Review: Ghoul n’ the Cape by Josh Malerman

cover of Ghoul n' the CapeGhoul n’ the Cape by Josh Malerman
Earthling Publications (January 2022)
727 pages; limited edition (1,000) hardcover $75
Reviewed by Dave Simms

What can be said about this monstrosity of a book that either won’t ruin the odd, weird, serpentine, acid trip plot or confuse the living hell out of the reader? That’s kind of simple, actually?
It’s written by Josh Malerman. That should be enough for most to pick it up.

In the past eight or so years, the author has become a household name in writing, somewhat because of the breakout Netflix adaptation of this incredible Bird Box, but mainly because the guy is not afraid to take chances. Everything he’s churned out has been stellar, from the rock-an- roll strange horror Black Mad Wheel to the darkest, strangest western (kinda) Unbury Carol signals to the reader that the expected will never be delivered. Even the sequel to his debut wound up almost surpassing the original in many ways. Malerman is quite literally a rock star as well, bringing to mind a comparison a meld of Jimi Hendrix and Ray Bradbury.
Back to the story that spins the skull in many fabulous ways. The Cape strolls into a bar and meets Ghoul (yes, real names for the story). The Cape, wearing a black cape, of course, comes to recruit Ghoul to travel west across the country. The offer of 21k might just convince him, or it might be the threat of The Naught, a being, or something much uglier, more cosmic, that just might swallow whole the entirety of the United States just because it can.
To say more would just confuse the reader and ruin what this novel seems to be intended to do: entertain and transport the mind and soul for 700+ pages. Yes, it’s a big book that in some ways dwarves a few of the other biggies, maybe by a “King”-sized writer, but damn, it’s a fun ride.
How else to compare Ghoul n’ the Cape? Imagine if Neil Gaiman packed a Winnebago with Hunter S. Thompson, Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, and Rod Serling for a cross-country excursion where characters met are stranger than the odd-shaped Ghoul and sure, a weeping Mount Rushmore(?) but this literally is all about the journey, even if the destination might save everything.
Written during the hellscape that was the COVID-lands, one often wonders how the past two, almost three years affected writers of the speculative and darker nature. Ghoul n’ the Cape might just be the masterpiece of the godawful chaos we might see the end of.  It’s brilliant in the weirdest, but most affecting and surreal way possible.
Highly recommended as all Malerman’s works are.

Leave a Reply