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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

Ash Wednesday

By Chet Williamson
A TOR Book, 372 pp, 1987

This book is considered a modern horror classic. It brought Chet Williamson a lot of fame (don't know about fortune). I don't think it's very good and don't understand what the big deal was about.

The premise is interesting enough. On Ash Wednesday, the good folks of Merridale, PA wake up to find ghosts all over their small town. These ghosts are naked. They are in houses, streets, public buildings, everywhere. The apparitions are frozen in the exact moment of their deaths, so some are quite gruesome, others are peaceful. The ghosts neither speak nor move. They're just there.

The town makes the national news. Some hotshot from the government shows up to investigate.

So that's pretty cool. Williamson then introduces some characters. One man finds the ghost of his mistress in his bed. He killed her and his wife never found out. Another haunted Vietnam vet sees the ghost of his long-lost buddy. One lady who has moved away comes back to see the ghost of a boyfriend who died years ago. Another man sees the ghost of his son, killed in a fiery bus accident in which he (the man) was the driver.

Okay, so we got the situation and the characters. And then, nothing. The rest of the book is essentially a character study and not a very interesting one. The only thing that actually happens is the Vietnam vet goes psycho (nice stereotype there).

The ghosts are just a prop in this story and probably some kind of metaphor for something, but I didn't care enough about the book to figure it out. This novel is way overrated, and I am so glad I paid just two bucks for it at a used book sale.

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