Start your review of Koko Write a review May 18, Maciek rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Those who like long, character driven stories Shelves: owned-books , favorites , own-in-paperback , own-in-hardcover , big-tomes , thriller-mystery-suspense , read-in , reviewed , vietnam-war Koko is a lenghty tome. My paperback copy spans pages and promises great things - a haunting nightmare of four Vietnam veterans, reunited 15 years after the war, thrust back into the horrors of the war when they learn about a chain of murders comitted in Southeast Asia - the murderer always leaves a playing card with the word "Koko" scribbled on it. The word has eerie connotations for the four men - they believe that a former member of their platoon is behind the murders. After Floating Koko is a lenghty tome.
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In a interview for Horror Magazine, Straub said that Floating Dragon had represented him going as far as he could go with "supernatural special effects. The very idea of it caused real despair. Having produced four large, increasingly ambitious works of the fantastic in just under six years, he found himself suffering from creative exhaustion, compounded by the belief that his capacity to produce this sort of fiction had finally played itself out.
Yielding to necessity, he retreated into a year-long period of silence, reflection, and renewal. At the end of this period, he began the slow, painstaking process of redirecting his fiction into new vital areas. Those "vital new areas" eventually took the form of Koko.
A former soldier, Michael Poole, is in town to meet a trio of members of his platoon. As it turns out, they are not there merely for the dedication of the Wall; they have also been assembled because their lieutenant has become aware of serial killings that he suspects have been carried out by one of their fellow soldiers, Tim Underhill, who was last known to be living in Bangkok. The lieutenant wants the four of them to go overseas, find Underhill, and do what they can to both stop him and get him the help he clearly needs.
He also lost his job, and after stumbling across evidence of the Koko killings, he concocted a get-rich-quick scheme: assemble a squadron of former soldiers, go apprehend the killer, and then sell the movie rights to the story. If you chuckled at the name "Harry Beevers," know that you are quicker on the draw than I am; the porno potential of that name did not strike me until page Conor Linklater -- A carpenter who is considerably less well-off financially than the other members of the quartet, Conor is conscientious and trustworthy.
Straub eventually explains that Anthony Pumo is his real name, and that the nickname "Tony" eventually gave way to the nickname "Tiny," which itself eventually gave way to the nickname "Tina," which more or less became his real name.
Not so much as it regards Tina, though. All four of these guys are given a good bit of the narrative, although Harry probably gets less of it than the others. There are times when you might find yourself wondering what bearing their individual stories have on anything. Do we need to go to work with Conor? In all cases, probably not. Indeed, a lot of that stuff is among my favorite material in the novel. All I know is, I like Maggie Lah. Beyond this, we have to run the risk of being spoilery. We have to talk a bit about Koko himself, the titular antagonist.
Much of the plot of Koko revolves around an incident that happened to the soldiers during the war. They enter a small village on the suspicion that a Viet Cong sniper who has been deviling them something fierce they call Elvis is there. At some point, Lt. Poole himself accidentally shoots a child after the soldiers began taking fire from the jungle.
The meat of the incident, however, involves Beevers going into a cave near the village in search of contraband. Various characters -- Poole and Pumo certainly, and maybe Beevers as well, and probably Linklater -- see inexplicable things during the course of the novel. Poole, for example, apparently sees an angel who he thinks to be the idealized grown-up vision of his deceased son who never grew up at one point; Pumo witnesses an impossibly large -- though not quite Kafkaesque -- roach.
And so forth. At one point toward the end, it even becomes possible that the entire novel is merely a fictional or fictionalized narrative written by one of the characters. Because my own feelings about the novel have not finished baking yet -- and probably would be able to do so without a deep reread, an intense bout of note-taking, and a multi-part exploration in blog-post format -- I am struggling to convey anything cogent about this novel.
I loved this novel. His strong secondary focus is on character, though again as a function of psychology; and his tertiary focus in on prose style, which is sometimes -- though not always -- tied to structure. The prose style and structure both feed on and motivate one another, and are often determined by character. Story is not unimportant to Straub, but it might be said to be irrelevant.
