When Zoe Norris took a job editing a travel guide for the coterie, a world that she had no idea even existed opened up to her. During editing the travel guide to New York City, Zoe learned that she is a city tallker, an actually a member of the coterie herself. Now that she has been tasked to write a travel guide to New Orleans - the most coterie friendly city in the world, things should be easier because at least now she has some idea of the hidden world. As with everything in Zoe's life, despite her best intentions, things get complicated quickly and she finds herself searching for an antidote to stall the zombie bite of her boyfriend Arthur and fighting off a dark zoetist who has discovered the true power of the citytalkers.
One of the most irritating things about The Shambling Guide to New York was the fact that Lafferty constantly pulled the reader away from the plot to give information on the travel guide Zoe was putting together. I am happy to report that while we did have occasional asides including passages from the New Orleans guide, they seemed far more related to the story, even if they didn't help at all to really move the plot along. I still could have done without them altogether but assume that Lafferty continues to include them to remind the reader that while Zoe is on a really wild adventure, she is still in the process of putting together a book. I am still however certain that as a device, the travel book is a distraction and a hindrance over all.
The Ghost Train to New Orleans is 352 pages long and it felt like it went on forever. Part of the problem is that the focus of the story itself was really rather weak. Zoe didn't reall have a direction, she just moved from one disaster to another. At times, I felt my eyes wandering off the page and it became a struggle to read. The jokes that Lafferty included fell short for the most part, thus not adding any really distraction from the meandering plot.
I really did appreciate how strongly Lafferty evoked New Orleans in her writing. We got a sense of its wonderful culture through the discussion of things like the cemeteries, jazz and of course the food. I liked that when Lafferty invoked Voodoo (something that normally in this genre is a hot mess) it didn't suddenly become reductive or symbolic of Black people's woo per say. We got the sense that Voodoo is strong and is to be respected along with all other belief systems. I must say that it surprise me.
Thanks to the story being set in New Orleans, Lafferty could not outright exclude people of colour. It is however worth noting that while Zoe, the protagonist, seemed to know quite a bit about European mythology but next to nothing about African mythology. To me it read as though Lafferty could not be bothered to do any research. It wasn't helped by the fact that Black God of disease wasn't even properly named, though we were given a weak explanation as to why.