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Thursday, June 4, 2015

REVIEW ROUNDUP #1: Stephen King

Sorry for the brief hiatus!  It's been super hectic of late but while not keeping up on my formal updates, I have been reading and listening like a fiend. =0)

So, I've been on a Stephen King audiobook kick for the past month.  I've been a fan for a while. Seriously, who isn't? King is one of the most prolific writers of the past 30+ years not to mention the 'King of Horror.' I've only dabbled in much of his fiction.  Years back I read Bag of Bones--truly creeped out by the ghostly messages with the refrigerator magnets--, the Dead Zone--because of my continued 80s love affair with Anthony Michael Hall--, and 'Salem's Lot--because I love all things vampires BUT yikes, I'm STILL traumatized over that one!


I'm one of the facilitators of 'Positvely Paranormal: The Book Club with Bite' at my library.  We meet monthly to discuss a new title.  Going strong for over 4 years, we've discussed that we'd never read a King selection and wanted to do so.  Based on interest, Doctor Sleep is our June 2015 choice.  I hadn't read this one yet, nor had I read The Shining.  My only frame of reference was Stanley Kubrick's 1980 classic starring Jack Nicholson and a very brief glimpse at the 1997 television mini-series starring Rebecca De Mornay and Steven Weber.

In May, I listened to The Shining, narrated by Campbell Scott--remember him??  Think waaay back to 1991 with Julie Roberts--she's a nurse, caring for an ailing man, they fall in love, he dies :(  Scott does a phenomenal job reading this dark tale. Much of the story is the same; however, the nuances of the Overlook Hotel haunting, its psychological effect on Jack and his family, as well at the true nature of 'the shining' are explored in more depth. The novel is fantastically creepy and truly unsettling.  If I never see an animal topiary again, it will be too soon!

One negative observation is King's portray of marital relationships. I realize this is the point--illustrating the cracks in the foundation and the devastating and alarming flaws in Jack's psyche--but this isn't the first time my modern sensibilities find fault with King's characteristic portrayals. I recall similar feelings while reading 'Salem's Lot and the Dead Zone.

King shared that Doctor Sleep emerged from a fan asking what ever happened to young Danny Torrance.  At the beginning of the novel, Danny is just eight--the shining ebbs and flows, with psychically inclined friend Dick Hollorann teaching the young boy how to lock up any lingering Overlook ghosties from tormenting him.  Flash forward through the years, adult Dan is a mess--following in his father's footsteps.  Excessive drinking and drugs may dull 'the shining'; however, his life is a mess and full of regret.

Chance, fate or divine intervention leads Dan to a small New England town where he find sobriety, purpose and a few other surprises, namely a young girl named Abra Stone. Through a series of complicated events, both Dan and Abra learn more about their gift, the reason behind their connection as well as join together with others in order to eliminate the 'True Knot'--a group of quasi immortals vampirically siphoning the essences of others with 'the shining.'

I loved Doctor Sleep, enjoying Dan's character growth, King's deeper exploration of 'the shining', and the introduction of Abra. I would love to see another book with her at the center.  Rose and the other True Knot were formidable villains and the full circle conclusion involving the Overlook did not disappoint.

My King marathon continued with Cujo. Part of the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge is to read a book published in your birth year. For me, that's 1981--not a whole lot of great options to choose from in my interest area. By now, I think readers know the story:  rural New England town, giant rabid St. Bernard terrorizing every one he encounters. Really bloody. Super freaky. The epitome of a horror novel.

Some observations--again, King's portrayal of the marital relationships was disturbing and problematic for me as reader. There were just a lot of conflicting emotions and questions about the outcomes of events and character portrayal. I'd say that it is a product of its time. Overall, it is a terrifying, dark and depressing read. I had my share of nightmares. SPOILER ALERT! It is hard for me to read about the death of a child--perhaps one reason why I will never read It or Pet Sematary.

Lastly, Carrie by King fulfilled the same reading challenge's category of a popular author's first book. Read by Sissy Spacek, the novel tells of the extreme bullying of teen Carrie White, her religious zealot mother, the awakening of Carrie's telekinetic powers, and of the frightening prom tragedy following the final straw after years of peer taunts.

I've seen that various films but I was impressed by the overall complexity of the story. These films leave out the flash forwards of the government investigation into the town tragedy and the inquiry into telekinesis. I thought this added to the overall effect of the story. What lingers is how relevant this novel, originally published n 1974, remains.  If anything, the prevalence of bullying has increased, especially with improvements in technology and the popularity of social media.

  • The Shining - 5 out of 5 stars
  • Doctor Sleep - 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cujo - 3 out of 5 stars
  • Carrie - 4 out of 5 stars
#review #books #horror #stephenking #carrie #cujo #theshining #doctorsleep #audiobooklove

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