Goblin: A Novel In Six Novellas by Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman’s Goblin is a fascinating glimpse into a truly peculiar town, not altogether dissimilar from some of the fictional Maine locales made popular by Stephen King. Also, like King, the tales Malerman weaves of the rainy town of Goblin are unevenly paced and of vastly different content and quality. This does not, as one might suspect, take anything away from the amazing quality of this collection of interconnected novellas. It works out perhaps better than Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country did, where that collection wove together connected tales of a single family and this one immerses us in the haunted title town.
Goblin is a place of near-constant rainfall, a place haunted and evil before man ever made the mistake of settling there in a town built on a history of bloody violence and betrayal. It is a town where the impenetrable North Woods are home to giant predatory owls and a witch who breaks the hearts of those she tells her stories to, where inhuman police produce shivers in even the most courageous residents, and where the key to the city has been missing for years.
The Prologue & Epilogue (Welcome & Make Yourself At Home) provide an almost perfect bookend to the stories contained within this book…especially since the tales reach their respective crescendos at approximately the same time on the same night of nightmares and downpours…as a reckoning of sorts falls upon the town and its residents.
A Man In Slices tells us a story of twisted friendship and the sacrifices such a friendship might require.
Kamp delves into the paranoid, fearful mental landscape of a man who fears–well, to borrow from FDR–fear itself. Sure, he’s terrified of encountering a ghost, but it’s the resulting fear upon experiencing that encounter that he’s truly terrified of.
Happy Birthday, Hunter! brings us face-to-face with the manic, self-absorbed, single-minded dedication of a big game hunter and his overwhelming need to pursue the greatest game of his life…and a wife with an unwelcome surprise present.
Presto introduces us to a world of magic and illusion that might just be more real than it seems.
A Mix-Up At the Zoo is a sad story about a simple, friendly giant of a man who spends too much time burning the candle at both ends and gets confused about where he is and what he’s doing. The ending of this particular story, as predictable as it might have been, was all the more heartbreaking for playing out exactly as a reader anticipates it will.
The Hedges splits its narrative time between telling us a fantastic, beautiful love story and exploring the mysteries we’ve already been exposed to as we reached this point in the collection. This is the story where we finally begin to glimpse precisely why the residents of Goblin are so terrified of the police, and rightfully so.
Yes, this collection is uneven…but it’s telling us the story of a town through the interrelated snapshots of the residents…and that unevenness makes it feel all the more real. No real city is uniformly interesting or captivating to all comers when we’re diving into the lives of those who reside within. In the end, Malerman does what he set out to do–I suspect–by crafting a place that becomes more real to the readers than many real-world places ever might be. This is doubly impressive when one considers just how unreal Goblin is.

Final Day In Seattle

Friday the 28th of June, 2019 was our final day in the Pacific Northwest before we began our return trip home to South Dakota. We had recently discovered that there was a rose test garden located at Woodland Park in Seattle, and since we loved the International Rose Test Garden in Portland so much (we’d visited it in both 2017 and 2019, and I’d visited there in 2014 as well), we figured it would be worth a visit. It was shortly before 11:30 AM when we arrived to test that theory.

We were not wrong in our assumption. In some ways, the rose test garden in Seattle’s Woodland Park is superior to the sister garden in Portland’s Washington Park. Though the variety and sheer quantity of blooming flowers doesn’t compare to what we saw in Portland, the landscaping and park environment of Seattle’s rose test garden made for a different type of experience.

Photos from the Woodland Park Rose Test Garden are below.

Our next stop was the Seattle Japanese Garden, only a matter of five miles or so Southeast of Woodland Park. We arrived there shortly after 12:30 PM. We had enjoyed the Seattle Japanese Garden a great deal when we’d been there in 2017 as well. Though it doesn’t have quite the same beauty of the Portland Japanese Garden, it is a lovely place to wander through just the same. Additionally, there is the perk of being able to purchase fish pellets at the entrance for the purpose of feeding the colorful koi inhabiting the large central pond.

While feeding the koi, we were provided with the added amusement of watching a heron attempting to catch a meal only a few feet away from where we were. So intently focused on the potential meal, the bird hardly paid us any mind. I’ve included photos below.

