I've read almost every one of King's books, not counting some of the Bachman books and some of the one off stories and recent novels. That being said,I've read almost every one of King's books, not counting some of the Bachman books and some of the one off stories and recent novels. That being said, this is the book I resisted reading the most. Why? I think mainly because I knew that it was 'psychically' linked to 'Gerald's Game' (which was horrible). But also because I didn't find the plot as compelling as some of his other books. And also because the various local libraries for some reason never seemed to have a copy. And yes I'll be honest, a novel about an old lady recounting how she killed her husband didn't seem all that original and I was not sure King was up to the task. It's not that it was a book about a woman or even a Stephen King book about a woman. There are lots of books with female leads that I love (Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' and the Harry Potter books to name a few...I'm always on the lookout for strong female characters on behalf of my daughters (which is the same reason I was so disappointed with Katniss Everdeen, by the way...so much potential wasted in the third book)), and King's 'Lisey's Story', 'Rose Madder' and 'IT' all prominently feature strong, well-characterized female leads just to name a few.
Well: you should not judge something before you read it. 'Dolores Claiborne' kept me reading. It was tense and suspenseful and it was clearly an effort that King took seriously. There is nothing before or since that he's written that's exactly like this. It's Serious Literature. The book doesn't always succeed, but Claiborne is a very compelling character. I wished she'd shown up elsewhere in King's writing through the years. Written from her perspective in her own Maine vernacular she is tough, charming, uneducated but intelligent, loving toward her children, and SO funny. King nails the sassy tough as nails country woman without making her seem like a bumpkin cliche or patronizing her. However, the link to Gerald's Game was totally unnecessary and didn't do anything for either book beyond distracting readers from DC's compelling and sweetly meandering narrative. Also there was not anything super memorable about it like there is for me from, say, The Shining or The Dark Tower or IT. For that reason four stars. But this book proves once and for all that King can write anything he wants to write from humor to horror and everything in between. His depth and range and talent are unbelievable....more
Well-written and well-researched book that would make a good starting point for someone who is new to King's writing. Once I started I could not put iWell-written and well-researched book that would make a good starting point for someone who is new to King's writing. Once I started I could not put it down. The main plot device is a time tunnel from the present day back to 1958. It is the same day in 1958 no matter how many times you go through the tunnel. The main character, an English teacher from Maine named Jake goes back in time to 1958 as 'George' to put a stop to the Kennedy assassination. Along the way he stops in Derry, Maine which is a welcome departure on the road to Dallas on 11/22/63. Cool Easter Eggs for fans in the know are lengthy references to the characters and events of 'IT' (also set around the time of Jake's trip there). Like Sam in Quantum Leap, there's something Jake has to put right in Derry before he can move on. From there George has some time to kill so he travels down to Florida and finally arrives in the ugly place that is Dallas in the late fifties/early sixties. During this section, which is also a page turner, we get emotionally invested in Jake/George's new life as a popular, successful small town English teacher while leading a double life spying on Oswald's family to make sure he was indeed acting alone. Jake gets more and more invested in his new life as he falls head over heels for a librarian named Sadie. Then events with Oswald start to take off.
I debated about giving this four stars rather than five because I felt so let down and cheated by the ending. But for all that it was a superb read with cool time travel concepts (a mean feat considering how terrible many time travel books can be), a great emotional story and historical aspects. Also, I wished King's narrator would have stopped referring to the past as 'obdurate' after about the seventeenth time, though the concept of a self-correcting semi-sentient past is a neat one. ...more
Probably one of the most harrowing books I have ever read. I could not put it down.
Steve seems to touch on pretty much every major theme from his imprProbably one of the most harrowing books I have ever read. I could not put it down.
Steve seems to touch on pretty much every major theme from his impressive body of work. I know the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus, but to me 'The Shining' is still his best (and most culturally significant) work, and Danny Torrance is one of his great protagonists. It was neat to see him as an adult.
In significant ways, this is about every child who is forced to bear more than any childhood should bear. It's about the legacy that fathers pass on to sons. It's about the mothers and fathers who try hard but fail, passively or actively. It is about alcoholism, destiny, purpose, and above all redemption.
And it's also about psychic vampires who abduct and torture children who have the 'shine' so that they can live forever. There had to be a monster in there somewhere, right?
Obviously it references 'The Shining' (Jack Torrence, Danny's dad, even makes a cameo), but also 'Salem's Lot', 'IT', Castle Rock, The Dark Tower books ('ka is a wheel' vs. 'life is a wheel'), and even mentions his son Joe's work (possibly both authors are writing characters in the same world?).
I loved this book. Loved it. But as a parent, it also deeply troubled me. I guess that's King at his best, right?...more
Surprised. Parts of it weren't very strong, including the ending. Yet it had so much going for it and it all came to a blazing showdown in the end. ItSurprised. Parts of it weren't very strong, including the ending. Yet it had so much going for it and it all came to a blazing showdown in the end. It certainly isn't one of King's best and it definitely comes from his weak period (most of the stuff from the 80's that isn't "IT" or a Dark Tower book). Nonetheless it was a very good, fun read. Even if it wasn't great literature.
