I'm an unabashed fan of this book. Through and through. In fact, I'd say it's one of the best books of his that I've ever read. Yes, I'm dead serious....moreI'm an unabashed fan of this book. Through and through. In fact, I'd say it's one of the best books of his that I've ever read. Yes, I'm dead serious.
The pace is deliciously slow, building tension in waves and layers, rather than spurts and fits. The cosmic terror is enjoyably vague, yet the nature and logic of its machinations contains some truly eerie implications. And the characters? Don't even get me started...but, since I have already, they're amazing. Not one owner of a name is anything less than a real flesh-and-blood person. The red-haired girl who gives a ride to a certain main character hitching a long-distance was especially touching, and one I truly hope King returns to in another story someday.
Before, during, and after reading this book, I was well-aware of this book's rocky reputation, and yet I read it without caring...and I was simply allured by it, right up through its final, haunting images. The way I see it - if you just didn't see the genuine charm of this book...well, it's too bad you can't share the breathless conversations about it with me. :)(less)
I really should re-read this sometime. It starts off very well, with a wonderfully eerie prologue, a nice buildup, maybe a little too much time with t...moreI really should re-read this sometime. It starts off very well, with a wonderfully eerie prologue, a nice buildup, maybe a little too much time with the antagonist (and thus removing some of the suspense & surprise of discovery that we'd get with the protagonists otherwise), but then...well, it just gets kind of WEIRD, and not just in a Lovecrafty way, near the end. It may have just been me and where I was in my life at the time, but I still was very glad I read it...and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it creepy through and through!(less)
You may want to take a long, LONG shower after reading this one.
It's not necessarily all that GORY, per se...it's pretty "clean" in that regard...moreSQUICK!
You may want to take a long, LONG shower after reading this one.
It's not necessarily all that GORY, per se...it's pretty "clean" in that regard. Yet this is still one of-- Oh, who am I kidding? It's THE grossest book I've ever read (so far). It's so profoundly over-the-top, with the most disgusting scenes being described... You know the saying "don't go there," like the "there" in question is the implied other side of a line that shouldn't be crossed? Yeah, well, this book builds a SHOPPING MALL "there!"
If you've ever seen 'Return of the Jedi' and wondered just what connected "A" to "B" with Princess Leia's capture by Jabba the Hutt and her subsequent enslavement in that gold bikini...and shuddered at the thought...yeah, well, you won't be happy reading this book. Seriously. It's that bad - and that also gives you an idea of the subject matter at hand.
And yet, you may have noticed that I gave this book a four out of five-star rating; that's because..it's really well-written. It's a genuinely good book, withs ome interesting plotting and some mysterious elements that really helped elevate its neat mythos to stay in conversation amidst all the repulsion.
No folks, this is NOT a light read...but it's definitely a memorable one.
NOTE: I read this book in less than a day in mid-July of 2007, at Necon 27, when Edward Lee and Wrath James White were two of the guests of honor. I was with four friends, one of whom (Chelsea) had picked the book up and had started reading it; she liked what she read, and recommended it to the rest of us. Another friend (Cheryl) picked up a copy and started reading it, and also enjoyed it. Then on the way to the dealer's room, a very curious Jason and myself decided we wanted to get it. I remember Jason reading it as we walked, laughing, and saying "Nice!" We practically ran like kids to a toystore to get to the dealer's room - and Jason & I bought the last two copies. Later that afternoon, we were all sitting lined up beside each other, taking turns laughing as we read parts of the book, when all of a sudden, renowned horror veteran Jack Ketchum walks in, sees us all reading (the same book), and he took his sunglasses off and said, "...what the FUCK is this?" Needless to say, it became a race to finish the book in one day (I was the last), and ultimately, we ended up concluding in the mid-evening. If anything...I didn't want to have to wake up and realize I had to read more of THIS book the next day!(less)
What the actual f-- Um ...heh? Bizarre, fast-paced (I wanted it to slow down at times, but then, so would've Peter!), and full of vivid wackiness. Lov...moreWhat the actual f-- Um ...heh? Bizarre, fast-paced (I wanted it to slow down at times, but then, so would've Peter!), and full of vivid wackiness. Loved it!(less)
Another reviewer intriguingly compared this book to The Parent Trap meets Event Horizon, but really, for me it was more like Freaky Friday meets Fring...moreAnother reviewer intriguingly compared this book to The Parent Trap meets Event Horizon, but really, for me it was more like Freaky Friday meets Fringe - and if there's any weak-sounding elements in either comparison, well...the weakness is also a part of the comparison.
