A few days ago, I was thinking about how I spend my “free” time. Lately, it’s been a lot of social media, Reddit, and Skyrim. While I’m sure that doesn’t make me markedly different from the average person in my age/gender demographic, it’s not something I’m particularly proud of, not because I partake in those activities, but because of what that list lacks.
Namely: 1) Reading, 2) Writing, 3)Music.
You should always be reading something.
–Joe Osheroff (One of my acting teachers at UCI, as he handed me a copy of of The Zoo Story by Edward Albee)
That moment popped in my head as I realized how little I read these days, despite the fact that I have a book backlog that rivals my Steam one. On top of my pile of books, Rain of the Ghosts by Greg Weisman. So, it became my starting point, my firm place to stand as I attempt re-inculcate reading into my routine. As for writing and music, well… I’m currently writing this entry while the How to Train Your Dragon score plays over a light layer of Coffitivity, so I guess that counts for now. I promise, I’ll do better. But, back to Rain of the Ghosts!
Author: Greg Weisman
Paperback, 240 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rain of the Ghosts is a story about Rain Cacique, a 13-year-old girl living in the (fictional) Prospero Keys (the Ghost Keys to the locals). Like anyone who’s lived in one place their entire lives, Rain is afflicted with a a bit of wanderlust. Well, I suppose not too many 13-year-olds are, but that just makes Rain special. I mean, what was I thinking about at 13? Chances are, there was a girl I was crushing on and I was too afraid to admit to her or myself that I liked her. That brings me to Rain’s best friend, Charlie Dauphin. The two are inseparable. Both of them are life-long residents of the Ghost Keys, both tired of dealing with the tourist crowd, and thus both frequenters of the “N.T.Z,” the No Tourist Zone, a little hideaway on the hill, which only locals are privy to.
Other than that, Rain is a normal teenage girl, just trying to enjoy the last few days of summer before school starts. Well, until her grandfather Sebastian gives her a gold bracelet in the shape of two snakes eating each other’s tails. Then, all hell breaks loose, figuratively.
What I enjoyed about Rain of the Ghosts: quite a few things.
**Light Spoilers from here on**
Comic book and cartoon fans might recognize the scribe of this work of fiction (Greg Weisman), as writer/producer/creator attached to some of the most popular animation franchises in the past couple decades: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice, and heck… Gargoyles, one of my favorite cartoons of all friggin time.
One thing I love about the book is the diverse set of characters. Rain and Charlie are Native American and African American, respectively. Another of the characters, Miranda, is Latina. The great part about them, too is that despite their ethnicities, Weisman is great at writing them as whole, rounded characters, instead of codes for their ethnic backgrounds. I can’t recall a moment where any of them dipped into caricature, which, for the love of the gods, happens way too much through all media. Instead, they’re people, who happen to be Native American, or Latino. Of course, their cultural upbringing colors their point of view, but it is never presented as the entirety of that view.
Akin to that point, Weisman sets the story in a region that just doesn’t seem to get as much coverage when compared to the rest of the world. True, the Prospero Keys are fictional, but the region is real: just south of the Florida Keys, by Bermuda.
The book is a real quick read, at 240 pages. That being the case, there’s absolutely no fat in the narrative. Nothing feels superfluous. Nor do you get the sense that something isn’t being said. Weisman lays out what you need to know and lets your imagination fill in the rest. His prose is easy, flows well, and doesn’t require you have the comprehension soothsayery of a Neo in front of Colonel Sanders… er, the Architect. What the hell was he saying, anyway? You do get that sense that you’re reading episodes from a cartoon, one of the ones they used to show on TV after school, like Gargoyles. Or Dinosaucers. I loved Dinosaucers. That’s no knock on the novel at all, though. I hate to label it a piece of juvenile fiction, because I do feel like it has an all-ages appeal. So, let’s just call it a novel, the first novel in a series. That brings me to…
What I found interesting about Rain of the Ghosts:
Again, a lot of interesting things in the book.
First off, I mentioned that it reads like a cartoon manifested itself in novel form. This is true. What it also feels like, though, is that the entire book is the establishment of a base reality that will be followed throughout the rest of the book series. That’s something I was surprised to find out at the end of the book.
I had purchased the book from Greg Weisman himself at a Young Justice panel during Gallifrey One earlier this year. I really had no idea what it was about or that it was part one of series. I just wanted to support, cuz man, I loved Gargoyles and Young Justice. So, finding out that it was just a chronicle of the beginning of Rain’s journey was a pleasant discovery. I really can’t wait to find out more about this world, and what kind of trouble Rain is going to drag Charlie into (he’s at least partially well, maybe totally, willing).
Rain of the Ghosts diverges a bit from a traditional narrative ratios of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. The exposition is part of the rising action, and the intrigue. All of a sudden, you find out you’re reading a mystery. The mystery heightens, then all of a sudden drops off the deep end, in what felt almost like a break in the reality of the world. But it wasn’t so, it was just establishment of a new one.
Weisman’s love for Shakespeare is also readily apparent in the narrative, as many of the character and place names are borrowed from The Tempest. Prospero Keys, Miranda, Ariel, Sycorax… all there. It’s like the whole A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Arthurian legend arc in Gargoyles. Makes me wonder if we’re going to see a Caliban in any of the other books. Only fitting, too, that we get a tale of magic and touches of the fae world by the end.
With the end of the book pointing to a deeper and wider-reaching mythos, it definitely makes me want to pick up the next book in the series, Spirits of Ash and Foam.
I do want to ask, though, if the whole Sebastian, referred to colloquially as “Bastian,” in the book, having an Ouroboros-type bracelet is in any way a reference to The Neverending Story, because if so, bangarang.
Should you read this book?
Hell yes you should, especially considering its length, it’s definitely worth it. Don’t expect Ulysses or Absalom, Absalom (thank gods). Expect a fun, direct, narrative with out of the ordinary settings. Better yet, don’t expect anything. Just read the book and judge for yourself.