Read Koko by Peter Straub Online


KOKO. Only four men knew what it meant. Now they must stop it. They are Vietnam vets a doctor, a lawyer, a working stiff, and a writer. Very different from each other, they are nonetheless linked by a shared history and a single shattering secret. Now, they have been reunited and are about to embark on a quest that will take them from Washington, D.C., to the graveyards anKOKO. Only four men knew what it meant. Now they must stop it. They are Vietnam vets a doctor, a lawyer, a working stiff, and a writer. Very different from each other, they are nonetheless linked by a shared history and a single shattering secret. Now, they have been reunited and are about to embark on a quest that will take them from Washington, D.C., to the graveyards and fleshpots of the Far East to the human jungle of New York, hunting someone from the past who has risen from the darkness to kill and kill and kill....

Title : Koko
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0451162080
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 562 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Koko Reviews

  • Maciek
    2019-04-07 16:24

    Koko is a lenghty tome. My paperback copy spans 640 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 Dragon and The Talisman, Peter Straub wanted to try his strenghts in a different field. He worked four years on Koko, and in many interviews names it as his strongest work. He fooled those who were expecting a supernatural tale like his two previous novels; there is little (if any) of supernatural in Koko, but there's plenty of ghosts. The scariest thing is that they are all alive.Koko is a long, complex novel where the travel is most important, not the resolution; it's most definitely not an easy thriller or a simple mystery. It's a tale of a group of men who travelled to hell and returned with their own personal devils. And when their past calls them back, they decide to take action, and pursue the killer: through Signapore and Taipei to Milwaukee and New York City. Peter Straub in one of the interviews said that Koko was his best writing experience, where he entered a flow state in which he was with his characters and discovered that he wrote whole pages without thinking about writing them. It shows; Koko presents a world so complex and real that the reader feels like he was living in it. It does tend to wander from time to time, but doesn't life? Koko is full of real emotions, poignancy, sadness and ambiguity. Pumo, Spitalny, Beevers, Linklater, Underhill are all real people who will stay with you, and Koko is the ghost that haunts them all. These are some of the most realistic and memorable character I've ever encountered in fiction. The narrative is rich, long, detailed, satysfying and haunting, and will stay with the reader for a long time. It stayed with me.Peter Straub has achieved something extraordinary in Koko; when he says that this is his strongest work, a favorite, he has his reasons. A long, complex journey to the heart of darkness that is not really about who - it's about why. A rare gem, worth multiple readings.

  • Arah-Lynda
    2019-04-17 11:32

    It has been at least a decade since I last tried to read this book, which I had attempted before on two previous occasions. And I knew how far I had gotten each time, if not by some whiff of remembering; then at least by the markers I had placed where I had stopped each time. It was the pure principal of the thing that fuelled my surpassing both those afore laid markers, not the prose or the characters or the story. If memory serves me correctly I bought this book based solely on my experience of reading The Talisman. Having never read another Straub book I was none the less persuaded to give him, independent of King, a try. It is a hard cover first edition that graces my shelves. And I hate putting down a book before having turned the last page. Having done so twice before did not make it any more palatable I can assure you. So why then?Here we go:The prose felt fractured. I had a difficult time following it and understanding the meaning behind the words. It is not like I need the author to hold my hand or explain every little thing, in fact that usually puts me off. No this was more like a giant jigsaw puzzle put together wrong, even though the pieces still seemed to fit as though the edges were malleable. I found myself going back and rereading passages and not for pleasure, just trying to find a path.The characters, okay I am just going to say it. They all felt alike to me. Sure, there were four different Vietnam vets that reunited in Washington but to me they all read like different versions of the same man, each individually cloaked or tricked out in some other fashion, they all seemed like revenants of a common host.The story held great potential. I thought I could see quite clearly how it might all play out. Who knows maybe I did. But in the end, at least my end if not Straub’s; I was not prepared to invest in another 400 plus pages to find out.Straub is a prolific writer, whom my comfort food King, chose to co-author two books with. This is most likely my failure and not the authors.