In the end, I prefer both approaches, which is to say that I prefer a world in which both are possible, and I prefer to be a reader for whom both are valid. But before we part ways, have a gander at this three-paragraph cameo appearance by a certain novel we all know and love: In bed, Michael read a few pages of the Stephen King novel he had packed.
Conor Linklater complained and snuffled on the other side of the bed. Nothing in the novel seemed more than slightly odder or more threatening than events in ordinary life. Improbability and violence overflowed from ordinary life, and Stephen King seemed to know that. Before Michael could turn off his light, he was dripping with sweat, carrying his copy of The Dead Zone through an army base many times larger than Camp Crandall.
All around the camp, twenty or thirty kilometers beyond the barbed-wire perimeter, stood hills once thickly covered by trees, now so perfectly bombed and burned and defoliated that only charred sticks protruded upwards from powdery brown earth. He walked past a row of empty tents and at last heard the silence of the camp -- he was alone. The camp had been abandoned, and he had been left behind. A flagless flagpole stood before the company headquarters. He trudged past the deserted building into a stretch of empty land and smelled burning shit.
Then he knew that this was no dream, he really was in Vietnam -- the rest of his life was the dream. Poole never smelled things in his dreams. Poole turned around and saw an old Vietnamese woman looking at him expressionlessly from beside an oil drum filled with burning kerosene-soaked excrement. Dense black smoke boiled up from the drum and smudged the sky. His despair was flat and uninspiring. He opened The Dead Zone to the page of publishing information.
Deep in his chest, his heart deflated like a punctured balloon. The copyright date was He had never left Vietnam. I also considered trying to make a mock case for this passage indicating a connection to the Dark Tower books. After all, how old is Poole in this dream? Nineteen, you say? To be clear: no, I do not believe any of that. Okay, so Koko takes place in a world -- our own world, one might posit -- where Stephen King exists.
Does that mean that Peter Straub exists in Koko? So that might mean that this is on Keystone Earth, in which case the whole thing really might be connected to the Dark Tower series! Okay, enough of that silliness. Straub testily answers, "I cannot honestly say that I would like ever to be asked another single question about either The Talisman or Stephen King. The interviewer -- who I suspect may have typed these up and sent them to Straub via mail -- goes on then to ask what kind of mail he has gotten about The Talisman.
Asked whether he found it difficult to begin a new book after finishing The Talisman, Straub admits to having been written out for a while. Whenever pleasure became even more exhausting than writing, I sat down and wrote something.
Steve wrote this section, and I think it shows how much range, depth, audacity, and resonance his imagination has within its grasp. The interviewer ends with a two-part question, the first a jokey non-question about where Straub gets his ideas. The second part of the question is one about what questions Straub gets frequently and hates answering. He says, "questions about word processors, since that seems to me to focus on the least interesting aspect of writing fiction.
Yep, sure did. Straub does on to say, "and I must confess that I have grown tired of being forced to talk about my friend Steve King on nearly every public occasion. But suck it the fuck up. That issue of Castle Rock ran a photo of Straub and King sitting together at you guessed it a word processor. Mystery Walk is next if I go chronologically from the last McCammon I tackled They Thirst , but I kind of have a hankering to read something of his more recent than that.
In a interview for Horror Magazine, Straub said that Floating Dragon had represented him going as far as he could go with "supernatural special effects. The very idea of it caused real despair. Having produced four large, increasingly ambitious works of the fantastic in just under six years, he found himself suffering from creative exhaustion, compounded by the belief that his capacity to produce this sort of fiction had finally played itself out. Yielding to necessity, he retreated into a year-long period of silence, reflection, and renewal. At the end of this period, he began the slow, painstaking process of redirecting his fiction into new vital areas. Those "vital new areas" eventually took the form of Koko. A former soldier, Michael Poole, is in town to meet a trio of members of his platoon.
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He was hospitalized for several months, and temporarily used a wheelchair after being released until he had re-learned how to walk. Straub has said that the accident made him prematurely aware of his own mortality. He then wrote If You Could See Me Now , and came to widespread public attention with his fifth novel, Ghost Story , which was a critical success and was later loosely adapted into a film starring Fred Astaire. Straub at the Brooklyn Book Festival for a panel on how far a writer can go between reality and fantasy.