Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King

04
Jun
18

This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around. CBR10 Review 23.

UnknownI am ashamed to admit, that although I have read pretty much every single word ever published by Stephen King, and most of Joe Hill, and even some of Owen King, I had honestly never even considered reading Tabitha King.

It wasn’t until PattyKates wrote a review of One on One back in 2015 that I ever really even thought about reading Tabitha King. That review convinced me to order a used paperback copy, which then sat on my TBR shelf until last weekend. I needed something to read at the pool, so I grabbed it. I had no idea what it was about.

I settled in to my chaise and opened it up.

Cut to: six hours later. I haven’t put the book down yet.

Long story short, my apologies to Tabitha King. The woman can write. Like her husband, she excels in portraying small-town life (yes, its in Maine) and its particular inhabitants. She understands what goes on in kitchens and coffee shops and high school hallways. She really gets how people actually talk to each other, which is a skill that many writers can’t grasp.

This is a story about a basketball team at a tiny high school in rural western Maine. The boys are the reigning State champs, and they have star Sam Styles leading them. The girls are good, but not quite as good as they could be. Their star is Deanie Gaultier, aka The Mutant. Deanie has a shaved head, piercings all over her face, and tattoos. And she plays basketball like a woman possessed.

Deanie and Sam butt heads a bunch of times, and eventually fall in love. (NOT A SPOILER, its right on the cover of the book!). But the path to their happy ending isn’t a clear one — there are tons of obstacles in the way. Sam’s family is struggling financially. His brother is fighting in the Gulf War and his sister is a deadbeat druggie. Deanie lives with her drunk mother and her horrifically abusive stepfather. Deanie gives her body away in exchange for drugs. Getting high helps her to make the rest of her life a little easier. When they first start spending time together, neither of them really knows why it feels right, but it just does. Soon, Sam realizes that Deanie is much more than the facade she presents to the world, and Deanie finds that Sam isn’t just a big, dumb jock.

I’ll admit, this book didn’t need to be over 500 pages long. But it was never boring and it kept surprising me. It was not your average teenagers-in-love story.

Lastly, because you can’t not mention her husband, I definitely appreciated Tabby’s little winks to Uncle Stevie’s writing. Greenspark Academy plays basketball against rival teams from Derry and Castle Rock in Maine, and it takes place just months before Mr. Leland Gault opens up his new shop called “Needful Things.”

 

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25
Apr
18

How can you give us the gift of a crazy character named Rando Thoughtful and then just as suddenly take that gift away? We need to talk, Uncle Stevie. CBR10 Review 19.

imagesDear Uncle Stevie,

Having just finished the entire Dark Tower saga for the third time, I have a few things I’d like to discuss with you. I know you say you’re done writing these books, but I’d like for you to reconsider. Here are some suggestions for further entries into the Dark Tower series:

**A novella about Rando Thoughtful, and his journey from managing a mall in upstate New York to guarding the castle of the Crimson King. And how he went from being called Austin Cornwell to becoming RANDO THOUGHTFUL. This is an all-time great crazy Stephen King name. I’m going to need more information.

**A short volume (similar to The Wind through the Keyhole) detailing everything that happened between Deepneau, Cullen, and Carver, and exactly how The Tet Corporation works. I’d love to know more about what’s going on at that strange ranch out in New Mexico where all of the telepaths are working on gathering information pertinent to Roland’s quest for the Tower.

**A huge, enormous series of books dedicated to Irene Tassenbaum and the asses she continues to kick as she lives her life in New York and Maine. I absolutely adored her and was so sad to see her sent off back to Maine with her stinking copy of Insomnia (seriously, WHY INSOMNIA? WHY NOT THE STAND? OR IT? OR THE TALISMAN? I WILL NEVER GET OVER THIS.)

Honestly, I get why Patrick Danville was included in the story, and that perhaps all of the gratuitous mentions of Insomnia got some constant readers to go back and re-read this mess, but of all of the Tower-related books, why did it have to be this one? Couldn’t Dandelo have held Stu Redman or Jack Sawyer or Mike Hanlon?

