The Eclipse, Part 1: My Review of Gerald’s Game

When one thinks of horror, often one thinks of horror movies.

You have your classic horror movies, such as Friday the 13th, Halloween, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.

Or, for a little more modern fare, you can always watch films such as Horns, or Get Out.  Those are good for a fright as well.

These movies are fantastical in some ways.  We all know that someone cannot possibly be shot 23,889,209 times and still get up to chase sexually precocious teenagers and kill them in inventive ways (although that is a good way to burn that free 100 or so minutes you may have that day.  More if you watch the cut scenes on the “extras” menu.)

But often, real life can contain plenty of horror…

And no, I am not talking about the latest American Horror Story, aka the Drumpf presidency, although the survivors of the Bowling Green Massacre may not agree with me on that alternative fact!

But seriously, just turn on the news any given night, and tell me that man’s inhumanity to man is not the most horrific thing out there?

And there is one guy who understands this very well, and who has written some compelling literature on the subject, as a matter of fact…

You guessed it, we are talking about Stephen King!

*insert shocked look right about here*

King has been called The Master of Modern Horror (but you can call him The Master for short), and for good reason.

I mean, a killer clown that hunts kids?

Check!

A vampire that effectively turns a town into a ghost town that any sane person would want to avoid at all costs?

Check!

A rabid St. Bernard that makes you want to avoid car trouble at all costs?

Check!

An evil entity that haunts a town, and forces you to agree with the statement “Dead is better?”

Check and mate!

While most of the above horrors are not actually “real horrors,” one of King’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to include elements of realism in his writing.

The Shining is a prime example of this.  Most of us have at least seen the Kubrick adaptation, and quite a few of us have probably read the book as well.

So we associate The Shining the famous phrase “Redrum” (spell it backwards, for the uninitiated), along with a haunted hotel and a scary lady who is a permanent residence of a room with a famous number

There is also the matter of the guy in the dog costume…

Well, back to my point.

Which is that King can insert reality into his works.  The Shining is a great example of this, because it deals with alcoholism, unemployment, child abuse and the list goes on.

In other words, we can relate the above list, since we have all experienced at least one of those things in our lifetime.

And that is what makes the story so terrifying:  since we can relate to those topics, it is not that far out of left field that there may be a haunted hotel somewhere out there, where we avoid room 217 (or 237), along with the hedge animals and fire extinguishers, because if it can happen to the seemingly normal Torrance family, it sure can happen to us.

King writes about people.  These people may be placed into extraordinary situations, but they are still people, who could, at least theoretically, be any one of us.

And these people do not always fight supernatural monsters,  Often, humans are the monsters, and what a human can do to a fellow human is far worse than what a haunted hotel or even a rabid St. Bernard can do to us.

One of King’s books that deals with man’s inhumanity to man (or, more appropriately, woman) is Gerald’s Game.

Gerald’s Game contains hardly any elements of the supernatural, but it is still a frightening read.  The monsters in this book are human, so the scenario is one that is plausible for anyone.

So strap in (but don’t handcuff yourself), and get ready for the ride that is Gerald’s Game.

As always:

Continue reading

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Welcome to the Inscape: My Review of NOS4A2

Lately, confusion seems to be rampant in our world.

As in, we are confused as to what the difference is between between the beast that we call a fact, and the lesser known distant cousin of the fact, otherwise known as an “alternative fact.”

Since I myself am a survivor of the Bowling Green Massacre, let me educate you on the difference between facts and alternative facts.

kellyanne-1

The following information is brought to you by BARF (Bureau of Alternative Real Facts.)

Fact:  Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a classic movie, and should be required viewing for all school age children.

killer klowns 3 - Copy

Alternative fact:  Jupiter Ascending is classified as a film.  And one that people are allowed to watch, to boot.

Fact:  The Colts are the coolest team in the NFL and Andrew Luck and co. are never given the credit that they deserve.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Alternative fact:  The Patriots have won their fifth Super Bowl under Tom Brady and a now a dynasty.  As a Colts fan all I have to say is #notmySuperBowl, dammit!

And now, for the factiest fact that you ever facting heard, motherfacters!

Joe Hill is a bad ass.  A motherfacting bad ass, in fact.

Joe Hill 2

And if you don’t agree with me, well then fact off, you facter!

In other words, I just finished reading NOS4A2, written by The Master 2.0.

And I assure, I survived my trip to Christmasland, although, between you and me, the inhabitants of that place are kind of hostile.  In fact, they will suck the life right out of you…

So, gear up your Rolls Royce Wraith, strap in and get ready for the recap and review of NOS4A2.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

 


Synopsis

The story begins by introducing the reader to a nurse named Ellen Thornton.   Ellen works in a prison infirmary, where most of the patients are comatose and unresponsive to any form of human contact.

One of these patients is a man named Charlie Manx.  Manx is extremely elderly, and was also convicted of terrible crimes:  he was convicted of kidnapping and murdering young children.

One night, as Ellen is making her rounds, something unexpected happens:  Manx appears to awake from him comatose state, and speaks to Ellen.  He specifically refers to Ellen’s son by his full name, and makes references to some place he calls “Christmasland” and someone named the “Gas Mask Man.”

Ellen calls for the doctors, as she is badly frightened.  However, Manx exhibits no sign of consciousness once the doctors arrive, and Ellen is not believed, despite the fact that Manx grabbed her hard enough to leave bruises, and the fact that Manx referred to her son by his full name.

The story then switches to the perspective of a young girl named Victoria McQueen, also known as Vic.  Vic’s father Chris also calls Vic The Brat.

At first, Vic seems to be an ordinary young girl.  However, we find out that Vic is anything but ordinary.  Vic possesses the ability to teleport herself between faraway places.  Vic does this by riding her bike, and envisioning a bridge she calls The Shorter Way Bridge, which seems to magically appear when Vic wants to find a lost object.  The bridge takes Vic to the place where the object was lost, and then takes her back to her original location.  However, Vic’s talent also comes at a cost:  she experiences headaches and becomes extremely ill when she uses this ability.

We are then introduced to a troubled man named Bing Partridge.  One day, as Bing is leafing through some old magazines, he comes across an ad promising employment in a place called “Christmasland.”  The ad is not specific in regards to the job details, but Bing is enchanted, as he loves celebrating Christmas, which brings back happy memories for him.  Bing sends away his application for employment in Christmasland, desperately hoping that he gets a response soon.  We also learn that Bing killed both of his parents as a child, and spent time in a mental institution before he was released.  Bing is employed as a janitor, and has access to certain kinds of gases that can turn a person into a zombie, along with his own gas mask.

