I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially...more I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially back-to-back thanks to the Compendiums (which weigh a ton each and are a bitch to maneuver let me tell you).
This volume -- A Larger World -- is where Compendium 2 leaves off, a bit of a cliff-hanger you might say. I decided to re-read it in preparation of getting to Vol. 17: Something to Fear. I'm all caught up now, and forced to get my dose of Walking Dead shenanigans doled out piecemeal like the rest of you suckers. But maybe that's a good thing, because too much of this world at any one time can really mess with your head.
I get the feeling Kirkman is setting us up to really put the hurt on this time. Hasn't he already? Hells yeah, but something tells me he's just getting started and that makes me both weary and wary. Everything in this issue is glossy with optimism:
(view spoiler)[ the new guy Paul Monroe (a.k.a Jesus) turns out not to be a Charles Manson-esque kook. He's got a normal, functioning community behind him with almost 200 members called Hilltop. They are farming and thriving. What's not to appreciate? Rick goes through his usual "I can't trust you get the fuck out of my face or I'll bite it off" routine, but eventually learns to relax (even after he's forced to kill one of their people in self-defense -- it really was self-defense this time). Glenn is smitten with the community, and Rick is forced to admit it's time to start living again, rather than merely surviving. In the Hilltop he sees that as not just a possibility but a reality, a reachable goal. (hide spoiler)]
BUT... cause there's always a but right? There's a new baddy in the neighborhood -- Negan. After what we've been through with the Governor, the idea of upping the ante some more makes me very uneasy. Rick can talk all he wants about building a new life with meaning and getting back to raising their children, but I can't imagine he's going to get his people to the promised land any time soon, if at all. I've called this story bleak and nihilistic before and I still stand by that. Kirkman wants to show us the very worst of humanity it seems, and I don't think he's finished doing that yet. And that makes me very afraid. Very afraid indeed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a re-read for me, in preparation of hitting up Volume 2, and I gotta say, I'm still excited about what this series has to...moreOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013
This is a re-read for me, in preparation of hitting up Volume 2, and I gotta say, I'm still excited about what this series has to offer. It's a claustrophobic tale set in a quarantined Midwestern town that has recently fallen prey to a rash of re-animations. The dead are coming back to life, but not in the way you think, or with the same dramatic gore and apocalyptic consequences we have come to expect from the walking dead.
This isn't a traditional zombie tale. First and foremost it's a story about a cast of characters thrust into a very unusual and distressing situation. What happens when the dead and gone who have been grieved and laid to rest suddenly barge back into our lives again, not just walking, but talking? With needs, and fears, and memories?
What happens when the outside world beyond the borders of your sleepy little town becomes fearful and paranoid and only wants to contain whatever mystery is unfolding in your backyard, holding you under scrutiny and behind roadblocks leaving your town to not only fend for itself but ride out whatever traumas yet to unfold?
Officer Dana Cypress is caught right in the middle of the inexplicable "revivals" along with her sister Martha (or Em) who has a terrible secret. Then there's the rookie journalist May who senses there's much more going on in the town than meets the eye.
This is a story that takes its time, and by the end leaves you with way more questions than answers. But the pull of the mystery is so addictive, you'll be desperate to get your hands on the next volume. It's a story that's rich in atmosphere, a creepy-crawly sensation of impending doom, but doom that's on a more personal scale of individual tragedy, rather than unleashing a free-floating anxiety for the fate of the entire human race.
The graphic art is crisp and clean and terrifying where it needs to be. The nature of small town life is realistically portrayed and the panel after panel of snow and cold had me thinking of Fargo and that a lot can happen in the middle of nowhere. My one complaint is that the three main women characters (Dana, her sister Em, and reporter May) are very similar in appearance, at least at first glance. I was better equipped to tell them apart this time around, but it still took some practice. It's a shame that they should be artistically rendered so similarly, because as characters, each woman is very different with her own distinctive voice and personality.
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the...more
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the book and the movie assuming if you're reading this, you're familiar with both.
Even though Stephen King's primary reputation has been 'America's boogeyman', I can count on one hand the number of pure horror novels I feel he's published (and they all come early in his career) -- 'Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, It, Misery and of course, The Shining. King is most famous as master of the macabre, but fans know he is also a keen observer of human behavior and emotions. He knows what makes us tick, and he's just as likely to make us laugh and cry as he is to scream. These five books? These he wrote to make us scream – and shiver, and look over our shoulder, peek under our bed, bar the closet door, and leave the lights on. He wrote them – to put it bluntly – to scare the shit out of us.
His tale of the doomed Torrence family and the sinister Overlook Hotel is in many ways a classic ghost story with its roots firmly planted in Gothic literature, Anne Radcliffe, Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. More than these however, King is clearly writing under the influence of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Richard Matheson's Hell House. The notion of a malevolent house, seething from within with awareness and intent, was far from virgin territory by the time King came to it in the 1970's. Yet, King brought his own distinct brand of terror to the table and the result has left an indelible mark on not just the genre, but on contemporary literature.
Is The Shining scary? You're goddamn right it is. And I think I never really thought about how scary until I listened to the audiobook. Actor Campbell Scott does an outstanding job, and like all the best ghost stories going all the way back to caveman times, this one is meant to be told, you kennit? Not merely read – but listened to -- surrounded by darkness, hunched around a dwindling fire. There are tropes and themes embedded in The Shining that penetrate to the very lizard part of our brain where fear and anxiety make their home.
In regards to the movie, Stephen King has not been shy over the years voicing his discontent with Kubrick's cinematic interpretation of his novel. I love the movie for many reasons (even though it's been around for so long and parodied so often it's hard to take it seriously anymore). But it pays to remember that Kubrick chose to tell an entirely different story from King.
