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
I made the mistake of listening to this at ridiculous times of the day - around 6/7am, before sleeping, so I ended up going over a great chunk of theI made the mistake of listening to this at ridiculous times of the day - around 6/7am, before sleeping, so I ended up going over a great chunk of the middle of the story twice to pick up what my brain had tuned out. As such, I feel like I didn't really give it a fair chance, but still found it the weakest of the Different Seasons collection after "The Breathing Method". I thought the beginning was super. The layout of the main characters' crimes and trials really grabbed my interest, but it spiralled slowly down-hill from there. It was a slow, ponderous tale, about two men serving life sentences for murder. Years passed by, and King made an effort to anchor sections in time with pop culture references, but as a non-American most went over my head entirely. The end of the story seemed like a laundry list of excuses as to why parts that preceded it might not have quite added up. I half-thought that if I enjoyed "The Shawshank Redemption" I'd try The Green Mile soon, but this hasn't really enthused me towards it. 5/10....more
This book surprised me in a good way. I was a little sceptical about King's non-horror writing, and honestly, only picked out the Different Seasons coThis book surprised me in a good way. I was a little sceptical about King's non-horror writing, and honestly, only picked out the Different Seasons collection because I'd run out of short stories and figured novellas would be the next easiest to listen to. What I found was that "The Body" is up there amongst King's best writing. It's a coming-of-age tale centered on four best friends, as they hike out to look at a dead body. Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but the writing really captured what it was like to be that age, against an evocative high summer back-drop.
One element I didn't like was the inclusion of stories penned by the main character. His tale about a pie-eating contest was fine, but the preceding story about an angry young man with a dead brother and bitch step-mother was, basically, dull. The character himself described it as being painfully sophomoric and derivative, and throwing it in there whole took me out of the story and irritated me for a while. I gave this one a 5.5/10 immediately after finishing, but it's still resonating with me now, and in time I might bump it up a little. The best-written of the collection, I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in King's non-genre writing....more
"Apt Pupil" is the story of a young boy, and a former Nazi in hiding. The boy has a twisted fascination with concentration camps, and upon recognizing"Apt Pupil" is the story of a young boy, and a former Nazi in hiding. The boy has a twisted fascination with concentration camps, and upon recognizing the aged Nazi from his library research, forces him to tell him all about the horrific acts committed during World War II.
I couldn't turn this one off. It must have been 7 or even 8am before I finally paused it and went to bed - the premise had me hooked, strongly and immediately. The way it unfolds feels a little too pat - both man and boy separately begin murdering the town's winos, unbeknownst to one another, which stretched the boundaries of credibility some (granted, the central conceit isn't exactly plausible, but it did make for compelling listening.) The end seemed very abrupt, particularly for the old man, but all in all I think it was my favourite of the Different Seasons collection - though "The Body" is probably the best-written of the four. 6/10....more