One thing that sets "Firestarter" apart is the subtle brand of horror that actually was very terrifying for me, personally. I kept imagining myself as Andy McGee running all over the place with my little girl, running from a government that sees us not as people but as assets or science experiments. It was a nice change-up from the King of horror. I also found Rainbird quite compelling, even though there was very little information given about him. He seemed realer than a lot of villains in horror stories, more human. I actually could ID with him here and there, though of course I am not a sociopathic hitman with a death wish. That's one of the main things that I think separates 'real' fiction writing from just run of the mill fiction. In most fiction the bad guy is easy to put your finger on and he/she doesn't seem human at all. In reality there are very, very few bad guys like that.
I also got the sense that King was subtly talking about faith and spirituality here and there, but it could be my biases coming out. For example, I get the idea that Andy and Charlie are religious in a very understated way. Andy clearly has at least a working understanding of the New Testament, Charlie had attended VBS (apparently with her parents' blessing), and Andy also disdains fundamentalist televangelism...also he seems to really pray when he's in a pinch at least once, as well as having true 'visions' in the form of at least one dream (maybe due to his psychic ability, though maybe not...he could see what people were thinking if he was pushing them, but he was never described as a telepath). There are also several unexplained 'Deus ex machina' moments...a flat tire on a government vehicle that allows them to escape detection is the clearest one that comes to mind. Of course, as pointed out by David Foster Wallace, King is one of the only writers ('literary' or 'popular') who actually talks about God in a non-dogmatic, really searching way. See "The Stand" and "Desperation" as great examples. At the same time he is clearly and forcefully disdainful of fundamentalist belief systems of all types. I'm not saying I presume to know what King believes in any way (or whether he practices any faith or none), I'm just speaking from his writing: God is sometimes a character there....more
Just a phenomenal read. I could not put it down, and actually liked this better than The Talisman. Before you throw rocks at me, I just want to clarifJust a phenomenal read. I could not put it down, and actually liked this better than The Talisman. Before you throw rocks at me, I just want to clarify that I really enjoyed The Talisman. But it seemed that King was in the middle of a phase where he wanted to write fantasy novels (The Eye of the Dragon, the first Dark Tower book) to sort of grow and evolve and not be pegged as 'just' a horror writer. And I think Straub probably felt the same way (an aside about Straub is that he wrote perhaps the finest horror novel I've ever read, 'Ghost Story', which is a really gripping and imaginative book...it's unfair to him that we think of these collaborations as being King driven rather than collaborative, Straub should bow to nobody when it comes to his contributions to the horror genre).
Black House was about two masters of the craft pulling out all the stops and writing a killer horror novel. In it, we see a grown up Jack Sawyer (one of my favorite characters in the King canon, alongside Roland Deschain, Jake Chambers and Danny Torrance) who has forgotten all about his childhood search for the Talisman, who has moved up to rural Wisconsin in his retirement. We also get to experience The Fisherman, possibly the most repugnant villain in either author's work and a spooky house that's WAY bigger on the inside than on the outside. And way more sinister. A house with rooms like Pullman cars and spiral staircases that go on forever (the Lovecraftian imagery is also there, almost impossible to miss their nod to one of horror's most imaginative writers). We also get, if you read this chronologically between books four and five of the Dark Tower series, the first glimpse of a rapidly clarifying Dark Tower mythos. Also, I do believe there's a brief reference to Straub's fictional universe too.
One thing I've noticed is that many of King's heroes seem to share significant character traits. Jack Sawyer, Jake Chambers, Roland and his gunslingers, Danny Torrance, Dale Barbara, the guys from 'Salem's Lot (especially Father Callahan), the good guys and gals from The Stand, and the kids from IT (especially Stuttering Bill). In King's world, all of these people are waging war against the Crimson King whether they know it or not.
I wish we had been able to spend more time being taken through that chilling Black House....more
OK, so I can't help but compare every thousand page King book to 'The Stand' and 'IT'. By and large those are the best things by King that I've read (OK, so I can't help but compare every thousand page King book to 'The Stand' and 'IT'. By and large those are the best things by King that I've read (besides the Gunslinger books, which are not universally good...but as a whole they would be my favorite).
Do we really need yet another small town in Maine that falls victim to some random misfortune/horror? We've had Derry, Castle Rock, Salem's Lot, and now we get Chester's Mill. The only difference is that the people in Chester's Mill are very one dimensional, mainly because King really has too large a cast of characters and tries to organize all of these various strings into a coherent plot. Which he does, and the plot is fast-paced and enjoyable. But if you're going to spend 1,000+ pages with Dale Barbara (ex-Iraqi War officer, short order cook, and anti-fascist) then you should probably make us care a little bit about whether he lives or dies. You don't get any insight into why this highly decorated lieutenant becomes a drifting short order cook until the book is almost over, but by then you've pretty much guessed it anyway. And it is, by the way, a cliche. And he has this Zen-like peace all the time that I find frankly unbelievable. I wanted him to push back every once in awhile. I mean, in the end I liked and respected Barbara but I wasn't invested in him like I am with protagonists in other books, like 'The Stand' for example.