  • Ron
    2019-04-05 13:26

    If you’ve thought about reading Koko, then Be Like Mike and Just Do It. Stephen King fans may appreciate this book, and know about the connection with his friend, Peter Straub. These two guys are like bookends in the horror genre. At times, they even have a similar way of writing. But Koko is its own thing. It’s not like Straub’s earlier book Ghost Story (saw the movie – have yet to read the book). To me, that was horror. Koko has horrific acts – psychopathic killer, atrocities committed in war. But mostly Koko is a mystery, a character study, and a weird psychedelic trip inside a killer’s mind.Straub’s plotting continuously alternates between the straightforward and the confusing. I’d like to think this is deliberate and that Straub is toying with the reader. Otherwise, how could he manage to keep us interested and guessing throughout one 550 page book, let alone three? Oh and if you didn’t know (like me), Koko is the first of three books in the Blue Rose trilogy. So just let me say that I liked it. If there’s a problem, it’s how the story meandered. At times I became a little vexed. Who are you Koko?! Four American veterans of the Vietnam War believe they know who he is and just where to find him. Yeah, not so easy guys. I realized at some point that I was the cat in this cat-and-mouse game with Straub continually pull the rug out from under me. But I continued to guess. That’s half the fun of reading, so I’m more than willing to be the cat when the story is a decent one.A thanks to my EC buddies. This one took us awhile, but as always the group read experience makes for a better read.

  • Dirk Grobbelaar
    2019-03-25 17:21

    Tricksy ReviewWhere to start? An uneasy read, this. There is real madness to be found here. A brooding, heady insanity. Koko, the novel, is a disjointed, psychological, somewhat confusing affair. Why then is it such a good read? Well, because that is also the best way to describe half the characters in this piece of work. There is certainly method to the madness here. And Koko himself? He's certainly a disturbed man… and it rubs off.This book is not a quick read, it's everything but, and when I finished the last page I felt a bit drained. The 'horror' element in this book is almost exclusively psychological, and it wasn’t quite as visceral an experience as I had imagined it would be, considering the subject matter. Approaching Koko correctly is fundamental in enjoying it, I would think. The book obviously contains some violence, the two main contributing factors being: (1) the actions of the serial killer (Koko) and (2) flashbacks to events that occurred during the Vietnam War. The story, however, concerns itself with a mystery: who is Koko really and why is he doing what he is doing?There is an underlying, pervading menace in this novel and perhaps that's why it was so hard to put down. In an interview with Peter Straub, posted on Youtube, he states that Koko was his best writing experience. It shows. Only an author writing with great confidence could have pulled this one off. It's a really creepy work on many, many different levels. Four stars.Straub is sometimes so difficult to categorise it boggles the mind, but if something like psychological-horror-thriller-mystery-cult-novel rings your bell, go for it!Koko is the first in a trilogy of loosely connected novels, followed by Mystery and The Throat.

  • Jon Recluse
    2019-03-26 18:36

    This is the epitome of mystery/thriller writing, penned by a master of literary fiction at the height of his powers.Four men, bonded by the horrors of war, reunite to hunt one of their own, when a series of brutal killings a world away leads them back into their shared pasts, to face the specter that haunts them all.....KOKO.A dense, complex book that showcases all of Straub's impressive skills as a wordsmith, disassembling and recreating the world around the reader, word by word, sentence by sentence, drawing you into a time and place that becomes your new reality, populated by characters that earn your empathy and apathy simply by being purely, imperfectly human.The first book in the epic Blue Rose trilogy, whether you choose to continue the journey or not, this is a must-read for anyone who loves thought provoking, immersive fiction that lingers in your memory for the rest of your life.Highest possible recommendation

  • Paul Nash
    2019-04-02 17:30

    Just finished book one of this trilogy. This has been a group read with The Eclectic Club.I really don't know what to say here. This book fucks with you. It leaves you feeling dirty at times. Was I confused?...several times! A lot became clear but there were still many paragraphs and sentences that read like the mad dribble you'd hear at your local nut house. But did I like that confusion...that mad dribble? I sure did. This book was totally fucked up but I enjoyed it enough to give it 4 stars and to buy books 2&3 of the trilogy (Mystery and The Throat). You can definitely see why King and Straub collaborated when you read Straub's writing style in this book. They are on the same plane here, but IMO, King still comes out on top!If I ever see a playing card with the word "Koko" written on it...I'm going to get the hell out of Dodge!4 Confusingly Good Stars

  • Bill Khaemba
    2019-03-21 14:27

    Finally finished it :) Buddy Read with the awesome The Eclectic Club It was fun ride but it had some bumps along the way :)

  • mark monday
    2019-04-13 12:25

    the atmosphere of degradation, regret, self-loathing, and impending doom was pervasive and absorbing. the author shows a sure hand with characterization and a steady one with narrative. the identity of the killer was unsurprising but well-conceived. and either as an extended metaphor for What We Did Wrong in Vietnam or as an ominous tract on the depths that some men can sink in their hunger for self-destruction, Koko certainly succeeds.

