The blurb on the back cover refers of course to Carrie's latent telekinetic abilities but it's clear to all that Car...more"Carrie White is no ordinary girl"
The blurb on the back cover refers of course to Carrie's latent telekinetic abilities but it's clear to all that Carrie does not fit in even before her powers become apparent. The basic plot of Carrie stems from perceived notions of normalcy and social acceptance in King's home state of Maine (the character of Carrie is partly a composite of two girls King knew from his childhood), one of the most White Anglo-Saxon Protestant states in the USA and politically a middle of the road swing state (though in the last five Presidential elections it has voted Democrat it was held by the Republicans throughout the 1970s). In contrast Carrie White's mother is a hard-line fundamentalist Christian who warns one of the teachers at Carrie’s school that the Lord is "reserving a special burning seat in Hell for her" for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to the children, and tries to dissuade Carrie from attending Christian Church Camp for what she sees as the "Sin and Backsliding" of the Methodists, Baptists and Congregationalists in attendance. It’s a great example of where the setting plays such an important role: you could not have set Carrie in Mississippi or Alabama where Margaret White's Christian fundamentalist views would not have stood out so dramatically. It’s also what makes most of King’s stories so effective – the distance between his imagination and the reality of life in Maine could not be greater. The New England region has overall the lowest violent crime and homicide rate in the United States, and Maine has the lowest crime rate in the New England region. It's probably no coincidence that the three most influential American horror writers of the last two hundred years – Edgar Allen Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King – were/are all native to New England and have set many of their stories there. The best way to induce terror is to lull your reader into a false sense of security, and there are few places you can feel safer than in the docile suburbia of Maine, New England.
Carrie was of course adapted into a 1976 feature film by director Brian De Palma starring Sissy Spacek and remains to this day one of the most successful and beloved adaptations of a King novel (as well as the first). It’s also a relatively faithful adaptation – the only major difference being the manner in which it ends – so I don’t see any real need to relate the plot here. If you’ve not seen it go rent it immediately! The book itself is not as impressive as the film but has a raw economical pace that you only usually find in the first novel of a struggling writer, with the plot stripped down to its bare bones. It’s hard to imagine King could deliver a book like this today given the level of success he has achieved since, but I found it a pleasantly satisfactory read with some effective if primitive use of colour imagery (Carrie's surname is "White", the Devil is described as "black", Carrie's prom dress is red and images of blood bookend the story), and a number of highly kinetic sequences that still read well.
Text taken from my aborted project to read 50 books set in 50 states in 50 weeks.(less)
Wilmington, the largest city in the state of Delaware, and the setting for Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel Fight Club, has a longstanding reputation as a...moreWilmington, the largest city in the state of Delaware, and the setting for Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel Fight Club, has a longstanding reputation as an attractive hub to businesses and corporations due to its efficient judicial system and pro-business finance laws, including laws protecting Delaware chartered corporations from hostile takeovers and The Financial Center Development Act of 1981 which removed the cap on interest rates that banks may legally charge customers. As a result Wilmington has become a national financial center for the credit card industry. Many major credit card issuers, including Bank of America, Chase Card Services, and Barclays Bank of Delaware are headquartered in Wilmington, as are the American operations of the United Kingdom's HSBC. All this goes some way to explaining why Chuck Palahniuk had Wilmington in mind when he wrote Fight Club, with its anti-consumer culture themes and scenes of organised "mischief" directed against large corporations. Although the book never explicitly states where it is set, there are clues peppered throughout, though much more prominently so in the 1999 David Fincher film adaptation (the narrator's business card includes the suburban Wilmington zip code 19808 and the Delaware area code 302, his apartment building Pierson Towers has as its motto "A Place to Be Somebody" - the city motto for Wilmington, Delaware state flags, Delaware license plates, and the other cities mentioned as starting up new fight clubs include New Castle, Delaware City, and Penns Grove, NJ, which are all very close to Wilmington).
00:27:48 "We also had the Delaware state flag in the backgrounds, so the property department kept bringing the Delaware state flag and we would put it on the flagpole. In this scene, you don’t see it, because the camera never tilts up high enough to see it; but of course, all the Fox representatives were down there on the set looking, watching the monitors, making sure you couldn’t see the Delaware state flag because then you’d have to go and re-clear everybody’s names. “There might be a Lou’s Tavern in Wilmington, Delaware!”" David Fincher's DVD commentary
I enjoyed Fight Club as a fast-paced, blackly-comic entertaining read. The film, which I have seen on numerous ocassions, is incredibly faithful to the source material (whole sections of dialogue are lifted from the page), albeit more streamlined and linear, and at times the book even reads like a treatment for the film, with its concise prose effectively satirising the bite-size slogans of large corporations. Despite all this though I don't feel the book is as significant as the film which, released in 1999, came at a point when independent cinema in American had grown stagnant with lazy Tarantino imitations and helped, along with a number of other independent films released the same year (most notably Being John Malkovich), breathe new life into American cinema. Although the film was not a success on its original cinema run (due to a studio who didn't know how to market it), its reputation on DVD grew to the cult classic it now stands as. Chuck Palahniuk is a thoughtful and witty writer but it is debatable whether he would have achieved the subsequent success he has were it not for the boost the film gave him (all susequent attempts to adapt his work for the screen have stalled at the development stage, with the exception of the box office failure Choke).