The beating heart of King's novel is the sundering of the family unit, the destructive forces of alcoholism, the legacy of domestic violence and the incipient guilt and self-loathing it can bestow. If I have one complaint about the movie is that it fails to show any tragedy. King's version is not only terrifying, but heartbreaking. It is the story of a flawed but decent man in the process of clawing his way back into the light when all that he loves is ripped away from him. Whereas Kubrick's film focuses purely on a man losing his shit (in other words, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy).
In the film version, we see Jack Torrence go stark raving mad and viciously turn on his family with homicidal intent. But King's Jack Torrence doesn't go crazy, or suffer from the proverbial “cabin fever” alluded to in references to Grady, the Overlook's infamous previous caretaker. In the novel, it's the Overlook itself acting with malignant and malicious forethought that uses and abuses hapless Jack Torrence. It manipulates him, it twists his thoughts and controls his behavior. You can look at it as an alien invasion, or an outright demonic possession, but by the end of the novel, Jack Torrence is no longer a who but a what referred to as an it.
It hurried across the basement and into the feeble yellow glow of the furnace room's only light. It was slobbering with fear. It had been so close, so close to having the boy....It could not lose now.
Jack is lost inside of the monstrosity the Hotel has made him, as it uses his body to hunt down his little boy to murder him. A large part of the story's inherent tragedy for me, is watching Danny Torrence -- who loves his father very much -- lose him in such a frightening and grisly manner.
”Doc,” Jack Torrance said. “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.” “No,” Danny said. “Oh Danny, for God's sake--” “No,” Danny said. He took one of his father's bloody hands and kissed it. “It's almost over.”
Now this fall, after a wait of almost four decades, readers will finally discover what kind of a man this little boy with his unique ability to shine has become. That's a story I didn't even know I wanted until it became a reality. Now I want it more than I can even put into words. In all of this overlong review where there are still many, many things I could have rambled on about, I failed to find a moment to speak briefly of Dick Halloran. I love this character -- his humour, his kindness, his fierceness and strength. I can only hope that catching up with Danny Torrence will mean crossing paths with Mr. Halloran again too. (less)
This is my second go-around with this sprawling, epic compendium in preparation for tackling the follow-up. I'm so glad I did a re-read because there...moreThis is my second go-around with this sprawling, epic compendium in preparation for tackling the follow-up. I'm so glad I did a re-read because there was a lot I had plain forgotten and much more I had gotten tangled-up with the television series. Only reading the source material again, did I realize just how much the producers of the show actually changed from Kirkman's comic. The fundamentals of the story are essentially the same, but the devilish details have undergone quite a makeover. I have to say, as much as I'm a fan of the comic, most of the changes I approve of and in some cases, even prefer.
Carol's character is much more likeable and awesome on the small screen (certainly not as needy and neurotic as comic book Carol). The invention of Daryl (my favorite on-screen character) and his uber-violent, redneck brother Merle (played oh-so-convincingly by Michael Rooker), have been magnificent contributions to the ensemble cast.
(view spoiler)[I definitely prefer Lori's on-screen death (grisly and upsetting as it was), to the comic's quick gut-shot death (even though that was quite shocking in its own way with little Judith in her arms). I'm glad they didn't put Dale and Andrea together in the show, though I do wish they hadn't made Andrea so unlikable. Her character in the comic is kick-ass and great. On the show? Grrrrr... I want to smack her most of the time.
It remains to be seen what they will do with Michonne's character but I'm glad the show did not go as dark and disturbing as the comic with what happened between her and the Governor. That was some sick shit I did not need to ever read or see. Loved how the show handled it overall. Television Michonne seems more together and not as damaged. She's not talking to voices in her head either (at least not yet). (hide spoiler)]
The Walking Dead launched in the fall of 2003 and shows no signs of wrapping up. Kirkman has created a post-apocalyptic zombie soap opera, where the soap is made out of lye. The story is harsh -- almost nihilistic in its way -- extremely violent, and peppered throughout with characters hooking up in almost sure to be doomed relationships. Because really, no one is safe, and you come to terms with that pretty quickly. Kirkman is not fucking around here. He has a vision and you just know it’s going to involve a lot of gore and heartbreak. No one should feel safe with zombies gnawing at the door and the world collapsing in on itself -- and you will not feel safe reading this series.
Rather than take years to ingest this story -- painstakingly patient -- issue by issue -- I gorged unapologetically over a gluttonous three days. This 1088 page compendium weighs nearly five pounds, and it was a bitch to maneuver in bed at night, but to get so much of the story so quickly was worth it. I’m not one of those people that can eat her chocolates one a day; quite often it’s the whole box in one sitting stomach ache be damned! This first compendium collects up to issue #48 (Book Four in hardcover or Volume Eight in soft).
The Walking Dead is archetype apocalyptic zombie horror. The story gripped me, shook me, unsettled me and left me panting for more, but make no mistake, there is nothing original here (at least not yet). The zombies are your average grasping, gnawing, slow-moving creatures seen in any Romero movie. The survivors are shell-shocked, hardened, weary and a bit mad (as you would expect). At the collapse of civilization as we know it, people begin doing whatever they have to do to survive, and that ain’t always pretty. The strong begin preying on the weak, and when the worst of human nature begins to reveal itself, survivors realize the zombies are the least of their problems in this new world order.