  • Kirstin
    2019-04-19 14:28

    Koko is absolutely brilliant! This book reads like a recollected nightmare and the twists and turns will leave you dizzy.

  • Mark
    2019-03-23 11:38

    This book is a chaotic story about the post Vietnam syndrome that has plagued so many of those who fought there. It does show that prolonged exposure of you men to situations of extreme violence and stress due to the constant promise of violence, does alter anybody his psyche.I once spoke with somebody who served a year in Afghanistan under constant pressure and he admitted that he had a hard time conforming to the "normal"situations after returning to his home. He did recognize his own paranoia and was always ready and when he felt it was needed far over the top violent response. He scared the people who loved him and it took him a long time to return to a "normalcy". The Vietnam was a very violent conflict that was far from regular warfare but a new brand fought as guerrilla warriors, which has altered the face of warfare ever since. The main characters in this novel are the surviving members of an unit that fought in Vietnam and were involved in some situation for which they were investigated as a possible war crime. Which we find out gradually which is one of the underlying tensions in the book because while you want to know what happened you really do not because you expect something horrific.This is about men who share with each other because they recognize that only those who have been there can really feel the pain and grief. As the reunion goes underway their former commanding officer does show them something that really spooks them. One of their own is killing people in the Orient and leaving a calling card they all recognize : Koko.Their reunion evolves in a trip back to Orient to find their former comrade and bring him home and get him help. They all have their reasons to go and not go, put their lives on hold, as if they where not to begin with. Their trip back to their youth does indeed give them clarity and insight in what they really might be doing. Littel do they know that as they travel East Koko is coming West finally wanting to end his search for clarity and peace.The story is very well written and you really live with the characters, some less sympathetic than others. And the parts where we look into Koko are really terrifying and sad. It is a real tour-de-force by the excellent writer Peter Straub.This book is a real good tale about post Vietnam syndrome as felt by the people that were there. The book is about searching themselves when they seemingly have lost themselves over there.Like the first time I read this book I was really in awe and this doorstop of a book never overstays it welcome. It is a novel that is a thriller, horror, biography of a certain generation and so well written that it is hard to lay down even if it is necessary to take a breather from this novel now and then. This is a must-read book when you like the subject and far different from the Deerhunter even if that book/movie carries some of the same themes. You do yourself a favor in reading this brilliant book.

  • Liz
    2019-03-24 16:26

    Will put my thoughts together at a later date when I have more time. This was another group read that took a long time to get through, but that's not a reflection on the quality of the book - life just got in the way a lot!

  • Josen
    2019-04-07 15:50

    Review to come......not even sure where to start with this one, lol!

  • James Renner
    2019-03-28 13:29

    Found this novel staring at me from the shelf of a used book store about a year ago. I picked it up, saw it was a first edition, and decided I had nothing to lose at the discounted price of $2.50. As I walked it to the counter, a single playing card fell out of the middle of the book, where, I assume, someone had marked a page. Only later did I come to discover how disturbing an omen this was.My only exposure to Peter Straub (excellent Slate interview here) before this book was through his collaborations with Stephen King in the Talisman saga. I feel a little sad that I’ve found him only now. It’s been too long since I’ve fallen in love with a book. And I’m smitten with this one.Koko is my favorite kind of story–a quest that brings together mismatched characters who would never befriend each other under normal circumstances. It’s a tale about adults coming together to face a demon they thought they left behind years ago. In this way, it reminds a bit of King’s IT, another great story that sticks with you. Three Vietnam veterans (a lawyer, a doctor and carpenter) reunite to track down a serial killer who they believe was part of their platoon during the war. This killer has been going around offing people connected to their unit and leaving a souvenir in their mouths–a regimental playing card with the word “Koko” written on it.Like the best novels written in the 80′s and 90′s, it’s a big friggin book, clocking in at 560 pages. Long enough to get lost in the story of these men and their hunt for a killer.Straub’s writing is wonderful. Through scenes of mundane human existence he explores universal themes of redemption, grace, the nature of evil and forgiveness. In this way, his narrative–often revolving around cooking and writing–reminded me of John Irving more than King. But he also understands suspense and horror like King. I have to say I’m also humbled by the recognition of the research Straub must have done for this book–half of which is set in Saigon and Bangkok and Vietnam–especially when I consider this was done in a world before the Internet.In the end, Straub’s alter-ego reflects on listening to good jazz in a tent in Vietnam. “We heard fear dissolved by mastery,” he thinks. The book is about applying this thought to life. And it’s something I intend to do as much as I can.

