Tag Archives: stephen king

Thoughts on the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King

Yesterday, I finished reading The Wind Through the Keyhole, and in doing so, completed all of the books of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. With the series complete, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the books. I’ll give some general thoughts above the cut. Below the cut there will be spoilers so be aware of that. If you are reading this post via RSS, you might not see the cut, so I’ll include another warning below.

I started reading the books back on June 6, 2013. I read them in the order they were published, with The Wind in the Keyhole coming last, although falling between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla in the timeline. I had a hard time getting started. I had started The Gunslinger two or three times over the last few years, but finally managed to get through it in June. Although the book establishes the premise of the series, I thought it was the weakest of all the books. That said, the value of each book increases with each subsequent book because, as more of the story is revealed, new meaning is added to the earlier books.

Okay, here comes the cut and the spoilers. You have been warned.

Continue reading Thoughts on the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King

Finished Reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series*

Last night, shortly before midnight, I finished reading book 7 of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower. My mind was kind of blown away by the ending. I can see why Stephen King considered this his magnum opus, and while I enjoyed it, I don’t think it was his best work. I still think It is my favorite King novel, and there are probably half a dozen others he’s written that I like better than the Dark Tower books. But I did enjoy the books, and I was even surprised how much I grew to like the characters. My favorite book by far in the series was Wizard and Glass.

I’ll have a lot more to say about the series after I have allowed a little time to pass for the full implications of the last book to sink in. In the meantime, I just wanted to mention that I had done it! I have finally read the Dark Tower series.


*This does not include The Wind Through the Keyhole, which I have not yet read, but which, I understand is also somewhat independent of the main series.

Some Thoughts on Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland Cover

I read Stephen King’s new novel Joyland earlier this week and I really enjoyed it. I don’t want to rehash the plot here or give anything away but I do have a few comments that others considering reading the book might find helpful.

The book is a murder mystery and the story is a good one. Of course it is a good one. This is Stephen King we’re talking about.

What surprised me most about the story is the tone. King captures the same muted, underwritten tone and style that I loved so much in Hearts in Atlantis and From a Buick 8. It is a quietly-written story that still manages to chill, thrill and keep you on the edge of your seat. At least, it did these things for me. I enjoyed every minute of the read.

My Favorite Book: It by Stephen King

If someone asked me today what my absolute favorite book, regardless of category, author or any other discriminator, I would say without hesitation that my favorite book is It by Stephen King. On my morning walk, I finished reading it for the third time. I remember really liking it the first time I read it, loving it even more the second time. I didn’t think it was possible to read a book for a third time and enjoy it even more, but that is the case.

This time around, I listened to the audio book. The book was read (performed?) by Steven Weber and he was absolutely fantastic. His performance certainly went some way toward pushing It to the very top of my favorites list, but more than anything else, it was the overall feel of the book. I have grown to love the Losers in a way that I have grown to love very few characters in books that I have read. Reading the book, I’d find myself thinking, I wish I could hang out with these guys, both when they were kids and when they’d all grown up.

It seems to me that part of the success of the book–and part of what makes it work so well for me–is that it is a close examination of the magic of childhood, without the look back through rose-colored glasses. The story is not tinged by nostalgia, the way a Ray Bradbury story might be. And yet there is a kind of nostalgia in it that is transferred to the reader, no matter what era you grew up in. Another reason I love it is that it is a hero book in horror book clothing. The Losers, each of them, are superheroes in their own right. They overcome things that would stop a grownup in their tracks. It is not the wish fulfillment superhero of the comic books. The Losers don’t fly and bullets don’t bounce off their chest. But they are superheroes.

The completely epic rock fight scene perhaps captures this best of all. In reading that scene the third time around, I decided that, for me anyway, it is the single best fight scene I’ve come across in any book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read quite a few. There is something so utterly believable about that scene. I’ve been there as a kid, tossing rocks and clumps of dirt (we called them “dirt bombs”) back and forth with friends and enemies alike.

I found myself reacting to the story in a much more personal and interactive way than in any previous reading. This was certainly aided by Steven Weber’s performance. At the point in which Bev Marsh and Ben Hanscomb are hiding in the clubhouse and trying desperately to stay quiet, I found myself raising a finger to my lips and whispering “Shhh” as I took my afternoon walk. Later, as Bill fought with It and shouted out his mantra, “He thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he sees the ghost!” tears welled up in my eyes in the same sort of fierce pride and rush I get when I see a clip of Superman rescuing someone from danger.

I also like that It winds itself deeply into King’s other work. The more I read of his other stuff, the more connections I see to It.

