The Long Walk by Stephen King

Whew.

My quest to read every Stephen King book continues and this one was a doozy.  Originally published as a Bachman book, the intro is an essay from King about becoming Bachman.  Kind of fascinating, from a writing point of view and a reading point of view.  In the essay, King says that Bachman has a darker view of the world, something that we would see in the ending of The Long Walk and so I went into it with that and the glowing review from my husband.

What I kept hearing about The Long Walk was that it was a dystopian world where a dangerous game is played.  And, honestly, I had some problems with this.  The world was not very well formed.  There were hints about what the world was like.  Characters talked about death squads and that one could disappear if they spoke out against the Long Walk.  There was a brief mention of banned books.  Really, though, it didn’t feel like the world played much of a roll in this one.  What it really felt like was a commentary on the darkness in people.

Would you watch a game where the losers die?  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  But I have a feeling that a lot of people could and would.

The Long Walk is an annual event in which 100 teenage boys walk for days without stopping.  They much maintain a pace of at least 4 miles per hour.  Each time that they fall below this pace, they are warned.  After three warnings they “get their ticket.”  Basically, a military man shoots them.  They walk until they all die except one and the winner gets whatever he wants for the rest of his life, if he survives.  There is a lot of talk about the winners dying after the walk.

I never thought that I would find this book interesting.  I mean, the whole story is about a bunch of boys walking.  For miles.  For days.  Through states.  Over rivers.  Up hills.  There still manages to be a lot of action.  Plus, it ends up being something of a very character driven book.  As Garraty, our MC, walks, he talks to other contestants.  He learns about their families and friends, about how they ended up on the walk, and they, in turn, learn about him.

The terror isn’t even necessarily in the deaths, though some of those are pretty damn gruesome.  It’s in how the mind turns.  The characters are given this task and they know that all of them but one will die and in spite of themselves they begin to make friends only to watch them die.  Eventually, they begin to lose their minds, become animals.

This was a rough one for me.  I liked it.  It was a good read.  It was just terrifying toward the end.  Yesterday I read a paragraph that completely summed up my biggest fears.  When I finished reading the last 15 pages in bed last night, I felt like a century had passed and it took me a long time to fall asleep.

A kind of physical and psychological horror that slowly takes root.  Excellent read.

Advertisements

The Stand by Stephen King

A few years ago, I read the original release of The Stand. I decided to do so because it was shorter and I was kind of afraid of the book.  It had grown to the heights of War and Peace in my mind but I love King and I wanted to get through it.  I loved the book but once I finished it I started to get the feeling that I had made the wrong choice.  If I was going to spend three weeks reading the book, I may as well spend those weeks reading the complete uncut edition.  I finally gave into that nagging voice and decided to read the big one.  I mean, what if I missed something?

My honest opinion:  I’m glad that I read the long one and I still love the book but you could probably get away with reading the shorter version.  There was only one thing that I actually noticed being different and its absence from the original release didn’t leave a gaping hole or anything.  I prefer the time setting of the original release, actually.  The small updates to pop culture and dates felt a little wonky to me.

I’ve heard of people who read this book again and again.  I can understand it.  It’s a great book.  The post Captain Trips world that King creates was vivid enough to seep into my dreams.  The characters feel real, even the bad guys.  They all have a real sense of humanity about them.

Repeatedly now I have tried to come up with a plot summary for you and I just can’t.  There is so much here and so many stories and characters that I feel like I would be doing the book a disservice in leaving something out.  Suffice to say that The Stand is a post-plague world that feels close enough to our own world to be scary, that he seems to really think things out down the line and around corners, if you will.  This is 100% worth the read for me.

Rage by Richard Bachman

My quest to read through all of the Stephen King continues.  Rage is a particularly hard to get one’s hands on because King let it go out of print in the late 1990’s.  I got it in The Bachman Books, a collection of four novels published under the pseudonym, and my particular copy is withdrawn from a public library where it obviously was well circulated and most likely withdrawn for condition.  The reason King allowed the book to go out of print is because it was linked to a number of school shootings.  It’s you’ve read Guns, you know that King has strong feelings about gun violence and I can’t blame him one bit for no longer wanting Rage in print.

Because Rage is a different kind of school shooting book.  It’s very, well, Stephen King.  The main character, who I guess could be termed an anti-hero maybe, is the shooter, Charles Decker.  Charles is disturbed.  He knows that he’s disturbed and the school knows that he is disturbed.  They’re even discussing sending him elsewhere after he hit a teacher over the head with a lead pipe.  He kind of reminds me of Holden Caulfield, but instead of thinking that everyone is phony he seems to think that everyone is full of shit.  When he loses it, a calm comes over him and he decides to “get it on.”

I want to argue that the Goodreads summary is incorrect.  Charles isn’t making everyone “justify his or her existence.”  It’s more like a sharing of secrets, a confession.  Charles is holding church.  Most of his classmates are in for a penny, in for a pound.  They are fascinated with him and with what is happening.  They have a sick need for the sex and violence of it all.  And that’s really the most disturbing thing about the book, Charles is considered crazy but his classmates are still normal, even after the closing ceremonies.

It’s a sensitive subject to touch on and one that I’m not very comfortable talking about but I’ll try.  Even in the current environment, it’s kind of hard not to root for Charles.  You know that you shouldn’t, that he just shot two teachers and is holding his classmates hostage.  It’s that the classmates are so quickly drawn into the drama of it all, so willing to share bits and pieces of themselves.  One character even leaves the classroom to go to the bathroom and comes back.  When they argue that Charles is alright, you start to feel that way too and it’s, well, uncomfortable.  You know that it’s wrong, that Charles is managing to get away with murder.

