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review 2015-09-23 13:14
Full Dark, No Stars Review
Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King

It’s safe to say that, by today’s standards, Stephen King’s novellas are actually novels. Especially his horror novellas. When you have publishers considering 35,000 words “novel length”, it makes you wonder what the actual difference is between a novel and a novella and whether or not the distinction will make a lot of difference in the coming years. Buddy of mine, Gregor Xane, thinks novellas suit horror just fine, that they are the perfect length to bring on the scares and then GTFO of Dodge. I tend to agree with him. But there’s something different about a King novella. They normally feel like novels twice their length. They feel packed to bursting with content. Think about Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, think The Langoliers or The Mist. So once again, I wonder… What really makes a novel a novel. Is it truly length? Or the breadth of story?

This collection is bleak. There’s not a bright moment to be found, hence the title. Let’s discuss what that entails, shall we?

1922: Sweet baby Tom Cruise this story is disturbing. It’s one of those tales that make you feel dirty after completing it. What Wilf and Hank do is irredeemable, but somehow, I feel bad for the both of them by story’s end. That’s damn good writing, if you ask me. That’s having humanity nailed down to where it’s likely never to move again.

Big Driver: Rape. Does that word make you uncomfortable? Probably. Even if you’re not a victim, or don’t know a victim, you’re liable to cringe just reading it. But what about ‘revenge’? Does that word make you smile? Well, even though the revenge in this tale is not easily won or pretty in nature, I still grin like a mad bastard reading about these fuckers getting their comeuppance. And speaking of the word ‘rape’, King uses it a lot in this story. He doesn't pull any punches. There’s one page where it seems like every other word is that word. I feel he was trying to drive home the stark horror of the situation by pummeling us with repetition. "You will read this. You will know. You will see."

Fair Extension: The shortest of the tales, this one is my favorite. In King’s short story, “The Man in the Black Suit”, which appears in Everything’s Eventual and won an O. Henry Award, King comes right out and tells us who the bad guy is. In this one, the story’s more sinister for its allusions. You know who this guy is bartering with, I know who he’s bartering with, even the character knows, but no one ever says it. Because that’s what gives monsters their true power – acknowledgement. The boogeyman isn’t scary until you believe he is.

A Good Marriage: I love this one for its simple truths. You never truly know another human being, no matter how long you might live with them. King used the serial killer known as BTK for inspiration, and the reader is left wishing that this had been the actual outcome.

In summation: In my opinion, King shines brightest when he’s working with novellas. I can name numerous bad novels and short stories of his, but I can’t think of a single novella from him that I’ve disliked. What do you think? Can you name one, and why didn't you like it?

Final Judgment: Five stars, but not a single one to brighten your mood.

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review 2015-09-21 09:16
Everything's Eventual Review (and more)
Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales - Stephen King

 As with all of Stephen King’s collections, I’m giving each story a one-sentence review. Before we begin, I would like to say a few things that have little to do with this book’s contents. If you do not care for personal stories in reviews, you should take this chance to move along, or you may scroll past the next few paragraphs. But I hope you’ll join me. Maybe my story will help someone who doesn’t know they need help.

While listening to this one (I chose the audiobook for this reread), I tried to remember what was going on in my life when this book came out. The year was 2002, the month was March, and six months prior, I had met the woman who would become my wife. I was working as a CNA for a local hospital and had been clean for about five months. My drug of choice was heroin. My wife is the reason I decided on recovery. Not because it was love at first site, or any of that nonsense, but because I finally found something I cared more for than the drugs. To this day, she doesn’t knows how bad I was. She might have an idea that I was on something, but I don’t think she knew the extent of my addiction.

