Here we go again: The Drawing of The Three: The Prisoner marks Marvel's third iteration of its ongoing, ambitious adaptation of King's Dark Tower magn Here we go again: The Drawing of The Three: The Prisoner marks Marvel's third iteration of its ongoing, ambitious adaptation of King's Dark Tower magnum opus. The results have been mixed for me. I started out in a fangirl tizzy, but my excitement soon waned for quite a stretch (in which I stopped reading altogether), then it peaked again like a firecracker going off, only to dampen and fizzle once more at the conclusion of the last two volumes.
Sigh. Look, don't get me wrong. I get a thrill and a chill every time I pick up one of these volumes. Because it holds so much potential. And sometimes I think just the sheer anticipation is worth its weight in gold no matter how conflicted or underwhelmed or disappointed I am by the time the reading is done.
This latest volume likely didn't stand a chance from the get-go, I had placed such GINORMOUS expectations of want and need on its slim modest frame. Out of all of King's seven Dark Tower books (I refuse to count The Wind Through the Keyhole in that number), The Drawing of the Three is my absolute favorite. For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which, Three is what got me addicted to the series in the first place.
When I read it that first time lo those many, many years ago (can you kennit?) I had never read anything else like it. I didn't even know books could do that to your brain and emotions, get in there and live there and completely wrap you up in its world and life and characters. I had loved other books before The Drawing of the Three, but I think it's safe to say this was the first time I had become obsessed - possessed by one. Books have been having that effect on me since but that time, was the first time, and you never forget your first, do you?
At the end of the day, these graphic novels are not, and can never be the books. At their best they are lovely companion pieces to tickle that nostalgia part of every DT fans brain; at their worst, they are very poor substitutes with the power to egregiously spoil the books for any reader ill-advised enough to start with the graphic novels. DON'T DO THAT, OKAY?? Read the books first. Will you promise me that?
There are parts of this one that I did enjoy -- going back to 1980's New York and hanging out with a young Eddie and his big brother Henry was a bittersweet, and due to knowing what's coming, an ultimately heartbreaking affair. The artwork is weak though, and Roland just looks like a caricature sketch of himself. And let's just say the lobstrocities scene fell as flat as a pancake. Boo. But there was astin! And tooter fish! So I shall read on. If only for the anticipation, if not the disappointment. ...more
Currently available for FREE through The New Yorker website.
This is a "short" short story and if I have any real complaint is that I wish it had been Currently available for FREE through The New Yorker website.
This is a "short" short story and if I have any real complaint is that I wish it had been longer. But brief King is rare King so I'm just gonna shut up and enjoy this little piece for what it is.
So what is it?
It's a moody little Western gem that sucks you in from its opening scene: a sheriff and a posse come to "collect" Jim Trusdale -- for lack of better phrasing, the village idiot (Constant Readers will also be reminded of John Coffey from The Green Mile). Jim has misplaced his beloved well-worn hat. Unfortunately for him it's been recovered near the dead body of a 10 year old girl who has also been robbed of her birthday silver dollar.
None of this looks good for simple Jim. In fact, it all adds up to a heaping mound of terrible. As one man observes: "You got bad luck all over...You’re painted in it."
Like King's best short stories, you won't be able to put this one down until you finish it. In just a few short pages he's able to create a remarkable amount of tension between the weary Sheriff who begins to have doubts about Jim's guilt, and the accused who has no meaningful way to defend himself against this horrible crime. The men share a potent intimacy in the closed confines of the holding cell (and a strip search scene that is brief but memorable).
And about that ending:
(view spoiler)[First of all, didn't see it coming. Maybe because I had John Coffey on the brain, I really thought this story was another version of "the innocent simpleton" being taken advantage of. So yes, silver dollar in the poop really surprised me O.O ....turns out Jim was guilty after all (unless someone planted that silver dollar afterwards; maybe?) (hide spoiler)]
Here marks the concluding final volume of the original Dark Tower adaptation by Marvel comics and to say it's left me feeling underwhelmed is quite th Here marks the concluding final volume of the original Dark Tower adaptation by Marvel comics and to say it's left me feeling underwhelmed is quite the understatement. It turns out to be a confusing mish-mash of stories that barely connect to what's come before. The first two chapters are spent on Sheemie and the Breakers and strive to explain the birth of the Tower, its crucial importance and the forces who wish to see it destroyed. This is major Dark Tower sacred canon that took King decades to build and make believers of us all. To see it watered down in the final volume like this doesn't sit well with me and strikes me as rushed and lazy.
Then we're offered another adventure of young Roland and his original ka-tet which is followed up by a re-telling of the legend of Arthur Eld and his defeat of Lord Perth (a kind of lame David and Goliath type deal that I can't remember well enough from the books to know whether any liberties were taken with the source material or not).
As much as I was stupid excited for this graphic novel adaptation, I was slow to warm up to the series; in fact I skipped over Volumes 3, 4, and 5 and didn't pick up the series again until Volume 6 The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins. That's mostly because those first five volumes draw almost exclusively upon material from Book 4 of King's series -- Wizard and Glass. I'm much more a fan of long, tall and ugly Roland, than young Roland and his original ka-tet comprised of Cuthbert, Alain and Jamie. So while the series did get better for me as it went along -- especially The Battle of Tull and The Way Station -- there were way more lows than highs. Way more places where they got it wrong than right.