I thought a graphic novel about zombies cast in black and white would look dull and lifeless on the page. I now think color would have been overkill in this case, detracting from the story. The art is simply outstanding – emotions and action, both subtle and in your face, are captured perfectly. The violence is extreme and I was not prepared for that (don’t ask me why). It takes a lot to shock me these days, and there are sequences that did just that. (view spoiler)[Totally did not see the rape and torture of Michonne coming. I really thought there would be a last minute reprieve / rescue. And if I didn’t see that coming, you know I didn’t expect Michonne to turn the tables on the Governor and mutilate his body. Gruesome stuff! But very well-presented. It felt earned not gratuitous. Lori’s death, along with the baby, shocked me too. Like holy moses batman, that was intense and so unexpected. (hide spoiler)]
While the unrelenting nature of the story appealed to me, I cannot say I’ve fallen in love with any of the characters. Don’t get me wrong – these are well-developed, flawed beings whose actions and motivations seem all too real. However, for me, there is a coldness present that prevented me from really warming up to anyone, even the “hero” of this story, Rick Grimes. I felt the same way when I read Stephen King’s The Stand – epic story by a master, but no character stole my heart.
This won’t keep me from reading on in the series though, because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Everything ends on such a OMFG note that I felt assaulted and struck mute. Sweet. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud...more I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud. Laini Taylor's epic narrative has swept me up in its arms and carried me away for a second time, despite knowing all of its secrets. I just lost my mind over this book when I read it last year, and I didn't think it would be possible to recapture that initial gush of adoration, but here it is. I'm completely ga-ga all over again.
The fabric of this story is conjured up out of the very elements themselves -- air, fire, earth, and water. And love. For love is an element. The real love story for me here is not shared between Karou and Akiva -- star-crossed lovers of mythological proportions -- but rather Karou and Brimstone. Ah, Brimstone. You are fierce and a monster in the eyes of many, but to Karou you are protector, mentor, father. You may have the head of a ram, but you have the heart of Atticus Finch. You are righteous and wise and honorable. You carry the burden of your dark magic on your broad shoulders so that your Chimera race may survive against the onslaught of the Seraphim, but deep in your soul you carry hope, for the future, for peace. For who else but the Wishmonger can truly know the power of hope over mere wishes?
This second time around I am truly dazzled by the rich world-building Taylor gives us, all wrapped in her sensuous prose. Her imagination is boundless, her ability to show remarkably vivid. (view spoiler)[The land of Elsewhere, the Chimera life and its legends and magic. Brimstone the Resurrectionist, using stolen, ill-gotten teeth to craft new bodies to hold the souls of the dead within them to live again as revenants. The Seraphim -- warrior angels of utter perfection, as beautiful as they are cruel, blinded by arrogance and a steel determination to bend the Chimera to their will. The conquered and the conquerors, the Chimera monsters and the Seraphim angels locked in a 1000 year old battle of poisonous hatred, mistrust, exploitation, humiliation. It is slavery, colonialism, invasion, conquest. It is terrorism and freedom fighter. (hide spoiler)]
And Karou. Sweet, soul-searching Karou. With your blue hair and unanswered questions. Who are you? What are you? You ache for answers, and when they arrive they rip your world to pieces and tear away all that you have come to know and love. My heart breaks for you. But I hope. I hope that all is not lost.
***Original review -- November 2011*** Once upon a time, an angel lay dying in the mist. And a devil knelt over him and smiled. ~Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
So. Much. Love. for this book I don’t know even know where to begin. Let me start by saying how happy it made me, how much pleasure I soaked up from each and every page. A lot of this I'm sure has to do with my healthy obsession with Angel lore (and not the airy-fairy, sparkling emo-kind, but the towering, frightening, blood-soaked other-wordly soldiers, beautiful in their grace, terrifying in their mercilessness).
One of my favorite films is The Prophecy (1995) starring Christopher Walken (and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer!). This movie captures exactly what is so awe-inspiring about warrior Angels:
Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone or ... needed a killing, he sent an Angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an Angel?
Laini Taylor’s angels are not part of a familiar Christian tradition, but nevertheless are recognizable as creatures of iconic, staggering beauty, mystery and grace (and always with one wing dipped in blood). They are ruthless, unthinking, unfeeling, arrogant in their righteousness, cruel in their certainty.
In other words -- awesome.
In this epic fantasy of worlds colliding, magic, fire, a thousand year war, deep hatreds and monstrous creatures, Taylor weaves a spell on her reader that is truly irresistible. I was enchanted, enthralled, and totally swept up and away -- giddy, delirious, and greedy, never wanting the story to end.
There is so much emotion and pain contained in the pages, so much fear, and love and hope that it will squeeze your heart, make your pulse race and your fingers grip the book for dear life. Part of the magic is Laini Taylor’s GORGEOUS prose. If ever a book deserved to sit on a shelf entitled “prose that sings” it is this one. In one of my updates I compared Taylor’s words to precious stones or black velvet – you will want to drape yourself in them. I know I did. I can’t wait to listen to the audiobook version just so I can hear those words read aloud.
I’m floundering now, and rambling, so I will leave you with READ. THIS. BOOK. Read it!!!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If you haven’t already done so, make time to read (or listen) to this book as soon as possible. It is as unique as it is beautiful, heartbreaking as i...moreIf you haven’t already done so, make time to read (or listen) to this book as soon as possible. It is as unique as it is beautiful, heartbreaking as it is hopeful, filled to the brim with love and ugliness, hope and despair. I absolutely adored this book the first time I read it, and had no idea that experience could be rivaled, but this audiobook read by Allan Corduner took the story to a whole other level of amazing.