Almost immediately, Bing begins to have visions of past Christmases with his parents, and begins to dream of Christmasland.  However, days go by, and he does not get a response to his application.

Bing also begins to see a mysterious vehicle circling his work place.  The vehicle is an old Rolls Royce Wraith, and is black.  However, the driver of the vehicle continues to remain a mystery.

One day, Bing finally meets the driver of vehicle, who introduces himself as Charles Talent Manx.  Manx convinces Bing to go for a ride in the vehicle, so he can describe the opportunity that awaits Bing in Christmasland, if Bing chooses to accept.  Once he is in the vehicle, Bing begins to feel sleepy.  Manx tells him that is okay, as Bing will be entering another reality of sorts.

Manx tells Bing that he saves children from a life of pain and abuse by taking them to an alternate reality he calls “Christmasland.”  In Christmasland, the children never have to grow up, and it is always Christmas, every day, all year.  Manx says that the children are his, but that Bing can do what he wishes to any parents or any other parties that may need to be subdued, as most will not want Manx to take their children away.  Bing eagerly accepts the employment opportunity, and he and Manx get to work.

Over the years, several children vanish under mysterious circumstances.  In many of these disappearances, a mysterious Rolls Royce Wraith is spotted.  However, none of the disappearances are ever connected.

Vic is now a teenager.  She has used her bike many times to create the Shorter Way Bridge, so that she can locate lost objects.  Vic is also a budding artist who has received recognition for her work.

One day, Vic uses her talent to locate a missing photograph.  In doing so, she badly startles the school janitor, who relapses back into alcoholism.  Vic feels extremely guilty and begins to question her use of this ability.  The Shorter Way Bridge makes another appearance, and Vic rides her bike through it.

The Shorter Way Bridge deposits Vic in a library somewhere in Iowa.  There, she meets a young woman named Maggie, who seems to have been expecting Vic to make an appearance.  Maggie dresses in a colorful manner.  Maggie is also afflicted with a bad stammer, which makes her speech difficult to understand.

Vic is bewildered, but Maggie attempts to reassure her.  Maggie tells Vic that while her abilities may be a bit unusual, she is not alone in being gifted with these abilities.  According to Maggie, many highly creative people (Vic is an accomplished artist and Maggie is gifted in the use of language and also an accomplished Scrabble player) possess the ability to alter reality.  Maggie compares this to someone who uses a knife to make cuts in various objects, and refers to these altered realities as “inscapes.”

We also learn that Maggie has the ability to create her own “inscapes” and alter reality.  Sometimes, Maggie’s Scrabble tiles will spell out sentences on her own.  This is how Maggie knew to expect Vic:  her Scrabble tiles told her of “The Brat” (but not Vic’s name, as no proper nouns are allowed in Scrabble.)

Maggie also states that her Scrabble tiles have indicated that Vic can find someone or something known as “The Wraith.”  Vic demands to know who or who “The Wraith” is, but Maggie tries to change the subject, telling Vic that The Wraith is bad news and dangerous to Vic.

At Vic’s insistence, Maggie breaks down and gives her what information she has on The Wraith.  According to Maggie, The Wraith is another person who possesses abilities similar to hers and Vic’s.  However, The Wraith uses his abilities for evil, as he kidnaps children to steal their souls so that he may achieve immortality, trapping the children in an “inscape” of his own creation.  Maggie then sends Vic back home, warning her once again to stay away from “The Wraith” as he is dangerous.

When Vic returns home, she becomes extremely ill as a result of her latest journey.  Her parents become extremely worried, and confiscate her bicycle, as they believe she has an unhealthy fixation.  Vic eventually recovers, and resumes her normal, every day life.

In the meantime, more children disappear.  Once again, a Rolls Royce Wraith is spotted when some of these disappearances take place, but the cases are never connected.

Vic grows into a troubled teenager,  When she is fourteen years old, her parents divorce, and her father abandons Vic and her mother.  Vic acts out, turning to alcohol and drugs.  Her grades in school are mediocre, although her art teacher notes that Vic has a talent for art, although Vic does apply herself.

One day, after an argument with both of her parents, Vic sneaks back into her house and falls asleep.  When she awakens, she searches for some of her belongings that were confiscated by her mother, and finds her old bicycle.

Vic begins to ride her bicycle, and remember happier times during her childhood.  However, it is not long before the bicycle leads her to trouble, which happens to be the lair of Charles Manx, or The Wraith.

Almost right away, Vic realizes that something is not right.  She encounters what she thinks is a young child, but the creature only resembles a child in name only, as it has sharp teeth and appears to be breathing some sort of vapor or smoke when it speaks.

Vic also encounters Charles Manx, who attempts to entice her.  When Vic refuses, her Shorter Way Bridge vanishes, leaving her stranded.  Manx also sets fire to the house, intending to trap Vic in the house so that she will perish from the fire.

However, Vic escapes the house.  She is assisted by man named Lou Carmody, who happens to be in the area, riding his motorcycle.  Lou takes Vic to a nearby gas station, so that she can attempt to get help.  Vic realizes that she is actually in Colorado, instead of her home of Massachusetts, and that she has been missing for two days.  Vic indicates that she has been kidnapped, as she knows that no one will believe her story about the Shorter Way Bridge.

As Vic is telling her story, Charles Manx and his vehicle make an appearance at the gas station.  The men at the gas station attempt to apprehend Manx, and a fight ensues.  However, Manx is apprehended in the end, and arrested for his crimes.  The official story is that Vic was kidnapped, and there is no mention of any of the stranger elements to her story.

Some years later, Vic moves back to Colorado, under the pretense of attending art school.  She pursues a relationship with Lou Carmody, and the two have a child together named Bruce Wayne Carmody, who they call Wayne.  Vic loves Lou and Wayne, but is afraid to admit, as she feels that she is not good enough for either of them.  Vic also receives troubling phone calls from children who state that they are residents of Christmasland.  These phone calls frighten her, but she does not tell anyone about them.

Bing Partridge is never apprehended by the authorities for his role in Manx’s crimes. and anxiously awaits the return of Manx, as he believes that he will receive his eternal reward in Christmasland.

