Stephen King's newest book isn't exactly a Stephen King book. It's more like James Patterson. Detective Hodges is a retire police officer and with the...moreStephen King's newest book isn't exactly a Stephen King book. It's more like James Patterson. Detective Hodges is a retire police officer and with the help of his plucky assistants Holly and Jerome. Holly seems to have a number of mental issues. Jerome is a teenaged African American. This seems to be his central feature in King's mind because Jerome often breaks into talking like a southern slave. Why? No one knows. Maybe King thought this was funny. It isn't. Maybe King thought this is how teenaged African American boys talk to their white elders. It isn't.
Anyway, the trio are on the case of the Mercedes Killer. The Mercedes Killer is a man who stole a Mercedes and then ran over and killed a number of people waiting in line for a job fair. Why anyone would want to kill people like this I don't know. If you were a diabolical killer wouldn't you find a better way to murder people than this? It seems to place an unnecessary amount of risk on the perpetrator.
The Mercedes Killer himself (Brady) reminded me of someone out of a Disney cartoon. Maybe a bit darker, but cut from the same cloth. Brady is 20-something and lives with his mother (of course). His mother is an alcoholic (of course). Brady does bad things in his basement where he has half a dozen laptops set up that only turn on when he gives a voice command. He also has naughty pictures of his mother on his computers and wants to have intercourse with her. I'm not sure why this was necessary. It seems too stupid to even be in this book. There is a long history of villains having odd sexual preferences in fiction. Mostly it was gay villains like the ones that frequented the movies of Alfred Hitchcock (see: Strangers on a Train or Psycho). I don't condone incest but I think it's juvenile to inject it into novels to make the villain more unlikeable. If you want to make villains unlikeable then concentrate on their character instead of their sexual preferences. It's not like King is bad at writing villains, he did after all write Jack Torrance and Annie Wilkes.
Mr. Mercedes feels more like genre fiction at its worst. Its the kind of book you find at the very front of your local bookstore. Purchased by millions of people, it's usually a simplistic page-turner with stock characters.
Detective Hodges (retired) is pretty dull himself. He's retired and somewhat suicidal because he plays with a gun while watching daytime TV. The Mercedes Killer writes him on an internet message board and Hodges decides he's going to solve this case. Apparently without notifying anyone in the police force. That would be silly. King tries to write around this but he fails pretty miserably.
There's a lot of tech talk in this book and most of it is quite bad. I know the author is over the age of 60 and got some help from research assistants but it still comes across as a book written by a guy over 60 who doesn't know much about technology. Someone downloads the Anarchist Cookbook from BitTorrent. BitTorrent is the protocol, not the software. Also, referencing the Anarchist Cookbook in 2014 is pretty laughable.
There's going to be a sequel to Mr. Mercedes called Finders Keepers released in 2015. Now that SOUNDS like a James Patterson novel. So is King trying to wage a turf war? Is he trying to get the mega-sales that Patterson does? I won't be reading Finders Keepers so it doesn't really matter. I may check out Revival which is going to be released in November 2014. It sounds a lot better just in description than Mr. Mercedes did.(less)
**spoiler alert** So this is Stephen King's foray into the JFK assassination. It isn't great. A man finds a portal (rabbit hole) which takes him back...more**spoiler alert** So this is Stephen King's foray into the JFK assassination. It isn't great. A man finds a portal (rabbit hole) which takes him back to 1958 but dies before he's able to do what he wants to change the past. He tells his friend, the main character Jake about the rabbit hole and tells him to save Kennedy.
The idea isn't original. There was a Quantum Leap episode which also had a person going back in time and trying to save Kennedy. At least it was more original. In the end Jackie is "saved", thus producing the history which we all know. Sam also had a wise, older man named Al to guide him. Maybe King saw the episode.
There's so much leading up to the time travel that it's ridiculous. This book is much too long. King goes through his regular habit of laying down the rules of the game for hundreds of pages before the real events take place. There's even a wise old man character who helps explain all the rules, as there was in many of King's other books (Duma Key, Pet Semtary). As usual it's gruff, blue collar man who happens to talk like someone who has a degree in English Lit and History.
The best part of the book is probably Jake's first few visits to the past. King describes a pretty rich world and its enjoyable having the character out of his element. It's all very akin to 'Back to the Future' when Marty arrives in 1955. Except this is 1958 and it's Stephen King so there's a magic black homeless man who yells at Jake that he doesn't belong here. He's the Yellow Card Man and serves little purpose in the story other than to make some obligatory references to the Dark Tower.
The bad -- and much of the book is, the romance between Jake and Sadie. This book ends up not being about time travel so much as two high school teachers falling in love. Then of course it's Stephen King so she's violently attacked by her ex-husband, slashed across the face and later gets shot by Lee Harvey Oswald when she goes with Jake to the Dallas Schoolbook Depository.
I listened to an interview with King before I read the book. He says he didn't have an outline for the story, he just writes continually and finds out where things go. This might be a good way to write for some authors but it fails miserably here. The romance is drawn out as are the rules about time travel and saving a janitor's family from being brutally killed by their father.