It was shortly after 2 PM when we reached our final destination of the day, the Kubota Garden. After the Seattle Japanese Garden, the Kubota Garden was a little bit lackluster and disappointing. It was, however, free admittance…so that’s a nice thing. It’s still a pretty location, just not as well maintained or as pretty.

In a sense, I suppose it felt more wild…more natural and unsculpted than the Japanese Garden…and I’d like to visit again just to see if my perspective might be different a second time. I’m including photos from Kubota Garden below.

Financial conditions being different, we might have done more on our final day in Seattle, but we were essentially tapped dry beyond what we had set aside for food and fuel for the return trip home. Also, we had more than 1,200 miles of driving to do between the following morning and Sunday evening, and I would be going all of that distance behind the wheel. The first 750 miles of that return trip to the East would get us into Yellowstone National Park so we could capture the sunrise at Mammoth Hot Springs (I’ve shared photos of that part of the adventure previously). I had a lot of driving to look forward to–or dread–the next day.

It’s always a sad experience for me, leaving the Pacific Northwest and returning to South Dakota…and I keep hoping that someday I won’t have to return to make it home…because my home will be there.

Second Day In Seattle

We spent a much smaller amount of time in Seattle on our second day there. Leaving our hotel shortly before 8:30 AM on Thursday, June 27th of 2019, we headed North.

In Everett, Washington we decided to stop at the Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens shortly before 10 AM. It was a nice place to spend 40 minutes or so, walking the paths amidst the flowers and trees…as well as the numerous sculptures on the grounds. We’d made it through Seattle a bit faster than expected, and we were running early anyhow.

Photos from the Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens are below.

Continuing North from Everett, we made our way to Arlington before heading East toward our destination. We’d visited The Outback Kangaroo Farm in June of 2017, having been made aware of the place by my friend Mindy a couple of years earlier. It was such an enjoyable experience the previous time we’d been in the region that we had to visit there again.

What’s not to like about watching lemurs devour bananas, being able to hand-feed kangaroos, getting alpaca kisses, and interacting with numerous other animals? I can’t recommend this place enough, for anyone who loves wildlife of all kinds.

A nice bonus during our second visit, one of the mothers had a joey still peeking out from her pouch. Photos of the kangaroos are below.

Traveling South from Arlington until we reached the Stevens Pass Highway, we intended to hike to Lake Serene, but there were so many vehicles already at the trailhead that we opted to avoid the crowd. Instead, we took a smaller trail down to the South Fork Skykomish River and enjoyed the scenery there.

In addition to clear water and excellent views of the surrounding mountain peaks, we saw what appeared to be claw marks of river otters near the edges of some of the large stone surfaces lining the edge of the river. We stuck around for a little while, hoping that we might catch some glimpses of the otters themselves, but we had no luck. Photos from the river are below.

Shortly after 3 PM, we decided it was time to return to Seattle.

We arrived at our hotel at roughly 5:30 PM and remained there until a little after 9 PM before we decided we should find something for dinner. Options were a bit slim, and we settled on Little Caesars in Kent, since it wasn’t altogether too far from where we were…and we didn’t much feel like sitting down in a restaurant that late in the day.

The Mailman by Jeremy Bates: Narrated by Jenna Green

Jeremy Bates spins a particularly unsettling tale with The Mailman, introducing us to a mid-1980s Los Angeles and focusing tightly on the listless, unsatisfying life of a record executive’s housewife.
On the surface, Mick and Jade Freeman appear to have it all, including a particularly bright future ahead of them as Mick is on the verge of signing a heavy metal band that’s being billed as the next Mötley Crüe…if he can only keep them from imploding before they record their debut album. Everything is not as perfect as it seems.
Jade isn’t sure whether she even loves Mick anymore and she’s haunted by her infertility and the memory of the one child they’d had and given up for adoption decades earlier.
Like a cliché, this is when the stunningly handsome mailman appears at Jade’s door…and again at her table while she’s having lunch by herself in a busy restaurant. Unlike the cliché, things get truly dark and disturbing from there.
This story is a fine example to display why one should not cheat on their significant other…albeit a pretty extreme example.
With a twist straight out of Oldboy, whether we’re talking about the manga or either of the movie adaptations, it’s hard to walk away from this story feeling clean.
Jenna Green’s narration is excellent, capturing the UK accent of the frontman, and bringing the characters to life in the audiobook edition of this novella.

