jpskewedthrone: (Shattering)
I love Stephen King, but this one . . . not one of his best.





Premise: College student Devin Jones takes a job working at an amusement park after his girlfriend breaks up with him. While there, he discovers that the amusement park is haunted because of an unsolved murder that happened on one of the rides.

This has some of the classic Stephen King elements in it--the real world touched by the paranormal, multiple character plot lines that meld and merge to create an interesting plot, great characterization. However, while I enjoyed the read, it didn't feel quite balanced right. The paranormal elements take a back stage for a significant portion of the book while it focuses on Devin and his breakup and his job at the amusement park. The murder doesn't become a significant element until well into the book, and only get addressed directly toward the very end, almost as an afterthought. I felt that King was perhaps too enamored of the carnie elements and so spent a little too much time on living in that world and not enough time developing and integrating the murder/paranormal elements into the plot.

But it was still a good story.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I don't usually review Stephen King books, because he doesn't really need the extra exposure, but what the hell.





The premise: This novel is a sequel to The Shining in a sense, because it follows up with what happened to little Danny Torrance. What happened to him after the events at the Overlook Hotel? We get to see that in an attempt to drown out the shining and its unwanted visions, Dan turned to drink and drugs, eventually hitting bottom. He an attempt to sober up, he starts Alcoholic Anonymous and settles down in the Northeast, where a little girl named Abra is growing up. Abra is extremely powerful with the shining, so powerful that she attracts the attention of the True Knot--a group that feeds off of those with the shining. And their leader, Rose, wants Abra's essence. And only Dan has a chance to stop her.

I thought this was an excellent follow-up to The Shining, because even though there are ties to that first book, Doctor Sleep is really it's own story. Yes, it's Dan, and it's cool to see what's become of him, but in the end you focus on Abra and the True Knot and the novel becomes its own entity, separate from The Shining. I guess that's why I wanted to review the book. Because taking note of that is important.

Dan's attempt to blunt the shining with alcohol is completely understandable, especially since he's still being haunted by the events that happened at the Overlook. I also liked the fact that we catch up with Dan at the END of this self-destructive phase. We get enough of it to realize how bad it became, and then we get to see Dan redeem himself with AA, so there wasn't any wallowing in how low Dan went before he started to recover. I was afraid at first that the book would focus completely on that aspect of Dan's life. Instead, it became much more with the shift to Abra and with Dan coming to terms with what he'd done during his dark times with drugs and alcohol, and with him finally dealing with what happened at the Overlook.

So, definitely a good book and a nice way to return to a loved character without simply rehashing a loved book. Doctor Sleep is it's own story, and one well worth reading.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
Not that Stephen King needs the reviews, but . . .

The premise: Jake Epping finds a time bubble that takes him back to 1958. While there, he discovers that he can change his own past by altering the course of the history while he's in the past, even if the timeline doesn't want to be changed. With the best of intentions in mind, Jake travels back to 1958 with the intention of living there and stopping the JFK assassination . . . but he'll discover that time is obdurate and is willing to throw every obstacle it can in front of him.

I enjoyed this book. I thought the time bubble that takes Jake back to the past was an interesting set-up in terms of how it worked (that every time it's used, whatever you changed the last time you used it is reset, etc.) and what its limits were. I liked Jake and the conflict that gets established--between finishing what he went into the past to do (stop the JFK assassination) and his own personal interests after he's lived in the past long enough to have set himself up with his own life there. That conflict creates some great personal tension for him. As usual, King is great at bringing out the lives of the people in that era, both the good and the bad, so that you feel as if you've lived in that town with these people your entire life. That personal touch with the characters is definitely King's strength, in any of his novels.

I also thought the twist in the resolution of the book was great, the inner turmoil and the difficult to accept realization that Jake must come to. You can feel his anguish at the end, even though you know what he has to do. A great ending.

My only issue with the book was that, after Jake jumps to the past with the goal of stopping the assassination, there's a lull in the pace and action of the book. It takes quite a while for Jake to establish himself in the past and get to the point where his life there, and the conflicts it brings about, become interesting again. That lull is a little rough to get through. It's worth it--as all Stephen King fans know from some of his past books--but it's still tough. If that section had moved along faster, it would have been a better book.

But it's still one of King's better books and definitely worth a read.
jpskewedthrone: (Vacant)
I have to say I really enjoyed Under the Dome. It had all of the elements of a Stephen King novel that I love--lots of characters, people to root for, people to hate, an interesting set-up, and of course a horrific conclusion.





The basic premise behind the book is that the little town of Chester's Mill, Maine (of course) is suddenly and inexplicably placed under an invisible (at first) and seemingly indestructible dome. Air and water can pass through it somewhat, but for the most part the townspeople are cut off from outside help and are forced to rely on their own resources in order to survive. Initially, this isn't a problem. The Dome doesn't appear to do anything except cut them off, and so people simply go on living while the government tries to figure out how to save them. But of course, people being people, as all attempts to break the Dome fail, the calm, collected, and rule-abiding society within the Dome begins to come apart and the real monsters (mainly our true selves) begin to come out.

