Friday, June 22, 2012


I think "Desperation" (690 pages) by Stephen King is what ultimately did it in for me as an an avid King fan back in the mid 1990's. Since I've been on a Stephen King kick of late, I thought I would close out my reading of his late 20th century works (at least for now) by revisiting "Desperation" a second time. From the dust jacket of the book:

"Nevada is mostly a long stretch of desert you cross on the way to somewhere else. And with someone else, if you're lucky... because it's a scary place. Headed down Route 50 in the brutal summer heat are people who are never going to reach their destinations. Like the Jacksons, a professor and his wife going home to New York City; the Carvers, a Wentworth, Ohio, family bound for a vacation at Lake Tahoe; and aging literary lion Johnny Marinville, inventing a gonzo image for himself astride a 700-pound Harley.

A dead cat nailed to a road sign heralds the little mining town of Desperation, a town that seems withered in the shade of a manmade mountain known as the China Pit. But it's worse than that, much worse. Regulating the traffic there is Collie Entragain, an outsized uniformed madman who considers himself the only law west of the Pecos. God forbid you should be missing a license plate or find yourself with a flat tire.

There's something very wrong here, all right, and Entragian is only the surface of it. The secrets embedded in Desperation's landscape, and the evil that infects the town like some viral hot zone, are both awesome and terrifying. But as young David Carver seems to know - though is scares him nearly to death to realize it - so are the forces summoned to combat them. In
Desperation, Stephen King's sweeping brush paints an apocalyptic drama of God and evil, madness and revelation. His genius for suspense has never been so finely honed, his imagination so shudderingly vivid, as when his wayfarers - and the readers who dare to follow their course - begin to discover the true meaning of the word desperation."

Perhaps a way to describe "Desperation" is like "The Stand" by only on a smaller stage or scale. This is both the appeal and maybe the downfall of the story.

The good:

Great cover art, no?

I really liked the pacing of the novel, especially the first third of the book. I read the first 230 pages of this tome in one sitting. It takes off like a Roman Candle and doesn't let up too terribly as the story progresses.

Collie Entragain is a terrifying antagonist, particularly early on during his "introduction" phase of the book. Though he seems mostly normal, there are a few hints that maybe a screw or two is loose in his head. Creepy stuff.

Something that King does well in some of his novels is the use of multiple characters and multiple points of view throughout a story. "Desperation" doesn't disappoint in this regard.

The bad:

Snakes, and spiders, and coyotes! Oh my! If creepy crawly desert varmints aren't your thing, this may not be the book for you.

David Carver, the 11-year old on vacation with his family, is supposed to be the hero of the novel but the little shit just gets on my nerves. Unlike most King stories, I usually don't have too many problems with the characters and their likability. He pretty much rubbed me the wrong way from the start and I hate feeling that way about a protagonist!

Tak! If I read this expression one more time I just may spit. For anyone who's read the novel I think they'd understand.

The ugly:

So here's the main reason I don't like this little good versus evil ditty. I just can't get into a story where God is speaking to the main characters and guiding them in their conflict with evil forces never fully explained. At least it wasn't a showdown against the devil! David Carver starts waving his Jesus freak flag fairly early on in the novel and it kind of spoiled the rest of the experience for me, no matter how engaging the rest of the story may have been. Even though this is a horror novel with supernatural events, I just can't suspend my beliefs enough to swallow all the religious reference, strike that, Christian reference.

All in all not a bad story with some fantastic pacing and really creepy elements. Again all the religion elements soured the experience for me; however, I am a godless heathen so maybe this won't strike such a flat chord with most readers. Recommended for fans of horror and yes, Stephen King fans, as well as those people out there who think God really communicates with them. Try Prozac!