Any junkie will tell you, “Once a junkie, always a junkie.” As far as I see it, there are three stages of being a Junkie: Active junkie, relapsed junkie, and recovering junkie. There is no former junkie. If you’ve ever enjoyed hard drugs, you will always have a taste for it. The fits and seizures and sweats and vomiting everything you eat lasts about two weeks. If you’re lucky, you can sleep through the first few days. If you’re unlucky, like I was, you ride that motherfucker until sparks spit from the undercarriage. It’s a perpetual feeling of being dragged through a field of insulation. You can’t scratch deep enough and motor control is a concept lost on you. All this to kick something that makes you feel like you’re soaking in a warm cloud of perpetual orgasm whenever you take it. Is it any wonder junkies relapse? What most junkies don’t tell you is how badly you need a smoke, a shot, a snort, a drink, or whatever, for as long as one year later. That need eventually turns into a lesser want after the first year and you just have to ignore it if you’re going to make it. But that first year, man… It is fucking awful. Everything seems like it would be so much better if you relapsed, if you just gave in and took that smoke, that shot, that snort, that drink… But it won’t be. Sure, that first hour is gonna be magic, kid, but everything after is gonna feel like prematurely ejaculating inside the girl of your dreams, or having the man of your dreams squirt off after two pumps. You’ll want to go again. But you shouldn’t. Because getting better starts with changing your attitude and finding something greater than the addiction.

But anyway. My recovery was why I hated this book when it first came out. I was in a bad place with a great person. And what I once considered one of King’s worst books turned out to be not so bad after all. I really enjoyed myself this time around. However, I still believe this is his weakest collection. Even if there are two amazing stories herein, the rest are just so-so. Here’s why:

“Autopsy Room Four” – There’s a fine line between tribute and thievery, and King walks it in this homage to an old Twilight Zone episode. ***

“The Man in the Black Hat” – King won an O. Henry award for this short, but other than the description of the titular devil, it falls a little flat for me. ***

“All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” - This literary tale is, I think, what sets King apart from every other writer in the business - he can play at any genre and succeed because he’s a jack of all trade of the wordsmith variety. ****

“The Death of Jack Hamilton” – Loved the disgusting bits, but this one goes on way too long. **

“In The Deathroom” – I feel the same way about this one as I did with the last one. **

“The Little Sister of Eluria” – Whether it be a day trip or a long vacation, Mid-World is one of my favorite destinations. *****

“Everything’s Eventual” – A little tale of psychic persuasion with ambiguous morals. ***

“L.T.’s Theory of Pets” – Just fucking funny. *****

“The Road Virus Heads North” Can’t be bothered to give a fuck for this one, but the television adaptation wasn’t bad. *

“Lunch at the Gotham Café” – So much gory fun. ****

“That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French” – Repetitive to the point of inducing sleep, and unfortunately, that’s the point. **

“1408” – Probably one of the coolest ideas King’s approached. ****

“Riding the Bullet” – A fun little ride, but not much else. ***

“Lucky Quarter” – Sad. ***

In summation: Everything’s Eventual is King’s most inconsistent collection. You can almost hear King singing, “Somma dis shit, somma dat shit, a whole lotta uddah shit,” over and over as he threw these stories together. For my money, I would have loved to have seen him hold onto these and pair them with the tales in Just After Sunset and given us another massive collection like Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Oh well. You know what they say. “Want in one hand and shit in the other.”

Final Judgment: Some of everything is eventually put on display.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-09-18 12:51
11/22/63 Review
11/22/63 - Stephen King

Spoilers throughout. You’ve been warned.

Since 1998, I have purchased two copies of every one of Stephen King’s books on release day; one to read, and one to collect. With the invention of ebooks, I’ve saved money by being able to buy one ebook copy along with a hardcover to add to my collection. I currently own first editions of all King’s novels. (Yes, even Carrie. I’ll be paying off that credit card bill for some time.) I own every novel and short story collection he’s ever published in hardcover, paperback, and audiobook form. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to my collection (pictures on Goodreads), and half a closet full of doubles, triples, and trash copies I’ve worn out over the years. I cried when I heard he was likely dead after a van struck him in 1999. I hooted and hollered when he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation, and most recently, when he was invited to the White House. Last October I started a reread of all of his novels (and, when time permitted, some of his collections), and after finishing 11/22/63, I have completed that challenge two weeks short of a year, successfully hitting my goal. During this reread of his catalog, I blogged after completing every decade of his career in a series I called "A Decade with King", and those posts, if you’re interested, can be found here, along with my reviews for all of King’s works: https://edwardlorn.wordpress.com/52-i... Come December, my review of Just After Sunset will be featured on Mark West’s King for a Year project, which you can find here:http://kingreviews2015.blogspot.com/

I tell you all this not to brag, but to offer evidence of just how hard I fanboy over a man whom I feel is our greatest living storyteller. In my opinion, he's one of the only popular novelists working today who have reached an insane level of success and still respects his craft. I firmly believe the only bad books he's written were bad because he forced them out in an attempt to prove to himself that he could still write after almost dying. Even The Tommyknockers can be blamed on him trying to kick coke and alcohol.