I wanted to like this book. A lot, even. Girl gets zapped into a parallel dimension where things are so much better for her counterpart's life, only to find that things are much worse - complete with scary nocturnal monsters? Zing! Consider me in! But unfortunately, what I ended up getting was a cool idea for a nifty story with some neat twists...and a poor delivery of it all.
The characters were likeable enough, namely the main protagonist, Josie; however, there were a number of "DUH!" occasions in which something quite obvious has occurred or been stated, and it takes far too long for her (or other characters) to realize that. And I'm not trying to sound like many a cocky reviewer who claims to have figured out the truth about Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense from the git-go - I'm talking about VERY obvious things, like how quickly Josie feels she can trust her doppelgänger, only to be shocked at her betrayal. Things like that annoyed me, but I continued reading, figuring the "good stuff" was still in the works.
The McGuffins of this tale - namely, the (respective) mirrors, lasers, formulae, and Deuterium all added up to such scientific mumbo-jumbo, with no clear layman's explanation for some of the fudged-over jargon that ultimately didn't make a lick of sense. (At least Fringe made a decent enough pass at it all with the occasional "Wait, so what are you saying?" to help the rest of us - the audience - along!) Here, it was just a mess of explanations that flew right over my head; it's like Bridget Jones trying to elbow her way into a literary conversation with a couple of bigwigs, when Salmon Rushdie turns to her and says, "What do you think?" All I could do was try to ask Josie & co. where the lavatory was...and the fact that I'd be asking that to a book is about as helpful an answer as I would probably have gotten from the characters therein.
Finally, it all added up to an unsatisfying ending. I know there can be a pseudo-tragic ingredient to a story's finale that leaves some unfulfillment while there's still a lot of satisfaction (many a Stephen King novel, for instance, has pulled this off beautifully), but this one...I was left kind of angry with how things ended, and just like the scifi aspects: there was no clear explanation for why it had to be that way. (Not to mention - SPOILER ALERT - there is not even a hint about what's to be done, if not already having been done, about the nocturnal predators that had "leaked" into our dimension. Complete and utter plot thread abandonment - not good.)
The screenwriter in me at times would cover his eye and groan, but think, "Well, perhaps if I phrased it THIS way, or did that THAT way...this could work!" You know, one of those occasions where an okay book makes for a great movie. But ultimately, the underwhelming narrative and matter-of-fact ending killed such a thought process.
This was a neat idea, but I seriously wish Ms. McNeil's editor/agent/friends could have encouraged her to give it more time and far better narrative revision. Too bad. I wanted to like this one...but ultimately? Not recommended. At least not for the suffix of its "Young Adult"-targeted audience.
P.S. For almost the exact same idea, with none of the mumbo jumbo, all of the suspense, and even a satisfyingly eerie ending...check out R.L. Stine's Goosebumps novel, Let's Get Invisible! That was a book that I had firmly in mind the whole time I read this, and it delivered on a very similar premise but with flying colors.(less)
First off, there is virtually NOTHING in this story that isn't a part of the full 'Patient Zero' novel. In the novel, the events here are depicted in...moreFirst off, there is virtually NOTHING in this story that isn't a part of the full 'Patient Zero' novel. In the novel, the events here are depicted in a flashback, so perhaps this is a little more fleshed-out. So, I'll admit: reading an action-packed short story was kind of fun.
Secondly, there is NOTHING in this story that has ANYTHING to do with Pine Deep! I know that one of the other novels/stories featuring Joe Ledger having something to do with that town (where Maberry's trilogy of 'Ghost Road Blues,' etc. takes place), but this one ain't such.
Finally, don't be fooled by the page count; the actual story is less than half of what Kindle presents. (Oh, eBooks...you have no love from me.)
How exactly does one write a review about the last book in a trilogy as a stand-alone article, without spoiling anything of the two preceding books? W...moreHow exactly does one write a review about the last book in a trilogy as a stand-alone article, without spoiling anything of the two preceding books? Well, perhaps it can go something like this: if you haven’t yet read Blake Crouch’s novel Pines and its sequel Wayward, then you have no business reading The Last Town. Go read them, then get back to this review...
