Ghostbusters: The Original Novelizations of Ghostbusters 1 & 2 by Richard Mueller and Ed Naha
Titan Books, pb, £7.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Do I really have to tell you what this book is about? Oh, go on then. Based on the 1984 and 1989 Ghostbuster films by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, they follow the rise and fall and rise again of three paranormal scientists as they battle the ghosts of New York city while managing the disbelief of hardened New Yorkers.
These books were written at the time of the films’ release. This is important information to know up front because they are very much of their time which is almost like stepping back in time in terms of technique and style. I’ll deal with each book in turn.
Ghostbusters runs almost exactly as the film does apart from a couple of interesting scenes and extra backstory for each of the characters. As it is an official tie-in, it’s safe to assume all this extra information came from the original material. A great example of this is how Stantz gets the family house he re-re-mortgages to fund the initial outlies for the Ghostbusters. I won’t spoil it, but it was as inciteful as it was amusing and foreshadows the events that unfold. There are also two homeless men, watching all the events unfold from their position at the bottom of society, unfazed fashion by everything they’ve witnessed.
Written in the 80s there are some style elements which really stood out as being of the time. The first is the head hopping. In each chapter, we move from through the points of view of each of the characters, rather than the one chapter one character we’re more used to now. Not enough to make me put down a book, but certainly something to be aware of.
The second is the one that got me the most, the description of the female characters. There are three women of note in the book and all three are described on how the men view them. When Dana Barrett is introduced she is described on how the two homeless men view her legs, two gay men judge her fashion, the value her building’s doorman places on her, and Louis’s opinion of how she will enhance his chances in life as a trophy wife. Just wow. There’s no hint of how she see’s herself, and when she isn’t thinking about the ghosts in her fridge, she’s thinking about her different suitors.
As I said, the style is very much of the time and can be overlooked for the sheer nostalgia the book invokes. The closeness of the book to the film means that the speech is an exact replica and I can hear the actors say their lines, which made me smile and made me want to watch the film.
By the time we get to Ghostbusters 2, those stylistic techniques have vanished. The chapters are shorter, and they are one chapter, one character, so much easier to follow. And Dana has gained agency. She passes judgement on her own life, telling the reader where she thinks she is after the events of the first book.
This book follows the film we all know and love even closer than the first which may make you wonder what’s the point in reading it if you already know what’s going to happen. But that’s like why rewatch a film or reread a book? There is fun in going over the familiar and these books are every bit as fun as the films which are still as popular today, and probably the reason why the book has been released. Oh, and the fact that there’s going to be a new Ghostbusters film out next year.
For a fan, whether you’re new to the franchise or remember watching them first time round, I was very young at the time, these books are recommended reading.