Vic notices that when she engages in some kind of creative active, such as painting, that phone calls from Christmasland stop.  She keeps herself busy by painting motorcycles and also by writing and illustrating children’s books.  However, the mysterious calls start again, and Vic’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic.  Lou moves out of their house, taking their son with him, but he is worried about Vic.  Vic then burns down her house in an attempt to silence the calls from Christmasland.

In the meantime, Manx’s vehicle has been purchased at an auction by a man and his daughter.  One day, the vehicle comes to life, killing its new owner, as Bing has found it, so that he may reunite with Manx.

Charles Manx is thought to be deceased, but his body goes missing from the mortuary.

Vic is institutionalized for her erratic behavior, and comes to believe that her experiences with the Shorter Way Bridge and mysterious telephone calls are simply vivid hallucinations caused by her abuse of alcohol and other drugs.  When she is released from the mental hospital, she temporarily moves back to Massachusetts to spend some time with her mother Linda, who is dying of cancer.  Vic also makes plans to spend the summer with her son Wayne, as she feels that she has failed him as a mother.

Tragically, Linda passes away just as Vic is able to secure a cottage for the summer.  However, Vic still makes plans to spend time with her son Wayne, and Lou sends him to his mother for the summer.

In the meantime, we find out that Bing has managed to steal the body of Charles Manx, who is actually still alive, although barely.  Bing sets up camp in the house across the street from Vic’s childhood home, killing the home’s owners, and placing Charles Manx in the bedroom.  Bing waits for Vic, as he intends to murder Vic, and hand Wayne over to Manx.

Vic returns to her childhood home sometime in July, as Lou has arrived in town to spend Fourth of July with his son.   Vic is greeted by a face from her past:  Maggie, the woman from Iowa whom she met as a child.

While Vic recognizes Maggie, she is not happy to see her, as she still believes Maggie to be a delusion from her past.  Maggie begs Vic to help her stop Charles Manx, who she insists is alive and on the hunt for Vic and Wayne.  Maggie hands Vic a file containing some paperwork on Manx, but Vic chases Maggie away from her house, and threatens to call the police.

Later, Wayne finds the folder on Manx and peeks at it, as he is curious.  Bing spots Wayne from the house he is commandeering, but is unable to do anything, as Lou arrives, and Bing does not want to be seen.  Bing realizes that Vic is in the neighborhood, and makes preparations to capture Vic and Wayne.

That evening, Vic speaks to Lou, and finds out that Wayne has mentioned Manx to his father.  Vic tells Lou about her childhood experiences with the Shorter Way Bridge, and the real story of how she encountered Charles Manx.  Vic recognizes that she may be delusion, and indicates this to Lou.  Vic also tells Lou that she thinks Maggie was a patient at the mental hospital, who is sharing in Vic’s delusions.  Vic makes plans to move back to Colorado that fall, so that she can be closer to Wayne.

Wayne believes that Charles Manx is nearby, and becomes frightened, even though he thinks that he is imagining things.

Vic and Wayne work on a motorcycle that was left at the summer cottage, fixing it up and giving it a new paint job.  Vic decides to take the bike for a spin, and tells Wayne that she will return shortly.

Vic rides the bike, and is able to conjure the Shorter Way Bridge, just as she had been able to do as a child.  However, Vic continues to believe that she is delusional.

Wayne waits at the house for his mother.  He hears a knock on the door, and encounters Bing and Manx, who tell him they need to use the phone, as they have run Wayne’s dog Hooper over with their car.

Bing and Manx then proceed to kidnap Wayne.  Wayne shouts for his mother, who is just now returning from her trip and does not realize what has happened.

However, Vic soon does realize what has happened, and runs to the car in an attempt to rescue Wayne.  She fights Manx, who attacks her with a hammer.  Bing shoots at Vic, but misses Vic and hits Manx in the ear instead.  The men then escape, with Wayne trapped in the car.

Lou is at the airport, awaiting his flight.  Lou receives a panicked call from Wayne.  Wayne tells his father that he has been kidnapped, and then hangs up the phone.  Lou then collapses, due to a sudden heart attack.

Wayne tries to escape, but Bing douses him with gas so that he cannot think and becomes very sleepy.  Manx tells him that he is going to Christmasland, and that he will never see his parents again.

Vic meets with the authorities at her mother’s house.  The FBI has been brought in, as the authorities believe that Wayne’s kidnapper may cross state lines.  Lou also meets with Vic and the authorities.  Vic’s mental illness is brought up by a FBI agent, Tabitha Hutter, who does not agree with Vic in regards to Manx returning and seeking vengeance.  Vic also describes her earlier experience with the Shorter Way Bridge. Lou tells Vic that he believes her, and Vic tells Lou that she will do whatever she can to rescue their son.

Manx drives his vehicle through his inscape, giving Wayne a glimpse into Christmasland.  Wayne falls into a trance, and becomes excited about living in Christmasland.  However, the ghost of Wayne’s grandmother soon appears in the vehicle.  She appears to be speaking in reverse, and gives Wayne a cryptic message before she vanishes:  he must speak in reverse.

Manx then stops at Bing’s house so that he can rest and recover from his wounds.  Wayne then notices that the vehicle has peculiar properties:  objects seem to vanish and then reappear.  Wayne also finds some Christmas ornaments.  He becomes fixated on one that resembles a moon, but has a face.

Wayne is then questioned by Manx, who promises him a phone call to his mother.  Manx tricks Wayne into giving him some information about Maggie, along with Vic’s new motorcycle, and does not allow Wayne a call to his mother.

At her home, Vic is growing more and more worried about her son.  Lou is attempting to fix her motorcycle for her, so that she can conjure the Shorter Way Bridge and rescue Wayne.  Vic receives a phone call.  The caller is Maggie.  Maggie tells Vic that her son is still alive, and that she will help however she can.

After Vic hangs up the phone, she is confronted by Agent Hutter, who has heard the entire conversation.  Hutter attempts to arrest Vic, but Vic escapes from the house, and uses her motorcycle to drive away.  Eventually, she is able to conjure the Shorter Way Bridge, and is able to arrive at the house where Wayne was being kept.

In the meantime, Manx leaves with Wayne in his vehicle, promising that he will take Wayne to Christmasland.   Manx does not allow Bing to come with them, as he says that Bing has failed in his duties. Wayne’s personality is beginning to change, as he is horrified to remember that he pulled the wings off of a butterfly.  Wayne is also fixated on his Christmas ornament, constantly touching it.