I'm done with King for a while. Next up, a little F. Scott Fitzgerald maybe?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bag of Bones

The summer of Stephen King continues! Well not really, but damn if I don't have a lot of King novels from the 1990's that I never got around to reading. The latest is "Bag of Bones" (529 pages) which I'm sure I never even cracked open when I most likely received it as either a Christmas or Birthday present years ago. From Goodreads:

"Stephen King's most gripping and unforgettable novel, 'Bag of Bones,' is a story of grief and a lost love's enduring bonds, of a new love haunted by the secrets of the past, of an innocent child caught in a terrible crossfire.

Set in the Maine territory King has made mythic, 'Bag of Bones' recounts the plight of forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving even four years after the sudden death of his wife, Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his word processor.

Now his nights are plagued by vivid nightmares of the house by the lake. Despite these dreams, or perhaps because of them, Mike finally returns to Sara Laughs, the Noonans' isolated summer home.

He finds his beloved Yankee town familiar on its surface, but much changed underneath - held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, who twists the very fabric of the community to his purpose: to take his three-year-old granddaughter away from her widowed young mother. As Mike is drawn into their struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations, ever-escalating nightmares, and the sudden recovery of his writing ability. What are the forces that have been unleashed here - and what do they want of Mike Noonan?"

I was extremely surprised how terrific a read "Bag of Bones" turned out to be. In fact I would probably rate it as one of King's better novels.

The good:

The story for one. The book stayed true to itself throughout, a fairly normal yarn, well normal for a ghost story. There really wasn't much of King's silliness that I've complained about in recent recaps. The haunting of Mike Noonan is powerful both in the sense of the supernatural and the emotional. Very intriguing and laid out well.

Initially the story begins in Derry, Maine and even has a couple of cameos from characters from "Insomnia" which I found cool since I had just read that particular novel.

The characters are real and fleshed out well. Though we've seen these archetypes before, especially in King novels, they work well in the environments created here.

The bad:

The pacing of the novel early on was a little frustrating but once the story takes off it really gets going. There were also a couple of dream sequences that were a little repetitive that I could have done without.

The ugly:

There's a couple of really nasty scenes toward the end of the book. Violence or sexual content doesn't usually bother me when I'm reading but some of it here was really horrifying and tragic.

Again, this was a truly outstanding story and effort by King. I'd probably rate it as one of my favorites of his. On par with "The Stand," "The Green Mile," and "Dolores Claiborne," just to name a couple of his stories I like really well. Recommended for fans of horror, specifically ghost stories, and fans of Stephen King (at his best).

Did anyone happen to see the made for TV movie of "Bag of Bones?" I heard it was terrible but I never watched it as I knew I'd be reading the novel soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rules of Life

  • Share
  • Obey
  • Be kind
  • Wash
  • Floss
  • Flush
  • Recycle
  • Call your mother
  • If you're gonna play in Texas, you've got to have a fiddle in the band

Monday, June 11, 2012


I used to think that "Insomnia" (787 pages) by Stephen King cured my insomnia way back when the book was published. I never could get in to the story and never finished the book. I thought it was maybe time to revisit the novel since it's followed me all over Oklahoma for nearly twenty years. From the dust jacket of the book:

"Ralph Roberts has a problem: he isn't sleeping so well these days. In fact, he's hardly sleeping at all. Each morning, the news conveyed by the bedside clock is a little worse: 3:15... 3:02... 2:45... 2:15. The books call it 'premature waking;' Ralph who is still learning to be a widower, calls is a season in hell. He's begun to notice a strangeness in his familiar surroundings, to experience visual phenomena that he can't quite believe are hallucinations. Soon, Ralph thinks, he won't be sleeping at all, and what then?

A problem, yes - though perhaps not so uncommon, you might say. But Ralph has lived his entire life in Derry, Maine, and Derry isn't
like other places, as millions of Stephen King readers will gladly testify. They remember It, also set in Derry, and know there's a mean streak running through this small New England city; underneath its ordinary surface awesome and terrifying forces are at work. The dying, natural and otherwise, has been going on in Derry for a long, long time. Now Ralph is part of it. So are his friends. And so are the strangers they encounter.

