BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Train Derails In Boston’ by Jessica McHugh
“Death will be a gift after the bloody fuck-fest I put you through.”
If you like ghost porn, then this is the book for you. I’m not talking an erotic or sexy novel about a haunted house, I’m talking about hardcore, triple-X, ghost pornography, right from page one, complete with hermaphroditic wraiths eager to utilize all their sexual organs and insane spectral blood orgies.
“Ryan sits on his heels and taps her taint again, watching in reverence as her glistening cunt pulses with pleasure.”
I can’t think another author who uses the slang word “taint” for the perineum. You know, the spot between the vagina and anus that “taint” the pussy and “taint” the asshole. McHugh uses the term quite effectively.
I won’t deny that I really enjoyed reading this novel. McHugh writes elegantly and beautifully, with vivid descriptions and a wonderful vocabulary. She really is an exceptional writer. Unfortunately, if you take away all the sex and gore you aren’t left with much. I’m not kidding, over three quarters of this novel is nothing but very graphic descriptions of sex and violence. Which I actually have little problem with. My issue was that it just wasn’t that scary. The characters felt flat and the ghosts, for all of their gore-filled eroticism, weren’t terrifying in that spooky way that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up—which is a must in a Gothic-haunted-house tale. And while the carnal acts were described in an incredibly detailed manner, they came off as crude and decidedly unsexy, more gross than really erotic. Think of the threesome with the hookers in American Psycho.
By the third act the plot had grown pretty hackneyed and convoluted, with all the typical mainstream horror clichés that the transgressive nature of the beginning seemed ready to destroy. So, while it felt like this novel was aiming to be a transgressive horror story, it ended up coming off as cheap exploitation. In transgressive works, taboo themes should be explored and examined, not just thrust at the reader for the mere sake of shocking them. In the end I couldn’t help feeling that a great opportunity to study deviant sexuality had been squandered and that this book was crushed by the weight of its own potential.
There were also a few minor factual errors that were irritating. I’m sure I’m not the only horror geek who found himself screaming, “Stephen King’s novel The Shining did not have an elevator full of blood in it! That was Kubrick’s movie!”