Vic realizes that Wayne and Manx have left, and becomes upset.  A man allows her to use his phone.  Vic does not realize that this man is actually Bing, until he attacks her.

Wayne continues to travel with Manx.  He sees visions of Christmasland and is anxious to arrive.  However, he receives a visit from the ghost of his dead grandmother, who again tries to warn him that he must think in reverse.  However, Wayne dismisses the old woman’s ghost, as his personality has begun to change.  Wayne has also begun to loose some of his teeth, and appears to be growing small fangs in their place.

Vic fights Bing.  She manages to escape, but sets the house on fire.  Before she escapes, she receives a call from Manx.  Vic pleads with Manx to release Wayne but Manx refuses.  Manx allows Vic to speak to Wayne.  Vic senses that Wayne’s personality is changing due to his exposure to Manx, and tells Wayne that he must fight Manx, and that she will do whatever it takes to rescue him.

After she speaks to Wayne, Vic then speaks to Lou and Agent Hutter over the telephone.  She tells Lou that she has a plan to stop Manx and rescue Wayne, but that she will need a large amount of explosive material to accomplish this.  After Vic hangs the phone, Lou suffers from a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.

Vic uses the Shorter Wayne Bridge to locate Maggie.  She arrives at Maggie’s library in Iowa, which was destroyed by a flood a few years back.  However, Maggie is there, and Vic recounts the events of the past few days.

Maggie tells Vic that Manx does possess the same abilities that they possess, but that he uses his abilities for evil.  She tells Vic that Manx’s car must be destroyed in order to destroy Manx.  Maggie also tells Vic that the use of their abilities comes at a cost: Maggie’s stammer has worsened, Vic’s brain has been damaged and Manx has lost all of his empathy, and now revels in the suffering of his others.  The children Manx has kidnapped have also been stripped of their humanity, as they exist for pleasure only, and do not comprehend the suffering of others.

While Vic falls asleep asleep due to exhaustion, Maggie consults her Scrabble tiles for information in regards to Manx.  As she does this, a young boy enters the ruins of her library with firecrackers.  At first, Maggie thinks that it is a local child playing a prank, but realizes that the boy is Wayne, who is acting under the influence of Manx.  Wayne utters some incomprehensible words (his human side knows that what he is doing is wrong) and lures Maggie out to Manx and his car.

Manx immediately attacks Maggie with his vehicle.  Maggie puts up a fight and refuses to give any information about Vic, who is still asleep inside.  Maggie is killed by the impact, and Manx exits the scene.

Lou has been hospitalized due to his heart attack.  However, he escapes in search of his son.  Agent Hutter and her partner are aware of the escape, and plan to use Lou to track down Vic, who they still believe to be responsible for her son’s kidnapping.

Vic arrives at her father’s house.  Lou and her father are waiting for her, with the explosives that she has requested.  However, the FBI agents have tracked down Vic, who refuses to surrender.  Agent Hutter realizes that there may be something to Vic’s story, but her colleagues do not, and open fire on Vic and her family.  Vic’s father is shot, but Vic escapes with Lou on her motorcycle.

Once again, Vic conjures the Shorter Way Bridge.  She leaves Lou in handcuffs, as she feels that this a job for her only.  Vic then makes her way into Christmasland, via her motorcycle and the Shorter Way Bridge, to confront Manx and rescue her son.

Manx sends his children after Vic, and they attack.  Vic fights back and is stabbed by one of the children.  The explosives go off, causing mass destruction.  Wayne realizes that his mother has come to rescue him, and escapes from Manx, hopping on the motorcycle with his mother.

Vic escapes Christmasland with Wayne.  Manx follows her, but his vehicle (and there Manx himself) is destroyed by a flock of bats that emerge from the Shorter Way Bridge.

Finally, Vic emerges with Wayne back into their world.  Her job done, Vic perishes from her wounds and the effects of creating the bridge and traveling to Christmasland.

Several months later, Wayne is living with his father.  Lou has lost weight after angioplasty procedure, and is in a relationship with Tabitha Hutter.  However, Wayne knows that something wrong with him, as he is aroused by anything violent and even thinks that he can feel an extra set of teeth in his mouth.

One day, Lou and Tabitha take Wayne for a ride.  They arrive at the house Manx had used to keep his children captive.  Lou realizes that Wayne’s soul is trapped in one of Manx’s Christmas ornaments.  Lou, Tabitha and Wayne begin smashing the ornaments.  Several children that Manx had kidnapped emerge, restored to their human selves.

Eventually, the ornament containing Wayne’s soul is destroyed.  Wayne sobs with relief, happy that his humanity has returned.


My Thoughts

Okay, let’s talk to Captain Obvious for a moment.  So, just bear with me.

Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, in case your head has been buried under a rock for…oh…the past 10 years or so.

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

(And hey, no judgement, being buried under a rock can be pretty comfy sometimes!)

And while I like to evaluate Joe Hill on his own merits, let’s be realistic.

Let’s get it out of our system, and talk about how he is the son of Stephen King.

Well, writing-wise that is.

We can leave the family drama for those better equipped to handle it, and not put TMZ out of a job.

Other than the fact that NOS4A2 reads a bit like an older King novel, in that it has build and will scare you into a change of pants, it is the novel that most screams:  I am the son of the master of modern horror, and if you dare to forget it, well, let’s not even go there!

NOS4A2, in other words, has tons of Stephen King Easter eggs.  In fact, this book may have even more King Easter eggs than some King books.

easter eggs 1

First of all, the obvious connection.

I am speaking of the one to Doctor Sleep, the follow up novel to The Shining (both written by The Master himself, but you knew that.)

Rose the Hat

I can tell you that I definitely sleep better knowing that Charles Manx and The True Knot have some silent truce between themselves, that they both can go on (literally) sucking the life out of children and if one gets found out, we know that the other did not rat on them.  Definitely useful information to have.

