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review 2017-09-01 21:08
THE GREEN MILE Review
The Green Mile - Stephen King,Mark Geyer
A change of scenery from Stephen King's usual territory of Maine usually makes for some of the author's most arresting and impressive fiction (see Duma KeyThe Shining, and The Stand). King is an author who seems to thrive on challenge, and setting some stories' locales outside his comfort zone typically yields successful results. The Green Mile, a historical fiction novel set in the Deep South during the Depression, attests to this. 

Going into this read, I could not entirely remember if I'd ever finished The Green Mile in the first place. I recall starting it in tenth grade, and reading the initial chapters over downtime during driver's education. But I really don't think I finished it . . . and why, I'm not sure. Sure, I've seen the movie adaptation tons of times; therefore, I was familiar with the story's ending. Yet that didn't rob this 1996 novel of its quiet, meditative power. 

After the flabby and exhausting Insomnia and Rose Madder, this was a breath of fresh air. Since The Green Mile was originally published in serial form (a fact I know every single one of you already know, but I feel obligated to say it anyhow), one can tell King really worked hard to cut off the fat and stick to the good stuff. There isn't a word out of place here: no needless plot lines or wasted dialogue. Everything introduced to the reader is here for a reason. This story has a killer beginning and only gets better, eventually winding down with one of the most heart-wrenching and rewarding endings my favorite author has written to date. 

In short, this work is a marvel. On display is some of the most muscular character work King has managed; not to mention the masterful use of setting. Over every page looms a sense of doom and sorrow; around every corner are hauntings from the past felt by real people, these characters who seem to almost leap off the page. 

I'm not totally sure if this is in my top 5, but it might be. It just might be. 

King Connections:

None, say thankya.

Favorite Quote:

"Time takes it all, whether you want it or not. Time takes it all, time bears it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.”

Up Next:

Tomorrow (9/1) is the start of Halloween Bingo! I'll be reading Desperation for my American Horror Story square.
 

 

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review 2017-08-30 22:04
ROSE MADDER Review
Rose Madder - Stephen King

Stephen King once famously proclaimed himself the Big Mac and fries of literature — meaning his works are popular and enjoyable, albeit perhaps lacking in nourishment. I heartily disagree with that assessment, for the most part. Novels such as ITDolores Claiborne, and The Dead Zone are intricate, multi-layered masterstrokes; methinks King is too modest in regards to his own creations. 

However. . . the Maine author's observation does hold true in a few select cases. Christine is a barrel of fun, but it certainly offers no depth. That's cool. King's 1983 novel about a haunted car is campy horror at its campiest. I think I would put Rose Madder in the Big Mac and fries category, too: while fun and involving, one comes away feeling full but perhaps not particularly satisfied. 

This is a brutal, hard-edged tale of spousal abuse, escape, and recovery. The main character is Rose, a woman dealt physical and mental trauma from her husband for fourteen years. Rose Madder is her journey to self-discovery and freedom. Like previous novels Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne, King takes an unflinching and daring look at femininity and what it takes to be a woman in the modern age. And, for the most part, he succeeds. 

Perhaps my biggest problem with this story is not the infamous magical painting Rose escapes into (a plot point that didn't work for me the first time around, but I had a bit more fun with it on this reread), but Norman — the abusive husband. This dude is so over-the-top it's unreal. King is a master at creating despicable, terrifying humans; it's nothing short of fascinating that he failed so completely with Norman. He's a walking cliche, and King never takes the time to give the reader any reason to sympathize with him. He's just CRAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY from literally page one, and he only gets worse. Because of that, much of this novel's potential menace is lost. Shame. 

That said, the mythological elements of this novel . . . are interesting. They don't always work, and sometimes they seem awkwardly juxtaposed with the woman-on-the-run thriller feel, but it's whatever. King would explore escaping into an alternate, mythic world to better effect in Lisey's Story

Rose Madder is Stephen King at his most average. While containing interesting ideas, some captivating prose (especially that prologue — sheeeeesh!), and a serviceable main character in Rose, this novel just feels tired, inessential. At times I got the sense King was getting bored with the story, and was ready to finish the damn thing. Recommended, but perhaps only for King completists. 

King Connections:

There are a few tangential connections to Dark Tower, such as references to ka and the City of Lud. 

Paul Sheldon of Misery fame gets a few generous shoutouts. 

