I've gotten out of the habit of having more than one book on the go at once, but when I came down sick last week, all I wanted to do was curl up in beI've gotten out of the habit of having more than one book on the go at once, but when I came down sick last week, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed with something by Uncle Steve. I basically played eeny meeny miny mo with the remaining shelf full of his books that I haven't read yet, and ended up picking The Regulators because I really dig the idea of a dual novel. I've never read any of the Bachman books before, and this doesn't have me in a hurry to read another, but it fulfilled its purpose and kept me company for a couple of days while I perked back up.
The Regulators follows events on an all-American suburban street one hot summer's day, when the afternoon bliss of blue skies and mellow times comes to a jarring end with a street-wide shootout. Carnage ensues, and the survivors band together to figure out why this is happening to them and how they might escape it.
For some reason, I found the narrative voice here a little harder to bed down with than usual, and ultimately I didn't care a great deal about most of the characters, who could have been lifted right out of any number of King's other books. I did really like the way each chapter opened with a different snippet though - postcards, scripts, letters etc, and I cared a lot about the fates of little Seth and Aunt Audrey. I'll definitely read the twin novel Desperation when I find the time for it, but I won't be in a huge rush to do so....more
Bird Box is a pretty solid thriller about the end of the world. There are unknowable creatures out there. If you see them, you kill yourself. The onlyBird Box is a pretty solid thriller about the end of the world. There are unknowable creatures out there. If you see them, you kill yourself. The only way to survive is not to look, not to see. Survivors move indoors, barricade the windows, and only venture out under blindfolds. It's a fresh and interesting take on the apocalypse scenario with some genuinely scary moments.
Our main character here is Malorie, who discovers that she's pregnant just as the outbreaks begin to unfold. Half the book follows her as she moves into a house of fellow survivors, while the other half picks up with her five years down the line, as she and her children sail away down the river in search of a better life. I personally found the sections on the river a lot less interesting than the events of the past, and regularly hurried through them to get back to the action. My favourite part of this type of book is usually the world falling apart, but here it happens very quickly, while Malorie's mind and attention are on other things.
I think Malerman did a good job of capturing the fear and paranoia within the house, but I never really believed in Malorie beyond that point. Spending four years training her children to listen rather than see so rigorously that she didn't even name them - it just seemed too far-fetched. Creepy other-worldly creatures leaving suicides in their wake? Sure, no problem. A woman spending four years calling her kids Boy and Girl? Nah.
It's a good book on the whole though, and a short read at that. Definitely one to read at night with the curtains closed....more
I love Stephen King. At this point, I'll automatically buy any new book he releases without even reading a synopsis. I actually did read the blurb forI love Stephen King. At this point, I'll automatically buy any new book he releases without even reading a synopsis. I actually did read the blurb for Revival and wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it that much, and yet I was still excited to read it. Go figure. Some of his recent releases - Doctor Sleep, Mr Mercedes - haven't really hit the mark for me, but others - Joyland, 11/22/63 - have been an absolute gift. I think Revival settles somewhere between the two.
Our main characters here are Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs - the former a New England boy we follow from childhood through his teenage rock band years, into a drug addicted thirties, and on again into his sober and quietly successful fifties. The latter starts out a small town pastor with an obsession for electrical inventions, who suffers a huge personal tragedy and becomes more and more unsettling every time his life crosses paths with Jamie.
I think my favourite section of the book followed Jamie's early years. King seems to have that knack for remembering the realities of childhood, and being able to lead his readers back to that time too. When we time jump to a Jamie who's washed out and hooked on heroin, the leap is a bit too disparate, and reminiscent of being re-introduced to Danny Torrence as a burned out screw up in Doctor Sleep. The final section picked up again as everything began to come together, but by the time the final denouement came around, I had the vague impression that the whole story really existed to service this one climatic scene - like this thing could have had the same impact as a short story or novella. I'm not saying I disliked it. It was fun ride to reach that point. But I think the bulk of the story will ultimately prove forgettable - it's the ending that's the takeaway point here, and it's impressively and deeply unsettling. The book as a whole isn't King's best and isn't his worst, but that ending. Geeze....more
Important upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the onlImportant upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the only King tale I've ever rated a solitary 1 out of 5, and as such I wasn't that excited about its sequel, Doctor Sleep. That said, some of his recent works have been really, truly excellent (11/22/63, Joyland) and so of course I still had it in my hands on publication day. While it's not one of my favourites, nor do I think it will prove to be especially memorable, it was still a serviceable 500 pages that I had fun delving through.
We meet up with Dan Torrence - The Shining's five-year-old protagonist and possessor of multiple supernatural abilities - several decades down the line. Now an alcoholic and all-round waste-of-space, Dan almost immediately hits rock bottom and spends the next several hundred pages engaged in a redemption arc I was initially dubious about, but which King ultimately managed to pull off.