Corduner is a remarkable, theatrical voice and perfect as Death, the omniscient narrator, but he also breathes such distinctive life into Papa, Mama, Max, Rudy and Liesel herself. The novel is presented in such an unusual way on the page that I feared there would be something profoundly missing from the audio version, but there really isn’t; if anything Zusak’s lyrical prose just sings in Corduner’s mouth and sounds even better read aloud. What is missing here though, are Max’s sketches which accompany the stories he writes for Liesel. Those you cannot miss, which is why I’m giving the highest recommendation to both the novel and the audiobook.
Corduner’s delivery of the ending is more profound and sad than I could have ever imagined. (view spoiler)[Liesel’s guttural screams for Rudy to wake up left me sobbing, as did her wretched grieving over the broken bodies of Mama and Papa. (hide spoiler)] Highest possible recommendation ever!
Original review of novel (January 2009):
This book left me gutted and absolutely speechless. It is the kind of book that we can only hope to see once or twice in a generation. And that’s if we’re lucky.
Narrating The Book Thief is Death, who confesses he is haunted by humans — our beauty, our savagery, our contradictions. I, on the other hand, will remain haunted by Liesel’s story for the rest of my life (and little Rudy Steiner). There is really no way to describe this book that will come anywhere close to doing it justice. It defies all regular categorization and usual comparisons.
There are only a handful of books that after the reading is done I want to run out and buy copies for everyone I know and plead with them to drop whatever it is they are doing and read it immediately (before they get hit by a bus or a comet smashes into the Earth) — this is one of those books. The words lyrical and profound, spiritual and uncompromising are quite often overused, to the point where we’ve rendered them almost meaningless and that’s too bad -- because I want to use them here and have them mean something.
Zusak’s prose is staggeringly gorgeous both in its simplicity and in its complexity; his choice of words is flawless and inspired. I am humbled by such immense talent. The Book Thief is a gift for the ages, a love song to words, books, and what it means to be human. It is a story that will steal (and break) your heart.
Summer came. For the book thief, everything was going nicely. For me, the sky was the color of Jews. When their bodies had finished scouring for gaps in the door, their souls rose up. When their fingernails had scratched at the wood and in some cases were nailed into it by sheer force of desperation, their spirits came toward me, into my arms, and we climbed out of those shower facilities, onto the roof and up, into eternity's certain breadth. They just kept feeding me. Minute after minute. Shower after shower (The Book Thief)
I've re-read this book many times because I love it so much and I get something different out of it every time that I do. I decided to listen to it th...moreI've re-read this book many times because I love it so much and I get something different out of it every time that I do. I decided to listen to it this time just to experience the story on another level.
This was the first audiobook I ever listened to, and I must say it's a lot different than what I imagined it would be. I was expecting something along the lines of a radio play with different voices for different characters and sound effects in the background, like rain or wind or gunfire. Instead, it is a straight reading of the book, word for word, by one guy - in this case Kirby Heyborne. Since I don't have a lot of experience with audiobook readers, I can't say whether Heyborne excels or not. His voice grew on me and certainly didn't detract from the story in any way. I had a few moments where his pronunciation of a few things jarred me, and his voice for Baker sounded too much like Matthew McConaughey while Scramm ended up sounding like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, and Barkovitch started sounding too much like Jack Nicholson :)
Other than those small quibbles, I loved listening to this story as much as I've loved reading it. In some ways, listening made it even better. I closed my eyes, leaned back, and I was on that road with the boys suffering right alongside them, each step becoming more and more excruciating. I could smell the crisp Maine air, feel the road under my feet, hear the loud, sharp sounds of the carbines as each boy gets his Ticket. It doesn't matter how many times I read (or listen) to this story, it never gets old, the tension never falls flat. I'm enthralled from page one.(less)
If you've yet to begin on the wondrous and amazing journey that is Joe Hill's Locke and Key series, what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?...moreIf you've yet to begin on the wondrous and amazing journey that is Joe Hill's Locke and Key series, what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Life is short and our TBR piles huge, but this one? This one you absolutely, unequivocally do not want to miss.
It's so charming and whimsical, a touch of fairy tale mixed in to a raw and rollicking story about grief and loss, ghosts and monsters, mysterious doors and the magical keys that open them. It's about childhood and family and sibling bonds.
And it all comes back to the keys scattered about the magisterial and aptly named Keyhouse that holds a dark and dangerous secret. (less)
This is my second go around with Joe Hill's phenomenal foray into graphic novel territory (to prepare for Volumes 3 and 4). Welcome to Lovecraft is a...moreThis is my second go around with Joe Hill's phenomenal foray into graphic novel territory (to prepare for Volumes 3 and 4). Welcome to Lovecraft is a stunning debut, and I enjoyed it even more this time, so much so that I've bumped it from four to five stars. Yes, it really is that good.
The premise is a fantastic one and you will be totally swept up in the awesome imagination it shows and the mystery and adventure it promises. The character development in just a few short pages is outstanding -- Hill deftly explores the wonderment of childhood, the searing pain of grief and the love of family.
Little Bode Locke is as sweet and precocious as they come. His boyish, unchecked curiosity is what reignites the mystery of Key House, the sprawling family mansion where the Locke family relocates after the brutal slaying of its patriarch. Left to grieve are big brother Ty, middle sister Kinsey, their mom, and of course Bode.
Each member of the family struggles to come to terms with the gargantuan loss -- Mom is drinking too much, Ty is crushed with guilt and contemplating suicide, Kinsey is withdrawn and tormented by the bloody memories of that fateful day. With his family so distracted, Bode is left to roam the grounds of Key House, and to become entangled in a very old mystery, like the fly unwittingly ensnared by the spider's web.
Key House is what it promises -- a house with many doors and with many keys to unlock them. I won't tell you what's behind the doors because that would ruin the surprise. I will say that it is so goddamn fantastic you are not going to be able to put this story down until you have finished it. Then you are going to want to run out and immediately get your hands on the rest of the series ... at least what Hill has written so far (and thank goodness he isn't done yet!)
