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KoKo (1988)

by Peter Straub

Series: Blue Rose (1)

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1,2881411,534 (3.59)28
Koko. Only four men knew what it meant. Now they must stop it. They are Vietnam vets -- a doctor, a lawyer, a working stiff, and a writer. Very different from each other, they are nonetheless linked by a shared history and a single shattering secret. Now, they have been reunited and are about to embark on a quest that will take them from Washington, D.C. to the graveyards and fleshpots of the Far East to the human jungle of New York, hunting someone from the past who has risen from the darkness to kill and kill and kill.… (more)
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» See also 28 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Let me start out by saying that I'm most definitely a fan of Straub. I've read the books he wrote with Stephen King in addition to GHOST STORY, THE HELLFIRE CLUB, SHADOWLAND, and LOST BOY LOST GIRL.

At first, KOKO didn't feel like it was going anywhere. There's a lot of searching in the plot and it felt like a similar "search" for story was happening along those 600 pages. I'm planning on reading the other two books in the trilogy, which I hope will be better paced than KOKO.

Straub's writing is perfect, as always, and I did like the story. It's easy to "see" what's happening on the page in your mind. But it took me a really long time to get this one from my "currently reading" shelf to the "read" shelf. I just think it's too long a novel for the story it tells. ( )
  Isaac_Thorne | Mar 12, 2021 |
Reading the other reviews... It appears that I picked up the abridged version somehow. That's fine. This was my second read. I read it thirty years ago when it was released and remembered some of it - vaguely. Total porch read. No need to think or read deeply.

The Vietnam stuff is disturbing. It was war. That shit happens in every war. It always happens and it's why we need to stop having wars. Now we have professional soldiers, smart bombs and no draft and the carnage of war is much harder to see because our media outlets are full of cowards owned by rich assholes. ( )
  authenticjoy | Nov 15, 2020 |
3.25 stars

Four army buddies from the Vietnam War head back to Asia in the early 80s to look for a murderer, nicknamed Koko. They think Koko is someone else they knew from the war.

This wasn't quite what I expected. I was a bit disappointed in that it's not horror, which I was wanting to read in October. Took me a while to realize that, but still didn't really enjoy the first 2/3 of the book (though it was o.k.). It did pick up for me a bit in the last 1/3 of the book, but not enough for me to continue what is apparently a trilogy. ( )
  LibraryCin | Apr 2, 2019 |
Meurtres sur un fond de trauma post guerre du vietnam. ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 2, 2016 |
Both character and plot driven, with emphasis on "character," KOKO is a riveting literary thriller, with emphasis on "literary." It is good enough for my favorites shelf.

This is a long book for a couple of reasons. First, of course, is that a lot happens. Second, Peter Straub tends to ramble sometimes. Although it may be tempting to skip these paragraphs, don't. Within most of them are either clues to what happens later or mysteries that will be explained later. The rambling often demonstrates confused and crazy thought processes.

I'm glad I read KOKO before I read reviews of it. It is so easy to give away what shouldn't be given away; the reader will enjoy the book so much more if she discovers events and does not anticipate them. But it's safe to say that three, then four veterans of the Vietnam War, all in the same platoon, travel the world together, looking for the person who has been killing people, mutilating them by chopping off their ears and gouging out their eyes, and, in most cases, putting a playing card in their mouths with the work "Koko" written on it. The veterans have reason to believe that Koko is another former member of their platoon.

Telling you more plot than that would be telling you too much. Don't read other reviews.

One of the veterans, Harry Beevers, was the lieutenant of this former platoon. Beevers is described as "the world's worst lieutenant" and has a few nicknames, including "lost boss" because he was so terrible at reading maps that he led his platoon into "killing boxes," where they were ambushed by the enemy. Some of those ramblings that I mentioned earlier are Beevers' thoughts.

My understanding is that Straub was (past tense because KOKO was written in 1988, almost 30 years before I read it) showing how everyone who did combat in Vietnam (or anywhere?) has been adversely affected for the rest of their lives. Not all are murderers, but maybe they are now crazy just the same.

Although, as I said, KOKO is a very good book, one of my favorites, I have two questions that Straub, as far as I remember, did not answer. That is, 1) how could the veterans who were searching for KOKO afford it when, even in 1988, airfares for tickets purchased shortly before travel were so high; and 2) why did they most often act at Beevers' beck and call even though they knew he was a bad leader?

Perhaps KOKO should be read twice. ( )
2 vote techeditor | Nov 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
I believe it is possible and even recommended to play the blues on everything. - Frank Morgan, alto saxophonist
Dedication
For Susan Straub and For Lila J. Kalinich, M.D.
First words
At three o'clock in the afternoon of a grey, blowing mid-November day, a baby doctor named Michael Poole looked down through the windows of his second floor room into the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel.
Quotations
His illusions were all the imagination he had - a ferocious poverty.
The little room seemed unbearably claustrophobic to Poole. He wished he could put his arms around the little boy who had escaped into this windowless chamber and tell him that he was not bad, not lazy, not damned.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Koko. Only four men knew what it meant. Now they must stop it. They are Vietnam vets -- a doctor, a lawyer, a working stiff, and a writer. Very different from each other, they are nonetheless linked by a shared history and a single shattering secret. Now, they have been reunited and are about to embark on a quest that will take them from Washington, D.C. to the graveyards and fleshpots of the Far East to the human jungle of New York, hunting someone from the past who has risen from the darkness to kill and kill and kill.

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