Any quibbles I had with the novel are largely the same I have with many of King's works - chiefly that for a while, the whole thing turned into a bit of a boys-club romp (when there's a thirteen-year-old girl with her life on the line, it's not really excusable to cut her mother out for a hundred pages at a time while her dad, family doctor, psychic-shining-friend and random-train-driver have all the fun). Abra (said thirteen-year-old) lacked authenticity to me, and scenes in which she swapped bodies with Dan were especially bizarre.
There's a fairly substantial "twist" towards the home stretch which left me somewhat underwhelmed, and while King repeatedly has Dan brush aside the coincidence of it all, it felt unfortunately contrived to me. However, all this aside it was still a fast, well-paced read with villains as heinous as their backstory was complex. I enjoyed reading it despite my dislike of The Shining, and while the climax seemed over a little too swiftly, I was overall satisfied with the way things panned out.
(My biggest gripe is mainly that the US cover is way cooler than the UK one. Unfair!)...more
Overall, I feel pretty disappointed with It. I tore through the first 900 pages, which was a welcome change of pace after struggling for months with TOverall, I feel pretty disappointed with It. I tore through the first 900 pages, which was a welcome change of pace after struggling for months with The Tommy-knockers, but the last 200 were... not good. The story focuses on Derry, Maine, and a group of seven children who band together against a dark being murdering the town's youngsters. After seemingly doing away with the monster, it returns twenty-seven years later in search of the revenge, and the children - now adults with no memory of their shared past - must come together again to defeat It for good.
The book feels disproportionally weighted in favour of telling the childrens' stories over the adults, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. As perhaps most famously demonstrated in The Body, King writes children the way few authors convincingly do - as though he still remembers how it really was to be one. (By children, read: boys. Girls - and indeed women - have never been his forte.) For the most part, these were characters I enjoyed spending time with and getting to know. I'm not sure I loved any of them, but they were solid as protagonists go. Where it fell apart for me was the ending. Plodding, repetitive, eyebrow raising for all the wrong reasons, it felt like an anti-climax and not a fitting cap on the events of the previous 900 pages. It's not one I'd tell people to avoid - so far, the only one of King's novels I've outright loathed was The Shining - but equally, there are many more I'd recommend ahead of it....more
I first read this, I think, when I was about eleven or twelve. I remember being horrified and physically sickened, and while my reaction upon re-readiI first read this, I think, when I was about eleven or twelve. I remember being horrified and physically sickened, and while my reaction upon re-reading it wasn't quite so visceral, this still makes for an incredibly bleak read. Over the course of his young life, Frank has murdered three of his family members. He spends his days building bombs and torturing animals, as his older brother Eric - recently escaped from an institution - makes his way back towards the island where Frank and his father live. To say that this book is unpleasant is an understatement. There are places where the violence verges on gratuitous, and Frank's rituals can be hard to read. I don't know how this reflects on me as a reader, but I found the most compelling chapters to be the flashback to Frank's murders. The present, and day-to-day minutiae of his obsessions were less engrossing, and made convenient points at which to set the book down. I picked this up again after so many years because Iain Banks did a local talk. He proved to be engaging, warm and good-humoured, and I look forward to reading his latest novel, Stonemouth. I'm not sure The Wasp Factory is one I'll ever return to, but it is one that made a lasting impressing on my pre-teen psyche, and one I doubt I'll ever forget. ...more
I think I would have enjoyed this more had I not taken over nine months to plough through it, and had I read more of the physical copy rather than lisI think I would have enjoyed this more had I not taken over nine months to plough through it, and had I read more of the physical copy rather than listening to the audiobook. I normally like listening to King on audio because it doesn't demand my full attention - it's easy listening that I can multi-task through, which suits me perfectly. With The Tommy-knockers however, there was a lot of description that I struggled to parse - inventions and action and the like that meant, if I let my mind wander even a fraction, I got lost.
The story at its centre had a lot of promise. Alcoholic, suicidal poet Jim Gardner delays his own demise to come to the aid of his best friend and erstwhile lover Bobbi Anderson, who has turned distinctly odd since tumbling over the lip of a long-buried ship in the woods. It's easy to tell this is early King. Here, there's little of the finesse of his later world-building novels. We spend hundreds of pages with individual characters, to the point that it's easy to tire of them before the scope flitters onto another individual, then another, then another. By the time the whole town comes together under the force of encroaching invasion from within, it's maybe halfway through the novel, and for me, the whole thing became an exercise in forcing myself to keep going and hoping it would all pay off. I'm not sure it did, not satisfactorily enough anyway, but again, I might feel differently had I actually read it and not kept half an ear on it.