This is storytelling at its finest. Can I use the word superlative? Yes? Alright, superlative.
Original review December 2008 It's becoming clear to me that Joe Hill's real strength as a writer lies in the short story (and now graphic novel) format. There is obviously something about the concise, contained prose on a smaller canvas (rather than the sprawling novel) that brings out the best in his storytelling talents. I was not a fan of Hill's debut novel Heart-Shaped Box; however, his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts has amazing depth and texture, and he scores big again with Locke and Key, the first in a graphic novel series that shows real imagination. Calling the town Lovecraft is a nice touch. Let's not ignore the fantastic artistic contribution made by Gabriel Rodriquez. Their collaboration guarantees a memorable reading experience. (less)
Over the years this has remained one of my favorite pieces of King's writing. In a phrase, IT IS AWESOME. The first time you read it there is so much...more Over the years this has remained one of my favorite pieces of King's writing. In a phrase, IT IS AWESOME. The first time you read it there is so much mystery, tension, what the bleep mindfuck going on that it literally keeps you on the edge of your seat. As a science fiction story, I proclaim it a classic.
You really want to come to this novella completely blind, because the reveals are so rewarding you don't want to be robbed of them early. But I have discovered upon subsequent re-reads (and now my first "listen") that the story has legs no matter what you know or don't know when you begin it. As with The Long Walk, there are rewards every single time I read this story.
This isn't King at his most emotional or epic -- this is King at his most cut-throat, imaginative storytelling best. He is having delirious fun taking a group of people and putting them in an unknowable, impossible situation. He has created a locked room mystery -- a puzzle -- with a very real and logical solution, but I bet you five dollars he'll keep you guessing to the very end!!
This story is such kick-ass, high-octane energy you will fly through the pages and come out the end grinning like a monkey. I just love it.
[A word on the reader: Willem Defoe is pretty awesome except for the voice he uses when speaking for Bethany. Ahhhhh! Nails on a chalkboard. He makes her sound like an 80 year old Fran Drescher who's smoked and drank whiskey her whole life!](less)
I've been re-visiting some of my King All-star Team this year as audiobooks and am reminded yet again that Uncle Steve is The Man. No matter what assh...more I've been re-visiting some of my King All-star Team this year as audiobooks and am reminded yet again that Uncle Steve is The Man. No matter what asshats and embittered douchebags like "literary critic" Harold Bloom say, King is one of the greatest storytellers in any language of all time, full stop. Is everything he's written pure gold? Of course not. Given the sheer size of the man's canon, that's to be expected. But even when I think King has put up something less than stellar, I always feel his heart is in the right place. In other words, King -- unlike so many other bestselling authors these days -- has integrity to spare. The words, the story -- they come first always. Even after all these years, I really believe he does it for the love of the craft, not for the next bloated paycheck (*cough* James Patterson *cough* whore).
I first read Misery when I was seventeen years old. I started it about eight o'clock that evening, and finished it about four in the morning. Heart pounding, bleary eyed and afraid to open my closet door lest Annie Wilkes was waiting there for me with an axe or chainsaw raised over her head. Whenever we're excited about a book, readers will often say "OMG, I couldn't put it down!" but we probably did, at least once, to go to work, get supper, put the kids to bed, whatever. It's not meant to be a literal expression per se, though sometimes it is and whoah to the power of a book that can hold you in its ironclad grip with such uncompromising resolution. That will make you stay up til the wee hours of the morning even though you have work or school the next day. Or breakfast to make for a screaming brood of little ones.
I couldn't put Misery down that first time. King has penned some page-turning mothers over the years, but the story of Paul Sheldon and his number one fan Annie Wilkes has got to be the most page-turning of them all. I guess you could classify this book as psychological suspense, since there are absolutely no supernatural elements introduced here, but for me Misery will remain classic horror because I really do feel like King's ultimate goal in writing it is to scare the shit out of us. And in this he succeeds brilliantly. We're trapped in that room with Paul Sheldon. The desire to escape is overwhelming. You begin to understand how an animal can chew its own leg off. And Annie Wilkes? Has there ever been a literary creation able to make you lose control of your bladder so effectively? She haunts my nightmares still.
(view spoiler)[One of the things I love about Annie is that she's not just "crazy as a shit-house rat". King writes her with real depth and nuance. Like Paul, we can see who she might have been if the chemicals in her brain were balanced, or her childhood was different, or all the other permutations that contribute to madness were absent. One of my favorite scenes in the novel is when Paul discovers Annie's "Memory Lane" scrapbook, a collection of all her murders. I love that singular moment of pure, crystalline terror when Paul realizes what he's really up against. How deep her sickness really goes. How twisted her mind really is. (hide spoiler)]
King not only does an amazing job examining the sometimes deranged and twisted fan/creator relationship when a mental illness is introduced, but more significantly, the beating heart of the writing life. In Misery, King is able to inject a lot of what he knows and believes about the craft and all the tics and challenges that come along with it. Until he published On Writing, Misery was King's most passionate description of the weird and wonderful life of a fiction writer.
As always, the blessed relief of starting, a feeling that was like falling into a hole filled with bright light. As always, the glum knowledge that he would not write as well as he wanted to write. As always the terror of not being able to finish, of accelerating into a brick wall. As always, the marvelous joyful nervy feeling of journey begun.
