January 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

joyrideJoyride by Jack Ketchum


The funny thing about most of Ketchum’s fiction is they dare you to put them down. That might not be the case for every reader — his books are for a specific sort of reader; not refined, necessarily, but someone who can tolerate long glances into the abyss — but they’re quick and precise, malevolently engaging. They make you want to see what happens next.

Joyride is the story of Carole, a woman who has survived an abusive relationship by killing her ex-husband. Her current lover helps her, but the two of them are seen by Wayne, an imbalanced man who has a lust for murder and thinks that the three of them share a common bond. The difference between them is that Carole and Lee acted out of desperation, while Wayne acts out of gleeful abandon. Wayne kidnaps them so they may witness — and perhaps participate in — his own killing spree.

As with any Ketchum novel, the story touches on the humanity beneath the brutality, and gives us some insight into the human condition. Ketchum balances the violence with hope, enough to keep the story from being a nihilistic look at the worst that people can do. He makes you think about the events, even personalize them to some degree, and he does so by creating vivid characters to populate his stories. His good guys and his bad guys are equally memorable.

My reading this novel comes at a time where I’ve been thinking some about mass killings. The majority of them are performed by men, usually men who feel entitled to have their way with women. Ketchum touches on this point more than once in this novel, with Carole realizing that Wayne is just another man with a gun, reflecting on how many of them there are. Acknowledging that this is a problem, that this is the real motivation behind these sprees, might allow society to begin finding ways to eliminate them.

The only fault I find in this novel is Ketchum’s attempt to explain Wayne’s condition. In the end, monsters are monsters just because; we don’t need to know what went into the making of said monster. All we need to know is that the monsters are real, they come out in daylight, and that they live among us. That is the real horror of characters like that.

This edition also includes a novella called “Weed Species”, which is a look into the mind of a female rapist and serial killer. It’s far less interesting and compelling than the main story.

Joyride is another tracer bullet of a novel, seeking out the most tender parts of your psyche. It’s a worthwhile read, so long as you can endure the experience.


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