At first I wrote this as a response to the review of someone whom greatly disliked this book; however, as you'll soon see, I came to have a lot to say...moreAt first I wrote this as a response to the review of someone whom greatly disliked this book; however, as you'll soon see, I came to have a lot to say - enough for my official review!
You all know enough about the book, between the synopsis and other reviews, as it is; as such, I'll jump right i to the heart of what triggered my thoughts.
I loved it, personally.
A lot of people disliked Briar Wilkes's som, whose rebellion and subsequent sojurn into the city of death is the triggering event of the verall plot. Her son is a teenager, after all - that tedious age in which one knows that they have no longer the forgiveness, ease, and innocent misunderstandings of childhood, yet they are still so very far from the knowledge and security of adulthood - and with the whole world around them and all its mysteries and dangers waiting, it feels like taking control of one's fate is the only way to successfully seize maturity. Of course he seems self-absorbed and rebellious! He doesn't know what else to do but to prove his way into being taken seriously as an independent adult.
And as for the overall narrative, a lot of people find it too slow for their liking, sometimes calling it "tedious." To such New York Times critic wannabes, I have this to say: Cherie Priest very deliberately paced it exactly as she, its composer and its conductor, knew it had to be. If she had wanted it to be a rollicking, cracking steam-filled shootup and zombiefest, she would have written it that way; but this is what she set out to write, and this is what we have. I for one am a fan of such pacing and rich, honest, logical characterization - and as such, I was greatly taken with the results.
Finally, if "that infernal son" is really such a bother to you, well--don't we all run into people we dislike all the time? They all have/had mothers and fathers, and they all have their faults and their choices in life which lead to them. Just like the jerk on the street, if reading about her son is such a bother, keep in mind...he will pass, and you will move on.
Hot damn. What a harrowing, suspenseful, and wickedly bleak read.
This will be a vague review, because honestly, I enjoyed the hell out of having a few...moreHot damn. What a harrowing, suspenseful, and wickedly bleak read.
This will be a vague review, because honestly, I enjoyed the hell out of having a few surprises getting thrown my way even with the major details that I already, unfortunately, knew. So if you want to know more about this book, other reviews, as well as the book's reputation, can fill in what details I'll politely choose to skip.
Over my years of reading Stephen King, I've come to the conclusion that he doesn't always write horror. While I know how obvious that sounds, I think I should clarify: he writes not necessarily about supernatural (or other) forces causing havoc and terror in people's lives, but rather, he writes about people going about their ordinary, ordered lives - and then the *interruptions* that they get by unforeseen circumstances. Even in such non-definitively-horror works as the debut of this novel's Castle Rock setting, 'The Dead Zone,' this is exemplified; King writes about interruptions by extraordinary situations.
So yes, this is quite an extraordinary situation here, and incidentally, it does get quite suspenseful horrifying; but what chilled me most was not the grisly turns of events, but rather, the fact that they happen in the midst - even, I may say, in SPITE of - some rather uncanny aspects at work in the fringes of the setting. Namely, a certain closet - I kept having to lower the book, eyes wide, and nervously think to myself (sometimes aloud), "...Steve? Um...I thought this book was about a rabid dog - what the hell is going on HERE?" Using the horrors of small-town reputation and boogeyman lore echoing from the aforementioned 'Dead Zone' was a brilliant choice of boogeyman fodder for this, and it only served to make this book even more chilling, with its more active plot elements being even somewhat distracting for me at times.
As much as I got a kick out of reading this book, you may have noticed that I didn't give it five stars; this is mostly due to two factors: the pace of the book, and the empathy (and lack thereof) for the main characters.
I had trouble keeping up with the book's pace; like some of his other works (namely 'Dolores Clairborne'), this book is a mostly "solid" narrative, with no chapter breaks or parts 1, 2, 3, etc. While this was probably intended to help drive the suspense aspects of the narrative, it sometimes distracted me with how long it felt like I would have to keep reading a single part of the story (namely the advertising agency that one of the main protagonists works for - see below for more on this). Furthermore, only paragraph breaks indicate where the narrative is shifting from one character or setting to another, and sometimes (this is far more of a technical fault than King's storytelling) I would jump from one setting to the next and not realize it; a few " * * * 's" along the top or bottom of pages that ended simultaneously with the setting at hand, every now and then, would have gone a long way.