I think it comes down to this: I loved Gard. I loved Bobbi. I loved Ev Hillman, David and Hilly Brown, and I loved Ruth McCausland. But the story itself? Eh... not so much....more
I really need to stop reading the plots of King's works while speculatively browsing Wikipedia, because going into Full Dark, No Stars, the only storyI really need to stop reading the plots of King's works while speculatively browsing Wikipedia, because going into Full Dark, No Stars, the only story I wasn't familiar with in advance was "1922". It was a good story - usually I find King's tales set in the past dull, too mired down in the details - but it meandered too far from the original concept, so that by the end, the tangent it wound up on just didn't sit right.
"Big Driver" was a fairly standard revenge tale, albeit with a likeable protagonist, easy to root for even as she made her rapist's family pay the ultimate price.
"Fair Extension" was rather insubstantial. I don't know if it would have worked as a longer piece, but it was a good concept executed with King's well-honed panache for misery.
"A Good Marriage" was my favourite alongside "Big Driver" (interesting to note that these are the two with female protagonists). It's the one I most wish I'd come in to ignorant, because while it was suitably creepy, I can just imagine its impact if I'd been unaware of where it was going, and am annoyed with myself for spoiling it.
I don't think there are any classics here that will stand the test of time as well as some of King's other novellas ("The Body", "Apt Pupil") have done, but he works well in this form, and it made for a satisfying read. I hope it doesn't take too many more 500-1,000 word monsters for him to return to short form....more
There are five stories here, which for the most part are too insubstantial to be genuinely scary. The artwork isn't amazing, but did successfully makeThere are five stories here, which for the most part are too insubstantial to be genuinely scary. The artwork isn't amazing, but did successfully make my skin crawl in the final outing, where an apartment is overrun with cockroaches. I believe two of the tales originated as short stories by King, which I'd like to read - I strongly suspect they fare better with additional depth - and I'll probably catch the film, too. Not one I'd really recommend, but it was an alright way to fill an hour....more
There's not much substance here, but the way King crafts characters is marvellous. All he needs is a few lines, and you feel like you've known them foThere's not much substance here, but the way King crafts characters is marvellous. All he needs is a few lines, and you feel like you've known them for chapters. I haven't read Christine or From a Buick Eight - I'm just not very interested in cars - but this car-based tale certainly improved a dull afternoon. It's King in bitesize, really, which is what I expected, what he delivered, and you can't say fairer than that....more
I knew how this one was going to end from the off, but that didn't stop it from being an enjoyable read. The poem quoted at the start, about how horroI knew how this one was going to end from the off, but that didn't stop it from being an enjoyable read. The poem quoted at the start, about how horror is what happens while other people are doing mundane things, was seeded well all the way through, but towards the end it did start to get a bit frustrating - we'd see a snatch of mother and son trapped in the car by poor rabid Cujo, then spend thirty pages following other characters through meetings, department stores and mail rounds. Bizarrely, Cujo was easily the most sympathetic character, which was not something I'd expected. The few pages King writes from his point of view are actually heartbreaking. Not an amazing story, but a fine idea, fairly well executed, and worth a read....more
I really enjoyed this whole book, save for "The Library Policemen", but I've reviewed audio copies of the first three tales separately. I picked up anI really enjoyed this whole book, save for "The Library Policemen", but I've reviewed audio copies of the first three tales separately. I picked up an old, battered copy of Four Past Midnight from a charity shop just for "The Sun Dog", which is the story for which my audio copy was broken. And it was genuinely scary! I'm not too bad with dogs - my brother is comparatively petrified of them - but the gradual progression of the dog in the Polaroids, as each shot brings it a little closer, a little more ferocious, was delightfully horrible to read in the early hours. The segment where Pop Merrill tries to sell the camera on dragged a bit - none of the potential buyers he visited held my attention much - but he was a good, memorable character, and I'm looking forward to delving into Needful Things in the near future....more
Having read On Writing a few months ago, I knew from the start how this book was going to end, which likely skewed my perspective of it. It was certaiHaving read On Writing a few months ago, I knew from the start how this book was going to end, which likely skewed my perspective of it. It was certainly an interesting idea - man wakes from coma with the power to see things about people just by touching them, or objects close to them. It was really a book of two halves though, and I don't think they tied together very well. My expectations about the ending meant that I spent most of the first half thinking something very different was going on, which left me pretty flummoxed when that plot-strand was closed off and the direction changed entirely. I wasn't wild about any of the characters, and it was probably silly of me to pick up a story the plot of which was so fresh in my mind, but as ever, King created an interesting enough premise and enjoyable enough characters that it was fun to ride along with them for a while anyway....more
On audio CD, Under the Dome takes almost 40 hours to listen to, and I'm pleased to say that they weren't wasted hours. This is King full force in worlOn audio CD, Under the Dome takes almost 40 hours to listen to, and I'm pleased to say that they weren't wasted hours. This is King full force in world-building mode - smaller scale than the epic proportions of The Stand, but fuller and richer than Jerusalem's Lot. It spans several days in an American town, after a mysterious dome cuts it off from the outside world. The characterisation is pretty thin, but nonetheless enjoyable. From the off, it's made plain that this is a book where the good guys become better, and the bad guys become despicable. There's not a lot of finesse or many shades of grey, but the good side is easy to root for, the injustices weigh heavy and the pace rarely wavers. There is a stretch in the middle where the main protagonist is locked in a cell for an interminable amount of time, but other than that I rarely felt my attention flagging. There are several strong women in this book, which was a real plus for me as I was recently dismayed by the lack-thereof in Salem's Lot. Sadly, the narrator struggled with female voices, and they all sounded either whiny, nasal, or as though they had bad head colds. Still, it's a solid story with an impressive scope, and I'd happily recommend it to King fans....more
I hated this book. And I'm saying this as a person who has spent most of this year reading, listening to, and watching adaptations of Stephen King's wI hated this book. And I'm saying this as a person who has spent most of this year reading, listening to, and watching adaptations of Stephen King's work. I really, truly, hated this book.