With all that having been said, I must say, I never was all that thrilled with this book. Not upon first reading it, and not now. I’ve been asked why numerous times and my answer has always been the same. “I don’t like romance.” That, above all else, is why I don’t care for this book. Purely subjective. Reading this book is like reading Wizard and Glass all over again. Yes, wonderful, they danced together. It was sweet. Somebody get me an insulin shot. Awesome, he loves her after she’s disfigured. Wowzers, he blows all that hard work to save her … and yada, yada, yada … I know I sound terribly cynical, but I have a good reason for my dislike of romance.

No love story is greater than the one I am living. My wife is my world. She’s saved my life numerous times, and has given me two beautiful children. I am the luckiest man I know. And if you think I’m writing that to please the missus, you should know that my wife doesn’t read my reviews. She no longer reads my books, either. I’m a bit too bleak for her, and she likes to think of me as the cheery guy she sleeps next to every night instead of a peddler of nightmares.

Will you like 11/22/63? Probably. Most everybody else I know who’s read it loves it and calls it King’s best novel to date. It’s beautifully written, it’s just not my thing. The high points for me are all the sections without Sadie, which are few and far between. I also I didn’t care much for the scene in which Oswald’s plans are foiled. For such a long book, that one scene felt glossed over. Strangely enough, my favorite part of this book is when Jake returns to 2011 after having saved Kennedy only to find the world is one fucked up place. That’s the book I wanted to read, not 700+ pages of gushy love story bookended by about a 100 pages of actual story progression.

If I were ever to read this book again, I would definitely go with the audiobook. Craig Wasson does a terrific job, and his Kennedy impersonation is spot-the-fuck-on. I had big fun listening to this book this time around. Much more fun than I had when I read the text so many years back.

All right. Now we come to the warning I give in all my King reviews. You should know that this next section has spoilers for many of King’s works and not just 11/22/63. I only suggest clicking on the spoiler tag if you’ve read all of King’s work, or, at the very least, the Dark Tower books and their numerous tie-ins.

Obvious Tie-Ins:

The idea of strings and colors and their effect on reality, which first appeared inInsomnia.
Takuro Spirit a car which, oddly enough, can be found in the plague ravaged landscape of The Stand as featured in Wizard and Glass when Roland's ka-tet finally escape Blaine.
Ritchie and Bev from It have a rather substantial cameo, which I loved.

No conspiracy theories this time, folks. King has so many obvious tie-ins in this novel that there’s no speculation needed. The last time he connected so many dots in a non-Dark Tower novel was way back with Insomnia.

(spoiler show)

In summation: 11/22/63 simply isn’t my cuppa tea. It’s well-written, and shows a maturity of style that most authors never achieve, but the overall experience is lost on me because of all the kissy, kissy, lovey, dovey going on. I just wanted Jake to stop Oswald so we could see what the world would be like in the alternate future. What I got was a rehashing of the love story in Wizard and Glass that left a bad taste in my mouth. But I’m sure you’ll love it.

Final Judgment: No love lost.

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review 2015-08-25 15:41
Under the Dome Review
Under the Dome - Stephen King,Raul Esparza

Before we begin, I thought I would point out something silly. Lee Child wrote the blurb that graces the trade paperback edition of Under the Dome, one that states: "Seven words: The best yet from the best ever." Not only is Lee Child full of shit (no true King fan will call this novel his best work, not even close) but Child's literary creation Jack Reacher is mentioned half a dozen times within King's novel. That's a lot for a character that doesn't even belong to King. But that's the business. You whack me off, I whack you off, and we all profit from the clean up. Is it any wonder why author blurbs equate to a puddle of warmed over spunk to most readers? And those who still believe these front cover grabbers are usually upset by the end of the book. Don't believe me? Go read the reviews of Scott Smith's The Ruins or Nick Cutter's The Troop and count how many times you read something to the effect of "I only read this because of Uncle Stevie's blurb on the front of the book. Is King doing drugs again, because this sucks!" Which begs the question: Do blurbs actually sell books? Better yet, would an honest blurb sell a book? How about this: "Under the Dome is a rollercoaster ride, but when it stops, the ride operator farts in your mouth." Yeah... that probably wouldn't sell many books. But goddamn if it isn't the truest blurb I can think of for this book.