  • Benoit Lelièvre
    2019-04-14 14:50

    I hate to be a dick here but the perceived value of having been written by Peter Straub seems to have carried a competent, yet otherwise dated and overweight thriller for close to thirty years now. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about KOKO. It has a lot to say about war, PTSD and the meaninglessness of murder, but there is material that sprawls over pages of this book that haven't aged all that well. The countercultural tour of Southeast Asia among others have been done to death since the book was first published.I kind of liked KOKO and though its mystery aspect was compelling and cleverly delivered. Peter Straub has clever and engaging narrative techniques that keep the novel fun even when not much is happening, my favorite being the phone calls between Judy Poole and Pat Caldwell as a way to indirectly deliver information. I'm doing this as a part of a year-long Peter Straub marathon and while it was my first experience and I can already see what people like in him, I can't say I'm sold to Straub's writing yet.

  • S.B. Redstone
    2019-04-16 17:24

    No one could say that Peter Straub can't write a beautiful sentence or that his description of people and places isn't excellent. I love his usage of language. This is 562 pages long. But, what I have found with horror writers, they seem to have a need to prove that they are better writers, which is ridiculous, and begin to picture themselves as great literary figures. And that is what I feel happened in this book. After forty pages, I had no idea who the main character really is; I have bits and pieces of a problem but with no suspense or connection to his life; I read pages and pages of obsessive compulsive useless details until I was skipping whole paragraphs to find something interesting to read; and eventually I was so bored that it will be returned to the library. Now I am not being competitive. He has a great deal to teach me, but I believe in the Shakespearean setup of a story, by presenting the crisis and working it through in a modern style of not taking ten pages that can be expressed in two or three. Bruce Castle

  • Julie Failla Earhart
    2019-03-19 15:31

    Peter Straub is considered one of the greatest thriller writers of our time; second only perhaps to the master Stephen King. Yet, somehow I missed never reading anything by Straub. When Anchor Books re-released Koko, the first book in the “Blue Rose Trilogy,” I jumped at the chance to review it.The Washington Post claimed that the 1988 work was “brilliantly written…an inspired thriller…(Straub’s) finest work.” I was ready, eager, anxious, and waiting when the almost six-hundred-page paperback landed on my doorstep. I cancelled my evening plans and curled on the couch, ready to be scared out of my wits. The story opens with four Vietnam vets returning to Washington, D.C, for the dedication of Vietnam Memorial. The four hadn’t seen each other since they left the service in 1968. Shadowing the emotional events of the dedication, the men---now a doctor, a lawyer, a blue-collar worker, and a restaurateur---are drawn together with the resurgence of a serial killer. The killer, Koko, could be either the writer Tim Underhill or M.O. Dengler or a Victor Spitlaney, from their old unit. But the four men are sure they are the only ones left alive. They decide to go back to Singapore and Bangkok, in search of their old Army buddies and to get to the bottom of the new murders, all seemingly unrelated.That’s a great scenario, but fifteen days later, I’m still reading Koko. The story plodded along in agonizing detail. I read and read and read and read and read until my eyes burned. I wasn’t scared once nor did I find this “masterpiece” a page turner. When I finally did reach the last chapter, I have never been so disappointed in my life. Straub changed narration and basically ended the story with an “what happened? Nothing happened.” I know that is a set up for book two in the trilogy, but I don’t care enough to even bother learning what the other two titles are. Review originally appeared on

  • Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
    2019-04-16 14:37

    DNF @ Pg 121: I'm having such a hard time focusing on this book when I'm reading it. I find Straub's writing,on his own, really dry. *Sighs* I also really like the anthologies he has edited/complied. *feels like a loser with an unpopular opinion*I feel really bad, but I will read 20 pages and space out, re-read them, and nothing registers that much. This rarely happens to me. I did really try, but I just feel like I'm just draaaaaging this one along. I hope other people really like it though. I do. This is the second book of his I've DNFed....Maybe his writing, on his own, isn't for me. I wanted it to be. :(

  • Holly
    2019-04-05 13:49

    Great read; kept me guessing until the end. What a shocker!