However, despite my lack of fangirling at this point, I'm deliriously excited by this news; the Dark Tower adaptation is continuing this fall with The Drawing of The Three: The Prisoner. Now we're talking!! Eddie Dean! New York! And hopefully some lobstrocities and astin. Oh yeah! The Drawing of the Three is one of my all-time favorite books and I have to hope that adapting from this juncture in the narrative will result in a much more successful experiment than what we've seen up to now. Only the best is yet to come in a world that has moved on. ...more
This is a must for Constant Readers (otherwise known as those rabid Stephen King fans). It is an "origin story" of sorts capturing King's first glimps This is a must for Constant Readers (otherwise known as those rabid Stephen King fans). It is an "origin story" of sorts capturing King's first glimpse with his author's eye of that notorious (and perhaps greatest of all villains) -- Randall Flagg, who has about a thousand faces and many names including the Walkin' Dude or if it please ya: the man in black who fled across the desert.
"The Dark Man" is a poem which King penned while in college and it shouldn't surprise me that a character who would come to such prominence in King's later writing began manifesting himself like a not-to-be ignored spectral presence very early on.
i have stridden the fuming way / of sun-hammered tracks and / smashed cinders; / i have ridden rails / and burned sterno in the gantry silence of hobo jungles: / i am a dark man
King has said his first visions of Flagg were of a faceless man dressed in cowboy boots, jeans, and a denim jacket forever walking the roads an exile, an outsider, but a malevolent presence nevertheless. "The Dark Man" is a peek into that evil, a poem that is a confession of murder and rape.
The poem itself is an eerie melange of images, sounds and smells. Swampy and decayed. A world that has moved on even. Coupled with Chadbourne's artwork, the result is a moving and unsettling collaboration that can be poured over many times uncovering details and nuances previously missed.
Well worth the purchase price and killing a tree to own this one.
What the hell do you read next after you finish a book like this!?
While not a full on frontal assault horror novel in the tradition of The Shining or What the hell do you read next after you finish a book like this!?
While not a full on frontal assault horror novel in the tradition of The Shining or Pet Sematary, Revival definitely ranks as one of the darkest, most unsettling books King has written in a long time. It's a slow burn that touches on a lot of themes we've come to expect from King in his golden years -- family, nostalgia, grief and loss. King turned 67 this year and he seems to have reached a point in his life where the "big questions" about what it all means Alfie, and where we all end up are weighing heavy on his mind and heart. It's inevitable, right? I turned 40 this year, and I know those questions have already started to weigh on me.
This is one of those books I want to peel back layer by layer and dig down deep into its beating heart. King has moved past penning coming-of-age novels to now tackling what happens when we get old. What do our relationships look like to friends, lovers, siblings, parents when we start to lose hair where we want it, and gain it where we don't? What does a life of regret look like? What does redemption look like?
There is this exploration in Revival in a luxurious, patient way that could only be written by an author of King's maturity and discipline. It's been a humbling, emotional experience for me as a Constant Reader to watch how this man's work and art have aged with him, have reached places only possible because he's lived this long to keep telling the tales.
I get frustrated sometimes with certain fans (with hearts in the right place) who still want King to be churning out the kind of books he was writing in the 80's. Some of the best stuff the man has written happened in that decade. No doubt. He was a writing machine. With young kids and a coke habit to boot. But he's not that man anymore. Decades have come and gone and the writing should be changing to reflect that. Not just the style, but the contents. What King cares about, what he's come to realize and believe to be true, these are some of the passions that he injects into his writing now. There is a self-awareness and self-reflection that just wasn't apparent in his earlier novels. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just different, with different rewards to be found and had.
The first three-quarters of this book represent some of the most literary writing King has done over the span of his incredibly long (and hopefully even longer) prolific career. Yes it feels familiar -- there is the small Maine town and the coming-of-age elements of young children navigating a threatening and perilous world. But the writing is so rich this time, lyrical even. The doom is laying on the horizon, you can almost glimpse it, but you don't really know where it's going to come from. Or when.
One of the things I've loved about King over the years is his profound ability to assemble a world and characters that are so very, very normal. They are us. They are him. They are who we know and love. And the world they populate is normal too. Small town USA. Baseball games, apple pie. Rock and roll on the radio. But into this normal world creeps something slimy and sinister. While ordinary life of first loves, car accidents, weddings, births and tinnitus march ever onward, the sinister stays hidden in the shadows, watching and waiting to make its move. It's all so very fucking normal, until it isn't.
It's the rat trap waiting in the dark hole that you just had to stick your hand into. *SNAP*
The last quarter of this book is the snap! and it's either going to work for you or not. King has written a beautiful dedication (he often does) paying his respects to all those legendary writers of the dark who helped "build his house". In the pages of Revival the long shadow of their influence live and breathe in Charles Jacobs' obsession with electricity and his unnatural lifelong quest for answers and revelation. The Bible says: seek and ye shall find. But we must be prepared for the unraveling of the mystery and realize that we are just as likely to fall to our knees in horror as wonder.
This is a case where the star system really fails me, or I feel like I must explain my rating. Four stars does not make Mr. Mercedes one of King's bes This is a case where the star system really fails me, or I feel like I must explain my rating. Four stars does not make Mr. Mercedes one of King's best. In fact, stacked up against some of his better known works, it pales and withers fraught as it is with giant plot holes, some incredulous leaps in logic and a hero who behaves more moronic than heroic (if you want a list of these weaknesses look no further than Kemper's excellent review where he takes King to task on all these matters and more).
Kemper has a point. King shouldn't be given a pass based on Constant Reader goodwill alone. If you're going to tackle a genre where others have excelled before you, you just better bring your 'A' game and be firing on all cylinders. And here, King most definitely is not. There are problems. A lot of them. Not the least of which is King's fanboy enthusiasm for the crime thriller genre and falling victim to so many of its tropes and letting other opportunities pass him by unexplored.
