Tag Archives: Stephen King

Review: Duma Key, by Stephen King

Title: Duma Key

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Horror

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.

Creepiness included.

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.

Book Review: The Talisman

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Title:  The Talisman

Authors: Stephen King and Peter Straub

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

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.

Book Review: Insomnia

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Title:  Insomnia

Author:  Stephen King

Publisher: MacMillian

Genre: Horror

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.

Book Review: The Dark Tower (7)

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Book:  The Dark Tower

Series: The Dark Tower # 7

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre:  Fantasy? Horror? It’s Stephen King.

Rating: 5 freaking stars, baby!

I can’t really review this book without discussing some of the key details, so readers beware–there may be SPOILERS ahead. The Dark Tower was the seventh and final installment in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and it deserves all the fanfare and hype of being the final book. There are even two endings, depending on whether you like just a nice neat journey or a messy epilogue.  I imagine some readers won’t be happy with the fate of some characters, but be realistic. It was foreshadowed from Book One. This is horror or dark fantasy, depending on your definitions. Not everyone was going to survive to the end.  At least I can say that those who died, died well.

I’ve read The Stand. Up until now, I always considered that to be King’s best work (you can agree or disagree with me on that). Well, I have to revise that. Taken in its entirety, I think the Dark Tower series is King’s masterpiece work.

He takes a few big risks in this one. The fourth wall which he basically shattered in the 6th book is equally nonexistent in this one. He puts himself in as a character, one that has a direct effect on the main characters and the plot. That was a gutsy move. But it fits with the world of the Dark Tower, and the whole notion that there may be thousands of worlds, many of them similar, that we nothing about. (More things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, and all that.) The book also has a really great creepy but also classical villain in the form of Mordred, Susanna and Roland’s son (and also Mia and the Crimson King). Very Arthurian.

There are a lot of classic themes in the book, drawing from classic tales and poetry. But the book also takes a few modern twists as well:  time travel, nudges towards 9/11, and comedic robots, for example.

Readers will either love or hate the series. But those that have gotten this far I think will mostly agree that it’s been a great ride.

 

Book Review: Song of Susanna (Dark Tower #6)

Book:  Song of Susanna

Series: Dark Tower #6

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: Dark Fantasy?  Sci-fi Western? It sort of defies genre.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

(Spoilers ahead!!)

Typically I like to pace myself when reading, because I don’t like to get through a book too quickly. I like spending the time in a book’s world. Typically, I don’t have a problem controlling my pace. Alas, however, Stephen King likes to throw me off. I find myself reading more quickly and more pages per day in order to find out what happens next. And this is why I so love Stephen King as a writer.

This book made me laugh out loud, not because of any particular humor in the book, but because the fourth wall was not only breached; it was shattered into a million pieces. I can’t say I’ve read too many examples of a writer writing himself into a plot, but yep, King went there. And it made me smile to have him poking fun at himself, highlighting his weaknesses and fallacies including drinking and his New England ways. I continue to love Roland, Eddie, Jake and yes, Susanna too, although I suspect she may not be long for this world. But since the book ends on another sort-of cliffhanger, I had to go immediately get the final book in the series. I always considered “The Stand” to be King’s finest work. But this one just might top that. We’ll see.

 

Review: Dr. Sleep, by Stephen King

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Book: Dr. Sleep

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: Horror / Thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m trying to read through many of Stephen King’s books. I really like his style (some don’t, but I do), and I really like the kind of storytelling that he does. I had my eye on this particular book since finishing Under the Dome when a sneak preview was included at the end. The preview hooked me enough that I actually went back and read The Shining so that I had the true and complete backstory to this novel.

Just as a book of its own, I enjoyed it. Sure, there was the running theme of a recovering alcoholic, but Dan was a nice contrast to his father. I still love the whole concept of the Shining, and this book takes those extra-sensory powers  several steps further, not only with the introduction of a new child character, Abra, who can levitate spoons and write on chalkboards with her mind, but also the True Knot, an evil psychic threat who feed off children like Abra.

I thought the resolution was clean, all the plot threads came together nicely, and I was left satisfied. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind if King continued to write novels in this particular universe every ten or fifteen years with each generation.

This book fit more in line with books like The Stand or 11/22/63, so don’t expect to be scared out of your mind. It’s more of a thriller novel. As such, I recommend it.