Tag Archives | Stephen King

Revival | Stephen King

The cover of King's RevivalCharles Jacobs was a young minister who liked to tinker with electricity—until lost his wife and child in a horrific car accident. One “terrible sermon” later he left town with his faith in tatters and his electrical hobby turned an obsession.

Jamie Morton was a young child assaulting a German stronghold with plastic army men when Charles first entered his life. Revival is the story that covers their intertwined lives.

This novel stands out from the pack in a couple ways. In the first place, King excels at characterization and pacing. In contrast to so many action-packed suspense novels, King seems almost leisurely. By the time the action hits, you are emotionally invested in his characters. Surprisingly, this slower pace makes the book no less interesting. King proves that you don’t need to end every chapter with a cliff-hanger to sustain the constant reader’s interest.

The second way this novel stands out is King’s use of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror theme. He offers an explicit nod to Lovecraft when Jamie’s research assistant compares a book called De Vermis Mysteriis to Lovecraft’s “fictional” Necronomicon (389). This theme also connects Revival to the Dark Tower’s idea of the space between the worlds. The theme is only accentuated when juxtaposed against Jacob’s loss of faith.

Once again, King has shown himself a master storyteller by applying legitimate literary skills and devices to pulp fiction themes.

King, Stephen. Revival. New York: Pocket Books, 2014.

Mr. Mercedes | Stephen King

The cover of King's Mr. MercedesStephen King has a broader range of writing styles than most people realize. Sure, horror put him on the map (CarrieSalem’s Lot). He’s also a great fantasy author (Eyes of the Dragon, Dark Tower). He tells stories about people you end up caring for (The Green MileRita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption). In Mr. Mercedes, King uses the crime detective genre to created some new flawed characters you’ll end up rooting for.

Bill Hodges is a near suicidal retired detective looking for a reason to leave his mindless life of daytime television. Jerome Robinson is brilliant student and the end of high school who does yard-work for the detective. Holly is a middle-aged woman with clinical mental issues who wants to live life beyond the purview of her family guardians.

Put these three characters on the trail of a psychopathic killer and you get Mr. Mercedes. King is the master at pacing, leaving little clues throughout the text which point you toward something you need to discover in just a few more pages. In fact, “just a few more pages” might become your mantra. As with (almost) every King novel, this book grabs you in the first chapter and will have you compulsively finding time to keep reading no matter how busy your schedule.

Mr. Mercedes leaves you wanting to hear more from Bill, Jerome, and Holly and King has obliged. Finders Keepers, the second novel in the Bill Hodges Trilogy, is on book shelves. A third book is in the making.

—Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes (New York: Scribner, 2014).

Doctor Sleep | Stephen King

The cover of King's Doctor SleepWhat ever happened to little Danny Torrance after he survived the Overlook Hotel?

Doctor Sleep, sequel to The Shining (The book, not the Kubrick film), answers the question in painful and glorious detail.

There’s a depth—a maturity—to King’s writing that wasn’t there in his earlier works. The characters are more real—the villains function on many levels.

Let me share three reasons why I loved this book:

  1. This book is compelling. Despite its 500 page girth, I finished it in two days. King is the master of making every page gripping.
  2. Doctor Sleep fits well with the meta-narrative King’s developed and highlighted in his Dark Tower books. Discovering these themes made the story instantly recognizable.
  3. This is more than a supernatural thriller—King addresses real generational issues like alcohol and anger. His portrayal of grown-up Danny Torrance wrestling with his father’s demons is moving and even redemptive.

Now, don’t get me wrong—this is a still a Stephen King horror novel. It’s not for the squeamish. If you enjoy a good story, however, there’s a shine below the grizzly surface.

—Stephen King, Doctor Sleep (New York, NY: Scribner, 2013).

The Regulators | Richard Bachman

Bachman’s been referred to as King without a conscience. The Regulators certainly fits this description. Released concurrently with King’s Desperation, Regulators deals with the same cast of characters in an alternate reality. The entire book is essentially one big blood-bath.

The fast-paced excitement is also the problem with this book. With only one chapter of character development to set up the story, you’re taken on a thrill-ride with one-dimensional people you just can’t seem to care about.

The story’s redeeming value for me was the tie-in with the Dark Tower myth. The villain, Tak, is clearly a creature from the space between worlds (although it’s not made clear in the text). The alternate version in King’s Desperation supports the Dark Tower’s multiple universes idea.

The book’s exciting, but the day after I finished it, I’m already forgetting the characters. Hopefully Desperation will prove to be a little more substantial.

Under the Dome | Stephen King

Stephen King’s at his best when he lets the page-count roll freely and the cast of characters climb. That’s why I decided to give this book a try. It’s the first new King book I’ve read since Volume VII of The Dark Tower.

This book answers a question: what would happen if your small community was completely cut off from the outside world. In a sense, it’s akin to Lord of the Flies. In both books you watch society degenerate in isolation. In particular, I loved King’s grasp of religious fundamentalism and the blind hypocrisy it generates. His command of the subculture right down to it’s clichés was masterful (“Wanna get kneebound with me?”).

While the plot wasn’t too involved, it did move along briskly. I would have liked to see more about the dome’s origin (sorry about the cryptic sentence—I’m trying not to let any spoilers slip). However, the ending was well foreshadowed and this story was about the townsfolk.

This was a solid effort from one of the masters.


Black House | Stephen King & Peter Straub

Having just finished The Talisman, I decided to jump into the sequel. This book surpasses its predecessor in every way possible. The writing style is mature and polished. The horror is truly horrifying. The plot is captivating. The character development is rich, without slowing the pace of the narrative.

To make things even better, there are no subtle allusions to the world of the Dark Tower: it’s explicitly part of the plot. Hearing about the beams, the Crimson King, the Gunslinger, and the breakers all over again brought me right back into that world.

If that last sentence made no sense, you should really read the Dark Tower books followed by The Talisman before opening up this one. It’s worth the time.

Now we wait for the anticipated third book of the trilogy.

The Talisman | Stephen King & Peter Straub

I took a break from Stephen King for a while after finishing his brilliant Dark Tower heptalogy (yes, I had to look that word up). Having heard that The Talisman dealt with similar themes, I decided to give this King/Straub work a chance. It was quite interesting.

If you’re new to these works, the theme centers on a plurality of worlds that some people can flip between. Traveling Jack, the hero of The Talisman is one such person.

There were moments that really shone, such as the depiction of ultimate evil as an evangelistic preacher and the sensation and subsequent rejection of being God.

As a stand alone book, it’s a little weak—a bit of an overdone quest story. As someone in Dark Tower withdrawal, this novel brought me right back to the world of the gunslinger.

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