I was able to extract a fair amount of thrill from this thriller. I became tangled up in the cat and mouse game played out between the retired detective and the psychopathic killer. Brady Hartfield is a pretty compelling villain with a twisted and tragic backstory that makes him one of King's most memorable bad guys in a loooong time. Everything I wanted to feel for the stupid shit villains in Under the Dome, I felt here in spades with Brady. He is positively hateful. And genuinely terrifying without being supernaturally powerful.
Big spoilers ahead under the tag.
(view spoiler)[What bumped this from an average three star read for me to the more memorable four are two horrific scenes that I thought were so well done. First, Brady and his mom killing the baby brother. So gruesome and heartbreaking and absolutely chilling the way mom smothers him with a pillow as he lies there broken and defenseless on the basement floor. Second, the mother's death scene by strychnine. I should have seen that coming a mile off. Poisoned hamburger meat left in the fridge. But I didn't. And when Brady comes home and realizes what must have happened I feel like I was punched in the gut. Her prolonged suffering, while deserved, was excruciatingly awful. I actually couldn't help but be reminded of Thinner and the way that ends with the infamous gypsy pie. (hide spoiler)]
So the four stars reflect my state of mind while reading it -- engaged, turning the pages, and needing to know how it was all going to shake out. I was hoping for a very different ending (view spoiler)[I wanted Brady to succeed and for Hodges to be destroyed by his choices and negligence and to eat a bullet in remorse (which would have had a nice symmetry considering he's suicidal when the story opens) (hide spoiler)] -- alas, that is not the ending I got, but man, I was squirming in my chair HOPING King would have the ball sack to take it darkside. The dread and anticipation had to be enough however. And it mostly was.
This is a pulpy beach read and as an experiment on King's part I think it succeeds despite some serious problems. I hear now that this is a projected trilogy and I have conflicted feelings about that. I don't need King to write crime thrillers. That's not why I started reading him thirty years ago, and it definitely isn't why I've kept reading him. There are others out there in this genre who have been doing it longer and better. I'd rather see him continue his efforts in the King universe, where the sun might be shining, but there's something black and slippery in the shadows. Where small towns hold close their secrets and all is normal and safe, until it isn't. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, Why you never see bright colors on my back, And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone. Well, t
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, Why you never see bright colors on my back, And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone. Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on. "The Man In Black", Johnny Cash
Marvel's ambitious undertaking to adapt King's magnum opus has been hit or miss for me. The first five volumes (essentially a re-telling of Book IV - Wizard and Glass) did not work for me, most likely because Wizard and Glass is my least favorite of the series. While I eventually grew to appreciate the story for what it is, young Roland will never beat out long, tall and ugly Roland. So I actually skipped over Volumes 3-5 and didn't pick up the graphic novel series again until Volume 6 The Journey Begins.
I was so relieved and super-psyched to resume the story as it's finally reached The Gunslinger. Roland’s young battles are behind him, all has been lost, and he is now on the road to the Dark Tower as a solitary traveler, embittered, battle-weary, with no tears left to shed. This is the Roland I adore. This is who I want to read about and see captured in the panels of graphic novel.
In the previous volume, Roland finally meets up with Jake, and I loved how the Way Station encounter is handled. This volume focuses on the slow mutants attack and ends with Roland's palaver with the Man in Black himself.
I did not hate this volume by any stretch, but the series is now venturing into sacred territory and I didn't cotton to several of the storyline alterations. Not to mention, most of the art was just...not good. Inconsistent shall we say. I didn't like how in some panels Jake and Roland are very chiseled and there while in other panels they're barely there at all, kind of just shadowy impressions, blurry lines and all.
While I wanted to love the prolonged and "extra" interactions between Jake and Roland, something seemed not quite right about how they were speaking to each other. I can't put my finger on it really. But my gut just wouldn't leave it alone. And the climatic "go then, there are other worlds than these" scene fell flat for me. I didn't feel the punch or the emotionality I should have.
The last section capturing Roland's fireside conversation with The Man In Black is well executed. It strays little, if at all, from the original source material, a lot of the text lifted right from King's novel. Still, there are gaps even in this pivotal scene that I wish weren't there.
It's probably a mistake to read these graphic novels and judge them against King's books. Different format and all that, but I can't help it. And while I'm desperate for more Dark Tower, I'm probably much better off to just go and read the novels again rather than trying to find solace and satisfaction in the colored panels of a comic. A re-read is definitely on the table, but I will stick it out with the graphic novels too. When and where they've worked, I've been extremely pleased. ...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
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. ...more
I usually like to end my year (or start) with Stephen King, so I decided upon this feisty freebie available online here. I first read this back in Oct I usually like to end my year (or start) with Stephen King, so I decided upon this feisty freebie available online here. I first read this back in October as a short story included in the Stephen Jones anthology A Book of Horrors. I enjoyed it then very much, but I really dig it as a graphic novel.
I love the coloring used - almost a sickly underwater green, black and bruised shades of blue - and I love the facial expressions. I'm not a graphic artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I found the close-ups of the eyes very effective.
This is also a very text heavy adaptation, so if you don't like your comics to be swimming in words, that will probably be a turn off. I didn't mind it though. I love how King's words build mood and atmosphere and a slow, inevitable creep towards something sinister.
In my original review of the short story I made comparisons to those great speculative machines of the past famous for churning out stories of the weird and the macabre -- Tales from the Crypt, Twilight Zone and Night Gallery to name the holy trinity. King himself has described his adolescent obsession with horror comics (before such comics were disbanded as lewd and contributing to the delinquency and illiteracy of juveniles). Good call guys. Job well done.
