**spoiler alert** It took me rougly eight tries to make it through Stephen King's The Stand. At first he kept losing me after he turned his camera a**spoiler alert** It took me rougly eight tries to make it through Stephen King's The Stand. At first he kept losing me after he turned his camera away from Stu Redman. I just didn't care for Frannie, and I outright disliked Larry. Everyone said what a wonderful book it was though, so I kept trying, and Nick was okay. It was M-O-O-N, and that spells Tom Cullen, who led me through the rest of The Stand--although it took a couple of more tries, because King lost me again at a certain spoilery plot point late in the game.
It never pays to get too attached to King's characters.
So another month, another attempt to make it through, and finally--success! I had finished reading The Stand. I didn't care for the ending much at all. With King, and for me as a reader, endings are hit or miss, and he is one author where I never skip to the end to see what happens and then back track to find out why and how it happened. With King, the why and how might be the only part I want.
And with his science fiction, I might even want the why and how only once.
Is The Stand SF? Technically yes, although it's softer SF than some. When I think of King's SF, I'm more inclined to think first of The Tommyknockers and Dreamcatcher. I've not been able to make it through either of those a second time despite multiple attempts, and despite the fact that I enjoyed them just fine the first time through. Under the Dome was ok, but I doubt I'll ever try to read it again. And...the jury's still out on Cell. I actually want to read that one again (since I've forgotten most of it) but I'm afraid it will fall under the Curse of the SF Re-reads.
Which brings me the long way 'round to my actual topic, which is his latest novel, 11/23/63. I very much enjoyed it, far more than UTD, more than any of his books since Lisey's Story, which is one of my favorites. In this book, a teacher travels back in time to avert the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This premise tickled both my socks off, because my manuscript godlight originally was supposed to be about someone travelling back in time to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which was going to lead to a chain of events that put a Lincoln descendant in the White House at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
See, too often have I come up with what I thought was a fantabulous story idea only to discover (or realize) King has been there first. The Pool Where We All Go Down to Drink from Lisey's Story explains this metaphorically, but has never made me feel any better about it. I love you, but DAMN YOU, STEVE! I still haven't forgiven you for Gray Matter, of which my version was called Couch Potato...
But this time, I drank first. This makes me happy.
godlight ended up nothing at all like that original premise, no backward time travel, no changing the past, nothing of the sort. And it's win-win, because King obviously writes better than I do, and his story is miles and miles better than mine could ever have been.
Oddly, I didn't care much about the whole JFK/Oswald plot line until just as it came to a head. Until then, King kept my attention with other things, including Oswald's wife, and other characters also. Especially engrossing was the love story between the teacher and a woman from the past. When the time finally came and the teacher had to decide whether to return to his own time or not, it mattered hugely to me. (This same question failed to matter in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, sad to say.)
Are there ramifications to changing the past? How will we know if the protagonist never returns to the present?
The answer to those questions are spoilers. They are also quintessential Stephen King, and I hardly got any sleep until I found out.
So this book I give a big hooray to. Maybe even enough to forgive him for Gray Matter.
My Top Ten Stephen King Novels (subject to change and re-ordering almost daily)
The Talisman (co-written with Peter Straub) Lisey's Story It (Bev saved my life) Dolores Claiborne 11/23/63 Firestarter Rose Madder Hearts in Atlantis Insomnia Bag of Bones...more
Shawna Gallagher, the lead character in Say the Word, is a rich teenager with a car, a cell phone, a laptop. I thought: How much trouble could this girl possibly have?
As it turns out, Garsee did not let me down. Just for starters, Shawna's mother ran off and set up housekeeping with another woman years ago, leaving Shawna with her father, who is a powerful and bitter man, a surgeon, and a control freak. Apart from a lot of teasing at school, Shawna's not doing too badly though, all things considered. Then her mother unexpectedly dies, and Shawna is plunged into contact with her mother's new family, people she unexpectedly likes.
But her mother's death opens the door for her father to wreak vengeance on the woman who stole his wife away, an insult he has never gotten past. Shawna discovers a secret that winds him up still further, and soon she is caught in the middle between the people she is coming to love and the only parent she has left. And that is a serious problem no matter your bank balance. It is Shawna's attempts to find a balance she can live with that carry this novel to its bittersweet conclusion.
Garsee has a magical touch with characters that make them feel like real people you once knew, or wish you knew. She tells a story in a breathless style that makes her books very hard to set down once you've taken them up. I eagerly look forward to more from this author. Garsee has a magical touch with characters that make them feel like someone you once knew, and she tells a story in a breathless style that makes her books very hard to set down once you've taken them up. I eagerly look forward to more from this author....more
**spoiler alert** One thing about stories is, what one reader loves another hates, which makes me think no one is really qualified to judge somebody e**spoiler alert** One thing about stories is, what one reader loves another hates, which makes me think no one is really qualified to judge somebody else’s story, except to say I liked, I didn’t like (We’ll publish, we won’t publish). Still, I always want to say something about the things I read, and so I’m going to do it like so. I’ll post a list of things I liked, and a list of things I cared less for. I hope this way I’ll be able to offer my opinion without presuming to know the value of somebody else’s work.
Not that Stephen King couldn’t take it if I wanted to dish out, hee. He probably cries all the way to the bank over the bad things people say and write about him, or else just cackles madly.
Anyhow, here’s what I thought of Lisey’s Story, free of plot spoilers, but avert your eyes (scroll for the hills) now if you don’t want to see any details at all.
* Characters of mature age and who are not painted with black and white but are also made up of generous quantities of gray (though not too much). * Concept and imagery, such as the idea pool. * Masterful handling of multiple timelines; this could have been confusing, but wasn’t. * The fantasy-horror flavor combo he’s used before in things like Insomnia, Buick 8, Rose Madder. “New” King at its best, with just a hint of Talisman.
I didn’t care for:
* Heavy usage of invented language made me occasionally feel as though I was forgetting, or at least losing track of, important details. * Mental illness used as a symptom of people who are *special and different*.
My OH NO moment in this story came when I realized I had another writer-as-character to try and stomach. This character–Lisey’s deceased husband Scott–was far more interesting than most of his writer-as-character ilk, and especially better than Johnny Marinville (who makes me want to whack him in the face with a shovel every time I reread Desperation/The Regulators.)
Plus there’s this bonus: Scott’s dead.
My “verdict” - I liked this book. I’ll read it again.
An aside, regarding the idea pool. King’s mind is like one of those big firehouse power tankers. Mine is more like one of those plastic squirters that used to come with the Amazing Live Sea Monkey Jumbo package. Trying to find ideas he hasn’t already vacuumed out of the pool is like…hard’nstuff.
There were a lot of nifty turns of phrase and quickie descriptions that left me whimpering and going, “I wish I could do that!” But here’s a quote I especially loved for its message and not its inherent cleverness. In context (p. 418), Scott Landon is comparing writing a novel without plotting to following string which might up and break on you, but then:
“But sometimes–if you were lucky, if you were brave, if you persevered–it brought you to a treasure. And the treasure was never the money you got for the book; the treasure was the book.”
Anyhow, that’s all I have to say about Lisey, who I ended up liking quite much after I almost didn’t....more