After a near-death experience, Ben is forced to readjust his life. Homeschooled, unable to do anything that could risk another heart attack, he has lost touch with his former best friend, Lillian. In turn, Lillian actively avoids anything that could risk her own life, scared so deeply from what happened to Ben. When the park Ghostland opens, Ben asks her to join him on opening day. Lillian does so, with her therapist as chaperone, and the three head for the attraction, but things take a deadly turn when the ghosts break free and wreck havoc.
It sounds like Jurassic Park with ghosts, and it essentially is. The author even admits as much at the end of the book. Although the core idea is intriguing, the execution falls a little flat. For the most part, the book feels convoluted, with too many different ideas vying for space. This is a world where science has discovered ghosts are real. Some people still question their existence, but it’s not made clear how widely this is accepted. The idea is also jammed in a little forcefully as the characters make their way to Ghostland, as if it was suddenly remembered that the reader needed to be aware of this before their arrival.
So ghosts are real…or are they? No one seems to question the technology used in Ghostland, considering they’re encouraged to wear AR headsets all day and can only see the ghosts using them. There were some interesting ideas here and it felt like a missed opportunity not to explore them a little more.
The book itself felt long, and to me it really started to drag. It read like a game, in that the characters were travelling along a set route, engaging with different enemies each escalating in difficultly, and the settings themselves added to that. I felt like I was reading Batman: Arkham Asylum, travelling through the different sections of the game to get to the big boss. The constant reference to the character’s gaming activities did nothing to help that comparison.
The characters…Ben and Lillian are verging on adulthood, and this event will likely push them into that realm quicker than they anticipate. Ben wants to be more involved with life, Lillian less, which should make for an interesting dynamic. Thing was, throughout the book neither of them seem to use the abilities the other praises them for, and every advancement they make it because of other people, rather than their own skills. Which is fine! If we weren’t constantly told how amazing they are, while seeing no evidence.
There’s also the matter of the AR goggles used – there were points when it seemed like they had been dropped or broken, only for it to be mentioned a few chapters later that the characters had them and were wearing them. It got a bit frustrating.
Mainly, I enjoyed certain aspects of the book, but there were a lot of moments where I just kept wishing it would end – it stretched on for too long, read like a guide book for a video game without the enjoyment of actually playing one, and left unexplored the most interesting aspects of this world.
Thank you to NetGalley and Shadow Work Publishing for providing an e-book in exchange for an honest review.
2 thoughts on “Ghostland – Duncan Ralston [Books]”
Good review! I’ve read this one, too. I didn’t enjoy it as much as other readers did. I think I wasn’t the right audience. (I typically don’t read young adult.) Like you, I thought it went on too long, but still, it was mostly a fun read.
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Yeah I agree with that. I wouldn’t even put it in the YA category, skews more towards Adult horror imo, but I think I would have preferred it if it was tightened up somewhat.