I like to think one of my favorite passages is King's version of a big middle finger to the critics who have lambasted him (and likely will continue to do so into the afterlife) as a hack:
There's a million things in this world I can't do. Couldn't hit a curve ball, even back in high school. Can't fix a leaky faucet. Can't roller-skate or make an F-chord on the guitar that sounds like anything but shit. I have tried to be married and couldn't do it either time. But if you want me to take you away, to scare you or involve you or make you cry or grin, yeah. I can. I can bring it to you and keep bringing it until you holler uncle. I am able. I CAN.
Can he ever. Am I right, Constant Readers? Can I get a witness?
When I listened to Gerald's Game a few months back, I argued that it shared a lot more similarities to Misery than to the book it's always paired with Dolores Claiborne. In my review for Gerald's Game I write: "what King is really doing is looking at the human body under brutalizing physical duress... at the body in extremis and what humans are genetically hardwired to do to survive and go on living another day."
Like Jessie Burlingame in Gerald's Game, Paul Sheldon is a miserable animal caught in a trap. While Paul has the indomitable Annie Wilkes to contend with, Jessie has her own problems, but it all adds up to the same thing in the end: "In telling Jessie's story King uncovers all the nitty-gritty minutia of human physical suffering and the desperation of one woman's attempt to end it. How far is any one person willing to go to keep on taking his or her next breath? Stephen King knows pretty damn far. Just ask Paul Sheldon or Ray Garraty. Or the castaway in "Survivor Type" -- him most of all. King also knows that the human body has an amazing capacity for trauma. It can withstand a lot -- so much so that the mind often breaks first."
Yes it does.
I'm going to end this review the same way I ended my review for Gerald's Game, with a quote from Bondama made in the Stephen King Fans forum here on Goodreads. I keep coming back to this quote because I think it really captures what is so deeply disturbing and terrifying about both these novels. And what makes them so very hard to put down once begun. Each go:
straight to the oldest, reptilian part of the human brain: fight or flight -- but here, flight's out of the question. This is true horror -- helplessness.
I always thought of Lois Lowry's The Giver as the little book that could. Written almost like a parable, its deceptively simple story delivers some he...moreI always thought of Lois Lowry's The Giver as the little book that could. Written almost like a parable, its deceptively simple story delivers some heavy, reverberating hits. I consider this little book to be a significant contribution to the genre, ranked right up there with such dystopian classics as Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Soylent Green. I love it because of its simplicity and accessibility; it's the perfect way to introduce younger readers (especially reluctant younger readers) to some pretty powerful themes.
It's a book that can only generate discussion and debate amongst the young and young at heart on the importance of personal choice. You fight for it. You don’t ever let it be taken from you. Sameness, calmness, serenity... these may sound like lofty goals, comforting words, but they should never come at the cost of the individual’s right to explore, question, challenge, choose.
Some readers may be left unsatisfied by the ambiguous ending; I have to admit, first time reading it I was a little frustrated. But like any good parable, the ending is probably the best launching off point to a passionate debate of "what-ifs" "maybes" and "for sures". Other readers might be put off by Lowry's lack of detailed world-building; this is a teensy book - a long short story really - and with such a small canvas there really isn't room for answers, mostly questions. There is a lot we don't know - the how and why this community came to be. But the mystery inspires some addictive speculation, especially in the context of other dysptopian tales which surely influenced Lowry here.
The Giver is a chilling bedtime story, as good at warning us and teaching us a lesson, as it is at entertaining us. That's a magnificent book that can do those things all at once. (less)
"This book is only my ramble through that world, through all the worlds of fantasy and horror that have delighted and terrified me….It’s a dance. And sometimes they turn off the lights in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the dark. Especially in the dark. May I have the pleasure?" ~Stephen King
I first read Danse Macabre when I was seventeen, and while I gobbled it up, there was a lot that just went right over my head unappreciated at the time. Even though I was well on my way to becoming a voracious consumer of the genre, I was also still very much a novice.
Fast forward ten years later. I’m in my late 20’s when I decide to pick this book up for the second time. I’m smarter (having been around the block a few times); I've seen many more horror movies, and read many more books, so that this time around Danse Macabre rocked my socks completely off my feet. I was finally able to appreciate it for what it really is – a love letter to the genre and a full-on vivisection of its fans. Not only is King dissecting us, he is unabashedly and with good humor, dissecting himself.
Danse Macabre begins to feel like an intimate conversation between friends bonding over the exquisite surprise that they share the same devout love and enthusiasm for the subject at hand. King makes “horror talking” such a heady, delicious experience I can never help but feel intoxicated (and totally addicted).
This brings me to present day – my late 30s – and my third reading. The 2010 edition includes a new introductory essay called “What’s Scary”. Unfortunately it’s not the sequel to Danse Macabre I long for, but it is vintage King and to hear his thoughts on some of the more recent contributions to celluloid horror (i.e. Blair Witch Project and the remake of The Last House on the Left) is worth every word.
One of my favorite lines is when he refers to the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake and how it dethroned The Passion of the Christ at the box office: “suggesting that John Lennon was wrong – zombies, not the Beatles, turned out to be more popular than Jesus.”
Amen brother. Can I get a witness?
This is going to sound all fangirly, but I think this book is perfect, even in all of its imperfections (the weakest, even uninspired, section is the short chapter on television). King’s conversational tone is sometimes at odds with his more “jargony” academic analyses, but I like “brainy” King (in fact, I think I may love him). What can I say – “thinky thoughts” are sexy and King has a lot of them to share in 400-plus pages (some of it so insightful, so spot-on, that this really is the definitive “word” on modern horror). I won’t say final, cause my fingers are still crossed for that sequel!!!