  • Maxine Marsh
    2019-03-22 12:50


  • Ethan
    2019-04-02 12:22

    Totally and utterly amazing. I bought this book for two reasons: it was written by the co-author of The Talisman, and it was a hardcover book in good condition that cost me $1.00. This was the first book by Peter Straub that I read, and it absolutely blew me away. While this book is not exactly a horror story, it does have spine-tingling moments. One public opinion I resent is that horror fiction has to involve supernatural occurrences, but in this case I have to agree. This book does not incorporate a supernatural antagonist, and if it had it would have probably made the book a true "Horror Book", at least in my mind. But for me, it was perfect as it was. Nothing negative comes to mind when I think of Koko. The characters were completely believable, the story was compelling and very dark, and best of all, the book as a whole was realistic. Koko prompted me to buy a Peter Straub book every time I came across one, and unfortunately no novel of his I have read has compared. I have been less than impressed with each book of Straub's I have come across since Koko (the list of books I have read include Mystery, Floating Dragon, Houses Without Windows, and The Hellfire Club). Don't get me wrong, his other books weren't bad, exactly, but they just weren't anything like Koko. Koko is to Mystery—the 2nd book of the Blue Rose Trilogy—what The Stand is to From A Buck 8 by Stephen King. Perhaps that's a little harsh—Mystery by Straub wasn't really terrible, only uninspired and forgettable—but that's the way I feel. If you haven't read Koko, then you really should. However, know this: If Koko is your first Peter Straub book, don't expect to find another one that is better. It's like eating an ice cream sundae before a bologna sandwich.

  • Kate
    2019-04-09 13:36

    I know I tried to read this book... It had something to do with the Vietnam War, but I never found out what "Koko" meant and I couldn't shake the idea that it was about a gorilla...

  • Jim C
    2019-03-24 18:46

    This is the start of a trilogy. In this one, members of a Vietnam unit come together in search of one of their own. They believe that the person they are looking for is committing murders and leaving a card with the word "Koko" written on it. They also believe this ties in within an incident that happened in Vietnam during the war.I would classify this book as a mystery book within a psychological thriller. It is also one of the darkest books I have read. It delves into child abuse, killing of innocents, and the sex trade industry. The main theme though is how war has affected these men's lives and the trauma still is an ongoing issue. I really liked how the author used this issue and how it affected these different men in different ways. At first I believed that this book was going to be about that. Next thing you know it turns out to be a mystery where I am trying to figure out who "Koko" is. It was like reading two books into one and I was captivated by this. The reason I gave four stars rather five is the author seems to go off on a tangent every now and then. Don't get me wrong. This author has a wonderful way with words but he is also the master of the "slow burn". It does take awhile to get totally engrossed in this novel.If you are looking for a lighthearted book you should not try this book. If you are looking for a serious book that delves into many issues and a mystery that will totally captivate you, this is that book. This was a terrific read and I am looking forward to the second novel.

  • Thomas Strömquist
    2019-04-09 19:20

    In Koko, Straub surely succeeded in both depicting monsters and keeping tension without any supernatural parts at all. This is on my to-read list in original language, because I did feel the translation was lacking in parts.

  • Duncan Ralston
    2019-03-31 17:37

    Long-winded but worth the read.He could have told the same story, shortened by about 200 pages. I love stories about Vietnam and PTSD so this still resonated.