The other setback that I had with this book was the fact that I didn't particularly love any of the protagonists, despite how easily it was to get caught up in their empathetic situations. Character qualities such as career details (the aforementioned advertising agency - the outcome of which I didn't particularly care about, especially with the other events occurring), certain rather selfish decisions and actions...things like these gave me trouble with fully sympathizing with them, even if I cared about what was happening TO them. But then, do all people have to be perfect in fiction? Certainly not; in fact, it makes it far easier to identify with someone who's made at least one bad decision, if not many, than to have every protagonist walk around with halos above their heads.
That said, some of the more gruesome or unpleasant characters may have gotten theirs, although in one case, their fate was not nearly enough for my tastes. But then, this is Stephen King, so what do you expect? Life never works out exactly as one plans it to, although sometimes it'll swing in the same direction as one's hopes; and sometimes...something will happen, something so extraordinary, that no matter how much in one's favor life may seem to be, that one may find themselves in a true Stephen King interruption.(less)
Some of the more surreal moments, as well as the occasional switches in narratives, made this book a little hard to follow at times, but there IS a re...moreSome of the more surreal moments, as well as the occasional switches in narratives, made this book a little hard to follow at times, but there IS a reason I gave this book five stars: it was terrific. It's not the all-out horror fest that the cover (of the 1980's paperback) promised, but there were some truly gruesome scenes towards the climax, as well as a general tone of mounting tension throughout.
Tom Flanagan is a very memorably three-dimensional young protagonist, and all the conflicts of childhood innocence and naivete being challenged by oncoming adulthood (and in this case, some more unusual challenges!) make him all the more believable.
The twisting narratives, like multiple concentric circles (overlapping each other at times!) are also highly engrossing, and never boring (not even the miniature "stories" - which have everything to do with the plot, and cannot be skipped!). The only thing that I fear may turn a lot of readers off is the slow buildup of the first 140 pages or so, describing the boys in school: I cannot begin to tell you how important it all is to the story later on - it's not just filler!
'Shadowland' was an enchanting read, and all the more welcome for its subject matter in the wake of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Seriously - read it, and enjoy it thoroughly.(less)
"At Least Most of the Way, This Is One Hell of an Awesome Read."
I need to re-read it before I consider the following to be my final opinion, but, when...more"At Least Most of the Way, This Is One Hell of an Awesome Read."
I need to re-read it before I consider the following to be my final opinion, but, when I read it the first time, I thought it was a wild, extremely creepy and hugely atmospheric novel...with a sudden, weird, and just plain silly punchline.
The final reveal was treated as such within the story by the characters, but there's just something a little too silly about...well, once I finally read about what the actual behind-the-scenes schtick was, I flinched and shook my head and said aloud, "Are you kidding? Oh come ON..." It wasn't exactly a Scooby Doo ending (no it's-Mister-Hollis-from-down-the-street-and-he-would've-gotten-away-with-it-too-if-it-hadn't-been-for-those-meddling-kids kind of twist, in other words), but when extremely creepy and occasional violence is on the buildup, a flimsy motivating quality really does unhinge the rest of the charm of all that buildup.
But again: THIS WAS ONLY FROM THE FIRST TIME I READ IT. Maybe I'll think differently once I re-read it sometime; this book was mostly fantastic, and well worth the time spent for at least the first three fourths or so - and so I know that when I read it again, at least most of the way, this is one hell of an awesome read.(less)
I approach most multiple-author anthologies skeptically, because more often than not, they turn out to be a mixed bag. This doesn’t necessarily mean t...moreI approach most multiple-author anthologies skeptically, because more often than not, they turn out to be a mixed bag. This doesn’t necessarily mean they turn out to be bags full of crap—only that some of the stories may be good (or even great), and others—not so much. Co-edited by anthology wizard Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele (who conceived of this anthology), The Children of Old Leech is unfortunately no exception to the mixed-bag phenomenon, but it’s an unusual one in that all of its stories are set in (or are otherwise inspired by) the terrifying worlds penned by the author Laird Barron.
Sure, it's not this-that-or-the-other in Mr. Miéville's bibliography - it's exactly where he needed to be at that point in his career, and it worked,...moreSure, it's not this-that-or-the-other in Mr. Miéville's bibliography - it's exactly where he needed to be at that point in his career, and it worked, and it worked WELL. This is a great, mysterious, eerie, fascinating novel, and a bit of a counterpart to the ideas explored in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. (Not comparing them, mind you - I'm just noting their similar themes.)(less)