued that reign of no-holds-barred horror, the kind that Stephen King doesn't even dare write anymore (well, ok, maybe every once and a while). Keene uses real-life characters; the hero of "Worms" wasn't some worm scientist, he was a seventy-year-old redneck who just happened to get caught up in the midst of things. Keene's characters are three-dimensional, so much so that they take on a life of their own.

That's why I was slightly disappointed with "Ghoul." I guess I should expect it--this is, after all, a formatted novel. The whole "coming of age" horror novel has become a subgenre all its own, with everyone from Dan Simmons, Mr. King, and Ray Bradbury chipping in (hell, Dean Koontz, a non-horror author, even wrote one). Granted, Keene does bring his own unique touch to the tale, but it doesn't show until the last hundred pages or so. Until this, it's by-the-numbers...with a slight twist. You'll be able to predict most of it, although it's still a ride worth finishing (this IS Brian Keene, after all). If only he hadn't thrown in so many nostalgic moments...you won't ever forget the novel takes place twenty years ago. Still...it's a fiendishly good time, and a novel you should definitely take the time to read.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Throwback to the 1980s, February 1, 2007
By 
Thriller Lover (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
Brian Keene is considered one of the rising stars of the horror genre, and I personally believe he has a lot of talent. GHOUL is his most recent novel, and I thought it was a decent, albeit unspectacular effort.

GHOUL takes place in the past, in 1984. The plot essentially deals with three 12-year old friends and their encounter with a monster that is lurking within a nearby cemetery. The most enjoyable aspect of this novel is Keene's vivid recreation of childhood in 1980s -- Saturday morning cartoons, Star Wars action figures, the whole deal. This is the childhood of my generation, and it's nice to see an author set a book during this underrated era (which Keene plainly has a lot of fondness for).

My problem with GHOUL is that it's not very scary or fast paced. This is one of those types of books where the readers knows exactly what is going on, and is always one step ahead of the characters. As a result, I found it pretty easy to predict what would happen. There also isn't a great deal of action or suspense in this novel until the last half.

Keene is quite skilled at characterization, but I thought he dropped the ball a little bit on the adult characters in GHOUL. Two of the parents, in particular, are portrayed as absolutely horrendous individuals with no redeemable characteristics whatsoever. In the end, they seemed more like cartoons than flesh-and-blood people. I felt this hurt the overall believability of the story, which partially centers around the long-term consequences of family abuse.

That being said, Keene does a good job with the children characters and the climax of this book is genuinely exciting because you care about how they end up. GHOUL is therefore a very decent read, but not the spectacular breakout book that I believe Keene is capable of producing.

If you've never read Keene before, my advice is to try his debut novel, THE RISING, before moving on to this one.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars TIME TRAP, January 28, 2007
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
GHOUL reads like a first draft of a Steven Speilberg horror movie, or the bottom shelf for Stephen King (which he's been scraping for awhile now).

It's ET gone undead and stalking and terrorizing a town, with only a pack of kids right out of EXPLORERS that stand in its way. It's set in 1984 and Keene sets his traps and hangs his hooks on virtually EVERY 80's reference he can lay his hands on (some which, even the author admits, don't belong in 1984). There's nothing 1980's he won't throw in to remind you over and over again that this is the 80's (even with the bog standard horror movie opening of teens getting it on in the graveyard - which leads to our first GHOUL attack). It's a bit excessive and manages to distract from the story from time to time because it never seemed written in, but more placed in. The Hero Kids all fit within the standard molds we all know (and some still love) and right from their introductions we can already see that, while the GHOUL is real, it's also a metaphor for the often violent and abusive lives kids lead in the shadows.

There's some striking moments, and Keene knows how to write (although most of GHOUL reads more like it was unearthed than actually written) - but this book just rides too much on the coattails of too many other books of the period. The GHOUL is not the only undead thing stalking the pages here - bits of IT, strips of STAND BY ME, you name it, you've already read it, and you'll find reading it again pointless.

Keene always seems on the edge of doing something original (THE CONQUEROR WORMS had a BRILLIANT idea, which was killed by flashbacks and first person narration and a poor choice of characters and location), something new - but he slides, slips back and falls into the comfy crack of the familiar time and time again (even the preview chapter for his next book DEAD SEA makes the same fatal mistakes - first person narration, flashbacks and oh yeah, zombies... more... zombies).

Overall GHOUL plays by all the rules, never breaks them, and never takes the chance on anything new. If the copyright didn't read 2007 on the inside, you'd swear you'd read this already - and, you already have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic tale of childhood friends against the monsters in their lives, October 11, 2012
This review is from: Ghoul (Paperback)
REVIEWED: Ghoul
WRITTEN BY: Brian Keene
PUBLISHED: January, 2012

My first thought as I read this book was how formulaic it was. It read like every traditional horror movie of the eighties. But then Keene stepped past that - he took the plot and characters to places I didn't want to go, places that made me cringe as I read. The story follows three teenage boys - best friends - during a summer filled with dreams and monsters... both those monsters that are unnatural horrors and those waiting at home in the guise of family. Once I got into this book, I couldn't set it down - it owned my attention. The ending left me a bit unsatisfied, but it was honest. 'Nuff said.

Four out of Five stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Here there be Ghouls..., January 25, 2012
This review is from: Ghoul (Paperback)
The story of Ghoul follows the lives of three young boy's set in an area of Pennsylvania where farm country meets factories. Timmy Graco, a twelve year old boy who collects comic books and one time pissed on an electric fence, is the protagonist who along with his two best friends, Doug and Barry, live their lives out like all kids do... making secret hideouts in cemeteries and playing among the dead. All is well and good until people start disappearing alive and turning up dead and not to mention the Ghoul munching that takes place. Needless to say, the ghoul is a problem for the town and there is no way a monster or anyone else is going to foul and smash the dreams of a 12 year old boy and his buddies.

Sounds cool right? Well, it is.

I won't tell anymore about GHOUL, because that would ruin it, but I will say that there is much more to the story then three boys and a ghoul eating people. There is an underpinning of something greater within the pages, a terrible secret, and the fact that GHOUL is also part of Keene's ongoing mythos that he calls The Labyrinth (Got to be a fan to catch and connect it). Keene creates believable characters and I always feel bad when one, or more, of the characters get hurt, eviscerated, killed, ect. But this is exactly why his work is so good, and I have no reservations in recommending GHOUL or Keene's other works to anyone. The ending of GHOUL was some of the best, truthful, honest writing I have ever read (these are other qualities I admire and enjoy from Keene), and will have you thinking the same way too. Ghoul has a strong plot, complex characters and classic monster mashing...err... melting, what could be better?

Ghoul is set in the 1980's and, while some say it is a coming of age story with elements of the horror genre just "thrown" in, I disagree with the second part, and feel that it was more of a solid classic horror trip that takes you through a plethora of characters and one crazy ass monster legacy.

Re-released by Deadite Press (One of my new favorite presses ), this edition is of excellent quality and is well worth the read and the best part of all, coming from Deadite press, you can pick up the trade paperback for only $11 bucks! Ghoul was a retro pleasure to read and like I said, it's a terror filled joyride that will burn your fingers as you turn the pages and it will catch your mind afire. Congratulations Mr. Keene, another excellent book. Also, look out for the film adaptation of Ghoul coming later this year!
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Ghoul
Ghoul by Brian Keene (Paperback - January 2, 2012)
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