I would 100% read about Irene getting into her little Mercedes and driving around the Northeast, doing gunslinger things, while also shopping for deli meats and planting roses.

**A series of graphic novels about Oy. Make this happen.

**A short story about what happens to Dinky, Ted, Dani, and the banker guy when they get to the Callas. I can’t imagine that the kind folks of Calla Bryn Sturgis would send a young girl like Dani away, but it would be fascinating to see how the new folks assimilate into their rural lifestyle.

**A written apology from you for driving me crazy by constantly writing about Susannah dreaming about “Hot chocolate, the good kind, mit schlag”. I hated this description. Just stop it.

I think those should be ample ideas for you in order to get started. As long as you keep writing about this world, I’ll keep reading about it. And I hope that someday, you get the tv series about Roland and his ka-tet that they deserve. I love Idris, but that was a complete hot mess.

Your Constant Reader,
Scootsa1000

 

11
Mar
18

I wish I had a sköldpadda of my very own. CBR10 Review 17.

Unknown-4For a long time I’ve stood by my assertion that Song of Susannah was my least favorite Dark Tower book, hands down. The last time I reviewed it (back in 2012), I even went out on a limb and said this:

Song of Susannah, however, was my least favorite Dark Tower book when I first read it. And I can safely say that it will always be my least favorite.

Well, I guess I can’t trust myself.

Now that I’m almost another full loop through the saga, I’m not sure if my opinion is still the same. Is SoS still my least favorite? Or is there enough good stuff in there (the stuff that isn’t about Susannah and the wretched Mia) to change my mind? Is Wizard & Glass my least favorite? It hurts me to think that because I loved it so much the first time I read it…but like it less and less with each subsequent reading.

I’ll be honest. I do hate the stuff with Mia. Their long long long talks in the deserted town of Fedic make me crazy. Every time the POV switches back to those two, I would audibly groan. At least, until the sköldpadda makes an appearance. Because the sköldpadda makes everything better. Who wouldn’t want a little magic turtle?

I didn’t like the parts when Susannah has to travel to her “dogan” to control Mia and the baby. And while I appreciate that Odetta Holmes was a great woman who stood up for what she believed in, I didn’t need to read pages and pages of folk song lyrics right when things were getting interesting. Yes, Man of Constant Sorrow is a lovely song…but after a while, this was all I could think of:

But I don’t really want to talk too much about Mia. Or at all, really. There are a lot of other things I’d rather spend time on.

I’d rather talk about John Cullum. He’s one of my favorite minor characters in The Dark Tower. I love his Yankee sensibility and his immediate acceptance of the situation he suddenly finds himself in when Roland and Eddie literally appear in front of him in the general store. I had an uncle who was a pilot in WWII, and he was from New England. That’s who I imagine here. A guy who gets stuff done and gets it done well, and still makes time to ask about the Red Sox no matter how busy he might be.

Or how about Trudy Damascus? I’d like to know what eventually happens to her after her mental unraveling from witnessing Susannah/Mia appear out of thin air and then steal her shoes. I want to know if she’s still working at her accounting firm, and if she likes to sit in the park and listen to the voices at 2 Hammarskjold Plaza. I hope she’s ok, whatever she’s doing.

Same with Mathiessen Van Wyck. I hope he and his wife have worked out their differences. And I hope his stomach problems work themselves out, too. He deserves to be happy after telling us that the little turtle was called a sköldpadda.

But mostly, I’d like to talk about the badass trio of Jake, Oy, and Pere Callahan, tracking Susannah around New York City. These three weren’t even supposed to end up in Manhattan — they were supposed to go to Maine to talk to the wretched Calvin Tower — but they assimilate to 1999 pretty quickly. They find the hotel where Susannah/Mia are staying, they figure out the plan to get to the Dixie Pig, and they permanently hide Black Thirteen, all within a few hours.

I really love how Pere finds his lost faith at the end of this book. Without it, they never would have been driven insane by Black Thirteen in Susannah’s hotel room. But Pere Callahan gathers all of the faith he has left, and prays to God to save them from Black Thirteen.

“God, if you still hear me, this is Callahan. Please still this thing. Please send it back to sleep.”