Continue reading My Favorite Book: It by Stephen King

I’m Looking Forward to This (Doctor Sleep Cover Revealed)

Doctor Sleep

Stephen King’s official website revealed the cover to the forthcoming Doctor Sleep, King’s sequel to The Shining which comes out this fall, some 35+years since the original novel came out. I’m really looking forward to this one. Fortunately, he has another book, Joyland, coming out in June to ease the gap between now and September. Funny how I’m looking forward to the fall, despite the fact that spring is just around the corner.

 

Scary Stories And Gerald’s Game

I‘ve written in the past how most stories and books typically classified as “scary” don’t really scare me. I can count on one hand the number of stories I’ve read that have sent shivers down my spine. There’s Harlan Ellison’s “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” (and that elevator scene in particular). There’s Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” which was just chilling. Parts of Connie Willis’ Passage were also rather scary on my overall “scary” meter.

For the last week or so, I’ve been listening to the audio book of Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. Why I chose this particular book is quite simple. I’ve been slowly going through and trying to read all of Stephen King’s works. This comes and goes in waves. But I recently listened to the audio book version of Misery. I really liked the book (not scary, but I still liked it) and I especially loved Lindsay Crouse’s reading. So when it came to select my next book, I found the only other Stephen King book that was narrated by Lindsay Crouse–and that was Gerald’s Game.

I must admit that until my 10am walk today, the story moved slowly and I really began to wonder if an entire book could be written about a woman handcuffed to a bed who had accidentally killed her husband during a romantic interlude. Sure, the inner voices were interesting, but the only thing that kept me going is–I like Stephen King’s style of writing. He can make the smallest details interesting. So I persisted, listening to half an hour here and there, while working out or while going on my daily 10am walk.

I’m not going to spoil anything here, but halfway through my walk this morning, the book took a turn, and what happened has to count among the most frightening things I’ve ever read. Period. The fact that I was walking along a busy street, in broad daylight, and still got chills says just how scary I found it. I can only imagine how I might have reacted if I was reading this home in bed, with the lights out, and the sky dark, and the house quiet. I must admit that I suspect the audio added to the drama. When you read, you can some times sneak your eyes a few lines ahead and get a hint of what’s coming. No so with an audio book. And what came was so unexpected and so frightening, that I ultimately ended up laughing. Laughing because–good on you, Stephen King,you write something that really frightened me and the experience was marvelous!

For those who’ve read Gerald’s Game and are wondering what I’m talking about: I’m talking about what happens when Jesse awakens from her dark dreams in the midst of her first night sleeping in the cabin, handcuffed to the bed. That should be enough to tell you what I’m talking about.

Revisiting Derry: Rereading IT by Stephen King

I first read Stephen King's It back in October 2009. It took me by surprise back then because I thought it was a horror story about a clown who goes around and kills people. And while there is a clown that goes around and kill people, I learned that the story was about the clown or the killing so much as it was about the kids who grew up in the shadow of the killings and the adults they eventually grew into. I really liked the book on that first read. I thought it one of the better Stephen King books I'd read and on Amazon and Goodreads, I think I gave it a 4-star rating.

Last month, I re-read It. I picked up the 25th Anniversary edition but out by Cemetary Dance Press (shown above) and slowly made by way back through the book. It was a fascinating experience. I kept better notes this time, and while I had a vague sense of what was coming, I discovered I didn't remember nearly as much of the story as I supposed I had. When I finished reading the book; when I finally set it aside, I came to surprising realization: It was a better book than I originally thought. It deserved 5-stars–a rating I reserve for only the finest books–and it cemented itself in my mind as the best Stephen King story I've read.

What changed? I think I read the book more closely the second time. From the beginning, the book is filled with references that, while subtle, have significant relevance later. In the very beginning, for instance, when George is heading down into the basement, he notices the bottle of Turtle Wax:

For some reason, this can struck him and he spent nearly thirty seconds look at the turtle on the lid with a kind of hypnotic wonder.

Those who have read the book will understand this early reference.

Continue reading Revisiting Derry: Rereading IT by Stephen King

Isaac Asimov and Stephen King: A Few Words Between Fellow Writers

Since I am (obviously) on a Stephen King kick again, I thought it apropos to share snippets from a few letters between Isaac Asimov and Stephen King that I recalled reading in Stanley Asimov’s book, Yours, Isaac Asimov: A Lifetime of Letters.

According to Stan Asimov: Stephen King wrote this letter to Isaac on the occasion of the publication of Isaac’s 262nd book, which was eventually to become Isaac’s first bestseller:

September 9, 1982

Good luck with Foundation’s Edge–not that you’ll need it, you dog, you!

