July 27th, 2006


Straubathon: Floating Dragon

Good grief, it took my almost three months to finish Peter Straub's 1983 novel Floating Dragon! It's not the book's fault -- I happen to love it -- it's mine. I'm a slow reader as it is, and I simply haven't been making enough reading time lately.

If someone were to ask me what happens in Floating Dragon, I'd be hard pressed to describe the story events in a way that would seem sufficient. People aren't joking when they call it Straub's "kitchen sink novel." We've got a toxic cloud that turns people into melting mummies, an ancient evil that is reincarnated every few decades, serial murders, drowned zombie children, lakes of blood, giant bats made out of fire, flies with human heads, psychic people, ghost cats (!), a magic mirror, an equally magic sword that keeps showing up out of nowhere and, at the novel's climax, what seems to be an actual dragon. "Something bad has come to Hampstead, Connecticut" doesn't quite sum it up, does it?

Straub has called Floating Dragon his Valentine's letter to the horror genre, but I'm tempted to call it his Valentine to Stephen King in particular. The climax is very It-like, with the four protagonists having to work in unison to defeat an ancient evil that could easily destroy any of them individually. Straub also has our heroes singing "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along" through most of the climactic battle in exactly the same way that Stephen King tends to awkwardly insert an excess of pop culture and old songs into his work in inappropriate places. I'm probably reading too much into it, though.

Floating Dragon, with so much going on in its 500 pages, could have easily been a mess of a novel. But Straub is such a controlled writer that he doesn't let the novel become too unrestrained. In lesser hands, this same novel would have probably been a bad joke, the "Venom Cock" of 1980s horror. Instead, it's another Straubian masterpiece. I remain viciously jealous of his abilities as a writer.

Up next, David Wellington's Monster Island, and then it's back to the Straubathon with 1988's Koko (which should finally make Laird very happy).