At 37, I’ve consumed my fair share of horror and then some, and since my first reading of Danse Macabre have had all of 20 years to consider just what it is I’ve consumed. In no way could I articulate what the genre means to me as well as King has here. He cuts to the quick, to horror’s beating heart, sometimes with a scalpel, sometimes hacking away with a more blunt tool, but always with sincerity, and a profound respect that extends not only to the work, but to the fans. (less)
I've re-read Gerald's Game several times since its 1992 publication, and have just finished listening to it as an audiobook. Here's what I know for su...more I've re-read Gerald's Game several times since its 1992 publication, and have just finished listening to it as an audiobook. Here's what I know for sure:
1) this story has lost none of its power over me, despite the fact I know everything that's going to happen (quite an impressive feat for a largely plot-driven suspense piece)
2) it is without question, one of King's most underrated, overlooked novels. As of this writing its Goodreads rating is 3.26. Keeping it company in the basement is the much maligned Tommyknockers (incidentally another favorite of mine) and From a Buick 8 (also 3.26 but as this is my least favorite King novel I tend to agree with that number).
3) finally, if you aren't already a raving fan of this book I'm not going to change your mind. That's fair. We can't all love the same thing, especially when it comes to books. What I hope I can do is capture just a smidge (like lightning in a bottle) the reasons why -- if you haven't yet -- you must give this book a chance.
For a lot of Constant Readers, Gerald's Game will always be linked to its sister novel -- Dolores Claiborne -- as both books were released the same year and King meant them to be companion novels to one another. Their narratives are cleverly linked by a solar eclipse. As a literary device it is an interesting one, but for me it isn't what makes these novels so special or spectacular. In fact, you could remove that connection and neither novel would suffer from its absence. No, what makes each novel memorable is the writing, the characterization and most of all, King's sheer balls to the wall commitment to the delivery of the story and its outcome.
As companion novels, there are some notable similarities; namely, the exploration of female abuse at the hands of male aggressors. There are painful descriptions of domestic battery and sexual molestation. King bravely (and quite successfully I would argue) enters the terrain of victim humiliation, degradation, and the lingering psychological effects such acts guarantee. In many ways, these are King's most feminist novels and I don't think it a coincidence that Gerald's Game is dedicated to his wife Tabitha and her five sisters.
Yet for me, this isn't what defines Gerald's Game which I would argue has much more in common with Misery, King's Bachman novel The Long Walk, and his short story "Survivor Type". I say this because in all of these what King is really doing is looking at the human body under brutalizing physical duress... at the body in extremis and what humans are genetically hardwired to do to survive and go on living another day. Excruciating physical peril undeniably comes with a psychological component and no one writes that better than King using his own heady and addictive brew of storytelling.
Jessie Burlingame -- our "damsel" in distress -- is facing certain death. She is trapped, chained in handcuffs to the bed she shares with her husband Gerald in their summer house on the lake. But it's not summer. It's fall, and the lake is empty. Everyone has gone home. There is no one to hear her scream or beg for release.
One of the reasons I love Gerald's Game so much is the "solve the puzzle" locked room mystery of it. It's like one of those brain teasers (you know the one about the melted icicle?) In this case, you have one woman handcuffed to a bed. How do you get her out of them (playing fair, no tricks, no deus ex machina). How will she suffer? What demands will be placed on her body, on her mind? This is where King shines. (view spoiler)[One of my favorite scenes from the entire novel is Jessie's quest for the glass of water resting on the bed's headboard. It is agonizing suspense I almost couldn't stand it. Sheer mastery of the craft I tell you. It would have had Hitchcock foaming at the mouth to film it. (hide spoiler)]
In telling Jessie's story King uncovers all the nitty-gritty minutia of human physical suffering and the desperation of one woman's attempt to end it. How far is any one person willing to go to keep on taking his or her next breath? Stephen King knows pretty damn far. Just ask Paul Sheldon or Ray Garraty. Or the castaway in "Survivor Type" -- him most of all. King also knows that the human body has an amazing capacity for trauma. It can withstand a lot -- so much so that the mind often breaks first.
King being King, it's not just enough to have Jessie at the mercy of handcuffs she can't merely wiggle out of. No, King being King, he introduces several other elements to the story to amp up the suspense and terror. Some may argue the story didn't need these elements (one element in particular), but I say Bravo! (view spoiler)[Our first introduction to the "Space Cowboy" -- There was a man in the room -- nearly caused me to faint from pure shock. I was in those handcuffs too, you see, in the dark, thirsty, exhausted and in pain. The sudden realization that I may not be alone after all, that there may be someone lurking in a dark shadow of the room watching me.... shiver.
I love how long King is able to prolong the suspense over this creature's existence -- is it or is it not a figment of Jessie's overtaxed imagination? I went back and forth several times during the last part of the novel, until finally the big reveal and I was satisfied, more than satisfied actually. The fact that he turned out to be real after all made my skin crawl. (hide spoiler)]
On the Stephen King Fans discussion forum here on Goodreads, a wonderful comment was made that really sums up the intensity of this novel for me, and its overwhelming, lingering appeal:
[Gerald's Game] goes straight to the oldest, reptilian part of the human brain: fight or flight -- but here, flight's out of the question. This is true horror -- helplessness.
This novel is burned into my brain as if I've lived it. That's unforgettable storytelling and something you don't want to miss. Trust me. You do trust me, don't you?
Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman's got to hold on to. ~Dolores Claiborne
Meet Dolores Claiborne -- island woman, mother of three, murderess and...more
Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman's got to hold on to. ~Dolores Claiborne
Meet Dolores Claiborne -- island woman, mother of three, murderess and overall high-riding bitch. And I love her! She is strength and smarts and dignity personified and in my opinion, one of the most vivid and memorable literary creations ever to walk the pages of any book. I don't say that lightly. Yes I'm a fan, yes I'm gushing, but this is also a more tempered, critical evaluation after living with her existence these many years. She has stood the test of time and I have no doubt she will continue to do so long after her creator has passed.