I first read Under the Dome when it came out in 2009. I wore out both my wrists trying to read the hardcover. I liked it all the way up until the ending. Not because it's a cop out or too clean or any of the other complaints I heard, but because I knew it was coming. It happens in just about every King novel.

Hero has psychic link with villain/monster and is able to save the day.

(spoiler show)

But it works for King, and besides, I have a theory for why that happens. Is my theory a sorry attempt at me trying to explain my biggest literary hero's oft-used crutch? Probably. But it makes sense, so fugoff! (I'll explain my theory in the spoiler section toward the end of this review.)

While I have pretty much summed up Under the Dome in the blurb located at the end of the first paragraph of this review, I do feel the need to express how awesome the first 1020 pages of this book are. If you are a King fan, you'll likely have fun. There's very little filler. Anyone who would like to argue that this novel is bloated, I will throw down with you in the comment section, because everything in this book serves a purpose. Every chapter progresses the story. The problem/blessing is that there is so much story. But if one chapter had been cut, this pile of Lincoln Logs would most definitely tumble. It does not feel as large as King's other 1000-page efforts, though. The Stand and IT are both massive in their own right, but they seem bigger in scope as well. Grander. This one is more The Tommyknockers kinda big. More Needful Things. It's also better than the former and nowhere near as good as the latter. Everything happens over a short period of time, but the events do escalate. The inhabitants of Chester's Mill are fucked by the end, albeit not quite as fucked as I would have hoped they would be.

If King is to be believed, and I think he is, he first started writing this book in the 70s. Some people believe that King says this to keep Under the Dome from being compared to The Simpson's Movie. The only reason I believe King is because I started a novel back in the late nineties called Dark Side of the Mountain, wherein people get trapped inside a huge black sphere somewhere in the San Bernardino Mountains in California. People trapped by unseen/unknown forces... Yeah, the idea is not all that original. Anyfuck, King's original title for Under the Dome was The Cannibals. I like the idea of that title. I like where King wanted to take us. People stuck under a freaky-ass dome. Food supplies start to deteriorate. People find other food sources... Rad. What we get instead is a pedal-to-the-medal horror/sci fi/thriller stuffed inside the confines of King's typical small Maine town.

My biggest complaint is that all this feels like I've been here before. The Chef feels like Trashcan Man. Barbie feels like Jim Gardner. You have your witty old woman. Your racist/religious/power hungry villain. Your sick-and-dying baddie. Precocious children. And so on. This is a Stephen King novel. You either like that shit or you don't. He's done it better. He's done it much, much, muchmuchmuch worse. All in all, this is just an average effort from an above average novelist who only writes a decent ending every five years or so. But if you're a Stephen King fan, you know, "It's about the journey, not the destinations." At least that's what King tells us.

Audiobook notes: Raúl Esparza is fantastic. This is one of the best King audiobooks for sale right now. It made my reread so much easier.

Television series notes: Fuck the television series. That series is garbage. Not garbage in the sense that it doesn't follow the book (however, that is true), but garbage because it's garbage. It's poorly acted and shittily written.

Before clicking on this next spoiler tag, you must know that I will be spoiling far more than just this book. These are theories on how all of King's novels tie together. Expect spoilers from his entire catalog. You've been warned.

Consipracy Theory:

I believe the Grays (The Tommyknockers), Pennywise (IT), the butt weaselsDreamcatcher, and the leatherfaces (Under the Dome) are all the same alien race and that they all originated in the Prim (consult the Stephen King wiki for what that is:http://darktower.wikia.com/wiki/Prim.) These are the creatures that gave humankind the knowledge that allowed us to become as technologically advanced as we've become. In the Dark Tower novels they are called the Old Ones.

Why does everyone in King's novels have psychic powers? Because of the ship in The Tommyknockers. In that novel, there's an alien spacecraft buried in the woods outside of Haven, Maine. That ship gives people psychic abilities and knowledge of advanced technology. Because there's no way of telling when the craft landed there's not way of telling how many people it "polluted" before Bobbi Anderson dug it up. This explains Carrie and every other pop-up psychic in the King-verse. Those psychics living outside the pollution area of Maine are children or relatives of people who've lived in Maine at some time or the other. Example: Danny Torrance and Doc Hallorann.