And, oohhh, direct reference to Derry, along with Pennywise’s Traveling Circus!  Again, whenever I have trouble sleeping at night, I can rest in comfort knowing that Manx and Mr. Bob Gray were likely on a first name basis at some point!

balloon2

Vic yelling “Hi-yo Silver!” as she jumps on her bike was added bonus.  Not that I am complaining, although a few tears did spring to my eyes as I recalled some fond childhood memories of murderous clowns…

Then there is the similarity between The Sleigh House (geez, these jokes kill me sometimes) and Black House, another house in a King novel of the same name.

black house 1

The way the children start coming out of the house at the end of both books is so similar, not to mention the fact that Charles Manx is pretty similar to Charles Burnside, another villain who gets his rocks off on kidnapping and hurting kids.

I can also take comfort in the fact that Maggie’s “creatives” (more on that later) may be able to travel to the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

gunslinger

Is Jake Chambers one of Maggie’s creatives?  An interesting question, but one for another day.

And don’t let me forget the nod to The Stand (and the Dark Tower series) when Bing utters those famous words:  My life for you.

Trashy 1

Oh, and apparently Bill Hodges and company had to hunt down a certain missing vehicle that just happened to be a Rolls Roy Wraith…funny how that works out!

Well, now that it is out of our system (feel better?), let’s talk about Joe Hill and NOS4A2 on their own merits.

So sorry, Uncle Stevie, you have been relegated to another blog entry!

One thing about NOS4A2…it is one scary book!

Well duh, it is written by Prince of Modern Horror, who is the son of the King of Modern Horror.  So we shouldn’t be surprised by scary, right?

Yes and no.  Am I entirely surprised that it’s scary?

Christmasland 1

No, I am not.

What is shocking is the fact that NOS4A2 is essentially a vampire story, but modernized.

After all, who isn’t familiar with Dracula?

Dracula 1

Or Kurt Barlow from ‘Salem’s Lot?

Well, now we can add Charles Manx to that list of fictional vampires.

'Salem's Lot 2

Now, Manx is not like Barlow or Dracula, at least on the surface.

He’s old, but not centuries old.

His victims are usually kids.

Charlie Manx 1

He drives a bad ass vehicle.

nos4a2-3

Somehow, I don’t think a rosary or garlic would phase him very much.

(Did anyone else think of this guy when Manx was introduced, by the way?  Or is it just me?)

phantasm 2

But, back to Manx.

He may not drink blood, like Barlow and Dracula.

But he is still a vampire, nonetheless.

His preferred food is not blood, but the souls of children.  Since he is all modern-like.

As a bonus, like Barlow and Dracula, he has a human familiar in Bing, who may be even more demented than either Straker or Renfield, if that’s possible.  At the very least, he holds his own.

bing-1

And Manx does not need to be able to fly or even move quickly, as he has a vehicle that allows him to travel to back and forth between realities.

Who said that newer necessarily means inferior?

Manx can hold his own!

Speaking of holding one’s own, let’s talk about Vic for a moment.

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Now, there is is someone who can hold her own and then some.

One thing I have noticed about Joe Hill is that he writes female characters extremely well.

Harper (The Fireman) was a great example of this.

Even Georgia and Merrin (Heart Shaped Box and Horns, respectively) were well written characters, despite the fact that that Georgia is the girlfriend of the main character in Heart Shaped Box, and Merrin is the dead girlfriend of Ig in Horns.  Even though we mainly see them from the eyes of a male, both are fascinating and sympathetic.

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But, Mr. Hill decided that having a woman as the interesting girlfriend of a main character just wasn’t good enough.  And then Vic was born.

To put it simply, Vic kicks ass.  There is no way around that statement.

While Vic may not always be easy to like, it is understandable as to why she may be unlikable at times, due to her upbringing (watching your dad wash his hands because they were bloodied due to beating your mom may cause a girl to have some issues.)

Vic’s character has a great arc.

She starts off as a spunky girl, morphs into a rebellious teenager, turns into a still troubled adult and then transforms into a mother who will stop at nothing to save her child from a vicious predator.  And I loved every minute of it.

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One of my favorite parts of the book is when Vic handcuffs Lou, leaving him behind so she can venture forth into Christmasland to save Wayne.

Vic was no damsel in distress.  She knew that she had to be one the one to save (and ultimately sacrifice herself) in order to save her son.

Now, NOS4A2 may be a scary book.

But, like the books of dear old dad, it is so much more than that.

I love what this book has to say on art, artists and the creative process in genera.

I may be a bit biased, as someone who spends so much time creating her own “inscapes” but bear with me.

In fact, I love the idea of an “inscape” itself.

Because that is exactly what happens when someone creates something:  it is actually an escape from the “real” world into an entirely new one, whether that is a painting, a book, a song, etc.

And let’s not kid ourselves.  Those made up worlds become “real,” especially if the creator uses enough love and care in the creation of these worlds.

Middle Earth, Mid-World, Hogwarts.  How are those not “real,” along with the Harry Potters, Roland Deschains, Aragorns, and so forth who live in them?

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And when something happens to the people who populate these worlds, is the effect not felt in ours?  When Harry Potter realizes that Voldemort has been resurrected, for example, did the reader not fear for him, and join him in his grief for a lost friend and classmate?

So it stands to reason that there are “creatives” out there, whose gift is especially powerful (like Joe Hill, his father, JK Rowling, Tolkien and countless others) who can use their knives to cut reality (in Maggie’s words) and create new realities.

And the knife is just the tool, like Maggie so eloquently stated.

Sometimes, the knife is not harmful, and results in children’s books, paintings, etc.

But sometimes, some sick individual (like Charles Manx, who is actually all too plausible) will create a new reality.

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But this new reality is terrible, and only brings hurt to others.

And this is not uncommon, as so many predators who are similar to Charles Manx exist in our world.  They believe that what they are doing is actually a good thing.

It is then up to someone (a Vic McQueen, if you will) to try to put a stop to it.

Sometimes, that is successful.

Sometimes, it is not.  And that knife continues to cut, leaving blood behind.


Well, I am still a bit confused on what is a fact, and what is an alternative fact.

But I do not need an agency such as BARF to tell me that Joe is a fantastic writer, and that he will (hopefully) continue to churn them out, for many years to come.

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So that’s it for NOS4A2.  Join me later this month as we delve back into the world of dear old Dad, as we read and dissect an oldie but goodie, aka Christine!

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It’s All a Wheel: My Review of Doctor Sleep

Sometimes, you just need a break from the horror of it all…

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 

Yes, it’s that season again…

No, not Halloween.  Something far more frightening…

In other words, the 2016 Presidential Election is upon us.

