Sheep Meadow Story

January 12, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

Sheep Meadow StorySheep Meadow Story by Jack Ketchum

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Triage is a collection of three novellas that all begin with the same premise — a man walking into a workplace after making a threatening phone call. It sounds like a cool idea, but I only read the one by Jack Ketchum, Sheep Meadow Story. I found an ebook copy of just that story, and since I’m currently working my way through Ketchum’s larger body of work, I thought I would include this one.

In Cover, Ketchum gave us a lengthy look at the antagonist, giving us reasons for why he was doing the terrible things he did. Ketchum never asked us to forgive his antagonist for those things, but he did give us a reason to be sympathetic to him. In Sheep Meadow Story, he presents us with a guy who just has a bad attitude, and there’s absolutely no reason to be sympathetic to this guy. He’s an asshole to everyone he meets on general principle, and Ketchum shows it to us at every possible chance. He’s a racist, sexist misanthrope who judges people for the most minor infractions, including how people return money to him after a purchase. It’s ridiculous.

All that is not to say that his character is somehow irrelevant; in fact, it’s crucial to the story. It’s just hard to get fully engaged with a character when he’s that pathetic, that much of a loser. Without that connection to a character, it’s difficult for a reader to care about him.

Ketchum cheats a bit when it comes to holding his story to the collective premise; it turns out just to be a dream. It sets the tone for the rest of the story, since he creates his main character out to be one of those men who can snap at the smallest provocation and go on a killing spree, but it feels cheap. Judging the story by itself, it’s fine, but when you look at it as the common element among these three stories, it rings flat.

As I was reading the story, I felt like it was pointless, but Ketchum did surprise me with an ending that fit the story well. Overall, though, Sheep Meadow Story is fine, but it’s not the best example of what Ketchum can do.

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