  • Sam Reader
    2019-03-28 18:26

    "So what's it like to kill someone?" "I can't tell you." - Unnamed Cabbie and Michael Poole Koko is brutal. It is, perhaps, the most disturbing and uncomfortable book I have ever had the "pleasure" of reading. I phrase it that way because I can acknowledge that the book is well-written, that Peter Straub has an amazing turn of phrase, and that there is a brilliant thread at work here. But what Straub manages to do with Koko is to explore the feelings of trauma, guilt, and psychological suffering felt by its protagonists, to take you inside their heads, and to allow you to identify with them. You yourself may never know the trauma or never know what trauma does to people, but for the time it will take you to read this book, this uncompromising and singleminded work of fiction, the feelings will at least be right. I could not read this book all at once. I may never read it ever again. But hopefully, if you find this and read it, and if you find in it the same things I did, it will leave its mark on you. And that, above all else, is what defines a successful work of literature. If you're never able to shake the feelings it gives you, it's won. It's done its job.I admit when I first started reading Koko, I was turned off by it. The copy on the dust jacket was utterly ridiculous to me after reading so many books that made the same claims. I knew off the bat that this would probably be more psychological thriller than horror novel and started looking for the proper cues to tell me who the murderer truly was. I even complained about how the characters missed an obvious clue about the villain a third of the way through the book. But as I read, I started to see where it was going. I wondered where it would all end up and how. And then when I figured out what the book was really about, the pieces suddenly clicked into place and what I saw as disparate, offhand elements suddenly came together and clicked. Koko, you see, is not a book about four men, or a book about a serial killer, or even a book about the frightening underbelly of urban legends in southeast Asia. It's a book about trauma, guilt, pain, and exactly how far you can push the human psyche until it snaps. And it is brilliant.More, as always, below Koko tells the story of four men: Michael Poole, a pediatrician; Conor Linklater, a jumpy and anxious carpenter; Tina Pumo, a successful restaurateur; and Harry Beevers, an attorney at a law firm and former disgraced lieutenant in the US Army. The four served together during the Vietnam War, and in particular were party to some rather disturbing events surrounding the village of Ia Thuc and the area known as Dragon Valley. They reunite in Washington DC for the unveiling of the Vientam War Memorial, but soon the reunion takes a darker turn. Beevers has discovered a series of strange and grisly murders, all marked by the same signature: A regimental playing card from their unit with the word "KOKO" scrawled on it. The men surmise that it has to be a member of their unit almost immediately, and believe it to be a comrade of theirs who never came back to the US but instead stayed in Asia and apparently suffered some kind of breakdown. At Beevers' urging, Conor and Michael accompany him first to Singapore and then to Bangkok on Koko's trail. And then things get weird. None of the men are particularly stable to begin with. Conor is twitchy and mentally unsound, Michael suffers from hallucinations and guilt that his son's cancer may have had something to do with him, and Beevers seems like the most well-adjusted but is clearly hiding some pretty dark and disturbing things of his own beneath that surface, most prominently a need for justification and glory. And as they track their friend Tim Underhill through clubs and bars and parking garages, it's clear they're tracking something else, too. Something more intangible. Meanwhile, a killer with the almost preternatural ability to move from place to place, vanish in plain sight, and make his face forgettable is tracking the men. He's got four playing cards, all with their names on them. And he calls himself Koko... What really sold the book for me was the characters. You spend a lot of time in the heads of Conor, Tina, and Michael, and after spending some time, I got to know them a little better. You could start to understand their actions more. Part of what makes the book so uncomfortable and disturbing is that the reader is spending almost all their time inside the heads of several disturbed men. Peter Straub really opens up Michael, for instance, more or less the central POV character, and really nails his detachment. There's a genuine ache as he realizes he's watching his life slide out of view and there is nothing he can do about it. Tina may be something of a coward and completely unable to face or process the murders, but the reader gets the sense that it's because he's a good guy trying to put his past behind him. It's also made very clear that he didn't participate in many of the atrocities back in Vietnam, and that he genuinely cares for those around him. He doesn't want to poke an anthill. Even Koko gets some characterization and a small degree of sympathy. The Koko passages are written with glimpses that Koko has some kind of brain damage or mental complications, and definitely a history of abuse.Second, the tone really helps the book. Koko is not lurid and Peter Straub does not make it lurid. Everything is detached, matter-of-fact, and never overloads the detail. Were it not for the narrative and the insight into characters' heads, Koko could almost be written in the style of a nonfiction true-crime narrative, one of the ones that sticks more on the account side rather than the sensational side of things. There are some scenes in the novel-- truly disturbing things, things you would never want to witness in person-- that I had to read over a second time because they were handled matter-of-factly. They were handled either in offhand tones, because the men involved in the acts didn't see anything wrong with them, or in once case because Conor, being who he is, does not understand what is going on in front of him. There is, and I know this is weird to talk about with a book, a certain amount of grit to Koko. The entire thing feels like a thriller made in the mid to late seventies. Even when there are more surreal sequences, they're handled with a certain grit and veracity that makes them seem real, even if they turn out to be a dream or something not quite as real.And finally, the plot is well thought out, with some genuine surprises here and there. The identity of the killer is well-concealed, and when it finally comes out, it's entirely appropriate and calls back to earlier points of the book. The ending is one where it's not certain whether any of the main characters will come out of this alive, and indeed as the book goes along it builds dread at a slowly methodical pace that one of the men the reader meets at the beginning of the novel is definitely not going to make it. I began to dread every POV section labeled "Koko", as it meant the killer would get one step closer to whatever his goal really was. That Straub did this with such skill, and actually had me going for a while that I'd figured out the book, just to pull the lever and drop me into a situation to which I had no way to process and no response.But there are some concerns I have. First, like I said, this is not an enjoyable read. It's a good book, but I can't imagine many who'd find a book about men coming to terms with their own trauma and guilt mixed in with serial murder and Southeast Asian underworld activities fun. If there are, they're probably on a government watch list somewhere where they belong. It's like one of those movies that everyone agrees is a good movie, but shouldn't be watched more than once. I do give Peter Straub credit, though, it's a more cerebral disturbing than most horror writers get, and in a better way than any "extreme horror" writers have ever been able to capture. Second, I would like to warn my readers that while there is a conclusion, the book doesn't end.In the end, though, these are small quibbles in a larger work, and Koko is well worth the read. Once. Only once. I'm not sure this is the kind of book I ever want to read again, but I suggest that anyone who reads this review find it and look for it yourself. You may like what you find. You may be horrified. But Peter Straub's best feature is that he's able to get inside his readers' heads, and he does that here. NEXT WEEK:Peter Straub Month continues with:Ghost StoryAND THEN:- Floating Dragon- ShadowlandAND MANY OTHERS