And so, God does.

I was glad that Pere had that faith with him as they got in the cab and drove uptown to the Dixie Pig. We all know he was going to need it. But more on that in a few weeks, when I’ve finally finished the series and have more to say about Callahan’s last stand.

 

20
Feb
18

“A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.” CBR10 Reviews 13 & 14.

Unknown-4I think it would be fair to say that Uncle Stevie and I have an understanding. He writes, I’m a constant reader, and that’s that. And I’ve been known to reread some of the things that he’s written many times. Even when the stories are upsetting or dark or scary, there’s something comforting about them for me. Maybe because I started reading them at a really early age (seriously, way too early….what exactly was going on in the 1980s?), his writing is sort of a nostalgic part of my childhood. I can picture myself wandering around the adult horror section of the Newton Highlands Public Library, and then finding a cozy corner in front of a window where I could sit down and read. Because I didn’t want to read these stories in the dark, that was for sure.

Night Shift and Skeleton Crew are two of his earliest short story collections — and sometimes (especially in Night Shift) you can tell. The stories have a few more rough edges than what you might read in later books like Everything’s Eventual, or Just After Sunset. But some of them can still scare the crap out of me.

Night Shift, which includes stories from the 1960s and 70s, has a few of his all-time creepiest tales. Jerusalem’s Lot, The Boogeyman, and One for the Road are some of his best.

And so many — The Lawnmower Man, Quitters Inc, The Ledge, Children of the Corn, Sometimes They Come Back, Trucks, Battleground, The Mangler, Graveyard Shift — have inspired movies (whether they deserved to or not…I’m looking at you, Graveyard Shift). Its really amazing how influential some of these stories from so early in his career have become. Jerusalem’s Lot and One for the Road inspired him to write Salem’s Lot. Night Surf told the earliest version of The Stand. Its pretty amazing to be able to look back and see where some of his greatest ideas came from.

Night Shift is pretty damn good.

But Skeleton Crew is great.

Skeleton Crew includes some of my favorite short stories. The Mist. The Raft. Gramma. These stories ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED ME when I was in middle school. And they still scare me today. Gramma is a slow-paced, dread-filled bit of horror perfection, with an ending that never fails to surprise me.

My two all-time, absolutely favorite short stories are in here: Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut and The Jaunt.

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut tells about a wealthy woman who summers in Maine, and loves finding ways to cut a few minutes off of whatever trip she’s about to take. She obsesses over maps and farm roads, and eventually she discovers new ways to get there from here, some of which may not be of this world. I loved reading about her little Mercedes convertible zipping along the country roads of Maine and the roads that just might be on other levels of the Tower.

The Jaunt is about a family about to travel to Mars to resettle on a new colony there. As they prepare to be put to sleep in order to teleport, the father of the family tells his children the history of the procedure known as The Jaunt — and one of his kids decides to test the rules of teleportation, with shocking results. Right now I’m listening to the last Dark Tower book, and its easy to see some of The Jaunt in there — the Doors, the Todash Darkness, teleportation at the Algul Siento — all of those plot lines have their seeds here.

I just pulled Everything’s Eventual and Nightmares & Dreamscapes off of the bookshelf, which I haven’t reread since they first came out. I look forward to seeing how his stories have evolved over the decades. And I hope I can find a sunny corner to read them in.

 

 

 

 

15
Feb
18

“I wanted to say goodbye to someone, and have someone say goodbye to me. The goodbyes we speak and the goodbyes we hear are the goodbyes that tell us we’re still alive.” CBR10 Review 12.

UnknownI think its safe to say that I’m addicted to my Audible account. Driving around all day and meeting with demanding clients is hard, so the best thing I can do is lose myself in a great story and a great narrator. And I think that’s why I keep coming back to these Dark Tower books…the narration is great, the story always delivers something new for me, and it really doesn’t matter if I hear every single detail or not, because I’m stuck on Ka’s wheel and I know I’ll be returning to this story before long.