You know, that time of year when admitting you are from ‘Murica is…well…probably something you want to gloss over, and talk about something a little less awkward, such as…well, anything really.

Like books.

Like books that are horror stories.

Like books that are horror stories written by…

Simpsons SK

I’ll take Stephen King for $19, Alex!

Yep, you guessed it.  And if you didn’t, well remember which blog this is next time, maybe you will have better luck!

So, I needed an escape.  Something to help me cope with the daily horror that manifests itself as a talking Cheeto.

And what better way to do that than to read a Stephen King book?

That will calm me right down, I think.

After all, reading about people with PSI abilities and weird cults that kidnap kids with PSI abilities is good for the nerves, right?

In other words, I chose the book Doctor Sleep for this month’s read and review.

Hmmm, I wonder if I can write in Rose the Hat to make America…ummm…steamy again?

Um, yeah…

But Doctor Sleep is one of my favorite King books.  It is a follow up book to The Shining, which I consider to be the gold standard for King (hey, even The Master needs goals to live up to, right?)

Like most of King’s work, Doctor Sleep is much more than “just” (haha, right) a follow to an iconic horror story which turned the horror genre and even popular culture on its head (redrum, anyone?)

It is a book that has a lot to say about addiction, overcoming childhood trauma and how family can be a huge downfall, or our greatest hope.

And it also doesn’t hurt that the book has a pretty kick ass female character, if I do say so myself (no bias here at all, really.)

So, with all that being said, here is my recap and review of Doctor Sleep.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Doctor Sleep begins where the novel The Shining ended.  Danny Torrance has survived the horrific events that occurred at The Overlook Hotel, and has moved to the southern United States with his mother, Wendy.

However, Danny is still troubled by the spirits that haunted him during his stay at The Overlook Hotel.  One night, when he awakens to use the bathroom, he encounters the ghost of Mrs. Massey, the woman who died in room 217 of The Overlook Hotel.

After Danny encounters the spirit of Mrs. Massey, he regresses and refuses to get out of bed or eat.  His mother even sees evidence of the spirit in the bathroom, and becomes worried and frightened for Danny.

Wendy is unable to comfort Danny, so she contacts Dick Hallorann, the only other person who survived the events that occurred at The Overlook Hotel.  Dick agrees to talk to Danny, to see if he can help Danny.

Dick arrives at the Torrance home, and speaks to Danny.  He tells Danny the story of his sexually abusive grandfather.  After Dick’s grandfather passed away, Dick was still haunted by the old man’s ghost.  Dick’s grandmother, who also possessed the same PSI abilities that Dick possessed, taught him to keep the spirit of the old man at bay, so that he was no longer haunted by the ghost.

Dick then tells Danny that his memories of the hotel are actually causing the spirits to manifest themselves.  He gives Danny a keepsake box, and tells Danny to make a keepsake box in his mind, to trap the ghosts so they do not continue to bother him.  Danny follows Dick’s instructions, and finds that they are effective.

They story then switches to the perspective of a woman named Andi.  Andi was molested by her father as a little girl, until she attacked and killed him in self defense.  Andi convinces men to take her to the movies.  The men try to have sex with Andi, but Andi has the ability to hypnotize people and send them into a deep sleep.  Andy hypnotizes the men, and then robs them of their cash and any valuables.

One day, Andi catches the eye of a group of people who also possess unusual abilities.  This group of people seems almost immortal, even though they appear to be normal on the outside.  They are led by a woman named Rose, who is also known as Rose the Hat, due to her tendency to wear a top hat.

Rose the Hat and her friends confront, and coerce her into joining them, telling Andi that once she survives what they call “the turning,” that she may also become immortal, and join them in their travels across the country.

Andi reluctantly agrees to attempt the ritual.  Somehow, she survives, and becomes a part of the group.  The group calls itself The True Knot.

The book then introduces the reader again to Danny, now an adult in his early twenties.  Danny has become an alcoholic who also experiments with drugs.  Danny has a tendency to also get into fights while he is drinking, as he is unable to control his temper.

One morning, Danny finds himself in the apartment of a strange woman.  He slowly pieces together the events of the night before, and realizes that his drinking has possibly gotten him into trouble, once again.

Danny realizes that the woman has a child by the name of Tommy.  Tommy is about 18 months old and has been left in the apartment while the woman went out drinking with Danny.  The woman, whose name is Deenie, is also addicted to cocaine, and convinced Danny to buy some for her.  The little boy tries to grab the cocaine, calling it candy, but Danny puts him in bed with his mother, and leaves the apartment.

Danny leaves town, and heads for the northeastern United States.  He continues to drink, and periodically thinks of Tommy, feeling some guilt for leaving him in those surroundings.

Over the years, Danny drifts across the country.  He continues to drink, and works in nursing homes when he can find work.  However, due to his alcoholism, he does not stay in any one place for very long.

One day, Danny arrives in a town called Frazier, in New Hampshire.  For some reason the town catches his eyes.  Danny also sees his childhood friend Tony for the first time in many years, and Tony also compels him to stay in Frazier.

Danny meets a man name Billy Freeman, and the two hit it off immediately.  Danny is then able to secure short-term employment as a sort of maintenance man, and contemplates applying for work at the local hospice.

One night, Danny dreams of Deenie, the woman he met a years ago at a bar.  Deenie appears to be dead, and warns him to stay away from the woman in the hat.  When he awakens, Danny finds her son Tommy in his bed, dead but asking for candy.  When he awakens again, Danny realizes that Tommy has died, most likely due to abuse and possibly neglect.

The next morning, Danny craves a drink, but does not give in to the craving.  Danny goes about his day, forgetting the dreams that he had the night before.  However, Danny again experiences troubling dreams later that night.  Danny again struggles with the urge to drink, but Billy Freeman finds him, and tells him that he has other options.

Danny begins to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and finds a sponsor.  Danny quits drinking and finds steady employment, making a life for himself.

In the meantime, a child named Abra Stone is born to a couple by the name of David and Lucy Stone.  Almost right away, Abra’s parents and great-grandmother (Conchetta) notice that Abra is unusual.  For example, Abra’s parents, when Abra is still an infant, have a dream of Abra covered in blood and holding a sign with numbers in the dream.  The next morning, Abra is taken to the hospital because she will not stop crying.  There is no medical reason found for Abra’s behavior.  However, this incident takes place on the morning of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  The numbers seen by Abra’s parents in their dreams were the flight numbers of the planes that were attacked.

