In Corley’s debut fantasy/comedy, a ghost learns that the afterlife has its own unique set of pitfalls, including direct threats from demons.
When Jonah Preston sunk all his money into his Austin, Texas, home, he certainly didn’t anticipate that it would be haunted. The ghost of the previous owner, Willard Hensch, wants him and his best friend and roommate, Maxim “Max” Alvarez, to get out—and no amount of Ouija-board negotiations can change his mind. Willard even threatens murder, and sure enough, Jonah awakens one morning to find that he’s no longer in the corporeal world. Adjusting to the ghost life is initially a breeze: he figures out how to move physical objects, finds a way to communicate with Max, and even befriends an angel named Seph. His real troubles begin after he helps a few other spirits move on to “the next place.” This connects him with the Psy-kicks, a team of Ghostbusters-like paranormal investigators (soon including Max) that Jonah legitimizes by ensuring that unruly ghosts are irrefutably gone. Unfortunately, Jonah’s notoriety among other spirits catches the attention of demons. Willard continues to demand that Jonah and Max get out of his house, and he teams up with dangerous partners who are more than happy to take Jonah on. Corley’s tale is largely played for laughs; Jonah and Max drop frequent one-liners and are undaunted by the ones that fail (“Look, they can’t all be gems,” Jonah asserts). But the story also boasts its share of sincere moments. Jonah’s choice to help ghosts move on, for example, is a purely selfless one, and a lengthy final-act discussion of angels and demons is surprisingly insightful. Although it’s clear that he has some natural skills as a ghost, the way that he masters one ability is disappointingly easy, involving him recalling the 1990 film Ghost and the Japanese anime Dragon Ball Z. The story is thoroughly resolved but also offers a tease for potential sequels.
An absurdly humorous novel of the paranormal whose enthusiasm and profundity make it truly exceptional.