Wolves of the Calla is still my favorite of these books. I think. I like that it takes place in a certain amount of time, with a specific objective, instead of some of the more sprawling volumes of this story, which require a bit more brain power. This one is easier: good guys come to a good town to help defeat the bad guys and save the children. The end.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. We also have an alternate personality pregnancy…An obsession with the number 19…A fascinating new/old character who warns us of the dangers of vampires and low men…and the idea that maybe this story only exists as a fictional story within a fictional story so that Stephen King can save the world. Like I said, easy.

The more that I read (or, honestly, listen to) this volume of the Dark Tower, the more I appreciate the addition of Pere Donald Callahan. His addition to Roland’s group of questing gunslingers comes at exactly the right time. His heartbreaking story of his cowardly flight from Jerusalem’s Lot, his years of drinking on the road, his work at the shelter, and his eventual death and re-appearance in Mid-World (along with a mysterious black ball) are fascinating and gorgeously presented. This is a man of faith who is questioning his path in life, and who finds exactly what he is looking for when Roland and friends appear in the Calla.

My favorite Callahan bit:

“Your man Jesus seems to me a bit of a son of a bitch when it comes to women,´Roland said. ´Was He ever married?´
The corners of Callahan’s mouth quirked. ´No´ he said, ´but His girlfriend was a whore.´
´Well,´ Roland said, ´that’s a start.´”

But this book isn’t perfect. I love it, but there are a few details that bug me to no end:

  • Suddenly everyone is obsessed with the number 19, which we only know because we are constantly told about it. I wish this had been presented a bit more organically. I fell like Uncle Stevie just decided it was important and then hit us over the head with it until we succumbed.
  • Roland is always making a “familiar” finger twirling motion, that HE ALWAYS MAKES AND HAS ALWAYS MADE AND MAKES ALL THE TIME. But he never made it before. And the constant references to the fact that he has always done this bug me.
  • The pregnancy stuff is really just gross. I don’t need to know about Susannah frolicking in a pond and eating live frogs. I know that’s really nit picking, but I couldn’t get past it.

But there’s so much more that I love in this book. I love the idea of saving the twins, no matter what. And I love the regular people that are willing to stand up to evil, even if it might cost them their lives, to save their town and its children. The action and excitement in this volume are exactly what the series needed after the talky Wizard and Glass.

 

17
Jan
18

In which Joe Hill takes one step closer to becoming the world’s greatest Stephen King impersonator. CBR10 Review 7.

Unknown-4I’ve said this before: I can’t imagine it would have taken very long for the reading public to figure out that Joe Hill was really Joe King if he hadn’t admitted it himself. And in each book of Hill’s that I read, I see more and more of his dad in the writing.

In fact, if you told me that two of the four novellas in Strange Weather had actually been written by Uncle Stevie, I would just nod, and say, “of course they were.” Because I feel like the first and last stories — “Snapshot” and “Rain” — really were King stories that Hill just reworked a bit. And that isn’t a critique. He took them and made them his own.

The other two stories — “Loaded” and “Aloft” — were more original. “Aloft” was my least favorite of the four, and I still liked it pretty well. “Loaded” was the best of the bunch, but I didn’t really like it at all. But I’ll get into that in a minute.

“Snapshot”

In a very King-like premise, a lonely boy comes across an evil man with a magic (demonic? otherworldly?) Polaroid camera. Every time he takes a picture of someone, he takes a memory away from them. And if he takes enough pictures, eventually nothing will be left in their memories at all. Can a fat 13 year old boy stand up to this evil man and his crazy machine?

Well, of course. Having an awkward kid stand up to evil is one of King’s go-to plot devices. But just because I knew what would happen didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.

“Loaded”

Man, this was a rough story. It upset me over and over again. But that was the intent. Hill really wears his politics on his sleeve here (JUST LIKE HIS DAD), and here he wants to discuss gun control. Or, really, the lack thereof.

A loose cannon security guard stumbles into a domestic shooting, makes racist assumptions, kills innocent people, and convinces himself it was for the greater good. He then goes and gets himself MORE guns and does WORSE things, all while playing the part of a hero on the national news.

The end of this story was not at all what I expected.

