I believe my review of Peter Straub’s latest novella, The Process (or, as it was originally titled, Hello Jack, which I much preferred!) is the first on Goodreads. I feel so honored!
Folks, I spent forty bucks on this book. It’s a limited, signed edition and was published by Subterranean Press. They do good work, and this is no exception. This one is beautiful, and so nice to hold! Do I regret spending that much money on a ninety-page novella? Despite my 3-star rating, I would answer that question with an emphatic NO. Peter Straub is one of my favorite authors, and this is his first release of new fiction in seven years. And it’s signed! No regrets here.
Despite Straub being one of my favorite authors, I must admit I’ve not read anything of his that was released after Floating Dragon. I haven’t read the Blue Rose trilogy, or The Hellfire Club. Nothing. Nada. So reading this — a work released in 2017 — was a bit jarring because, naturally, Straub’s voice has changed as he’s gotten older. His language seems a bit more concise now, which is great . . . but this novella totally lacked the atmosphere of his earlier stuff. His ’70s and ’80s novels oozed with mood and feeling; Straub always put his strange and puzzling locations to good use. Here, he doesn’t. Bummer.
This little story concerns itself with Tillman Hayward (a Straubian character name if there ever was one!), a fictional serial killer from the 1950s. Apparently this guy has appeared in a few other novellas by Straub, but I have not read those. For the most part, this story remains in the head of this guy — often referred to as “Tilly” — and I must say he’s pretty darn creepy! I thought his association of words with smells was fitting, creative, and very well written. Unfortunately, at seemingly random moments Straub jerks the reader away from Tilly’s first person narration and plunks said reader down into the happenings of other characters. Those moments bored me to tears, and I found myself racing through the pages to get back to what Tilly was up to.
Like all Straub stories, this is a bit of a challenge. It’s a horrific mystery of the highest literary order. I cannot pretend to have totally gotten everything that was going on, and I’m sure that’s the point. But it’s a bit of a mess. I finished feeling more confused than anything. I will reread this . . . maybe soon? For now, though, I will give it three stars. I liked it, but it could have been so much more.