The best part of the book is the unraveling of the well-ordered society and the revealing of the true nature of some of the townspeople as things go from odd to desperate. Stephen King excels at these kinds of stories. And what I love about this book is that--even though the Dome is mysterious and otherworldly--the story is NOT about the Dome, it's about the people trapped inside of it and how they react to it. Some of them retain their humanity and fight to survive. Others allow their base nature, their inner selves that they hide beneath the veneer or everyday life, to come to the fore. The slow degradation of the society, how it inevitably begins to fall apart as resources begin to become scarce and fear sets in, is the true horror of this novel, not the Dome.

I think what's scariest about the book is how real everything is, another aspect that King excels at. Everything that happens in this book (aside from the strangeness of the Dome itself) is totally believable. You can see these people reacting and behaving in this way. And unlike many of the novels out there, simply being a "good guy" doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to survive. In fact, I think most people reading this book would be shocked at just how many of the "good guys" don't make it, for various reasons. I know that my limits were pushed in this regard, although even as I felt that pressure I realized that that was the whole point. You're supposed to feel desperate, just like the characters. You're supposed to feel a sense of hopelessness at points. You're supposed to ask, "Aren't the good guys going to catch a break?" And of course sometimes they do catch that break . . . but sometimes they don't, just like real life.

In the end, I couldn't find any issues with this book at all . . . well, perhaps one. The final explanation for the Dome itself pushed my believability a little. Not much, because the point behind it, King's focus for the book, fits in perfectly with that explanation. I don't want to say anything about what caused the Dome, since that would be a plot spoiler (and I hate those), but if I had to pick out one thing to quibble over, that would be it. But it would be a minor quibble. Because again, the book is not about the Dome. It's about the people trapped inside it.

An excellent book. One of King's best in my opinion, even with that minor quibble. Highly recommended.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
Just finished Duma Key in my catch-up on Stephen King before he gets too far ahead of me on the writing of the books. I really enjoyed this one, more than I enjoyed Lisey's Story (although I thought that one was good as well). This one's set in Florida on one of the many keys there and involved a construction worker who is crushed by a crane in an on-site accident, his head damaged, one arm lost, and of course internal damage practically everywhere. The emotional pain is worse though, and in order to heal himself, he heads to Duma Key, leaving his ex-wife (who divorced him after the accident) and family behind in Minnesota.





At Duma Key, he finds a new life and a new talent for artwork, producing like a maniac while settling himself into . . . well, himself. Unfortunately, something dark begins to creep into his work and into his mind, using his talent and the damage done to his brain to affect the world around him. At first, he uses this new power himself, to help his daughter, ex-wife, and friends. But the dark spirit begins to seize more control, and as things progress and he finds out more about what has happened on Duma Key in the past as well as what's happening now, he realizes something must be done.

The supernatural elements in this are great and subtle, but it's the main character that draws you into the story, along with the side characters that he meets and gets to know on the key. I think this book worked slightly better than Lisey's Story for me because the writing was simpler, mostly because the main character was simpler and thus would use simpler language. I also think Stephen King used the setting effectively as well, capturing the right tone from the keys and weaving it into the artwork and the story the main character finds himself caught up in.

So, once again, another great story from Stephen King. I'm looking forward to the two I haven't gotten to yet, as well as the two that are set to be released in the next year.
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
I've fallen behind on my Stephen King reading, so am attempting to catch up. I'm not sure why I fell behind at all (perhaps my own writing got in the way). For the most part, I love his books. On the whole, they are well written, entertaining, and I get drawn into the characters and the story. But there have been a few misses.

This is not one of them. Lisey's Story is about, well, Lisey, the wife of a famous writer. Said writer has recently died and Lisey has finally gotten up enough nerve to tackle her husband's literary "alcove" containing all of his books, papers, old manuscripts, etc. This of course awakens old memories, both good and bad . . . and some that Lisey herself has buried deep so that she doesn't have to deal with them. She shies away from them at first, but when a crazed man demands that Lisey hand over her husband's literary effects "for the greater good," she's forced to pull those memories out from behind their dark purple curtain in order to survive.

I really liked this book, since it's the type of supernatural novel that I've preferred from Stephen King. (Some of his are more psychological thrillers rather than supernatural thrillers, and those I don't enjoy as much.) It probably doesn't sound to supernatural from the summary above, but trust me, it is. I can't say much about those aspects without destroying some of the "discovery" that the reader (and Lisey) goes through during the course of the book. In fact, the book ends up being much more supernatural in the long run, even though the trigger to the events is a psychotic man. Honestly, he becomes secondary to all of the memories and the relationship Lisey shared with her husband.

While I did enjoy the book and recommend it to anyone, especially Stephen King fans, I do have to say that the first 50 pages of the book or so are VERY roughly written. It took me a while to get into the book because of this. I didn't feel like I was solidly placed in what was happening right off the bat (Lisery searching through her husband's stuff); there were too many special phrases and sayings and interrupting memories nudging forward too early on. However, after those first 50 pages or so, things started to become clearer and the writing smoothed out tremendously. It's worth the effort to get through that rough spot. And that rough spot is most of the reason that this book gets a 4 out of 5 stars, rather than the full 5.

So, a great book (after that beginning) and it really makes me wonder how I could have put off reading it for so long. I better get to the next few books before the new one hits the shelves this fall.

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Joshua Palmatier

June 2017

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