King's love for the genre eventually culminated in his collaboration with George Romero producing the cult classic Creepshow, a cheesy romp of delight and a fitting homage to the great horror comics of the past from two rabid fanboys. This story - "The Little Green God of Agony" - could have been slipped in there and filmed with all the others without missing a beat.
King is no stranger to excruciating pain. His long road to recovery after his near fatal accident has definitely influenced his approach to the subject. Fans won't be surprised to see him turn his writer's eye to a pain so intolerable one can only imagine the body itself has been possessed by an evil entity that feeds off the agony. While the ending is not that surprising, it sure is sweet getting there. ...more
Well, well, well, what do we have here? A bona fide horror story my friends and Constant Readers, sprouted from the father/son imagination team of Ste Well, well, well, what do we have here? A bona fide horror story my friends and Constant Readers, sprouted from the father/son imagination team of Stephen King and Joe Hill. This story is not without its problems (and won't be suited to everyone's tastes). It is ghoulish and a tad gory, and depending on your sensibilities you may be disgusted, even offended. But before it goes there it is a magnificent piece of storytelling steeped in dread and what I like to call, epic creep. One reviewer has likened it to Open Water meets The Ruins and that's not inaccurate. There is a Mile 81 vibe as promised, but I was reminded more of King's earlier classic short stories such as "Children of the Corn" and "The Raft" and if I had to pick a movie, The Blair Witch Project.
Getting lost in tall grass is one of my most primal fears. And I don't mean grass that comes up to your waist (icky enough), but grass that is over your head and obscures the view of what's in front of you. Stuff lives in grass. Entire ecosystems of crawly, stinging biting things. Then there's mud and dew and pollen and mice and snakes and well... you get my point. I don't want to be there. No way.
The first half of this 60 page short story is so very strong in the way it taps into our claustrophobic fear of becoming lost. As humans we are very good at -- not to mention very attached to -- knowing where we are at any given moment in space and time. Our evolutionary sense of well-being depends on it. Strip it away and we quickly lose our shit. Panic, fear, frustration, they all come bubbling to the surface as we projectile rage against the environment that has conspired against us in such an unforgivable betrayal. What is that tree doing there? That wasn't there before. I thought the river was to the east of us. I'm sure the car is just over the next hill there.
As much as we hate it, getting lost is pretty much a universal human experience. It's probably happened to all of us at one time or another, even if it was for a very short period of time in a new city or on a short hike in a national park. King and Hill take that germ of an idea and run with it like mad lunatics in an asylum. This is a supernatural horror story, so if you like realism and stories that "could really happen" this might not be your thing. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the explanation of what is really going on in the tall grass, but enjoyed the first half of the story so much I'm willing to overlook that here. Plus, the story is just so well-written. It's tightly coiled prose with some great phrasing and sentence structure. These guys know what they're doing, okay?
Imagine being a fly on the wall for the father/son conversation such a collaboration requires. There are a few things that happen in the story where I was like: "Okay, whose idea was that?! Fess up!" I guess part of the fun is in trying to guess, and perhaps never knowing. These guys work good together though, and I'm looking forward to many more collaborations (fingers crossed).
Note: If you buy this as an ebook for three bucks it also comes with sneak previews of Doctor Sleep (King's sequel to The Shining) and Hill's novel NOS4A2. Let me just say that these previews have got me so revved up to read the books next year. If I thought I couldn't wait before, now I'm positively slavering to get my hands on them. At least Hill's book is coming in April; King's Doctor Sleep has been pushed to September! Almost another whole year! And what if the Mayan calender is right and we all go boom in December? What then people? What then?...more
I really, really wanted to love this collection. I was so stoked to get my hands on it (as excited as I get about short story anthologies anyways). ItI really, really wanted to love this collection. I was so stoked to get my hands on it (as excited as I get about short story anthologies anyways). It contains an original story by Stephen King for heaven's sake, not to mention other original contributions from some of the genre's heaviest hitters including: Ramsey Campbell, John Ajvide Lindqvist and Dennis Etchison.
I think what frustrated me the most about this collection is that the majority of the stories have great beginnings but fizzle out on underwhelming, meh endings. Regardless of how pregnant with potential the premise, none of the authors really nail it, hit it out of the park, stick the landing (pick your metaphor, I got plenty).
That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself, because I did. I just expected more. I wanted that punch to the solar plexus, that tingly feeling of dread or shivery sensation of creep. Instead, I was moderately entertained and mildly amused.
Not surprisingly, one of the strongest is Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony", which carries a Twilight Zone or Creepshow vibe. A master of suspense, King controls the mounting tension on this one near perfectly. Anyone who is aware of King's long road to recovery after his near fatal accident won't be surprised to see him turn his writer's eye to the subject of excruciating pain. A pain so intolerable, one can only imagine the body has been possessed by an evil entity that feeds off the agony. While the ending is not that surprising really, it sure is sweet getting there.
King may be my sentimental favorite of the collection, but Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist (author of Let the Right One In) offers the most original and beautifully executed story. "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" is a darkly imagined ghost story about grief that resonates with sadness and desperation. A mother dies suddenly, and in the vacuum of a father and son's loss a ghost finds its way in. Not just any ghost. A murderer of children. This one actually wormed its way in and unnerved me. The writing is very good. It's really hard to believe that the same country that exported ABBA, has given us Lindqvist. Both are fantastic, but one of these things is not like the other.
