Jurassic Park… with ghosts!
A short story prequel to Duncan Ralston’s 2019 novel Ghostland, this brief tale works in both expanding the world of the novel, and improving on some of the weaker aspects of its lengthier predecessor.
Ghostland had a simple, but ingenious premise. A theme-park whose attractions aren’t rides, but ghosts. Real ghosts. It told the story of two former friends who visit the park shortly after it opens. Things, predictably, go horribly wrong and they are soon running for their lives as the exhibits escape. Replace the ghosts with dinosaurs, and you have Jurassic Park. Ralston even drops nice little nods to the film in the book (one of the characters is named Sara Jane Amblin, presumably after Spielberg’s production company) so it wears its influences proudly on its sleeves.
The novel, unfortunately, squanders its promising idea and is let down in its execution. Despite having a solid first act, the story quickly loses steam. Ralston even notes in his afterword that he struggled with the direction of the novel, and it shows in the final product. I did love the concept though, and I enjoyed spending time in that world and with the characters, so I was more than happy to give the newly released prequel a try.
I won’t spoil what happens, as the story itself is so short, but I’m glad to say that, where the novel faltered, this story excels. For one, this is a genuinely creepy little short. Where Ghostland went for spectacle over scares, The Moving House is far more focused and personal, giving some welcome background to one of the novels biggest attractions and giving more insight into some characters the novel sadly gave short shrift. It is a lot of fun to read a haunted house where there is no ambiguity, no doubts or questions as to whether things or real or imagined. The house is haunted. This is common knowledge, proven and beyond question. This gives Ralston opportunity to play things a little differently and have some fun with readers expectations. The whole thing is over a bit too quickly and would have benefitted from more build up, but this feels like a step in the right direction if Ralston’s intention is to write further stories in the Ghostland series.
A fun, spooky short which is a marked improvement over the earlier novel. If this is a sign that there is more to come in the world of Ghostland then I look forward to whatever comes next.
THE MOVING HOUSE (A Prequel to Ghostland) by Duncan Ralston
DescriptionThe chilling prequel to GHOSTLAND. Garrote House has seen its share of blood. Since Christopher’s ancestor Oliver Hedgewood built the house in the 1800s, many spirits have taken up residence in “the Moving House,” including horror author Rex Garrote, who’d burned to death in his private library. Christopher Hedgewood and Sara Jane Amblin, inventor of the Recurrence Field, return to Garrote House one final time before it’s relocated to Ghostland. They’ve both witnessed its ghosts many times. But neither of them have come at night, when the Moving House’s most dangerous hauntings come alive.