In Damon Norko’s ghost world, the ghosts have more reason to fear ghosts than their living and breathing brethren still subject to the laws of gravity have reason to fear them. Now throw in a hugely popular ghost with a philosophical nature who has found a way to write bestselling novels from the other side and publish them on our side, and you have the makings of one of the more unusual ghost stories you are likely to encounter this year.
As a ghost, Arnold Showalter is living the dream he never managed to achieve when he was alive. Or, at least, it started out that way. Arnold always wanted to be a writer, but somehow he managed to live into his seventh decade without doing much about it. Now, he is determined to make the most of this unexpected second chance of achieving it. But let’s face it: Arnold can only spend so much time at the keyboard, and he is one bored ghost the rest of the day and night – even on his assigned day-job working as a mine-haunter for the corporation that more or less created him.
What makes Arnold different from most of the Orpheum Corporation ghosts is that he has figured out a way to make himself feel all the human emotions he left behind with his dead body, something that is not supposed to be possible. But that’s both the good news and the bad news. On the one hand, this is what makes it possible for him to write the often gut-wrenching stories that he writes. On the other, it accounts for Arnold’s incredible boredom and his longing to find a friend.
And find a friend, he does – several of them, in fact – ghosts who, like Arnold, are searching for the meaning of this life after life. Unfortunately for Arnold and his friends, Orpheum Corporation considers them to be rogue ghosts who need to be stopped before they learn just what they are capable of achieving together. So now the ghost-hunt is on.
Although Damon Norko has packed a lot into this 134-page novel, I found myself wishing it had not ended quite where it did, and I wonder if perhaps the author has a sequel in mind. The Ghost Writer does, I think, suffer a little from its (lack of) size. More novella than novel, it does not allow Norko enough space to much develop more than two of his characters: Arnold and Clarisse, the teenaged ghost who becomes his first friend in ghost land. Too, because a substantial number of pages are devoted to the book’s more serious message, too few are left to move the action in the plot along.
Still, I feel for Arnold, the lonely ghost, because being a ghost is sure not all it’s cracked up to be.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)