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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Reviewing Stephen King

I’m a major fan of King, but not a fan of horror. I read On Writing in 2015 for writing tips and got so intrigued that I wanted to read his non-scary fiction, so began with 11/22/63 and haven’t looked back. I love his books. All of the ones I’m listing (besides It which I only read a bit of) are not super scary; more dramatic/action packed/psychological suspense. (And humorous at times; I don’t think Apt Pupil is meant to be a dark comedy though I interpret it as such). I’ve listed the books I’ve read in order of publication rather than in order of reading as I’ve read some more than once. (Note: may contain spoilers).

Carrie. I really related to this story. (Watched the 2002 film first to make sure it wasn’t too scary; isn’t scary at all just dramatic). I loved Carrie, she was my girl. I was bullied as a child so I knew how she felt. Luckily for me I had a loving family to go home to. It showed the dangers of religious extremism through Carrie’s vile and crazy mother. I loved Sue Snell and Miss Desjardin for standing up for Carrie and helping her. This book showed how bitchy girls can be and how awful school is for anyone that is deemed ‘different.’ I laughed and clapped when Carrie burned the school down and killed all those cunts.
Firestarter. AMAZING. Non-stop story and action; no internal monologues or self-indulgent description that Mr King sometimes does. I loved this book about a man and his pyrokinetic daughter on the run from a sinister government agency. I was rooting for Andy and Charlie the whole time, especially loving her right till the end.

It. This one’s meant to be terrifying so I thought I’d only read a bit of it because the story sounded intriguing. I read about two hundred pages or so, online. It is fucking huge, like the bloody size of the Bible. In terms of the writing I’d say this one was the best written that I’ve read of his so far. Every bit of it was interesting. It’s a shame that it is super scary, else I’d be interested in reading the whole thing. I loved the idea of jumping back and forth between times periods and having different character perspectives. The Stand is meant to be like that and that’s more of a sci-fi then a horror, so I’d deffo love to give that a read.

Misery. Oh. My. God. Literally amazing, better than the movie (which is also great). I was gasping towards the end. Annie and Paul are two of the most realistic characters ever. Paul’s perseverance is amazing, just like Andy Dufresne or Charlie McGee. You’ll root for him till the end. Annie is probably the most evil character in fiction, way worse than Margaret White or John Rainbird. Brilliant suspense.
Different Seasons: The Shawshank Redemption. Film and story are wonderful. The film is more ‘stretched out’ than the book; book is a novella not a giant beast of a novel and there are additional things in the film. However I think both work well in showcasing the backstories of Andy and Red and their relationship. I would say the film is a bit better, just because there are some things a movie can do that a book can’t (although I equally love both art forms).

Different Seasons: Apt Pupil. One of my favourites stories ever. It’s meant to be very dark, but violence generally makes me laugh rather than disturbs me. I’ve read this book a couple times and laughed through most of it. The writing is brilliant and the ending is hilarious. Spot on.

Different Seasons: The Body. Lovely story though I think King indulged a bit in the whole ‘writing about a writer’ thing. I was less interested in Gordon’s writing career and these extra stories about a stud and a pie-eating contest. I loved the tale of these four young lads going to discover a dead body. It had some fucked up bits (those leeches, eurgh) and some sad parts, but all in all a great story.

Different Seasons: The Breathing Method. The shortest of the Different Seasons novellas, and just as good. A tale within a tale. These men go to this strange gentlemen’s club once a year and exchange stories. A doctor tells this tale of a patient he had back in the ‘30s; a young unmarried pregnant woman. Nowadays this means fuck all, but back then an unmarried woman being pregnant was a big deal. It’s pretty sad and less action packed than the others, and again beautifully written.

The Running Man. I like the whole dystopia TV show thing going on but I dunno; there wasn’t enough action in this book for me. King can be a pretty slow, tension-building kind of writer, and I prefer stuff that’s fast and to the point (which is what I love about Carrie and Firestarter). I sort of disappeared towards the end of the story. It is good, but not his best I would say.

On Writing. Just plain lovely. It’s like the guy is talking to you. He gives a great mix of discussing his life story and tips regarding writing. I think they’re honest and well laid out, although besides ‘read a lot and write a lot’ I don’t think you can ‘teach’ someone how to write. Most of the stuff he mentions, like vocabulary, grammar and description, you learn in school.

11/22/63. Fucking brilliant book, a huge monster that you can lose yourself in. I was a bit disappointed by the TV adaptation and only watched bits and pieces of it. I was annoyed that they cast James Franco as the lead guy; Jake Epping is meant to be this everyman English teacher dude not a sexy Hollywood actor. It’s like when they cast Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate Reddy in I don’t know how she does it. The ending of this book was a bit meh, but then endings usually are. I think he ran out of thread towards the end. I had phrases like ‘the past doesn’t want to be changed’ and ‘harmonic chimes’ stuck in my head for months afterwards.

Mr Mercedes. Good book, although not the best imo. Great characters. I loved the protagonists Bill, Jerome, Janey and Holly. The character development really pulled through in this one, with a wonderfully triumphant ending. But what really made this story was its psychopathic villain Brady Hartsfield. At times I believe the villain can be more important and interesting than the hero/heroes, and it gives the hero a motive and if the villain is done well their character is fascinating to read about. (Example: The Joker in The Dark Knight). This one took me some weeks to read as I didn't find it as 'exciting' as say Carrie, Misery or Firestarter. But still deffo worth it, a good crime-thriller.

Finder’s Keepers. First time I read this I didn't love it; I hadn't read 'Mr Mercedes' and it makes more sense to read that first because the characters follow on. Currently re-reading it and definitely enjoying it more. Sociopathic Morrie is not a good guy but he's nowhere near as awful as Brady, and I found his entire storyline to be seriously depressing. All he wanted was to read Rothstein's unpublished Jimmy Gold novels. The poor dude didn't even get to do that and spent 35 years rotting away in prison because of one stupid black-out drunken night. I really ache for him because I know what obsession feels like, and I know the power stories can hold. Mr King was really cruel in his ending, but I guess his point was that some things (family, love) are more important than books.

Summary of King’s stories: alcoholism, baseball, an everyman protagonist who’s an English teacher, and Maine. ALWAYS Maine. And they'll be some link with the 50s-70s. Someone will be an alcoholic, and someone else will be a religious fanatic. And can't forget the child with psychic powers.

I haven't mentioned The Shining. The book is meant to be really scary so I probs won't read that one. I have seen the movie, which King hated because it was unlike his novel. I've seen the movie twice, and it is good but not amazing. I found it more funny than scary; in all honesty I wouldn't say it's very scary at all, though a bit disturbing in parts. Clearly a deranged alcoholic man who tries to kill his family doesn't creep me out much.

I would say my favourites are Apt Pupil, 11/22/63, Firestarter and Misery.

Ones I would like to read: The Dark Tower series, Under the dome, Dolores Clairborne, The Stand, Christine, The Green Mile, The Eyes of the Dragon and anything else that isn't scary. (If you like scary stuff try Pet Semetary, It, The Shining, Cujo, Revival, Salem's Lot or any of his short story/novella collections besides Different Seasons).
Of course horror is subjective, and we're all scared by different things. Some people may find Misery or Carrie scary; to me they weren't scary at all. It and Pet Semetary are considered to be his scariest works; he was actually afraid to publish Pet Semetary as he thought he'd gone 'too far.'

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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