Arguably one of Stephen King's most underrated and dismissed works, Dolores Claiborne remains for me one of his best and most literary novels. The first-person narrative voice is brilliantly executed, the island dialect ringing true, the rhythm of the language making the sense of place so vibrant and tangible. The reading experience is only enhanced by the audio version (which I highly recommend).
Bringing nothing but his A-game, King delves into the life of a poor, uneducated, island woman, who marries young and gets to repent in leisure. I love this story so much because not only does it capture small town life and a woman's place in it, but also the unshakeable bonds of friendship that can be forged like steel between women, and the ferocious love a mother feels for her children.
This book is a powerful and naked look at mother-love, at how desperate, intense, and all-consuming it really is....But mainly this is the story of an unlikely alliance between two hard talkin’, high riding bitches; two women from very different walks of life who find that they have a similar core of bitter strength.
At its heart, this is a book about a desperate woman who is driven to a very desperate act. It is a crime novel built around a detailed confession that's so urgent, so immediate, the story sucks you in like quicksand and does not want to let go. This is not a horror novel, but there are a few moments of unadulterated suspense and terror that had my heart jack-rabbiting in my chest. (view spoiler)[When Dolores returns to the well and Joe has nearly succeeded in climbing out and grabs her ankle, I just about screamed and threw the book across the room! When you have to do such a dirty deed, you want it to happen as fast and clean as possible. It could not have turned out more ugly and terrifying for Dolores and is it any wonder she imagines Joe's face grinning out at her from behind the wheels of Vera's wheelchair on the day of Vera's death? (hide spoiler)]
Dolores Claiborne is not the only high-riding bitch in this story, there is also Ms. Vera Donovan, her contrary, vitriolic employer who explains the facts of life thusly: "Husbands die every day Dolores. Why, one is probably dying right now while you're sitting here weeping....An accident can be an unhappy woman's best friend." Dolores and Vera make an unlikely pair, but over the years they cleave to one another in an unexpected, unforgettable friendship that runs dark and deep.
This review can also be found at Busty Book Bimbo["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In his introduction to Skeleton Crew, Stephen King writes: “a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and sa...moreMake you pee your pants scary!
In his introduction to Skeleton Crew, Stephen King writes: “a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair” whereas the short story “is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.” My literary proclivities definitely lean towards those long affairs. I don’t read a lot of short stories nor am I a fan of the format. At least give me a novella! Stephen King is one of only a handful of authors who can make me a believer in the beauty and effectiveness of the short story. For a man who has been lambasted for his “bloated” novels – King himself has referred to his condition as "literary elephantiasis" – he can still write a short story like nobody’s business. Stories that will stop your heart, chill your blood, and see the world in a new way.
King has written hundreds of short stories over his lifetime but for me none can quite compare to the ones collected here in Night Shift. The majority of these stories first appeared in the men’s magazine Cavalier, written before Carrie’s publication in 1974 and the gargantuan financial windfall that followed. King has talked quite a bit about what life was like before that watershed moment:
There were some hard, dark years before Carrie. We had two kids and no money. We rotated the bills, paying on different ones each month. I kept our car, an old Buick, going with duct tape and bailing wire….
There is a rawness in these stories that reflects the drive and hunger of a young man consumed with his craft. For me these stories burn bright and hot as if King wrote them in a fever. I can picture him now pounding them out on his wife’s Olivetti portable typewriter between the washer and dryer of their cramped trailer’s tiny laundry room. King didn't write these stories for the money, cash-strapped as he was with two small kids, he wrote them because he had to.
There’s another reason why I love the stories in this collection – they represent King’s early fascination / obsession / dedication to fear, to what haunts, creeps and crawls. King knows what scares us, because it scares him too. He gets it, it’s not a put on and these stories are as authentic as fear gets. In the introduction he writes:
The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never grab my ankle….No waking or dreaming…but only the voice of the writer….He’s telling you that you want to see the car accident, and yes, he’s right – you do. There’s a dead voice on the phone…something behind the walls of the old house that sounds bigger than a rat…movement at the foot of the cellar stairs. He wants you to see all of those things, and more; he wants you to put your hands on the shape under the sheet. And you want to put your hands there. Yes.
I think Poe and Lovecraft would agree.
For me, this collection contains some of the best examples of the modern horror story. King has tapped an artesian well of contemporary fears and anxieties penning macabre, ghoulish tales that deserve to be called classics. Not to be missed: “Children of the Corn”, “The Boogeyman”, “The Mangler”, “Strawberry Spring”, and “Quitter’s Inc.” My deepest thanks to King who was the first to convince me that sometimes even I, can be seduced by that quick kiss in the dark from a stranger. Oh yes. (less)
This is still one of my favourite King books -- a whimsical fairy tale set in a magical landscape; a Dark Tower for younger readers if you will. I cou...moreThis is still one of my favourite King books -- a whimsical fairy tale set in a magical landscape; a Dark Tower for younger readers if you will. I couldn't quite give it five stars this time around, since it's not as epic or grand as something like The Talisman, but my sheer enjoyment of the story has not diminished with the years. King weaves a truly engaging spell with this one, which prominently features the uber-villainous Flagg (who has shown up in many King novels, sometimes under other names, but always just as evil). This time he is the King's magician.
I just love the adventure here, and Peter's brave attempt to escape the Needle kept me breathless. While Shawshank will likely always be remembered as THE King prison escape story, there will always be a special place in my heart for the dramatic climax discovered in the pages of The Eyes of the Dragon.