This probably won’t make my top ten in the Stephen King realm but it did keep me on the edge of my seat and it did make me think and it did make me uncomfortable.  I have to give it credit for that while also admitting that King was probably right to pull it from publication.  He has his reasons and they matter to him and you have to respect an author for that.

End of Watch by Stephen King

I finished this book on Friday and have been thinking about how to review it ever since.  I had a hard time with this trilogy.  I didn’t like the first book much and then the second book blew me away.  I don’t generally go in for the detective stories but I couldn’t really tell you why.  They just aren’t something I enjoy reading.  When I read Finders Keepers, I found myself pulled in by the first half of the book and then thrown off at the first part of the second half, when Hodges and Holly came back in.  I realized then that my problem was how wooden the characters felt, how stereotypical.

Then, Stephen King pulled a Stephen King.

I had about 10 pages left at the end of my break on Friday and when I got home I threw myself on the couch and finished it up while Hubby cooked.  When I finished, I shut the book and looked up at him and said, “F*cking Stephen King.”  It’s kind of like a mantra in our house.  We love King, we even love when he rips us apart or messes with our heads.

Yes, your speculations were all true.  The first two books in this trilogy did not feel like Stephen King books.  This WAS a King book.  In the second book, Hodges is still visiting Brady in the hospital and he’s gathering rumors about the spooky happenings around Brady.  Nurses say that strange things happen around him, as if he’s using telekinesis.  Hodges doesn’t buy into these things.  In fact, when shit hits the fan it is Holly who is the first to believe in them and Hodges seems to just get sucked into believing.

When one of the victims from Brady’s Mercedes Massacre ends up dead in an apparent murder/suicide,  something seems really off about it.  Pete, Hodges’s old partner, invites him to the scene and it seems obvious to both Hodges and Holly that something is wrong.  The victim was paralyzed and her elderly mother cared for her.  The more they poke around, the more it seems strange that the mother would take such an action.  They were apparently happy and they had plans for the future.  They weren’t the kind of women to end it all because of a little paralysis.  Then Barbara, Jerome’s little sister who seems to have a knock for getting involved completely by accident, walks in front of a truck.

What ties the two together?  A little hand held game called a Zappit.  Loaded with lots of little games, the one that seems to be the culprit is called Fishin’ Hole.  The demo screen in particular seems to have a hypnotic effect on people.  In fact, the nurses have noticed it having a similar effect on Brady himself.  Wasn’t suicide always Brady’s thing?  How can a man who is pretty well brain-dead continue to hurt people?

There is a lot going on in this book and I don’t want to give any of it away which is kind of funny because it was definitely straight forward a pretty predictable.  That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good.  Sometimes you can know exactly where the story is taking you and still enjoy the ride.  I knew the end was coming and I knew what had to happen.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t gut me like a fish.  I had to sit for a few minutes to get my bearings even after cursing Mr. King.  However, that’s exactly what I expect when I read one of his books.

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

Hubby read Blockade Billy a while ago and decided to read “Mortality” a couple of weeks ago to finish up the book.  He sat on the couch and read for fifteen minutes, closed the book, and said, “You need to read the second story in here.”  I scoffed and said I would eventually and then he scoffed and I gave in a put this slim volume on the top of my stack.  Fine.  When I finished the book I was reading I could read “Mortality” as my short story.  I may as well read “Blockade Billy” too and finish up one more book even though I was in the middle of a short story collection.

Stephen King never disappoints though.

These two stories seemed a lot different from the older King I have been reading lately.  These are stories about people doing bad things.  Even The Shining, the last King book I finished, is about a paranormal baddie manifesting in a person.  These, however, are not horror stories.  I don’t know how to categorize them.  Crime stories?  I guess.

“Blockade Billy” is a story told through the eyes of an old man about baseball.  It’s hard for me to describe because I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, not being able to understand sports at all myself.  It’s the story of a season started on strong footing and then collapsing after a horrifying discovery about one of the players.  Even with all of the stuff I didn’t understand it was a good read, a slow build.

“Morality” is the story of a couple just barely making ends meet and the opportunity to change their circumstances.  When the clergyman Nora works for asks her to fulfill a last wish for him in exchange for $200,000, tax free, her and her husband decide that they can’t do it.  Then that they can.  Then that they can’t.  Finally, intent of making the money and changing their fortunes, Nora sets out to sin clergyman’s place, an action that changes their fates in more way than one.

The Shining by Stephen King

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing a review for this one mostly because I feel like I talked about it a lot while I was reading it.  I read it for two and a half weeks and whenever I managed a big push in the reading I had something to talk about.  Don’t let the fact that it took me so long to read discouraged you.  King always takes me forever.  I still love him.

We all know the plot of this one because it is easily in the top three well known King books.  Plus, movies.  Instead, what I want to talk about is King’s style.  I’ve been reading through the books by publication date and the last one I read was Salem’s Lot.  This is a big change from that.  While SL was all about traditional monster horror thrills and full of gore and terror and mystery, The Shining is a slow build.

I knew what was coming, either because I possibly read it in high school or because I’ve seen the movies.  I knew what to expect.  Maybe there was an element of surprise that I missed out on just because I am familiar with the story.  What surprised me was how Kind built the story.  At first it doesn’t really feel like a horror novel.  When strange things start happening they are chapters apart.  I gave myself over to the ride and let King tell me the story and suddenly I was scared.  Seriously scared.  I had to put it down and read something nice before going to bed.

This one lives up to the hype.  I have the newer version of the movie waiting patiently to be watched!