The story idea I was most excited about came from horror legend Ramsey Campbell called "Getting It Wrong". It's a deadly games premise whereby a radio quiz show called Inquisition requires its contestants to answer questions correctly ... or bad things happen. I love the set-up on this one. Imagine taking a show like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and amping up the stakes so it's not money you're winning or losing, but the right to keep limbs intact, or eyeballs in your head. Now you're really in the hot seat. You have a life line, literally. So, idea? Perfect. Set-up? Pretty damn fine. Final denouement? Meh. This story could have been so much more, with just a little more meat on its bones.
Finally, Elizabeth Hand's novella "Near Zennor" just sucked me in and kept me turning the pages. It takes place on the English moors and has a very Gothic vibe. A man loses his wife suddenly and finds some old letters she wrote when she was just a girl to the author of a series of children's books. It becomes a mystery that he wants to investigate and he travels to the place where she spent one summer in 1971. This is an odd story that I couldn't quite make up my mind about as I was reading it, but still, it's very strong and I couldn't put it down even when there didn't seem to be anything really happening.
Overall, a fair collection with a couple of pieces worth the price of admission.
This is good my fellow Constant Readers, just not...wow. I can't speak of O'Nan's work, but for King this is a fairly familiar and predictable story i This is good my fellow Constant Readers, just not...wow. I can't speak of O'Nan's work, but for King this is a fairly familiar and predictable story idea. The execution is nice, the prose tight and strong, but unlike countless other times in my life, he just didn't blow my skirt up with this short novella.
Still, it's always such a joy to slip into King's world, his rhythmic use of language, his crystalline images and always effective creation of dread and unease. It's perhaps morbid of me to consider that I have way less unread King ahead of me than behind me. In that context, every new thing is precious in its own way, even this simple story about love of the game (baseball that is) and the sharp regrets that come with the measure of a full life. ...more
Written for the Hard Case Crime line of paperback novels, Stephen King's Joyland may look like a duck -- with its tantalizing pulp cover making promis Written for the Hard Case Crime line of paperback novels, Stephen King's Joyland may look like a duck -- with its tantalizing pulp cover making promises of sex and violence -- but it definitely doesn't quack. In fact, it's another kind of animal altogether, a coming of age tale tinged with the bittersweet tang of nostalgia and the wistful remembrances of what was and what might have been.
This isn't new territory for King. Anyone who's read him at all knows that this is his stomping ground and when he's firing on all cylinders, nobody does it better. It isn't done badly here either (there are some great passages filled with humor and insight), it's just that the effort and subsequent result feel lackluster overall. The characters are fleshed out just enough to move the story along and give King some hooks to hang his "looking back on it now" philosophizing, but stacked up against King's pantheon of memorable characters, the ones found in the pages of Joyland are easily forgotten (at least by me).
I almost think this little book suffers from the schism of an identity crisis. King has in his hands a paranormal crime plot replete with a garish 1970's amusement park setting haunted by the ghost of a murdered young woman. This being Hard Case Crime, I was keen to get King's take on hard-boiled noir or just full on pulp. I looked forward to sensationalist violence, cheap thrills and snappy, stylistic dialogue (and no, sorry Uncle Stevie, but you don't win any points for injecting the patter of carny speak on every other page).
King can't stop himself from telling an entirely different kind of story about a young man with a broken heart and his extended summer spent growing up and getting on. It's a story of emotions and memories and the metaphor of a flying kite and the panoramic view from a giant Ferris wheel. It's 80% middle-aged navel-gazing and youthful angst. The other 20% consisting of uncovering the identity of a murderous predator and revealing the details behind a haunting feel tacked on as afterthoughts. In this case, for Hard Case, I would have much rather seen those ratios reversed.
Another problem I had (view spoiler)[was the kid in the wheelchair. His second sight ability struck me as too deus ex machina serving no other purpose really other than to save our hero at the last minute from certain death (I also felt the kid was just a pale knock-off of Danny Torrence). If Joyland had turned out to be a full on hyper-dramatized pulp novel, a kid character such as this could have probably fit right in and worked. But the majority of the story is ponderous and beautiful and as a plot device, the second sight stands out like a sore thumb. (hide spoiler)]
Still, while it wasn't the novel I wanted or expected, Joyland is a sweet story, a little maudlin in places, but enjoyable nevertheless. Constant Readers will take pleasure in immersing themselves for a little while in a Kingscape that feels both familiar and satisfying.
It's good people, it's just not all that it's quacked up to be.
This review has also been posted to Busty Book Bimbo["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Mr. King and I (or Uncle Stevie if I may) have a loooong history that stretches back decades now. His books have become the s OCTOBER COUNTRY 2013 - #2
Mr. King and I (or Uncle Stevie if I may) have a loooong history that stretches back decades now. His books have become the soundtrack to my life, the novels I reach for in times of stress and grief in search of comfort and solace. Some may find that weird, considering the man's reputation as America's Boogeyman, but it's never been weird to me.
No one can spin a yarn quite like this man to keep you reading well past dark and into the wee hours of the morning. No one is as good as he is at locating our primal fears and anxieties and purging them in a storytelling catharsis that's as addicting as it is healing. No one can write characters as real as the person you fall asleep next to at night, or have hated to your very core since you were a child.
Yes, Stephen King knows what scares us, because it scares him too, but he also knows how we love, how we fail, how we fall down and find the courage to pick ourselves up again. He knows what makes us human, and better than that, he knows how to write it all down on the page capturing the very essence of our humanity like a magician captures lightning in a bottle.
