Had you asked me a month ago what I thought of Bag of Bones I might have chuckled and shook my head. I might have told you it is one of the worst Stephen King books there is, that it is easily in my bottom five King reads, down there with such piles of Kingly excrement as Dreamcatcher, Wizard and Glass, The Eyes of the Dragon, and From a Buick 8, the latter being the pinnacle of Uncle Stevie's fecal production. In other words, friends and neighbors, I hated this book.
But that was then and this is now. What happened over the course of 17 years, the timespan between my first read and this one? Well, I stopped doing Class-A narcotics for entertainment purposes, became a husband and a father of two, grew up a little, and all-around dug my head out of my ass. My change of heart could have something to do with one of those things or all of them. I don't know. But this is a gorgeous book. A little heavy in the rear, but absolutely beautiful.
My only complaint this time around is how long the book goes on after the denouement. It's not annoyingly long, but I feel a few questions could have been edited out in the beginning half of the book so that we didn't have to sit around for twenty pages reading about two men chatting over whiskey about what happened in the past 710 pages. I only say this editing could have been done because it is one of the things the made-for-tv movie gets right.
One of the toughest topics this book tackles is the subject of male lust, how immediate and destructive a force it can be. It took a heavy sack on King's part to speak honestly about something every man deals with yet most cannot explain. King does not condone or make excuses here. He explains. This is how it is, and there are men that find their own thoughts reprehensible. Yes, we all lust. Yes, we all imagine how wonderful it would be for our partners to say "Do what you want", but not all of us prefer that over love and tenderness.
Okay, here's where you take responsibility. By clicking on "view spoiler" you agree that you've read King's entire catalogue and will not hold me responsible for things being ruined because you're too damn inquisitive. Trust me, the shit hidden here is only interesting if you have read all of King's books.
Thad Beaumont (The Dark Half), oddly enough this is the novel wherein we learn of Thad's suicide. He's mentioned as having had a divorce in Needful Things, but this is where we learn of his death.
William (Big Bill) Denbrough is too. (It)
Ralph Roberts (Insomnia) has a pretty big role for a walk-on character from another book. Usually we're only given mentions of people, but here, Ralph sits down to coffee with Mike and chats for a while.
Alan Pangborn, Polly Chalmers, and Norris Ridgewick (Needful Things). Alan and Polly are only mentioned, but Norris has a walk-on role as the sheriff of Castle County.
Nehemiah Bannerman is obviously the gradfather of the ill-fated sheriff George Bannerman, who makes his first appearance in The Dead Zone only to meet his end inCujo.
The storm of the century in (you guessed it) Storm of the Century is briefly mentioned as the stawm of the century.
Ring Around the Tower:
Bag of Bones takes place in the same world as Insomnia.
In the final two DT novels, King's vacation home Cara Laughs is mentioned. Noonan's vacation home is Sara Laughs.
And yeah, the recurrence of the number 19 in this book is kinda obnoxious. It's fucking everywhere.
In summation: Some books are better the second time around. What is sad is that I never would have reread this one had I not taken on this massive challenge. I feel that this entire journey has been worth it if only because I have a new favorite King book. Bag of Bones is a powerful novel that doesn't get the credit it deserves from King fans. I cannot recommend a first read, but I highly recommend a reread.
Final Judgment: Sometimes it's the reader and not the book.