Peaceable Kingdom, Jack Ketchum

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,,The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
(…)
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain”
– The Book of Isaiah

Peaceable Kingdom is a biblical place where harmony, community and the variety of creatures meet. It is also the title of the collection of short stories, written by Jack Ketchum, which the main theme is otherness. Each of the stories is quite distinctive due to a characteristic leitmotif and yet they complementary each other with a wide array of ideas that the author has come up with. The idea alone is worth reading and the stories are shaped in peculiar forms. We encounter The Rifle and a mother who discovers the dark recesses of her son, or The Box which destroys everything in all minds who dare to look into it. However, are the otherness and old testament title enough to grab readers’ attention?

Ketchum’s writing style seems to disappoint. Despite the promises on the cover of the book, there are not much going on in the stories. In fact, it appears that the author has found the leitmotifs: sex and guts. The book does not scare the reader even when you read it in the middle of the night with the curtains drawn. The only thing that lasts after reading almost 400 pages is disappointment and disgust. The plots seem to end quickly and without any twist and if the author has run out of ideas then the blood is the only solution. Mail Order puts off. Amid the Walking Wounded is an inconsistent piece of writing and Twins seems repulsive. Definitely, it is not the story which you can read in one day. The stories tire the reader and every spark of hope that comes back when you want to reread the book, disappears after a couple of pages.

Jack Ketchum is known for his novels The Girl Next Door – the horror that was adapted for the big screen in 2007 – but it is based solely on creating human suffering and disgust. In spite of having interesting moments, such as Father and Son or The Haunt I know that I will not come back to any book by Ketchum.

Author: Katarzyna Anita Piotrowska
Translation: Dorota Osińska