Can he do it every time? No. But I don't love him any less for that fact. Does he try his very best to do it every time? You bet, with intent and integrity. King is no sell-out, and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.
zip it...shhhh...no...talk to the hand
I imagine King approached the story of Danny Torrence all grown up with a lot of respect and trepidation. The Shining is one of King's most memorable novels, with an iconic film adaptation that in some ways has even eclipsed the book itself. As a reader I approached this sequel with trepidations of my own. Even though you do your best to stranglehold your galloping expectations, you can't help but get excited and to imagine how it's all going to come together, what it's going to feel like.
This is a good book. Once you start it, like so many of King's best works, you will want to (have to) finish it. But it isn't The Shining and anyone expecting a full frontal assault horror novel on par with that classic will be sorely disappointed. In a lot of ways Doctor Sleep is a completely different book altogether, because it's written by a completely different man who has lived a lot of life and learned a lot of things. It's probably not even fair to compare the two, but it's inevitable. A sequel is a sequel.
As a sequel it does succeed brilliantly in one important aspect, and that is answering the question: "hey, whatever happened to the kid in The Shining?" Dan Torrence carries some heavy burdens which have derailed his life in more ways than one. Blocking out his traumatic childhood has doomed him to repeat history -- at least that of his father and Jack Torrence's black temper and unquenchable thirst for booze. Dan is an alcoholic, selfish and unscrupulous, and facing his rock-bottom. Anyone who knows anything about King's personal life, knows he is a recovering alcoholic. So who better to write a story about a life lost to booze and the battle to get healthy "one day at a time".
Dan's life, what it was, what it becomes, is a great part of this novel, and I loved reading about it. Then there's the other part -- a band of psychic vampires traveling the dusty back roads of America by RV calling themselves the True Knot. These are interesting, hideous creatures with a colorful history. On the King villain scale however, we've encountered way worse, and way more memorable.
Ditto Abra. As a child heroine facing down the supernatural dark King has equipped her with some pretty mighty powers. She is in fact, King's most powerful, making little Danny Torrence, Carrie White, Charlie McGee, and Johnny Smith combined look like a dim bulb on a Christmas tree. Becky describes it best in her review this way:
Things were just so easy for her, since she was so powerful in the shining, and on top of that, she had a support system - two parents, Danny, Billy, and John. And she was more than twice Danny's age when he had to fight for his life, alone. So I just didn't really feel all that concerned about her, as unfair as it may be. I feel like King went easy on her.
Abra surpasses super-human into superhero range. And while I feared for those around her, I never ever feared for her.
(view spoiler)[Overall, I think that the odds just seemed so greatly on the side of the heroes, so vastly uneven. Not only was the Knot low on steam, but did they really have to be plagued by measles too? And did Abra have to be so very strong, "a lighthouse" to Danny's "flashlight"? (hide spoiler)]
There is a lot to enjoy here, but for me there is an emotional depth missing that I've come to crave with King's books and the characters he creates. I wanted to live in this story, and think about it constantly, and I did neither. I enjoyed it for the adventure it was, and will have no problems recommending it, but it won't live on and linger in the mind the way so many of his other books have for me.
The one part that really shook me up? (view spoiler)[The torture killing of the baseball kid. Man, that scene is BRUTAL. King pulls no punches there, and I felt it right to my bones. Also, Danny seeing Jack at the end, and blowing him a kiss. I choked up at that even though I knew I was being manipulated. Damn you King!! Well played. (hide spoiler)]
As long as I can shoot with my mind and kill with my heart, my will is my own.
Oh sweet, crackling Moses, but this series is really heating
As long as I can shoot with my mind and kill with my heart, my will is my own.
Oh sweet, crackling Moses, but this series is really heating up. The only thing keeping me from showering five juicy stars all over this thing, is that I'm leaving some room for further advancement into the realm of EPIC AWESOME. Because this is where we're headed, if you kennit. The best is yet to come, and I don't have to be a demonic, succubus oracle to ordain that, hear me well.
The story arc of Marvel's ambitious (and glorious) Dark Tower adaptation has finally reached the sweet spot for me -- long, tall and ugly Roland, lethal and obsessed and (let's face it, truly fucked up) Roland, hot on the trail of the man in black, in search of the Tower that haunts his dreams. The Battle of Tull is behind him -- yet another massacre to add to the rising count -- and Roland is traveling across the endless desert with his taunting quarry always just out of reach, always just a few steps ahead of him.
Then Roland stumbles into The Way Station and collapses from heat stroke and is revived by a young boy offering him water (and who thankfully resists the urge to dispatch Roland with his pitch fork). The young boy is John Chambers, but he informs Roland that his friends call him Jake. Jake!!! Oh Jake, how I've missed you! And this is where his story begins, but if you've been on this journey before, you know this isn't where or how it ends. Not even close.
I can't tell you how much joy I got from watching these initial intimate moments shared between gunslinger and boy unfold ostensibly for the first time. The devastation and betrayal that you know is waiting for each of them just makes these early interactions that much more precious and bittersweet. I especially giggled at one early morning conversation they share when Jake wakes up to find Roland has tethered him with rope in the night.
"Why'd you tie me up? I wasn't going to run away. Or is this some kind of gunslinger kinky thing that I'm probably not old enough to know about?"
"We don't have time to palaver...Do you see this?...Take the bone and keep it close."
"Sooo first I'm tied up, and now I'm holding your magic bone. This morning could not be more disturbing."
