“The American project is a failure.” – Jonathan Raab’s The Haunting of Camp Winter Falcon

Jonathan Raab is one of my favorite contemporary writers. I’ve mentioned this before. More than once. He combines fun and poppy, pulpy horror with counterculture messaging and genuinely disturbing imagery to conjure up spook house narratives that are equal parts confection and a genuine glimpse behind the veil. And The Haunting of Camp Winter Falcon may be his best work yet.

Though fun and often schlocky, Raab’s work is always smart, and always political. And that’s never been more true than in this tale of veterans of U.S. military service who are recruited into a psychotronic program that combines paranormal phenomena and high strange weirdness with psychotropic drugs and standard therapeutic tactics to do… well, something. Most of these folks don’t have a lot of choice in the matter, so who are they to ask too many questions?

The result is a sustained scream of blood-choked rage at our history of bloody wars, the military industrial complex, our treatment of veterans, and so much more – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a fun ghost story (what Sam Raimi once called a “spook-a-blast”), filled with Technicolor imagery, gothic trappings, unexplainable lights in the night sky, extremely sketchy video tapes, terrible things lurking down in dark caves, goblins, aliens, and everything else you can imagine, pretty much.

That this novel that is extremely, specifically critical of American imperialism and exceptionalism also contains bloody chainsaw murders and explicit references to both Ghostbusters and Messiah of Evil, to name a few, is a pretty good summation of not only what you can expect from the smorgasbord that is The Haunting of Camp Winter Falcon, but of Raab’s work in general.

And you’ll never look at the night sky or a TV/VCR on a rolling stand the same way again…

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