One day, Danny speaks to one of the members of his Alcoholics Anonymous group.  The man is John Dalton, who is also a pediatrician.  John has lost a watch that was gift from his wife and is upset.  Danny is able to use his “shining” ability to tell John that he left the watch in restroom at work.  John is able to find the watch the next day, and is grateful for Danny’s help.

John Dalton also happens to be Abra Stone’s pediatrician.  At the request of Abra’s parents, John attends Abra’s third birthday party, so that he can observe her in her home for any unusual occurrences.

Shortly before Abra’s third birthday party, Danny receives a message written on the blackboard of the room he rents.  The message simply says “Hello.”  Danny has been receiving some telepathic communications, and conjectures that the message is from Abra.

At the birthday party, John Dalton gets his wish: he observes some unusual occurrences that can only be attributed to Abra.  Abra’s doctor, parents and great grandmother find various utensils hanging from the ceiling by their own accord.  When this is pointed out to Abra, the utensils drop to the ground, seemingly proving that she is responsible for the occurrence.

The Stone family speaks to Dr. Dalton, who tells them that Abra is likely blessed (or maybe cursed) with PSI abilities, but that they need to love her and continue to raise her as a normal child.

The years pass, and one night Danny receives at phone call.  He is informed that one of patients in the hospice that he works at is getting ready to pass away.  The woman making the phone call knows that the patient is getting ready to die because the cat that was adopted by the hospice, Azriel (or Azzie) has made an appearance in his room.  Azzie is able to detect when death is near, and therefore alerts the staff and Danny.  Danny is called in because he is able to use his abilities to make the transition from life to death a little less frightening for the patients.

After Danny helps the latest patient pass peacefully over to the other side, he senses a presence in the room that he believes to be Abra.  In her bed at her home, Abra also senses Danny’s presence.

In the meantime, The True Knot runs into trouble, as they are running low on the essence of psychic children, which is what keeps them immortal.  They find a young boy in a small town, and partake of his essence, which helps them, at least temporarily.

Abra, who is now 10 years old, dreams of The True Knot kidnapping and torturing the young boy.  She describes the dream to her mother, who is disturbed.  Abra also talks about her friend “Tony,” along with Tony’s dad (aka Danny), telling her mother that Danny works in a hospice and is assisted by cat named Azzie.

The True Knot then realize that Abra can sense them, and that Abra is a powerful psychic.  They realize that Abra will provide them with plenty of essence, which will keep them alive for years to come, but that they must wait for her abilities to mature in order to get the full benefit.

Again, Danny senses Abra’s presence in his apartment.  This time, he sends her a message.  Abra receives this and tells her mother that Tony’s dad spoke to her.  Lucy is a little troubled, but decides to let it go, as Abra seems happy.

Shortly after sending the message to Abra, Danny sees his friend Billy Freeman.  Immediately, Danny senses that something is horribly wrong with Billy and convinces him to see a doctor.  Danny’s intuitions were correct, as Billy is suffering from an aneurysm that would have killed him, if left untreated.  Billy is grateful from Danny’s help, but Danny reminds Billy that it was he who helped him many years ago, when he arrived in Frazier.

Later that evening, Danny is overcome by the urge to drink.  He calls his friend John Dalton, and the urge passes.  When Danny arrives at his home, he finds a message on his chalkboard from Abra, but does not hear from Abra for another two years.

Two years later, Abra’s great grandmother, Conchetta, suffers a broken hip.  Conchetta is also diagnosed with cancer, and is given only months to live.  This causes Abra and her family to shuffle back and forth between their residence in Frazier, and the hospital in Boston, where Conchetta is staying.

One day, Abra comes home and picks up the mail.  She finds a circular with pictures of missing children, and realizes that one of the pictures is of the boy she dreamed about two years earlier.  This frightens Abra, and she struggles on whether or not to take any action.

Abra’s abilities then allow her to project herself into the mind of Rose the Hat.  However, this connection is brief, as Rose resists her presence, forcing Abra back to her surroundings.

Rose discusses Abra with the fellow members of The True Knot, and tells them that they must capture Abra, as she could provide them with eternal life.  Rose schemes on how to capture Abra, and plans to use drugs to subdue her.  Rose also makes an appearance at Abra’s window, frightening Abra, and causing her to call out to Tony for help.

Danny receives Abra’s psychic beacon, and the signal is so powerful that it renders him momentarily unconscious.  When Danny arrives at his home, he finds Abra’s email address written on his chalkboard.  Danny sends Abra an email, and makes arrangements to meet with her, so that he can find out what is wrong.

Abra and Danny finally meet outside the town library, and Abra tells Danny what has been happening with Rose the Hat, and what The True Knot did to the young boy.  Danny tells Abra to be careful, as Rose the Hat will be looking for her, and that he will be back in touch.

That night, a patient at the hospice where Danny is employed passes away.  Before she dies, the woman tells him to wait, and Danny obliges her.

After a few minutes, the dead woman begins to talk.  Danny realizes that he is actually speaking to his childhood friend Dick Hallorann, who has been dead for several years.  Hallorann gives Danny information in regards to The True Knot, but it is cryptic.  Hallorann tells Danny to refer to his childhood, and that the members of The True Knot will need to eat their own poison.  The ghost also tells Danny to talk his friends who understand what he really is.  After dispersing the information, the ghost leaves the body of the old woman, and Danny must figure out how to keep Abra safe.

Danny speaks to his friends Billy and John, and tells them what is happening to Abra.  John agrees to travel with Danny to Iowa, so that they can find the baseball mitt of the missing boy and confirm Abra’s story.

Things go from bad to worse with The True Knot, as it is discovered that one of their members, known as Grampa Flick, appears to be dying.  Rose does not understand how this is happening, and demands that the group’s “physician,” attempt to examine him.

Rose also tries to enter the mind of Abra.  However, Abra is prepared, and is able to resist Rose, even causing her physical pain.  This angers Rose, who realizes that Abra will be difficult to subdue, and will need to be drugged.

Danny travels to Iowa with John.  During the trip, Danny also tells John of the winter he spent at the Overlook Hotel and the traumatic experiences he endured.  John is skeptical, but becomes less so when he and Danny are able to locate the body of this missing boy and his baseball glove, per Abra’s instructions.  They return to New Hampshire with the baseball glove, in the hopes that Abra will be able to use the baseball glove to obtain more information in regards to The True Knot.