Jake is so innocent here, so trusting, yet to be betrayed, yet to kill. You just want to wrap him up in your arms and hug the shit out of him. (view spoiler)[The scene where Roland hypnotizes him and gets Jake to recount his gruesome death in 1977 New York is effectively done. I felt his pain and terror. Bad memories, and one I did not enjoy remembering. (hide spoiler)]
This is a most welcome addition to the Marvel series, and I can't wait to read more. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
After my painful disappointment over Wind Through the Keyhole, I hoped this installment of Marvel's Dark Tower adaptation would act as a balm on my Da After my painful disappointment over Wind Through the Keyhole, I hoped this installment of Marvel's Dark Tower adaptation would act as a balm on my Dark Tower-less existence. Up until now, this graphic novel series has largely been the account of Roland's young life and his formative years to become a gunslinger. Much of the source material is drawn from King's Book 4 Wizard and Glass; the first five graphic novel volumes are mostly concerned with Roland's original ka-tet of Cuthbert and Alain and climax with the tragic and bloody (is there any other kind?) Battle of Jericho Hill. I stopped after Volume 2: The Long Road Home for reasons I tried to express here.
Unable to resist giving the series another try, I picked up Volume 6: The Journey Begins and I am so glad that I did. It is -- in a word -- awesome. For me, older Roland is where it's at anyway, where he has been forged like iron into something ruthless, battle weary, and obsessed concerned with all things Dark Tower (and man in black). Getting here -- finally! -- to this point in the story, is like that cool, sweet drink of water after crossing the desert.
Dark Tower fans will know the name Tull. It's the first time we meet Roland in the original Gunslinger book that launched an epic seven book magnum opus. It is in the sleepy, mutated, desert town of Tull that we learn of Roland's deadly reflexes and lethal skill with his sacred Sandalwood "widowmakers". We get a glimpse of the darkness and despair he carries around inside of him (and that to try and befriend him will most likely shorten your life by a fair span). At this point in the story, Roland has been friendless for quite some time, and his edges have grown sharp and jagged. This Roland -- god how I love him -- this is the Roland we get in Volume 8: The Battle of Tull.
If you are a Dark Tower fan, this is a must-read re-telling of a seminal event in the life of the Last Gunslinger from Gilead. If you are curious about King's series but are not quite ready to pick up the novels yet, this is a great place to start to get a feel for the setting and language of the Dark Tower universe (without risking any major spoilers for the books). ...more
The Tower trembles; the worlds shudder in their courses. The rose feels a chill, as of winter.
I love this quote and I love this story! Not only is i The Tower trembles; the worlds shudder in their courses. The rose feels a chill, as of winter.
I love this quote and I love this story! Not only is it a giant HEAP of fun, it's filled to the brim with Dark Tower references right down to an appearance by the low men in yellow coats - yes! more please!
The premise is pure King, and would have made an AWESOME Twilight Zone episode. I can just hear Rod Serling now:
Wesley Smith is a professor of literature and his mistress is the book. An unlikely impulse to purchase an electronic reader opens a window through which can be viewed infinite versions of time and space. If knowledge is power, then Wesley has just become the most powerful man in our universe. He has also just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.
Whether you're a fan of the Dark Tower novels or not, this is vintage King. ...more
Avoid reading plot summary here on goodreads if possible. Too spoilery!! The less you know what to expect, so much the better.
Many readers have been uAvoid reading plot summary here on goodreads if possible. Too spoilery!! The less you know what to expect, so much the better.
Many readers have been underwhelmed by this one: too short to be a novella, too long to be considered a short story, King fans have been left feeling he'd written a tepid, and ultimately forgettable, little piece. The reception has been split though, because many other fans enjoyed it immensely. I am lucky enough to fall into the latter category. This story really gripped me and I won't be forgetting it any time soon. I could be wrong of course, but I don't think so.
Certainly, before even picking it up I was predisposed to love it. It's King after all, and it's been a while since I've been able to indulge in my addiction. You could also say this story acted as one of the prime motivators for me to finally get myself an eReader, seeing as how I wouldn't get to read it otherwise. I'm sure it will be released in print at some point, but I didn't want to wait! And I am loving my touch Kobo. It is the bomb :)
Because a car features prominently in the story, comparisons have been made to Christine and even From a Buick 8. I wasn't really reminded of either of these though. If it felt familiar it was because it got me thinking about (view spoiler)[King's short story “The Raft” (from Skeleton Crew). I just absolutely love that story, it creeped me out and I never forgot it, not only because it’s just so simple and effective, but because I find myself re-reading it every few years. Like the mysterious oil slick in that story, the car in Mile 81 just appears out of nowhere to “feed” as it were, and then move on. Where it comes from, how or why it got there, doesn’t matter so much as the potential victims and their imminent survival or violent death. (hide spoiler)]
The story instantly engrossed me as did the cast of characters who all find themselves arriving, for one reason or another, at the deserted Mile 81 rest stop. King makes it look all so easy – the abandoned building is the perfect setting for a malevolent force to set its web and draw in all the victims it can. Almost immediately, we know there is something sinister afoot (it is King after all), but it isn’t immediately obvious from what direction the threat is going to come from. It’s hard to steel yourself when you don’t have that vital piece of information. The subsequent dread this creates is palpable. Then, when you finally know where the danger is coming from, the dread doesn’t cease, but escalates exponentially; by this time we have characters to care about and it becomes that desperate feeling of “watch out! Oh no! Don’t do that!”
Do I think this is the best thing King has written? Of course not. But I do think it’s memorable. It was also a whole BAG of fun. It tickled my heebie-jeebies bone and left me wanting more. Whenever I’ve been away from King for a while and I finally get to read something new, it is the best feeling in the world (like slipping into my beat up old Levis or that ancient pink sweater with holes I can’t seem to throw out even though my boyfriend has threatened to burn it). It’s comfort. It’s coming home. It’s sitting down with an old friend. I felt all of those things reading this little gem, and I hope if you do pick it up, you’ll feel some of that too.