You, Gentle Reader, may never sleep again. Welcome to

"Insomnia is a queer little story that actually jumps the shark about half way through. Usually King waits until the ends of his novels to go off the cliff.

The good:

I really enjoyed that Ralph Roberts, the protagonist, was in his early seventies. I can't remember the last work of fiction I read with most of the main players being in their late sixties to early seventies.

There were definitely some creepy moments sprinkled throughout the book, especially when Ralph's insomnia started to take its toll on him mentally. Imagine looking out your window in the early hours to discover that there's a whole other side to your city that only you can see. Or is it just the insomnia playing tricks on your mind?

I appreciated the modern retelling of Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. What if life was but a string to be cut at a specific time or worse, randomly. Very imaginative.

The bad:

The length of the book. I usually don't complain about the size of a novel as long as the story is engaging and flowing. "Insomnia" gets bogged down quite a few times and could've been edited down a bit in my opinion. At times it felt like a chore to trudge through the long narrative.

The story incorporates some elements and characters of King's "Dark Tower" series. I guess this could be a really cool thing if one has actually read the "Dark Tower" series. I have not. I felt a little frustrated that I didn't know what was going on completely with the story, particularly toward the last 100 pages or so of the novel.

As I mentioned earlier, King's ubiquitous need to take an interesting story and turn it into something really bizarre. The wheels come off of this one pretty early. Maybe it's just my personal tastes in fiction, especially horror, but I would have preferred something a little more real, if that makes sense.

The ugly:

Derry, Maine. You couldn't pay me to live in this crazy town! The novel mentions a couple of times that Derry isn't like other places. You've got that shit right. I like the fact that several of King's novels have taken place here with many landmarks and previous events mentioned on occasion.

So "Insomnia" was kind of a bust for me. Like some of King's later works, what's good is really good, and what's bad is just plain silly. Recommended for fans of the "Dark Tower" series and die hard Stephen King fans. All others should read something else.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Everything's Eventual

I've never really been a fan of short stories or collections of stories for some reason. Oddly enough "Everything's Eventual" (459 pages) by Stephen King is the second collection I've read this year. From Goodreads:

"The first collection of stories Stephen King has published since 'Nightmares & Dreamscapes' nine years ago, 'Everything's Eventual' includes one O. Henry Prize winner, two other award winners, four stories published by The New Yorker, and 'Riding the Bullet,' King's original e-book, which attracted over half a million online readers and became the most famous short story of the decade. 'Riding the Bullet,' published here on paper for the first time, is the story of Alan Parker, who's hitchhiking to see his dying mother but takes the wrong ride, farther than he ever intended. In 'Lunch at the Gotham Cafe,' a sparring couple's contentious lunch turns very, very bloody when the maitre d' gets out of sorts. '1408,' the audio story in print for the first time, is about a successful writer whose specialty is 'Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards' or 'Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses,' and though Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel doesn't kill him, he won't be writing about ghosts anymore. And in 'That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French,' terror is deja vu at 16,000 feet. Whether writing about encounters with the dead, the near dead, or about the mundane dreads of life, from quitting smoking to yard sales, Stephen King is at the top of his form in the fourteen dark tales assembled in Everything's Eventual. Intense, eerie, and instantly compelling, they announce the stunningly fertile imagination of perhaps the greatest storyteller of our time."

I guess what bugs me the most about short stories is getting invested in a story between 20 to 50 pages that often times abruptly ends seemingly before needed. This is the case with a couple of King's stories here but out of the 14 total, I enjoyed most of the reading. He definitely has an imagination and can spin a good yarn from time to time, especially when delving into the darkness of every day events or human nature.

I was most surprised about the short story included called "The Little Sisters of Eluria," which is a prequel of sorts to King's Dark Tower series, a series I've been meaning to get back to for quite some time. Apparently the story either takes place before "The Gunslinger" or during it.

As I said above collections of stories usually aren't my thing but I really enjoyed what King has to offer here. Recommended for fans of King or horror and easy to put down and pick back up if necessary.