Favorite Quote: 

"In that instant she knew what it must feel like to cross a river into a foreign country, and then set fire to the bridge behind you, and stand on the riverbank, watching and breathing deeply as your only chance of retreat went up in smoke.” 

Up Next:

I thought Desperation was next, but I forgot The Green Mileexists. Ha!

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review 2017-04-29 19:34
DOLORES CLAIBORNE Review
Dolores Claiborne - Stephen King

Five stars for one of my very favorite Stephen King stories: the enthralling and legendary 1993 novel, Dolores Claiborne.

 

As old as this book is, and considering it was made into a big budget film starring Kathy Bates (my favorite King adaption, by the way), almost everyone knows the plot — so I won't rehash too much. But I will say this is the story of a woman — easily the strongest woman King has ever created, and simply one of the best damn female main characters I've ever come across in fiction. This is her story — her confessional — all told in first-person, in Maine dialect. The writing style is unique, something most authors wouldn't have been able to pull off . . . but King isn't most authors. Novels like this one are why he is my favorite writer, full stop.

 

There is so much I want to say about this book and I find I can't really say much at all. A complex, taut, fast-paced domestic thriller/drama/mystery, this ranks among King's most un-put-downable and intriguing. defy any reader to finish the story and not think of Dolores from time to time.

 

A classic. A must-read. Etc.

 

Favorite Quote

 

"In the fifties... when they had their summer parties - there were always different colored lanterns on the lawn... and I get the funniest chill. In the end the bright colors always go out of life, have you noticed that? In the end, things always look gray, like a dress that's been washed too many times.”

 

King Connections

 

Several references to Shawshank prison are mentioned.

 

On page 226, Dolores is driving home on the day of the eclipse and takes note of the deserted roads — she comments on how hey reminded her of "that small town downstate" where it is rumored "no one lives there anymore." A reference to 'Salem's Lot? I'll say maybe.

 

This is the 'sister' novel of Gerald's Game. Both books' most crucial moments take place on the day of the eclipse.

 

Up Next

 

It's a world of color, a world of darkness . . . It's Insomnia.

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review 2017-04-21 23:11
GERALD'S GAME Review
Gerald's Game - Stephen King

Gerald's Gameis a brutal, exhausting read. With this 1992 novel Stephen King did the impossible: he wrote a harrowing, haunting novel about one woman trapped in a room . . . and he managed to make it so damn interesting! Not only that, I feel this is King's scariest work. That's subjective, of course, but it's the opinion of this humble reviewer.

 

Jessie and Gerald Burlingame have gone up to their summer cabin on Dark Score Lake in the middle of October for a weekend getaway. The community is almost empty — the summer people have long gone home — and the couple plan to spend a lot of time in bed. Gerald is a fan of bondage and Jessie is not. He forces her into handcuffs and she kicks him, her overweight, middle-aged husband, in the stomach and testicles. Hubby drops dead, and Jessie is alone, chained to the bed . . . with no means of escape. And that's chapter one!

 

This is the mother of character studies. Over 400 pages or so, by way of flashbacks and inner voices, King deeply explores Jessie's psyche and what it means to be a strong woman in this macho, male-oriented world. When I think of Gerald's Game, the word I immediately associate with it is 'brave'. Stephen King could have rested on his laurels: he had become known for creating small towns only to burn them down by novel's end; he was known for traditional horror tropes like ghosts and vampires and aliens. Don't get me wrong — in King's hands, all those things became new and invigorated once more, but this novel shows the horror master turning a corner in his writing. What would follow is a string of novels unafraid to poke and prod at highly sensitive, current social issues, all featuring some of the damn best character work of the man's career.

 

All that said, this novel is not without its faults. On the whole it is very good, but it is too wordy at times; repetitive, too. And the ending overstays its welcome, I fear. I feel the novel would have been stronger had it ended with Jessie in the Mercedes, and perhaps a brief epilogue added on a'la Pet Sematary. What the reader is instead given is sixty or seventy pages of largely unnecessary wrap-up.

 

This will never be top King, for me, but it's a fine novel all the same.

 

Favorite Quote

 

"“If anyone ever asks you what panic is, now you can tell them: an emotional blank spot that leaves you feeling as if you've been sucking on a mouthful of pennies."

 

King Connections

 

The Burlingames' cabin is on Dark Score Lake, which would loom large over King's '90s output, especially Bag of Bones.