Seattle Bound

It was with no small amount of sadness that we left Port Angeles shortly after 7 AM on Wednesday, June 26th of 2019. We probably could have spent the rest of our vacation right there, without the slightest bit of hesitation. Unfortunately, we had additional plans for what remained of our vacation, and those plans involved being in Seattle. Our next trip to the Pacific Northwest will likely not include Seattle at all.

It was 9:30 PM when we arrived at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge just Northeast of Olympia. There’s a swath of various hiking trails cutting through the marsh between Interstate 5 and the waters of the Nisqually Reach, and we wanted to explore a little bit of that area. I’d certainly like to return someday, free to spend a good deal more time trekking along those trails.

Photos from the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge are below.

It was still too early to check in at our hotel, so we drove North through Seattle and arrived at the Gas Works Park around 12:30 PM. It’s a place I’d wanted to go, but never had occasion to visit in the past. It was a lovely day, and a great many people had come to visit the park, flying kites, laying in the sun, and enjoying picnics. It was a soothing experience after having to suffer through the traffic in Seattle. Of all the cities I’ve driven in, Seattle is the one I loathe the most.

It’s certainly an interesting aesthetic with a lot of potential, and the views of downtown Seattle across Lake Union are quite nice.

Photos of the gas works are below.

Photos of the city as seen from Gas Works Park are below.

Shortly before 2 PM, we stopped for lunch before checking in at our hotel. Our choice was a place called The Habit Burger Grill in Tukwila. It was fantastic. Those who know me well, know how much I love a place called Wayback Burgers (not as widespread as a lot of places), but The Habit came damn close to surpassing that quality.

At 3 PM, we checked in at the hotel and unpacked the car, opting to relax for a bit.

Though it was going to be closing time soon, we decided to drive through Seattle again to visit Woodland Park Zoo. There’s an aviary there, where you’re able to feed the birds with sticks coated in treats, and there’s a butterfly house that we wanted to see again. I’m including photos from the zoo below.

We stopped at Teriyaki Wok in a strip mall near SeaTac around 7 PM for our dinner, before returning to the hotel for the night. The food was surprisingly good and the portions were fantastic for the price.

Olympic Peninsula Exploration

There was more to Tuesday, June 25th of 2019, than simply our evening drive to Cape Flattery and the hike to the edge of the cliffs for our views of the sunset that night.

At 8:30 AM, we were East of Port Angeles on the spit of land protruding from the Dungeness Recreation Area, leading to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and the distant lighthouse miles down that sandy edge of the Dungeness Bay.

I was able to capture a spectacular–spectacular in my opinion, at least–shot of Mt Baker some 70+ miles distant, with the lighthouse in the foreground. While walking along the beach, we also located a small clubhouse assembled with driftwood and assorted detritus that had washed up on the shore.

Photos from the Dungeness Recreational Area are below.

Heading West again, we returned to Port Angeles and made our way South, ascending into Olympic National Park toward Hurricane Ridge. Stopping numerous times along the way, the views overlooking the lower elevations of the Olympic Peninsula as well as the mountains we were approaching made for lovely scenery. I’m including photos of the trip to Hurricane Ridge below.

We remained at Hurricane Ridge for a while and considered hiking along one of the trails, but there were a number of people already up there with the same idea. Instead, we enjoyed the grand, sweeping views of the Olympic Mountain peaks and the many deer who clearly felt no real fear of humans. I’m including photos from Hurricane Ridge below.

It was 1 PM when we arrived at our next destination, parking at Lake Crescent to reach the trailhead leading up to Marymere Falls nestled in the old growth forest. The hike to that lovely destination is a beautiful journey on its own, beginning with the greeting of a truly magnificent tree that appears almost to be waving to new arrivals, winding through a maze of moss-covered trees, and crossing the creek that empties glacial water into Lake Crescent.

Photos of the hike and of Marymere Falls are below.