Text taken from my aborted project to read 50 books set in 50 states in 50 weeks.(less)
Once you get past the opening slightly stodgy “science bit” where Wells’ protagonist describes the workings of the machine (you have to remember that...moreOnce you get past the opening slightly stodgy “science bit” where Wells’ protagonist describes the workings of the machine (you have to remember that time travel would have been a new concept to many people reading the novella for the first time in 1895) this remains an exciting work of fiction, and one whose ideas still stand up today alongside more respected works of dystopia such as Brave New World – chiefly the concepts of devolution and of humans splitting into two separate species. As an allegory of the growing divide between the rich and poor classes it’s still prescient today.(less)
Possibly my favourite Wells. Although it hasn’t had the far-reaching cultural influence of some of his other more well-known works you can’t beat this...morePossibly my favourite Wells. Although it hasn’t had the far-reaching cultural influence of some of his other more well-known works you can’t beat this for sheer terror (the screams in the night of Moreau’s gruesome vivisection subjects particularly spring to mind). Its premise of a lone castaway on an island of freaks run by a mad scientist was a clear influence on the plot of the recent computer game Bioshock.(less)
With one of the most well known twists in fiction, it's easy to forget on reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that it was written as a...moreWith one of the most well known twists in fiction, it's easy to forget on reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that it was written as a mystery novel. As with the creation of Frankenstein's monster the transformation Dr. Jekyll undergoes to become Mr. Hyde is not described as it happens and and the connection is not revealed to the reader until the final act. Nowadays "Jekyll and Hyde" has become a common expression associated with split-personality disorder and so the wait for the big reveal may try some readers patience expecting something closer to the many film versions. Still, it's very short and has some entertaining ideas about the evil that manifests in us all. Plus it's interesting to read how different Stevenson's Mr Hyde was from what we now all imagine (a psychotic dwarf rather than a hairy beast).(less)
100 years on Edgar Rice Burroughs' rather silly if highly influential planetary romance – the first in the genre – is still an entertaining romp. Almo...more100 years on Edgar Rice Burroughs' rather silly if highly influential planetary romance – the first in the genre – is still an entertaining romp. Almost every idea within the book has been recycled in the last century by Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Star Wars and many others, but it still holds up relatively well due to Burroughs' enthusiastic prose. It’s unlikely to inspire anyone today in the same way it did Arthur C. Clarke or George Lucas, but it’s still interesting to go back and see where it all began for much modern science-fiction.(less)
It may not be on the same level of literary greatness as it's classic-horror stable-mate Frankenstein, but it's still worth reading to appreciate the...moreIt may not be on the same level of literary greatness as it's classic-horror stable-mate Frankenstein, but it's still worth reading to appreciate the sheer size of the shadow it casts over 20th century horror. It also remains one of the most effective uses of the epistolary style of fiction in literature, especially in the unnerving opening chapters.(less)
“She” is, surprisingly, one of the best-selling books of all-time. Surprising only in that so few people nowadays have actually heard of it. Does this...more“She” is, surprisingly, one of the best-selling books of all-time. Surprising only in that so few people nowadays have actually heard of it. Does this make Haggard the Dan Brown of his time, turning out hugely popular dross now consigned to the bargain basement of classic literature? Well, not exactly. Could it be down to its dated, imperialistic, ‘Dark Continent’ depiction of Africa? Perhaps. Personally I think it’s just that title: “She” – it’s so non-evocative and nondescript it’s no wonder no-one can remember what it’s about. It could also be because for an adventure novel it’s simply just not as much fun as King Solomon’s Mines. The story stretches credulity and the threat of a 2000-year old sorceress plotting to usurp the throne from the Queen of England is more likely to produce laughs than gasps in these times. Still, if you’re a guy who’s just been dumped and you’re looking for a good women-are-evil book you could do a lot worse.(less)
Excellent collection of short stories set on a colonised Mars. I particularly enjoyed "The Silent Towns", about the last man alive on Mars who, as you...moreExcellent collection of short stories set on a colonised Mars. I particularly enjoyed "The Silent Towns", about the last man alive on Mars who, as you'd expect, is missing female company, and when he's contacted by the last woman alive on Mars he sets out on a mission to find her. The punchline when they meet is brilliant and will resonate with anyone who's ever been on a bad blind date.(less)
One of my all-time favourites. A huge influence on the modern post-apocalyptic genre. Its opening has been re-used by both 28 Days Later and The Walki...moreOne of my all-time favourites. A huge influence on the modern post-apocalyptic genre. Its opening has been re-used by both 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead, and its theme of the hunt for a lost lover in a ruined world was the main arc of Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man. What won me over was its stoic English sense of optimism - as opposed to the all-hope-is-lost defeatism that is often found within the genre.(less)
Ignore the Will Smith film, which bizarrely alters the second half of the book to the extent that the title "I am Legend" no longer has any meaning. R...moreIgnore the Will Smith film, which bizarrely alters the second half of the book to the extent that the title "I am Legend" no longer has any meaning. Read it if you're in the mood for something bleak, and prepare yourself for a draining final act.(less)