The whole thing was just unrelentingly dull from first to last. I know that King is an author who likes to describe every little detail of scenes, and I've grown quite fond of him using sixteen sentences where one would do. But in The Shining, it grated. Paragraph upon paragraph of mundanities left me with a constant 'so what?' feeling, itching for him to get to the good stuff - which never came.
By far the biggest problem was the pacing. One moment, Jack Torrance was a fairly regular guy, who happened to be a bit of a bastard. The next he was totally insane and baying for his family's blood. There are brief interludes where he hovers between the two, but the balance just isn't there. I know that King can do the slow descent into madness, which makes it all the more frustrating. "N." is one of the creepiest short stories I've ever read, and one of my all-time favourites of his work. There, you can really feel the insanity slowly creeping in and taking hold. Sadly, there's nothing of the sort here. Instead he throws in frequent stream of consciousness passages in which the characters think jumbled, hectic thoughts that fail to ring true, and the whole thing falls dismayingly flat. The brief glimpses of Tony, the embodiment of Danny's pre-cognition, were a little creepy, but on balance I think that had more to do with the narration than the writing.
I think that King overstretched himself with the concept. In the brilliant On Writing, he talks about how his best stories are born from the merging of two core ideas. There was potential for that here. Boy with pre-cognition has an abusive, alcoholic father? Potentially good story. Boy with pre-cognition goes to a haunted hotel? Potentially good story. Boy with pre-cognition and an abusive, alcoholic father, goes to a haunted hotel which exacerbates his father's condition and meanders slipshod back and forth between plots unsatisfactorily? That's The Shining. (For a haunted hotel tale done well by King, see the far superior "1408").
By the end, I was frustrated enough to be reduced to nitpicking. How can a hotel be powerful enough to assume corporeal form, but not fix a boiler? If it wanted Danny for his "shine", why had it never made a serious play for Hallorann? That's how grumpy the whole thing made me - I couldn't even willingly suspend disbelief any more.
Clearly, The Shining is a book beloved by millions. I came to it with every expectation of loving it too. Unfortunately, I came away totally disappointed. My least favourite King to date....more
I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Vampires aren't really my thing - I'm definitely more of a zombie girl - but I really liked the cascadingI enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Vampires aren't really my thing - I'm definitely more of a zombie girl - but I really liked the cascading way vampirism spread through the sleepy rural village of Jerusalem's Lot. The pacing was well-judged, and while the scope seemed to have overshot the mark at first, it paid off well in the end. I was worried about how King would handle such a vast cast - he essentially created an entire community here - but I think he did a much better job than in "The Langoliers", which I had similar qualms about recently. Although there were dozens of names to remember, he did well with making them distinct and memorable. It didn't always work out, but it was near enough.
My one major niggle was that it was a very male-dominated book. There were no strong female characters; (view spoiler)[the one female lead blundered recklessly into the vampire's base and got herself killed before the end of Act 2. (hide spoiler)] The supporting cast of women were ineffectual, adulteresses, child-abusers... In contrast the leading men were heroic, brave and defiant. Blah. I know this was only King's second novel after Carrie, and he's talked about his struggles with connecting with the female psyche, but I don't think trying to ignore the existence of women is the best workaround.
Still, I zoomed through this one - the audio is 17.5 hours, so I thought it'd take me a couple of weeks to get through, but it actually only took a couple of days. And it deserves some kudos for the very scary origins story of the local haunted house. I listened to that part in the middle of a bright, sunny day, and it was so effective that I was pretty much convinced everyone I walked past was about to kill me. Always fun. I really need to stop using King as my go-to for lazy, no thinking required listening, but I'm pretty sure I'll be on to The Shining by tomorrow. 6/10.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more