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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

“Ghost Radio” by Leopoldo Gout (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Official Ghost Radio Website
Order “Ghost Radio
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leopoldo Gout is a producer, graphic novelist, writer, composer, and director. He is currently producing an animated film with NBC and Curious Pictures, and collaborated with bestselling novelist James Patterson on the Daniel X: Alien Hunter graphic novel. “Ghost Radio” is his first novel.

INTRODUCTION: I first heard about Leopoldo Gout’sGhost Radio” in the
October 2008 edition of Robert's masterful monthly spotlights, but based on the blurb I kind of dismissed it since I am not that much into ghost stories. When I saw the novel in a bookstore though, I decided to browse through it and was immediately hooked by the story and ended up finishing the book in two back-to-back readings. Then I immediately reread it again the next day :) It should be noted however, that “Ghost Radio” is not really a ghost story or horror novel, but an excursion into the fantastic that masterfully blends elements from various genres…

SETTING:Ghost Radio” starts—and in a very definite sense—is rooted in Mexico about twenty or so years ago when two young boys, Joaquin and Gabriel, have a fateful encounter as the only two survivors of a terrible car crash that involved their families. Later, Joaquin becomes the host of a very successful cult radio show and accepts a lucrative offer—“sells his soul to the devil” as he puts it—to move the show to the U.S. where it becomes syndicated making it even more popular. The show itself airs every night between 1-5 a.m. and takes calls from all over the world about tales of the supernatural, both real and invented. Of these “unexplainable encounters” kind of stories, they range from the sad and the tragic to the macabre such as finding brides/grooms for the recently deceased who are unmarried.

FORMAT/INFO:Ghost Radio” is 353 pages divided over 55 titled chapters and a one-page prologue that sets the tone for the book. Each chapter is prefaced with an illustration from Joaquin's “Polaroid Journal” that reflects its contents. The illustrations were actually drawn by the author and are absolutely superb, wonderfully enhancing the novel.

The narration switches between the third person POVs of Joaquin, Gabriel and Alondra, and the first-person perspectives of Joaquin and Alondra. The switch between the different narrative modes worked very well for me and added to the many pleasures of the book. The story itself alternates between the past—the tale of Joaquin and Gabriel and the tragedy that brought them together—and the present with Joaquin and Alondra running the radio show. The ending meanwhile is good, pulling together the unexplained mysteries of Joaquin's life, but I would have preferred a more ambiguous conclusion that was left open to the reader's imagination.

October 14, 2008 marks the Hardcover publication of “Ghost Radio” via
HarperCollins. Cover designed by Betty Lew.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: As I mentioned above, “Ghost Radio” is not easy to pigeonhole in a single genre since the book possesses elements of horror, science fiction, fantasy, thriller/mystery, and contemporary urban fiction, so I recommend leaving all preconceptions at the door and just enjoying the ride.

Now at first, “Ghost Radio” may seem confusing because the short chapters alternate so much between the past and present, third-person and first-person narratives, and the different callers to the show, but the book’s energy is enough to propel the reader through these abrupt transitions. And once you settle in, it becomes easier to recognize when the chapter is taking place, who the narrator is and how the pieces of the puzzle fall in place.

However, do not get too comfortable in your assumptions on where the story is going since it starts moving more and more into unreality forcing readers to question what is actually happening as opposed to what Joaquin may believe is happening. Of course, things will eventually make sense once the book is concluded and readers will be able to appreciate how well constructed the plot is…

Of the characters, former punk rocker/radio host Joaquin is clearly the main protagonist in the novel, with Alondra and GabrielJoaquin’s charismatic friend who was the indisputable leader of their two man band years ago—both playing important roles while Watt the sound man has a strange tale of his own. Then there are the callers whose stories blend in very well with the main thread, while the continuously added revelations from the past complement the present progression of the story…

Overall, Leopoldo Gout’sGhost Radio” is another unexpected surprise, and an enthralling novel that stays with the reader long after finishing and requires a reread to see how well the story comes together. Highly, highly recommended, I will be rereading “Ghost Radio” for years to come…


Ondrej from Top Ten Books said...

One of my favorite books, even today, the Ghost Radio has shown great plot in a little exotic setting.

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