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CR3 #80: Floating Dragon by Peter Straub

Floating Dragon is the story of a town that isn't quite right, and has never BEEN quite right. From its earliest beginnings, the town has been off-kilter, and every thirty years or so, really bad things seem to happen. Unfortunately, this time not only is the evil back, but it has help from a man-made toxic agent. The people in the small town are going mad, there's a serial killer on the loose, and the only people who can stop it are a former child star, an old man, a teenager, and a battered wife.

This story has a lot in common with the work of Stephen King, which is probably part of the reason I like it so much. In some ways, it's a lot like IT, and also shares some traits with the TV show Haven*, in that evil has come to rest in a small town and has been devouring the people who live there for centuries. I will say that Straub moves his plot along better than King usually does, and he also manages to put together an ending that doesn't make me want to kick the wall out of sheer frustration with the nonsense. However, although his characters were detailed and distinct, I didn't necessarily feel them very clearly. For example, although Richard Albee was one of the main characters of the story--of the four of them, he was focused on the most--I still only have a vague impression of him. To compare, in The Stand, there are probably at least twenty featured players, but I can see each and every one quite clearly in my head, and I understand their motivations. Straub often explains a character's motivations to the reader, but doesn't do a good enough job showing the character's motives in motion. I guess that's why the two authors did such good work together--they're both very talented, and their strengths and weaknesses complement each other perfectly.

I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who's a fan of the genre. It's well-written and fairly exciting. I've seen that some reviewers found it too long, but I think it actually suffered from being a little too short. I really liked finding out the history of the town, and would have loved to see even more of that.

*Did anyone else watch Haven this summer? What a great show! Aside from my obvious pleasure in the multitude of Stephen King references, the actors are doing a fantastic job with their characters, and the over-arching mystery is taking shape without completely swamping the show. I'm really excited to see where they're going to with the "Troubled" vs. "Normal" showdown in Haven, and which sides the main characters will fall toward. Plus, the love triangle between Audrey, Nathan, and Duke is enticing. They've used guest stars judiciously--brought them in for actual arcs, rather than stunt casting (I was pleasantly surprised by how WWE's Edge was used, and also by his not-at-all-terrible acting)--and have also slowly worked in some other town regulars. It's so disappointing that I have to wait almost an entire year to find out the next chapter in the story! On the whole, I think that SyFy has done some great things with their original programming (Warehouse 13 is also a lot of fun), though I refuse to stop pointing out how stupid the whole "SyFy" branding is.


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