Ladies’ Night

January 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

Ladies' NightLadies’ Night by Jack Ketchum

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Ladies’ Night is the second supernatural work Ketchum has penned, and it’s the second of his two supernatural works to disappoint. Ketchum excels at capturing the monstrous behavior that has the potential to come from all of us, and that’s where the effectiveness of his horror lies. When he creates a monster that’s just a monster, then we’re reassured that these monsters don’t exist in the real world, and can’t hurt us. That kind of thing works for other authors, but for Ketchum, it doesn’t.

In Ladies’ Night, part of New York sinks into chaos when a tanker truck carrying some unknown chemical causes a change in all the women who were close enough to inhale the fumes. Within hours, they become mindless, brutal killing machines. One character, at a bar when the chaos begins, seeks to get home to save his son from his wife, who is also at home, and it’s a race against time for him to make it.

The author writes in his foreword that this book was his attempt to write something like ‘Salem’s Lot. He also attempted to emulate King with She Wakes, Ketchum’s other supernatural novel, and his other highly disappointing novel. The man has talents, without question (Hide and Seek, CoverThe Girl Next Door, and Stranglehold are all exceptional studies of character and theme), but he doesn’t seem to have them when it comes to straight-up horror.

It’s odd that a book this graphic can wind up being so boring. Though the story has a plot that carries it along, the novel is mostly one variation of violence after another. In a way, it reminds me of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, with its overabundance of pornography; after a while the excess leaves you feeling drained, unaffected. Maybe this is the point of both works, though. The book also ends on a low note, similar to how Off Season ended, though here it feels like more senseless brutality. There was no resonance here at all.

This story could have been a good examination of feminism and its ideals, with women finally taking their revenge against the patriarchy, but instead it’s just a random assortment of violence by women against … well, pretty much everyone and everything. Bad men, good men, other women, even animals and children fall victim to the frenzy of the women, until it’s impossible to view the story as anything but gratuitous and exploitative. Ladies’ Night could have been a story with a message; instead, it’s just one short, pointless death scene after another.

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