By Eric Polk of http://anotherdescentinto.blogspot.com
Initially, I had intended to do an entire spotlight on perhaps one of the most overlooked writers of the horror genre, one Peter Straub. However after reviewing my library, I realized I only have read four of the man's novels, thus I felt I wouldn't be able to do him any justice. So instead, I'll review perhaps his greatest novel, Floating Dragon.(With all due respect to the wonderful Ghost Story)
Floating Dragon takes place in the affluent suburb of Hampstead, Connecticut during the spring and summer of 1980. Two evils threaten the sleepy village, one a creation of mankind, the other a malevolent presence ready to manifest itself after a thirty-year slumber.
The book gets off to a bloody good start when a local housewife is murdered by a mysterious man whom she met at a bar that previous afternoon. Meanwhile, the desperate housewife's hubby, is involved in an accident at a chemical plant as he works on a secret project for the Department of Defense. The accident releases a sentient nerve gas(the malevolent presence) across the area.
At the same time, a former childhood actor and wife return home from a 12-year stint in London and become connected with the MALEVOLENT PRESENCE while a retired writer looks back into discover what the MALEVOLENT PRESENCE actually is and how it got here in the first place.
Slowly, surely, Hampstead falls apart as people die bloody deaths and the town itself falls into suburban decay.
So why do I feel this is so good? Simply put, all the classic elements of a good horror tale are here. Strong characters, intelligent(if not a bit long-winded at times) writing, a hide-under-the covers monster. I also love the chaos and the descent Hampstead endures as the MALEVOLENT PRESENCE rains destruction on those who oppose it.
To be honest with you, Floating Dragon is a book that out-Kings Stephen King. It is almost 600 pages, so don't expect to get through this in one sitting. Sadly, this was Peter Straub's last true foray into supernatural fiction and perhaps his last true good story(then again I've only read four of his tales so maybe I shouldn't be hasty in my assessment).