Isaac replied to king as follows:

14 September 1982

Foundation’s Edge seems to show promise, but I am careful not to let my hopes get too high. After all, I get a best seller about as often as you don’t get one.

And a few years later, King wrote this one:

May 29, 1987

I wanted to write a fan letter telling you how much I’m enjoying working my way through The World’s Greatest SF Stories. I simply refuse to countenance your death until you have reached at least the year 2000.

And Isaac replied:

25 June 1987

I imagine you never expected your life to be this crazy because how could anyone not be surprised at finding himself the most successful writer in the history of the world. And so good that you clearly deserve to be.

I don’t know about you, but I just get a kick out of these behind the scenes exchanges between two fantastic writers. They show a charming humility in each that isn’t always visible when they are in the spotlight.

Stephen King: Digging Beneath the Topsoil

Yesterday, several friends pointed me to an article in Salon.com titled, “My Stephen King Problem” by a fellow named Dwight Allen. Actually, they pointed me to an excellent rebuttal to the article by Erik Nelson titled, “Stephen King: You Can Be Popular and Good.” You might consider reading both before continuing.

I suspect they directed me to these posts for two reasons: (1) I am a writer of genre fiction; (2) I am a Stephen King fan. With regard to the latter, I think it is important to state for the record that I wasn’t always a Stephen King fan. Before I read any of his books, I rather arrogantly dismissed him as “just another horror writer.” Then, sometime back in 2001, I read ‘Salem’s Lot. I thought the first two-thirds of the book were excellent. But then the monsters showed up and I thought the book got silly. I decided King wasn’t for me. That said, a few years later, I decided to give him another try. I read Needful Things and had almost the exact same reaction. They say the third time is a charm, however, and in September 2009, not long after our son was born, I sat down to read King’s book On Writing and I absolutely loved it. Of course, that was nonfiction, but in it, he talked about several of his books and stories and charmed the reader in such a way as to make it virtually impossible not to give his fiction another try. So I decided to start from the beginning and I read Carrie. And you know what? I thought it was a pretty good book. I followed that up with The Shining (I’d never seen the movie) and I enjoyed that one as well. And then I read It and I still consider that to be one of the finest pieces of fiction I’ve ever read.

it.jpeg

 

Continue reading Stephen King: Digging Beneath the Topsoil

The dates at the very end of Stephen King’s 11/22/63

You would not believe how many people arrive at my blog searching for “January 2 2009- December 18, 2010 Sarsota, Flordia/Lovell, Maine” which appears at the very end of Stephen King’s time travel novel, 11/23/63. They usually end up on my review of the novel. A few people have even asked what those dates mean? Why are they there? What have they to do with the book?

I could be wrong, but when I saw them, I simply thought they represented the dates (and places) during which Stephen King was writing the book. I’m surprised that others are perplexed by this. Perhaps it’s because the novel is a time travel novel and dates play an important role that is confusing people. But I’ve seen this notion of dating the writing of a book not only in other Stephen King books, but countless books by other authors as well.

Still, I must get a dozen people directed to my blog each week simply because they are searching for the meaning of “January 2 2009- December 18, 2010 Sarsota, Flordia/Lovell, Maine.”

Well, there you go.

Reading Stephen King

Last week I wrote about my general experience with Stephen King books and a few days ago I posted my review of his latest novel, 11/22/63. Sometime in the fall of 2009 I started reading Stephen King again after not having read his books for several years. I decided I would start from the beginning and read all of his stuff in roughly chronological order. Since then I’ve done this in various bursts, as I imagine most people do. I’ll read four or five book in a row, then get burned out and not read anything for a while–and then another burst will strike.

After reading 11/22/63, I feel another burst coming on. Here is what I can see as the complete Stephen King, including short story collections. Items crossed our are items that I have read so far:

