Sunday, October 10, 2010

I was prepared to like you

First, you're supposed to be a good old-fashioned ghost story. Second, you promised to have a Southern gothic theme. Third, you've received praises for being fast-paced, creepy, and suspenseful. Even though you did have all of these three (at a bare minimum), somehow, you left me wanting. And that is where my problem lies.

So Cold the River is indeed a ghost story. The ghost in question is one Campbell Bradford, a businessman in the late 1800s who made a name for himself bottling water from a mineral spring in a Southern town. Yes, So Cold the River does have a Southern gothic theme. But this is far from Charlaine Harris territory. The Southern town where the novel is set does have a dubious past, but the author, Michael Koryta, does not delve on it further.

The main character in Koryta's novel is one Eric Shaw, a film maker. Shaw has made a name for himself making films shown during one's funeral, sort of a montage of the dead person's best years. He receives an assignment to chronicle the life of Campbell Bradford, who lies comatose, and his first step is to go to Bradford's hometown in the South called West Baden. In West Baden, Shaw checks in to the town's famous hotel and starts to get hallucinations after drinking Pluto Water, the brand of bottled water that made Bradford rich. He then comes to the conclusion that something in the water is causing these hallucinations. And these hallucinations have become so real that they now resemble hauntings.

So Cold the River is terribly disappointing. There are no characters to root for. What Koryta gave the reader are stereotypes. The town black sheep who becomes the villain when the spirit of Bradford possessed him. A token black guy who becomes a good friend of Shaw while finding out more about Bradford. The oldest lady in the town who knows everything there is to know about West Baden. Of course, this old lady dies in the end.

Oh, why did I buy you, So Cold the River, and at full hardcover price at that? Perhaps it's the blurbs at the back cover who promises the hotel at West Baden to be something like The Overlook in King's The Shining. Or maybe I was looking for a good read that will really scare the hell out of me. I haven't read one for the longest time.

The story isn't even that interesting, now that I think about it. Bottled mineral water that contains the ghost of some creepy millionaire? Please. You're better off drinking from the tap, dear reader.

Read this book if:
  1. It doesn't take a lot to scare you.
  2. You're a sucker for blurbs.
  3. You'll read anything set in the South.


fantaghiro23 said...

I commiserate with the bad book choice. Have had a lot of those, too. Not lately, thankfully.

C.B. James said...

I hate it when I pay full hardcover price and end up disappointed. One reason why i don't pay full hardcover price very often.

mel u said...

glad to see you posting on your reading-thanks for the warning on this book-

Stepford Mum said...

Oh, poor Peter! I hope your next Gothic read is better than this one!

Peter S. said...

@fantaghiro23: Yeah. Oh well. Sometimes, book buying sucks. Hehehe.

@C.B. James: Right! I guess that's why I've always been partial to trade paperbacks.

@mel u: You're welcome!

@Stepford Mum: Yes, I hope so too!

callboi said...

Oooh, thank you thank you, Peter. I nearly bought this the last time I was in Fully Booked. I was swayed by the blurbs. Good thing I didn't.

Peter S. said...

Hi, callboi! You're welcome! It was the blurbs that made me buy this book too. One thing I learned -- must check Amazon beforehand.

yodz said...

Oh, that hollow-that's-it after-read feeling. I felt that too on the last book I read (Reservation Road by J. Burnham) Sometimes the review on the flyleaf are misleading.
It's a good thing I only bought that in a booksale.
Thanks for the review.