July 28, 2005
nearly Perfect Circle
is more haunting: Ghosts or a failed life?
Perfect Circle, by Sean
Stewart, Small Beer Press, July 2004, 243 pages
Touted as a cross
between Stephen King and playwright Henrik Ibsen, writer Sean Stewart is
a rare find ó an author that keeps you in the dark.
Stewartís latest tale,
Perfect Circle, is a ghost story of sorts. Protagonist DK ďDeadĒ Kennedy
was born with the ability to see ghosts and, although this hasnít proved
a major burden to him, it hasnít helped him out much either. But the
same could be said for most of the other things in his life.
DK is a slacker,
recently fired from a pet store job because he ate catfood in front of a
customer to prove a point. Itís only the latest in a series of dead-end,
low-skill jobs he has held since his wife left him for a Marine 12 years
ago. His short marriage resulted in a child, a daughter, that DK gets to
see about once a month. DK doesnít drive a car ó in the dark, he canít
always tell the dead from the living, a fact that has resulted in a
couple of accidents ó and his soon-to-be teenage daughter is losing her
interest in the monthly trips, via bus, with her wastrel father.
Enter a distant cousin
with a ghost problem. Heís haunted by the ghost of a girl that he claims
he hit with his car in Europe. When DK sees the ghost, he realizes that
his cousin actually raped, bound and then beat the girl to death. The
cousin sees this understanding in DKís face and pulls a gun on him,
planning to kill again to keep his secret. DK takes a bullet but sets
his cousin on fire, burning him to death. And there is still
three-quarters of the book to go.
DK is haunted, by the
love he still has for his ex-wife, his failures as a father, by certain
tracks on his favorite CDs and, eventually, by the ghost of his cousin,
who vows to kill everyone DK loves. In some ways DK is dead, too,
lacking any kind of ambition and passion for life. In one scene he
attempts suicide, which fit so well in the context of the book and the
character, that I half expected the book to end there. But the reason he
opts not to go through with it also made perfect sense, and I was more
than happy to continue reading.
Stewartís writing is
occasionally beautiful; some of his descriptions of happenings, scenes
and thoughts stay with you solely for the grace of the writing. DK is a
wreck but you canít help but liking the guy. Heís the kind of character
that you want to go drinking with, and spend the evening talking about
life and music. DK also utilizes one of the best barfight strategies
Iíve ever read.
Iím new to Stewartís
writing and was happy to find out that he wrote seven novels prior to
Perfect Circle. Now, while waiting for his next book, I can busy myself
with his earlier efforts.