  •  (shan) Littlebookcove
    2019-03-25 16:34

    Right off the hook with this book Peter puts you in the story of Four Vietnam veterans that reunite after what has been 15 years after the war, they all made their little ways in the world after the war, but to some of them the war is still very fresh in their minds, and one horror of it, a chain of murders is committed in south Asia. The murderer always leaves a trademark card. And one the four men know well, so well in fact that they think it might be one of their old platoon.This took me on a roller coaster of a read. When you think you have clocked who the murderer was the plot turns and it's someone totally different. Its a Disjointed, psychological and somewhat confusing array of a tale But one that keeps you hooked throughout it and will keep you guessing until the end.

  • Claudia Putnam
    2019-04-05 18:35

    I'll stick my neck out and characterize this book of Straub's as litfic. It's as good a Vietnam novel as the best of them. It's horrific, but not horror. Read it a few years ago and don't have enough details in my mind to write a full review, but I remember that it's vividly told and characterized, and very well written. The book has something to say and says it well, and I'm surprised it's not brought up in more reviews of contemporary war novels, the way, say, The Things They Carried is (deservedly).

  • Madila
    2019-03-28 13:23

    "The past is in the past because that's where it belongs."" story existed without its own past, and the past of a story was what enabled us to understand it."I enjoyed Straub's novel. The prose is fluid and, at times, poetic. The story just didn't resonate with me. Maybe my expectations were off...I was hoping for a little horror and it didn't even need to be supernatural. The book is deep, it simply didn't connect with me.

  • Jaime Contreras
    2019-03-31 14:31

    This was little hard to decipher but once one does, it is an in-depth psychological trip into guilt, madness and grief as shared by four veterans. These men witnessed mayhem and now its seed has rooted and burst forth. This novel is deep and foreboding but worth the read. But, I have never tried to read the next book in the series because I was satisfied with this novel entry.

  • Maria
    2019-03-20 14:33

    Koko starts off with an unfriendly, morose narrator, concealing details but leaving the key to most of its mysteries hiding in plain sight, in little things that turn out to be a recurring motive of a larger theme. A fascinating read, though the condensed writing style made me put the book aside a few times. There is a violence in it, a certain abrasion, to say so, in the wording which makes the trauma of the characters almost palpable and Koko's surreal, but nightmarish style of narrating always inserted short breathtakingly beautiful passages. It is not to be said it didn't have shortcomings. It would have been more entertaining had it had a more fluid development, if the speed of the events in some places would be faster and if there was more room for some of the characters. I am not sure that if this had happened, some of the animal wouldn't have gone wasted though.