Title: Duma Key
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Pocket Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This book is classic Stephen King. There’s ghosts, monsters, and shifting reality alone with phantom limbs and the mystery of the brain after trauma. As a hobbyist who dabbles in art, I also appreciated the creative aspects of the book. Remember Dorian Gray, who could paint himself young? Yeah, this is kinda like that.
I’ve always found the brain fascinating, so coupling that mystery together with weird psychic stuff and ghosts was a perfect mix. I also like that King took what would not normally be considered a scary place–the Florida Keys–and still managed to make it scary. The main character isn’t immediately likeable, but he grows on you. King also makes excellent use of his trademark narrative voice and foreshadowing.
This is not an action-packed book, but there’s enough strangeness to keep the reader engaged. If you liked Dead Zone or Insomnia or even Pet Cemetery, you’ll enjoy this one.
Title: The Talisman
Authors: Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publisher: Pocket Books
Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5
Anyone who’s read my blog knows that Stephen King is probably my favorite author. I love most of his stuff. I didn’t love this one, probably because it was a collaborative work with Peter Straub, who I’d never read before. The book just didn’t have the full feeling of a King novel. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I just didn’t enjoy this one as much as I have so many of his others.
The overall plot was good–an adolescent boy on a quest to save his mother’s life, able to switch back and forth between a magical world and this one. There are the typical horror elements, which I liked. Descriptions were on the heavy side sometimes, which I didn’t like as much. The first half of the book lagged in pace, though it did pick up after that. The ending was by far the best part. But for some reason I never fully invested in the fates of the characters.
There was also an interesting twist on werewolves, a dichotomy between “good” Wolves and “bad” Wolves. I really liked Jack’s friend, the good Wolf.
Completely a random thought–I’ve always loved King’s characters, how he brings together a group of different people with different backgrounds and has them interact. There wasn’t as much of that in The Talisman. I wonder if that’s one of the things that felt like it was lacking to me. The addition of Wolf and Jack’s friend Richard definitely helped with the second half.
I have to concede that by now I’ve read the best of Stephen King’s works, (The Stand, The Dark Tower series, IT,) and now maybe I’m just coming down to some of how not-quite-as-great stuff. I guess I’ll see after I finish the next one on my list, Duma Key.
Author: Stephen King
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ve read lots of reviews for this book that say that it dragged for the first half. I don’t know if these readers haven’t read a lot of Stephen King, or if they only read slasher horror or perhaps just fast-paced thrillers. I didn’t think the book dragged at all. It built up slowly, tension upon tension, things getting weirder and weirder. But that’s pretty typical for King.
I personally enjoyed the slow buildup. If you’ve ever had a bout of insomnia, you’ll get exactly what Ralph is going through. I went through the experience after the birth of my daughter–one week, five hours of sleep. That’s five hours that I slept THE ENTIRE WEEK. So yeah, insomnia makes you a little crazy. The world doesn’t look as it normally does. You start to feel supernatural, or at least something outside the commonly accepted reality. This is what the main character experiences as he starts to get less and less sleep night after night. He experiences hyper reality, not-helpful advice from friends and strangers, and ominous encounters with the sane and insane.
Another fun bit about this book is the parallels it runs with the whole Dark Tower series. No spoilers, but it amused me that in the Dark Tower an ally tried to give this book to the protagonist, but the protagonist never read it. I actually liked reading this after finishing the Dark Tower series, because it was much easier to see all the links.
Then there’s the whole issue of the pro life vs. pro choice brought up in the book and how it completely tears apart the community. Discerning readers will note that the pro-life gets more of the crazies in this book…but in the end, both sides aren’t willing to just let each other be. It says something for how some debates will just never be resolved.
Last, I really liked the whole concept of the book, with the multiple “levels” of realities and auras. The residents of the upper levels were suitably spooky but also comic. Plenty of action near the end, but this book probably didn’t quite belong in the “horror” shelf. I’m not exactly sure what you’d call it. Me, I’d call it a very existential novel and an engaging story about life, death, and what’s in between.