  1. Carrie (1974)
  2. ‘Salem’s Lot (1975)
  3. The Shining (1977)
  4. Rage (Bachman) (1977)
  5. Night Shift (1978)
  6. The Dead Zone (1979)
  7. The Long Walk (Bachman) (1979)
  8. Firestarter (1980)
  9. Cujo (1981)
  10. Roadwork (Bachman) (1981)
  11. Danse Macabre (1981)
  12. Different Seasons (1982)
  13. The Running Man (Bachman) (1982)
  14. Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982)
  15. Pet Sematary (1983)
  16. Christine (1983)
  17. The Talisman (1984)
  18. Thinner (Bachman) (1984)
  19. Skeleton Crew (1985)
  20. Cycle of the Werewolf (1985)
  21. It (1986)
  22. The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
  23. Misery (1987)
  24. Dark Tower: The Drawing of Three (1987)
  25. The Tommyknockers (1987)
  26. The Dark Half (1989)
  27. The Stand (1990)
  28. Four Past Midnight (1990)
  29. Needful Things (1991)
  30. The Dark Tower: The Wastelands (1991)
  31. Gerald’s Game (1992)
  32. Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993)
  33. Dolores Clairborne (1993)
  34. Insomnia (1994)
  35. Rose Madder (1995)
  36. Desperation (1996)
  37. The Regulators (Bachman) (1996)
  38. The Green Mile (1996)
  39. The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass (1997)
  40. Bag of Bones (1998)
  41. Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
  42. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
  43. Plant (2000)
  44. On Writing (2000)
  45. Dreamcatcher (2001)
  46. Black House (2001)
  47. From A Buick 8 (2002)
  48. Everything’s Eventual (2002)
  49. Dark Tower: Wolves of Calla (2003)
  50. Dark Tower: Song of Susannah (2004)
  51. Dark Tower: The Dark Tower (2004)
  52. The Colorado Kid (2005)
  53. Cell (2006)
  54. Lisey’s Story (2006)
  55. Blaze (Bachman) (2007)
  56. Duma Key (2008)
  57. Just After Sunset (2008)
  58. Under the Dome (2009)
  59. Blockade Billy (2009)
  60. Full Dark, No Stars (2010)
  61. 11/22/63 (2011)

The exact order in which I’ve read the books (for those curious) is as follows:

  1. ‘Salem’s Lot (9/16/2001)
  2. Needful Things (2/25/2004)
  3. On Writing (9/16/2009)
  4. Carrie (9/21/2009)
  5. The Shining (9/28/2009)
  6. It (10/28/2009)
  7. Night Shift (11/3/2009)
  8. Under the Dome (11/30/2009)
  9. Different Seasons (12/9/2009)
  10. The Stand (6/2/2010)
  11. The Dead Zone (6/11/2010)
  12. Firestarter (6/25/2010)
  13. Pet Sematary (6/29/2010)
  14. Blockade Billy (6/9/2011)
  15. 11/22/63 (11/18/2011)

Logically, the next book in my list (if you exclude the Bachman books), is Cujo. But I know myself and right now, while I’m in the mood to read more Stephen King, I’m not in the mood for straight horror. So I’m deviating from the strict chronology once again and jumping ahead to the full novel version of The Green Mile. I’m starting that book (the version of which I have on my Kindle contains a forward by the late RalphVincinanza). After that, we’ll see. I may move back to the normal chronology because I’m eager to read the first Dark Tower book. But from what I understand, those books are best read when having read everything that came previous to it–because it ties so much of King’s worlds together.

Okay, gotta run now. I have some reading to attend to.

Stephen King and me

I’m trying to recall when Stephen King first permeated my consciousness. It had to be the movies. I recall seeing Pet Sematary in high school. It is one of the few movies I’ve seen that I’d characterize as frightening. I’ve always had a problem with horror novels and scary movies because I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to think of it as scary. There are very few stories I’ve read that I’ve thought of as frightening1. There are even fewer movies. But Pet Sematary was one of them.

When I was even younger, perhaps 7th grade, I recall catching glimpses of Christine and Cujo. I remember thinking, really? I psychotic car? Come on! I think I saw bits and pieces of Children of the Corn and of course, Carrie. None of these made much of an impression on me. Indeed the only two movies based on Stephen King fiction to make impressions on me were Stand By Me (based on “The Body”) and The Shawshank Redemption (based on “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”). But even having seen these movies, I still had never read anything by Stephen King.

That changed in the late summer of 2001 when I finally decided to give King a try. I read ‘Salem’s Lot. Indeed, this was the book that I was reading when 9/11 happened. I found that the first two-thirds of the book were exceptional. But when the monsters started to show up in force in the final third, I thought it got silly. I decided that Stephen King wasn’t for me, despite friends who praised his novels to the skies. It was almost exactly three years before I tried King again. This time, I read Needful Things. I can’t recall exactly why that book interested me. I vaguely recall that there had been a movie based on the book that I had seen, but I had little memory of it. Nevertheless, I picked up the book and was hooked. But just like before, while the first two-thirds were excellent, the last third was just too much to believe.

Continue reading Stephen King and me

  1. Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” and Harlan Ellison’s “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” are two that I thought were terrifying.