It was 3 PM when we returned to Port Angeles, and we were ready for a late lunch. We’d eaten at this nice little establishment when we’d been to the region in 2017, and we decided it was worth returning to Gordy’s Pizza & Pasta again during this trip. Our recollection of the quality had not been incorrectly favorable.

We returned to our hotel room by 4 PM and remained there until we began the drive West to capture the sunset at Cape Flattery, as I shared in a previous post.

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi: Narrated by Zachary Quinto

The Dispatcher introduces us to John Scalzi’s exploration into a future where the dead don’t always stay dead…as long as the deceased happens to be murdered. If someone dies by accident or by their own hand, well, for whatever reason, they stay dead. If someone murders you, there’s only a chance of 1 in 1,000 that you’ll remain dead. Those other 999 times, you’ll wake up naked in your bed, uninjured, and with full recall of the event that led to your demise.
What might you do if you found yourself living in this future of inexplicable miracles?
Would you participate in vicious, violent bloodsports? Would you challenge those who anger you to duels? Would you perhaps accept a job as a Dispatcher, one who performs the killing for those who are soon to die in hospitals when surgical procedures go wrong?
That’s precisely the choice our protagonist made, to become a Dispatcher. Tony Valdez has a certain psychological makeup that allows him to perform the duties associated with his role without guilt or self-recrimination–without any real self-examination of any kind.
When one of his colleagues disappears, an intrepid detective thinks there’s something sinister going on, directly related to his occupation, and Tony finds himself caught up in a mystery that leads him into the expanding gray area surrounding underworld activities where a Dispatcher’s skills are required.
Zachary Quinto’s narration of this novella is spectacular. His voice is so distinct and perfectly suited for the cool detachment of Tony’s character. I’m pleased to see that he also narrates the sequel novella that came out last year.

Hall of Mosses

We set out heading West from Port Angeles, Washington at 9 AM before cutting South on Highway 101. We passed through the infamous town of Forks (those poor bastards living there never being able to forget that Twilight exists) and heading East into the Hoh Rainforest section of Olympic National Park.

The drive along Upper Hoh Road is positively lovely, especially once you’ve reached the sections where it runs alongside the Hoh River. The longer you follow that road, the more you feel like you’ve been transported to a vastly different place…a place of magic and fantasy, perhaps.

At the end of the road, you arrive at the parking area from which numerous trailheads begin. The Hall of Mosses was our first destination for the day, which is a relatively short loop of a trail. From there, numerous other trails can be found and followed.

Photos of the Hall of Mosses are both above and below.

Where the Hall of Mosses Trail meets with the substantially longer Hoh River Trail, I got it in my head that we should just continue along that way for a while. As is often the case, I sort of wandered off on my own, leaving the others behind. I had hiked an additional half an hour or so before I saw a barely worn trail that led to the edge of the Hoh River, diverting from the main trail I was on. Of course, I opted to make my way over there.

It was only an afterthought that had me return to where that trail deviated from the main trail to find the others, as they could easily have already passed. I’m not always the best person to explore with, as I am absolutely marked as the first person to be killed in any sort of horror movie…or the idiot who causes other people to be killed by being short-sighted and more than a little bit caught up in my own thing, head up my ass and all.

The others did finally reach me and I convinced them to join me at the river. We spent a long while sitting there along the bank. I crossed shallow sections here and there to explore a bit further once I knew where the others would be, but I mostly stayed nearby.

Photos of the Hoh River Trail are below.

It was almost 5 PM when we returned to Port Angeles. We ate a late lunch/early dinner at Fast Burritos, a place we’d enjoyed eating at during our previous trip in 2017.

At 8:30 PM, we returned to Ediz Hook to watch the sunset as we had the night before. We remained on that spit of land for the next hour and I, for one, found a great deal of peace there. Photos of the second night’s sunset are below.