(spoiler show)

For more information on my theories and tie-ins, you can follow my quest here:https://edwardlorn.wordpress.com/52-i...

In summation: Despite the three-star rating, I say skip this one. If you want a great King epic, try The Stand. If you want a great story about a small town tearing itself apart, tryNeedful Things. There are just so many better King novels out there. If you wanna know where to start, I'll be in the comment section answering questions.

Final Judgment: Dead fuck.

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review 2015-07-04 18:06
Lisey's Story Review
Lisey's Story - Stephen King

I have such a love/hate relationship with this book. For one, it's full of twice-used ideas. Everything you find inside Lisey's Story is taken part and parcel from other King novels. The idea of being haunted by a spouse and one half of the marriage being an author is Bag of Bones to a Tee. You have the lush other world just beyond ours that is wonderful during the day, and horrible after dark, via Rose Madder. Then you have the character of "Zack McCool" who is John Shooter from "Secret Window, Secret Garden" mixed with shadows of Annie Wilkes of Misery. It's one of the only novels wherein King steals heavily from himself. He's borrowed from numerous authors over his four-plus-decade career, but this time he's riding the Dean Koontz train into Repeatsville. If it's possible to plagiarize yourself, King does so in this novel. This and this alone is why I couldn't see rating the book five stars.

With that being said, you're unlikely to find a better written King novel. I understand why it's King's personal favorite. But that doesn't mean I can ignore the blatant repetition. So what is a reviewer to do? This time around, I'm going with style over content.

King's prose is gorgeous here, even moreso than in Bag of Bones, and that's saying something. There are entire chapters worth quoting, and King himself will tell you that's unlike him. He's been honest in the past about how he sometimes awkwardly stumbles and powers through scenes with sheer dumb will, and that's putting it nicely. Lisey's Story, while being your typical King novel content wise, is a beautiful product conceived by a man who has spent almost half a century publicly honing his craft. It has all the staples of a terrific King novel: the horror, the unfailing heart, and the uncanny ability the author possesses of writing believable and flawed women.

My favorite part of this novel is early on, it is, truth be told, the only reason I finished the book the first time around, back when it came out in 2006. I will admit that the book is never quite as good, story wise, as it is during the scene wherein Scott is shot. Yes, the story is a struggle after that, mainly because it hops around through time like Bugs Bunny and Doctor Who's hyperactive love child. You must pay close attention in the later chapters or risk being left in King's dust. Still, these flashbacks and flash forwards and returns to present are touching and, at times, utterly heart rending. Scott's death (it's in the synopsis that he's dead, so I don't consider that information a spoiler) is probably the strongest-written section in the entire book.

For this reread, I decided on the audiobook narrated by Mare Winningham. If you dig audiobooks, I highly recommend you do the same. She especially excels at performing Young Scott.

If you click on "view spoiler", you should know that there are spoilers for other King novels aside from this one. What you will get if you clickety-clack that spoilery button are this book's tie ins to other King novels, and a conspiracy theory regarding Boo-ya Moon.

Conspiracy theory:

I believe that Boo'ya Moon is the same place Mrs. Todd disappears to in the short story "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut." I also believe it's the same world Rose escapes into inRose Madder. Of course all these places are part of the same multiverse, one that I call the King-verse. They are all simply different stops on different beams along the path to the Dark Tower.

Tie ins:

Andy Clutterbuck, the guy who took over for Alan Pangborn as sheriff of Castle County, makes an appearance.
There is a small, one sentence nod to the Dark Tower. I missed coping it down while I was listening, but to paraphrase, it goes something like this: "In some tower's keep, everything was right with the world." Close enough for government work, anyway.

(spoiler show)

In summation: Other than the final Dark Tower novels, Lisey's Story was the best thing to come out of post-accident King. There have been other terrific novels since this one, but for a while after that van creamed him, I was concerned. I think we all were. Lisey's Story renewed my faith in King.

Final Judgment: Rehashed hash can still get you high.


(Only three more books to go before I'm done with my rereads!)

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