Spoiler alert below:
Another problem I have with the book is that it relies on that old 'aliens behaving badly' theme that is NOT AT ALL King's strong suit and has been done into the ground by Hollywood. I mean, 'The Tommyknockers' was probably the worst non-'Gerald's Game' book I've ever read out of the King Library. So there's that.
Also, it's obvious that this is a thinly-layered partial allegory based on the Bush Administration. A dim bulb number one dominated by a crafty, crazy like a fox and then straight up crazy number two, a dome that is clearly representative of global warming, and then an Iraqi War veteran that gets a quadruple murder hung on him, i.e. used by the 'Bush/Cheney' administration for their own ends. I mean, I'm no Bush fan and I certainly think climate change is real and important to worry about, but it was just so obvious that I felt my intelligence being questioned.
So why four stars then? It was just a lot of fun to read, even if it came nowhere near 'The Stand', 'Salem's Lot', or 'IT' in terms of quality. 'Under the Dome' read like a 300 page novel, and I mean that in a good way. It was a great read in the evenings after work, faults and flaws not withstanding. Even when his books don't ultimately succeed, King is entertaining along the way and a lot of fun to read. He always reminds me why I love his books (even the ones that are a bit poor) and why I continue to read pretty much everything he produces.
It's just probably that as a Constant Reader, my expectations are for 'The Stand' every time out....more
"Ghost Story" (by eternally underrated Peter Straub) is probably the best horror story I've read. Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. While th"Ghost Story" (by eternally underrated Peter Straub) is probably the best horror story I've read. Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. While this isn't a 'great' book, it is helping me rediscover the pure joy of reading. I remember that Stephen King is one of the reasons I love reading, and this is a nice, entertaining fantasy/horror from two of the best in any genre.
In a story like this you have to love the good guy and absolutely despise the bad guys. Check. You have to have a journey that starts off obscure but then over the course of the journey explains everything. Check. You have to have a crazy awesome final showdown (really, really hard to do after you build it up for 600 or 700 pages). Sort of check. The only thing I really felt let down by was the bit toward the end where Jack finally enters the Black Hotel in search of the Talisman. What awaits him there is promised to be something awful, so bad that he might be driven insane. Didn't work so well. I'm not sure if King/Straub ran out of ideas or what, but that's the one part of an otherwise more or less flawless story that really stands out to me as lacking, almost unimaginative. But all in all, I liked it and am looking forward to reading the sequel (at some point).
Granted, I've read much more King than Straub but it seems like King had a heavy hand in the writing here and I struggle to make out Straub's voice...but maybe I'm not so familiar with it. One thing I wonder is how they divided up the task of writing.
It's also clear that he began to develop some of the themes here that would spill over into the Dark Tower books. Weird human/animal things, alternate worlds, an object that links them all (like the DT), a guy on a quest for that object, fate/destiny (ka in the DT world). I'm sure "Black House" picks up these themes in a more obviously DT-related fashion. It is fascinating seeing King (with an assist from Straub) work out some of the things that would be elaborated on in DT, especially since this seemed to be the beginning of non-DT books that began to reference that world in some oblique or obvious way.
That being said, it seemed pretty incomplete. I hope some of the loose ends are tied up in "Black House"....more
"The Things They Left Behind" is reason enough to read Steve's newest collection. It made me cry.
I don't know why people dismiss Steven King. True eno"The Things They Left Behind" is reason enough to read Steve's newest collection. It made me cry.
I don't know why people dismiss Steven King. True enough, some of his "middle period" (like I'm a Steven King scholar or something) is actually pretty terrible but only in comparison to his superb "early" (i.e. The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Stand) and more mature "late" periods (see: "Desperation", "The Green Mile", and even "Lisey's Story"). As far as quality goes, they are no worse than anything any other well-known author has written over the past twenty-five years. Except "Gerald's Game". That was simply not well thought out, I think.
Anyway, you have to admit that the guy can write. It's compelling stuff. It might not be what the literary effete appreciates, but he is so much more than a fad or simply a horror writer. The man knows the craft of writing like few authors do and can make even the most everyday experience or outlandish situation unsettling or downright horrific, yet believable.
Ok, enough of my Steven King apologetics. On to the book.
It was a good collection and, in general, I've always been a fan of Steve's short fiction. It's amazing how much he can do in twenty or thirty pages. There are some truly great stories in this set. My favorite is probably the aforementioned "The Things They Left Behind". It's just heartbreaking. I also loved "N.", as it is an awesome Lovecraftian take on OCD. It's a horror fan's horror story yet manages to be subtle, clever and deeply unsettling. I've been reading him for years and can scarcely remember a time he's succeeded so well.
As for the rest of the book, "The Gingerbread Girl" was another great one and I...um...'enjoyed' reading "A Very Tight Place". I'm sure there were more, but I'm getting tired. Two or three of the thirteen (or fourteen?) stories were well-written but not so memorable.
It's well worth a read, especially if you've been turned off by Steve in the past. You probably just picked the wrong book. Try another. Try this one. ...more