It's Stephen King as I said so when all else fails, a small child's head gets crushed in by a man wielding a sledgehammer. There isn't much science either, but this is Stephen King, not Isaac Asimov. There is a long section about Derry Maine, much of it connected to King's previous novel IT. It's kind of like an episode of television which has flashbacks to old episodes.
One of the parts I laughed at was where King explains away some of the coincidences happening in the book. It's just lazy writing --- the narrator muses that some of the coincidences occurring are like those out of a pulp novel. Maybe an outline would be good for his next book.
The ending is disappointing and a cop-out. After 900 pages, it's discovered that maybe saving Kennedy was a bad idea. I mean, hadn't this occurred to the narrator before he spent 5 years of his life in the past with his girlfriend? It's not even a surprising ending because the phrase "the past is obdurate" is repeated about 600 times. In the end, whoops, the past doesn't want to be changed and if you DO change it there will be crazy earthquakes and George Wallace will be President of the United States. DON'T SCREW WITH THE PAST!
I used to be a big King fan and still read his books for perhaps the same reason I read bathroom stall grafiti. Sometimes it can be amusing. Sometimes it can be utterly crass and unoriginal. (less)
Life is stranger than fiction. No really! It is. This is one man's story about pretty much every little boy's dream of living alone on a desert island...moreLife is stranger than fiction. No really! It is. This is one man's story about pretty much every little boy's dream of living alone on a desert island where he builds a shelter and hunts for fish.
Tom Neale didn't wash up on the island, he went there willingly like Thoreau did to his pond at Walden. Neale is from New Zealand but travelled the islands of the pacific for many years.
This is a great adventure book. It's stranger than fiction. The Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away" has nothing on the drama Neale faces on this island. There are hurricanes, pigs, castaways, injuries and visitors from abroad. There's really never a dull moment.
I wonder if anyone owns the movie rights to this story. It would make a great movie. Maybe it's too soon since "Cast Away" but Tom Neale really gives Tom Hanks a run for his money.
Neale was on the island during two different stays, from 1952-1956 and 1960-1964. He also came back in 1967 but this isn't detailed in the book.(less)
This was a cutting edge book at the time and it's still a very good book today. It is about a troubled young person who is at the most vulnerable point...moreThis was a cutting edge book at the time and it's still a very good book today. It is about a troubled young person who is at the most vulnerable point in their life. In this sense the book is similar to many others, notably Catcher In the Rye. In other ways, it is a shocking indictment of mental health facilities in the 1960s just as One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. I like this genre when it is done well and it is fantastic here. See also and more recently The Fuck-Up and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Plath was a great writer whose life was definitely cut short.(less)
**spoiler alert** This isn't a novel, not really anyway, it's more like a number of small vignettes. I don't think it worked. There are some best sell...more**spoiler alert** This isn't a novel, not really anyway, it's more like a number of small vignettes. I don't think it worked. There are some best selling authors who can convincingly have a big number of characters and have them eventually come together. Stephen King was able to do it The Stand. He was less successful in the dreadful "Under The Dome"
I think the book is more about what ordinary people think would happen if robots took over as opposed to a scientific example. For one thing, robots would likely launch nukes and kill almost every last human being on Earth. (See: Termninator 3, it's actually more entertaining than this book). Secondly, humanity is enslaved by robots who put them to work in camps? Excuse me? Robots are all powerful, conscious and self-replicating and they use human beings as slaves instead? This is just silly. I know the 'work camp' is trope of fiction of this sort but it didn't work for me here.
Each chapter is written like a report, which makes the book as lifeless and dull as the robots within it. I'm not sure why Wilson made the decision to write this way. My only guess is that he's an engineer so he doesn't know how to write.
I had to laugh at the back cover of the book which compares Wilson to Crichton. Most of the quotations on the back are from other authors, such as Clive Cussler who I don't particularly think is much good.
It's also a bit odd that this book was optioned for a movie before it was even published. I know that was almost the case with Crichton's "Jurassic Park", but the difference was that Jurassic Park, while mainstream, was a lot better than this book. Crichton actually knew how to write without resorting to writing like a scientist writing a factual report.
I wanted to put this book down but I also enjoy writing reviews on here so I figured I'd give Robopocalypse a fair chance. I did, and I'm disappointed. Maybe this is the next big trend, robot books instead of zombie books, but like zombie books, all the robot apocalypse books will pretty much be the same. (less)
This is an amazing book. It is almost an experiment in writing which ends up being a phenomenal piece of literature. It's almost like a creative writi...moreThis is an amazing book. It is almost an experiment in writing which ends up being a phenomenal piece of literature. It's almost like a creative writing assignment to write about a character with no nose, no mouth, no arms, no legs, no ears and no eyes.
There is one scene with a rat. I won't give too much away, but I'm not often bothered by graphic scenes in books. This scene had me squirming as it was so well written and so appropriate to the situation the character was in.
The whole book is stream of consciousness, so it's a high concept novel, but it works perfectly. There are only so many things which can be said about an immobile man in a hospital bed but Dalton Trumbo explores almost every aspect the human mind in such a situation could conceive. I particularly enjoy the horror the main character feels from being stuck in his own mind with limited sensory experience.
I would compare the book to Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic. The similarities are quite striking. It's also quite comparable to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which has an imprisoned mute character. I like high concept books like this which are very minimal in scope but vast in their themes.