Monday, May 25, 2009

Cover, (Leisure Fiction), by Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum has been hailed as a writer whose unflinching gaze at man's darkness is disturbingly thought-provoking. Consistently, he's displayed a knack for taking readers to uncomfortable places, daring them to stare harsh reality in the eye. Originally published by Gauntlet Press, “Cover” still finds relevance in today's world. In these pages, Ketchum captures the horrors of war, after a soldier has returned home, a supposedly “safe” place forever tainted by the violence he's endured.

The Vietnam War has left Lee Moravian a hollowed-out shell. A bundle of nothing more than trained impulses, Lee struggles for normalcy. The simplest emotions are atrophied muscles he doesn't remember how to use. When his wife finally leaves him, fearing for her and their son's safety, Lee is left alone to grapple with his ghosts, deep in the quiet forest he calls sanctuary.

A chance arrival of celebrity campers intrudes upon Lee's delicately strung-together world. The stress of solitude warps his mind, dredging horrifying flashbacks to the surface. Reality twists into a haunting reflection of the jungles of 'Nam, and as Lee slowly fades from the present into the past, he prepares to wage bloody war upon his newfound “enemies”.

Though reflecting upon Vietnam, “Cover” is still relevant today. Ketchum aptly portrays the fragmented perspective of a man torn by a violence beyond most humans' understanding. It's a complicated work. It's hard to blame Lee, especially as Ketchum interweaves the veteren's terrible war experiences into the present-day narrative. It's an excellent re-printing choice by Leisure, because in this time of war and strife, amid political and military campaigns driven by agendas and “goals”, it's important to consider the broken human lives that are often dismissed afterward.

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