SPOILER

I should have known that the good guys wouldn’t win. This isn’t a book by Janet Evanovich.  The last few pages of this story were literally gut-wrenching. And made me wonder just what in the fuck is going on with guns in the country.

“Aloft”

Kind of a throwaway story, but still fun.

During an attempt to skydive in memory of their recently deceased friend, a small group encounters a mysterious cloud that looks like a UFO. The most anxious of the skydivers actually ends up landing on that cloud and being stuck there for several days and thousands of miles.

Ridiculous, and yet…a poignant look at unrequited love, friendship, social anxiety. And a nice break after the darkness of “Loaded.”

“Rain”

What would happen if the rain could kill you? And what if the killer rain had been created and released to the world by terrorists?

Taking place in Boulder (WHERE ELSE WOULD THE APOCALYPSE TAKE PLACE?), with a kick-ass heroine named Honeysuckle, she sees her entire world come crumbling down with the first killer rain storm. She sees her loved ones die in pain and she is overwhelmed by grief. But she keeps on going. She wants to do what’s right. She’s awesome. And just like in a Stephen King story, Honeysuckle is surrounded by normal people just living their lives. Good people, like her new ultimate fighting friend, and horrible assholes, like the weird cult down the street. Writing about regular people in irregular circumstances is what Hill (and King) do best.

And, like his dad often struggles with, Hill does not stick the landing with this one. And I could have done without real-life references to Trump and his tweeting (except, this quote was spot-on:

It was reassuring to know that our national leaders were using all the resources at their disposal to help the desperate: social media and Jesus.

It reminded me a lot of an old King story (“Rainy Season”) about frogs raining from the sky. But I liked this one a bit more than that.

 

 

 

 

 

02
Jan
18

Time was a face on the water, and like the great river before them, it did nothing but flow. CBR10 Review 2.

UnknownI’ve been in the car a lot lately, driving around for work. And while I love my satellite radio, I love my audible account even more. I’m listening to all of my favorite books, and it totally makes the time spent in the car seem less like work.

This morning, I finished The Wind Through the Keyhole (and started The Wolves of the Calla!), and I must say, I enjoyed it much more this time (my second time reading and reviewing…the first was for CBR4!).

The book fits into The Dark Tower series as book 4.5…it starts just as Roland’s Ka-Tet has left the weird emerald palace in the middle of not-quite-Kansas…and when it finishes, we have the Ka-Tet on their way to Calla Bryn Sturgis. But I really think it could work as a standalone book, and I might hand it off to Bunnybean to read. She really loved The Eyes of the Dragon, and this one has a really similar vibe to it.

The plot is simple. A huge storm is coming, so Roland and his friends find shelter. As they wait out the worst of the massive storm, Roland tells them a story from his youth (it takes place just after his “adventures” in Mejis), when he and his friend Jamie were sent west to solve a mystery plaguing a small town called Debaria.

Brutal, animalistic murders have been taking place on a massive scale. The locals are pretty sure that the horrific slaughters have been the work of a “skin-man,” which is more a less a shapeshifting man who transforms into a vicious animal at night.

When a local ranch is attacked, there is only one survivor, a small boy named Bill. Roland and Jamie swear to protect him, and to keep his nerves at bay, Roland tells him a story that his own mother used to tell him, the tale of The Wind Through the Keyhole.

And this is where it gets good.

This half of the book is (IMHO) one of the best things King has ever written. Like I mentioned, similar in feeling to The Eyes of the Dragon, it tells the story of young Tim, a boy living with his injured mother and his horrible, horrible stepfather. When his mother loses her sight after a terrible beating from her husband, Tim heads out into THE WOODS in order to find a cure for her blindness.

Tim’s journey is flat out amazing. The story within the story within the story gets 5 stars. And that doesn’t mean I don’t love the rest of the book…just that Roland’s adventures with Jamie don’t quite reach the storytelling heights of Tim.

King recently said that he’d like to revisit the world of the Dark Tower, and I imagine it would be through shorter stories like this, filling in the blanks about Roland’s life before The Gunslinger. I’m all for it.

The only negative to this story was in the narration. King himself did the job. And while it wasn’t awful, it certainly wasn’t great.




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