I saw this number as part of a cover artist’s display at Realm Makers 2015 and I’d been meaning to read it since then (proving the power of good cover art). I finally snagged a copy and sat down to enjoy it. And yes, enjoy is the operative word. Not love, not revel in, but certainly enjoy.
TITLE: The Ghost Box
AUTHOR: Mike Duran
Reagan Moon is a paranormal reporter and human cynic. He doesn’t believe in the things he writes about–witches, ghosts, seances, etc.–who would? But that changes when Reagan is contracted to find his dead girlfriend and save her soul. This sends Reagan tumbling down the rabbit hole of the occult and supernatural, right in the heart of L.A., and the only thing worse than the demons all around him are the demons in his heart.
This is the first story about Reagan Moon. One more also exists called Saint Death.
I admire the boldness in this story. Mike Duran is a Christian fiction writer, but you might not know it from this work. I don’t say that as an insult, but a compliment–that his work reads like any other story.
Few Christian writers would tackle the occult in such depth, but Duran goes to some dark, strange places. This may make some fret, but fret not my friend, this is Mike Duran, not Zack Snyder. He doesn’t go too dark or dark for the sake of darkness; it’s there to tell the story properly. There’s also some pretty adult language because, well, that’s how people talk.
It’s hard to point out specific things that worked well because the story is simply “good.” The word choices, characters, dialogue, settings, descriptions, etc. were all good. Nothing stood out in great measure, but it’s a simple goodness that makes the story clean and enjoyable, and it opens up a whole world for further exploration in other novels.
WHAT NEEDED WORK:
Just one thing stands out in a bad way and sadly, it’s a doozy: the main villain’s dialogue. The villain himself is compelling enough. He’s dangerous and there’s a clever moment near the end when you discover that “defeating” him is not as easy as it looks.
But when he opens his mouth, it all falls apart. The villain’s dialogue is cliched and trite to the max–I’m talking bad anime or James Bond villain. Endlessly amused by the hero’s petty struggles, babbling on and on without actually saying anything, smirking as if he’s above everything, all that. Again, the villain is fine, but his dialogue is just plain bad.
Thankfully, he’s the only offender. Everyone else’s dialogue is perfectly fine. The only other “issue” I have is that while this book was good, nothing is spectacularly so, which makes it harder for the book to stick.
OVERALL: 3.5/5 stars–I’m glad I read it and can easily recommend it.
Despite one big flaw and no standout greatness, it’s still a well-written book and an enjoyable read. Not too dark, not pandering at all. If you’re a Christian looking for better fiction, or you love paranormal/occult adventures, you’ll be glad you read The Ghost Box.
Sexuality: 1/10–Nothing problematic that I remember.
Violence: 5/10–Very seldom, but one particularly “ick” scene. Nothing gratuitous.
Language: 6/10–Several uses of shit, but not constant.
Substances: 4/10–Some drug references, but there’s a particular paranormal device that, when used, acts like a drug. It’s trippy and even addictive, but it’s a good story tool.
Mature Content: 4/10–Lots of afterlife weirdness like mediums and playing with souls. Dark, but not harrowing.
(NOTE FOR MY FOLLOWERS: Saturday is usually the day I post my weekly 75 Years of Film analytical series, but we’re packing up to move from Denver to Idaho–funny story–so analyzing movies has been put on hold for a couple weeks. I hope to have the series up again by Saturday, September 24 if not a week earlier. Thanks for your patience and for supporting my writing.)