October Country 2011 #6 ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I am judging this collection of short stories with an especially critical eye for several reasons:
1) it promises to deliver some of the best originalI am judging this collection of short stories with an especially critical eye for several reasons:
1) it promises to deliver some of the best original horror stories by authors at the pinnacle of their craft (including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Edward Lee and William Peter Blatty)
2) it received the 1999 Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology
and 3) despite my commitment to finish this 700+ page anthology (and neglecting many other books while I persevered), it still took me too long to finish - almost 2 weeks! That tells me at no time was I ever so engrossed the pages turned themselves.
Finally, upon finishing, I'm hard pressed to remember salient details from any of the stories. The majority feel blurry. Not one punched me in the solar plexus and left me thinking about it for days. Even Stephen King's contribution, "The Road Virus Heads North" isn't one of my favorites by him (and one I had read before anyway when it was republished in King's anthology Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales).
I am particularly disappointed with the contributions from Neil Gaiman and William Peter Blatty. Gaiman's story is dark and crude, rough and profane, nothing about it even "felt" like Gaiman. Blatty offers up a very underwhelming haunted house story that borrows too heavily from other sources like Richard Matheson and Shirley Jackson. Blatty not only closes the anthology, his story is more the length of a novella. The extra pages don’t help in my opinion. It is an easily forgettable tale with a “surprise” ending that should come as no surprise because we’ve seen it too many times before.
Stories that did manage to stand out though include:
“The Owl and the Pussycat” by Thomas M. Disch: this one has a nice creepy feel and once you finally understand what’s happening, the “a-ha” moment is very rewarding. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and for that alone it gets high marks. A diamond in the rough indeed.
“Catfish Gal Blues” by Nancy A. Collins This one features a freeloading, womanizing pretty boy guitar player with a streak of greed that leads him down the path to a final comeuppance. There is a bluesy, southern feel to it all that I liked very much.
“The Entertainment” by Ramsey Campbell I haven’t read a lot by Campbell but plan on rectifying that as soon as possible. I’m not sure exactly what the hell is happening in the freakish hotel the main character finds himself stranded in one rainy night (I’m not sure I want to know). It’s bad news, I know that, and I was thoroughly creeped out the whole time and just wanted him to get the hell out of there post-haste. Parts of this story actually reminded me somewhat of how I felt reading The Pilo Family Circus. There is no humor in Campbell’s story though; it is all very deadly serious.
“ICU” by Edward Lee I don’t know if I should be surprised or not that my favorite story of the entire collection is this little diddy by gore master Edward Lee. My only exposure to Lee has been his notorious novel The Bighead (which I just couldn’t stomach and failed to finish). Here, he offers up his devilish version of a “just desserts” story. The ending isn’t completely original, I just love how Lee delivers it in his own demented style. For a guy who usually cannot hold back on the gruesome details, he is nicely subtle here allowing the reader to imagine the worst.
“Angie” by Ed Gorman I really liked this one too. It’s a simple story effectively rendered, a real snapshot of regular people and the choices made when driven by pure selfishness. There is no comeuppance here, no just desserts, which is likely much more a reflection of reality. I think we would be shocked to learn just what ordinary people would be capable of doing (and doing so without suffering any guilt). I think more sociopaths walk among us than we would like to think about or admit.
I expected to LOVE this collection, and while I mightily enjoyed a handful of the stories, others left me feeling cold, confused or just plain ol' mehI expected to LOVE this collection, and while I mightily enjoyed a handful of the stories, others left me feeling cold, confused or just plain ol' meh-disappointed.
Most of that meh is not Matheson's fault - I fully recognize him as a master of his craft. Stephen King (my favorite author) admits Matheson is the writer who has influenced him most (and the more I read of Matheson's work the more I believe that). The meh is my fault; short stories are not usually my bag and it takes a lot for one to really grip and engross me.
Several did inspire pure love however (blinding, passionate, irrational love). I consider these to be absolute must reads for anyone. The following are some of the best crafted short pieces of fiction you will find anywhere. Not to mention creepy as all hell!!!
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: I loved this as a Twilight Zone episode, but as a short story it totally kicks ass and takes names. The set-up is so simple but the terror of it draws you in and does not let go. I have a pretty sick fear of flying – flying at night is even worse. I WILL NOT, CANNOT look out the plane window at the darkness while I’m mid-air. I just cannot physically make myself do it. This is a primordial fear buried deep in the lizard part of my brain. It’s almost a psychosis (!) and it’s all thanks to Mr. Matheson. I mean, for real, what if you did look out there and there was some goddamn “thing” looking right back at you? ::shiver::
Dress of White Silk: Maladjusted, “weird” children just petrify me. I don’t want to help them come out of their shell, I don’t want to make friends with them, I don’t care if they are misunderstood I just want to run screaming in the opposite direction. The little gal in this gem of a story is weird personified. She is obsessed with her dead mother’s things, especially that white dress made of silk. The ending here blew my doors off. I was like “whoah”, did I just read that? Moses on a crutch. Best last line ever.
Through Channels: There is so much creeping malevolence packed into this tightly wound very short story I can scarcely believe it. It is THICK with atmosphere and dread. Set in that cramped interview room, the story chokes you with its claustrophobic feel. And that ending!!! Oh how I love that ending!
The Children of Noah: The feel of this one reminded me of Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” (and not just because it has children in the title!). That sucker punch ending, POW! right to the solar plexus, also reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. This story is not as good as either of these, but it is still pretty freakin’ awesome.
The Distributor: Delectably evil. Reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s Needful Things. The havoc that can be wrought with just a few well-placed acts of sinister mischief!