 

The towns of Chamberlain (Carrie) and Castle Rock (several short stories and novels) are mentioned in the novel's final chapters. Jessie muses on the fire that happened in Castle Rock "about a year ago," which is a direct reference to the events of Needful Things's climax.

 

This novel is, of course, the fraternal twin of Dolores Claiborne, but I will discuss that connection in depth when reviewing that novel.

 

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review 2017-04-21 23:06
NEEDFUL THINGS Review
Needful Things - Stephen King

Needful Things is my favorite Stephen King novel. Hell, it's probably my favorite novel, period. I felt that way going into this reread, and those feelings did not change upon reading it for the...fourth time, I think it is now. King nails everything here: exceptional character work, horror and comedy in equal measure, and one of his most memorable endings to date.

 

I know this novel has its detractors, and that's cool. Different strokes for different folks, brother. This novel is long (but not extraneous, he emphasized) and stars one of King's largest casts. I dig that, and some readers don't. Personally, I love every character here: Buster Keeton, Nettie Cobb, Hugh Priest, Willie Rose — that old Catholic-hating reverend. This novel is King at his most Dickensian: these small town people are folks all readers can relate to; the way these characters' lives intertwine with one another are an absolute joy to read about. And like the best of Dickens's work, this book is hilarious at times. I laugh until I cry every time I read Needful Things; typically I find King's humor to be a little hit or miss. In this 1991 satire, he hits the nail on the head every. single. time. I would wager SK had a ton of fun writing this novel because it's a blast to read. That's not to say this book is lighthearted or breezy; it's anything but. While it has it's hilarious moments, those are contrasted sharply with some of the darkest, most despairing scenes King has ever penned. Why is this book not mentioned in the same breath as Pet Sematary or Cujo when this author's bleakest works are discussed? Some of the text is almost too downtrodden to bare (I'm thinking, for instance, of Cora Rusk's distraction — her longing to go back to her Elvis fantasy — and inability to understand what has just happened to her son. No spoilers!)

 

As well, it is as relevant today as it was in 1991 — if not more so. For the last eighteen months or thereabouts, I have watched roughly 40% of my country's citizens fall victim to an aging con man, someone who preyed and still preys on the weak, scared, angry and greedy to win the presidential election and further his agenda (or sow chaos; whatever you want to call it). In a sense, this novel feels just as chilling and timely in the Trump era as 1984 or It Can't Happen Here.

 

Needless to say, this is King's masterwork — at least, for me it is. Some folks would say that title falls to the Dark Tower series or It or The Stand. That's fine. Literature is so damn subjective and every Constant Reader is different. But for me, Needful Things is the tome that shows the impossible heights King is capable of climbing to. He's come close since — and he had come close before this novel released — but this is in a class all its own. My highest recommendation, and then some.

 

Favorite Quote

 

"The goods which had so attracted the residents of Castle Rock — the black pearls, the holy relics, the carnival glass, the pipes, the old comic books, the baseball cards, the antique kaleidoscopes — were all gone. Mr. Gaunt had gotten down to his real business, and at the end of things, the business was always the same. The ultimate item had changed with the years, just like everything else, but such changes were surface things, frosting of different flavors on the same dark and bitter cake.
At the end, Mr. Gaunt always sold them weapons . . . and they always bought."

 

King Connections

 

Confession: I did not take notes while reading this. I know, I know; bad Cody! I just wanted to enjoy the ride.

 

This is subtitled "The Last Castle Rock Story", so of course it's the punctuation mark on the Castle Rock saga. Connections big and small to The Dead Zone, The Body, Cujo, The Dark Half, and The Sun Dog pop up.

The book's epilogue is set in Junction City, Iowa, which was the setting for 1990's novella The Library Policeman.

 

The car Ace Merrill picks up for Mr. Gaunt is a Tucker Talisman — a type of car that does not exist, and I am almost tempted to say its name is a reference to The Talisman. As well, when Ace sits in the Talisman for the first time he thinks about how fine a new car smells. "Nothing smells better," he remarks, "except maybe pussy." This line is almost certainly a throwback to Christine, as that same thought is expressed by a character in that novel. Pretty cool.

 

I am sure there are many more connections to be found here (there are references to Derry and some scenes are set in Cumberland Hospital, which is close to Jerusalem's Lot), but I didn't feel like chasing them. Say sorry.

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