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan: Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt has always been one of the greatest follow-up novels to a series introduction. It could be argued that it’s the best installment of The Wheel of Time. As I indicated in my review of the audiobook for The Eye of the World, I haven’t read the whole series, so I can’t say for sure that this remains true throughout, but of what I’ve read, it is the best of the bunch.
At its core, The Great Hunt is a story of acceptance amidst transformation…recognition of the changes taking place and the role one must play in this changing world. We see Perrin finally coming to terms with what he is, embracing his status as a wolf brother when it becomes the only way to continue the search for the Horn of Valere. While in Tar Valon and after, we watch Nynaeve learning to embrace her role as Aes Sedai as well as her burgeoning feelings for Lan. Even Rand begins to accept who and what he is, though in action and deed more than in word. Though he spends the bulk of the novel insisting he is nothing more than a shepherd, he slips into the guise of a leader and a lord with increasingly greater ease.
I think that’s the aspect of this story that makes it my favorite of the portions I’ve read. There’s a vitality and realness just beneath the surface of the fantasy tale being woven, focusing on the nature of identity, diving into the differences between the versions of ourselves we know–or believe we know–and those others around us see and acknowledge.
Of course, there’s also a great deal of action and adventure to this story, and that certainly helps to make it one of the best fantasy tales I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading–or, in this case, listening to. We get to explore the potential of divergent realities, where events play out with lesser or greater similarities to the way we know they’re playing out. We have the introduction of the Seanchan and the horrific creatures they use as beasts of burden and war, along with their hideous practices of forcing dedication from people they encounter and enslaving women with the capacity to channel the One Power. We have the rising of legendary heroes from the mists of time as the horn is sounded. Of course, we also have that fantastic duel between Rand and Ba’alzamon that changes everything going forward, forcing him into an unhappy acknowledgment of his place as Dragon Reborn.
For books as old as these, and as popular, I don’t feel quite the aversion to providing spoilers, but I’ll try to keep it at what I’ve already given away.
As one could expect, knowing how this story plays out, Kate Reading has more of a part to play in the narration than she did in the previous volume. I’m pleased to see that she and Michael Kramer appear to have narrated every volume of the series. I had known they narrated the first five books since I already had them purchased…but I looked ahead at the remaining Wheel of Time audiobooks and felt a bit of relief at seeing those names again and again throughout.

Return To Port Angeles

Having packed up the night before, we left our hotel in Portland, Oregon shortly before 8 AM. From there we made our way to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Our next destination for the day wasn’t going to be open for approximately an hour, and this seemed like a nice place to spend a while walking and enjoying some additional nature. Photos from the garden are below.

No visit to Portland is complete without spending some time at the Portland Japanese Garden, and after a short stop downtown to pick up breakfast from Voodoo Doughnut, we were on our way there. This was my third time wandering through the Japanese Garden, and it never ceases to provide me with a certain sense of peace and tranquility. It was shortly after 9:30 AM when we arrived there, and we remained for close to an hour.

Below are some photos from the Portland Japanese Garden.

Across the street from the Portland Japanese Garden is the International Rose Test Garden. I’d made it a habit of visiting that patch of diverse colors and smells each time I’d been spent a period of time in Washington Park, and this visit would be no exception.

It’s funny that I’d never been a huge fan of the rose as a flower, but seeing such a variety changed my tune a great deal. Photos from the Rose Test Garden are below.

Finally, only a little while before Noon, we left Portland and made our way Northwest, connecting with Highway 101 in Astoria and crossing the bridge into Washington near Cape Disappointment.

The drive along the Western edge of the Olympic Peninsula is a long one, though quite lovely for the most part. We had fallen in love with the small town of Port Angeles during our previous visit in 2017, and there was no way we weren’t going to be spending a few days in the area during this trip. Nestled between the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains, Port Angeles is so perfectly situated as to be the place I’d like to live more than anywhere else I can think of.

It was after 8 AM when we arrived at our hotel in Port Angeles, Washington.

We unloaded the car and made our way out onto the Ediz Hook in order to enjoy the sound of waves lapping against the rocks and driftwood while the sun was setting. If I happened to live in the area, there’s a very good chance I’d be found on Ediz Hook four or five nights out of the week, watching the ships traversing the Salish Sea between Washington and Vancouver Island as I wait for the sun to pass beneath the horizon.

It was almost 10 PM before we finally returned to our hotel room for the night.

Photos from our first night in Port Angeles are below.