The True is able to narrow down Abra’s identity, and begins to close in on her.  Grampa Flick has died, and the cause of his death is discovered:  he has somehow contracted measles.  This is likely due to ingesting the essence of the young boy, who may have contracted the disease before his death.  Several other members of the group also become ill with measles.  This raises the stakes for the group, as they believe that ingesting Abra’s essence may provide some sort of immunity against the disease.

Danny and John return from Iowa.  Danny informs Abra that her parents need to be informed about what has been going on.  Danny and John arrive at Abra’s house and are greeted by her father, Dave.  Dave is not happy, but hears the story out.  Danny and John then give Abra the baseball glove, to find out if she can obtain any information from it.

After Abra touches the baseball glove, she obtains some information in regards to The True Knot.  The most important piece of information is the location of their base of operations.  Not surprisingly, The True Knot’s base of operations is located in Sidewinder, Colorado, on the grounds that once housed The Overlook Hotel.  Danny, John and Abra then come up with a plan to try to stop The True Knot before they are able to kidnap Abra.

The next day, Danny, John and Dave picnic at one of the town’s tourist attractions.  Abra astral projects herself info Danny, so that The True Knot will believe she is on a picnic with her father, instead of at school or at a friend’s house.  Abra’s father tells some family stories during this outing.  One of these stories is in regards to Lucy’s mother, or Abra’s grandmother.  Lucy was conceived out of wedlock, and her father’s identity was unknown.  Lucy’s mother died when Lucy was an infant, and Lucy was raised by her grandmother, Conchetta.

Later that evening, Abra stays at a friend’s house.  However, she decides that she is safe from The True Knot, as she believes they have fallen into the trap that Danny set for them.  Abra then decides to head home.

Several members of The True Knot arrive at the picnic grounds.  Danny, John and Dave are prepared, and shoot them.  However, one member, known as Crow Daddy, manages to escape the gunfight, and heads straight for Abra.

Crow Daddy finds Billy Freeman and overpowers Billy.  Crow Daddy then kidnaps Abra, using powerful drugs to sedate her.  When Abra awakens, Crow Daddy threatens Billy’s life, telling Abra that he will be killed unless she obeys him.

Danny, John and Dave quickly realize that Abra has been kidnapped, after Danny loses his telepathic connection to her.  However, Danny has a revelation, when he understands more of what the ghost of Dick Hallorann was trying to tell him.

Danny then astral projects himself into Abra’s body.  By doing this, he is able to fight Crow Daddy, and Crow Daddy is killed.  Danny then has Billy drive to a nearby hotel, so that he and Abra can get some rest before returning Abra to her parents.

The group then heads to the hospital, where Conchetta is living out her last days.  They tell Lucy what happened, and Lucy panics.  However, Dave is able to calm her down, reminding her that Danny is there to help.

Danny visits with Conchetta, who is dying.  He offers some words of comfort, and the two also exchange something else that is not specified.

After the visit with Conchetta, Danny speaks to Lucy and Dave.  He tells them that he has realized that he is actually Lucy’s half-brother and Abra’s uncle, due to an affair his father Jack had with one of his students.  After getting a good look at Danny, Lucy understands that he is telling the truth, even though she is still very worried about her daughter.

In the meantime, Rose the Hat and the rest of The True Knot make plans to locate Abra and kidnap her again.  The situation becomes more urgent, as more of the members either begin to sicken or die, or leave the group.

At the request of Danny, Abra places a call to Rose the Hat and taunts her.  Abra also requests to meet Rose in person, at her home base in Sidewinder, CO.  This riles up Rose even more, and she agrees to meet with Abra, telling her that she will seek revenge for the death of her friends.

The next day, Abra is reunited with her parents.  Abra and her family return to New Hampshire, while Danny heads to Colorado with Billy to confront Rose the Hat and the rest of The True Knot.  Danny feels ill during the trip, but he is determined to stop The True Knot.

Once again, Abra phones Rose the Hat, taunting her, and setting up a meeting time at the home base in Sidewinder.  She is able to astral project himself into Danny’s mind, tricking Rose into thinking that she is in Colorado, instead of in her home in New Hampshire.

Billy and Danny arrive at the site of where The Overlook Hotel used to stand.  The site is now a campground.  Abra is also with them, but in spirit, as she has used her talent for astral projection to trick The True Knot.

Danny is confronted by Rose the Hat and the remaining members of The True Knot almost immediately.  However, Danny is prepared and attacks them.  For the past few days, Danny has been carrying the essence of Abra’s great-grandmother.  He unleashes this essence upon The True Knot.  Since the old woman had been dying of cancer, the members of The True Knot are sickened almost immediately when they inhale her essence.

Rose then tricks Danny into thinking that Abra is Rose, and Danny begins to choke Abra.  He realizes his mistake, and vows not to repeat the mistakes of his father.  He and Abra then return to the corporeal world, promising to win the fight against Rose.

Ghosts are literally unleashed from Danny’s mind, as he unlocks his memories of his stay at The Overlook Hotel.  The remaining members of The True Knot are also attacked, leaving Danny the resources to focus on Rose the Hat.

Rose the Hat is then pushed from the balcony, and killed.  Danny sets fire to Rose’s top hat, destroying it.  As Danny and Billy leave the campground, Danny catches a glimpse of the ghost of his father, Jack.  Danny leaves the campground, bidding his father goodbye.

Two years later, Danny attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and celebrates the fact that he is 15 years sober.  Danny also confesses what happened at Deenie’s apartment all those years ago, and what happened with her son, Tommy.  His fellow addicts are not surprised, and are almost indifferent to his story.  However, Danny feels redeemed, and knows he is on the true path to recovery.

A few days later, Danny attends a birthday party for Abra.  At the request of Abra’s parents, Danny speaks to Abra alone.  It turns out that Abra has attended a party and had her first sip of alcohol.  Later, she got into an argument with her mother and broke several plates in a fit of rage.

Danny tells Abra of his own grandfather and father, and how alcohol ruined their lives.  Danny also talks of his own struggles with his alcohol and his temper.  Danny reminds Abra that she must control her own temper, so that she can stay out of trouble and not go down the path that he walked.  Danny then receives a phone call from his employer in regards to a dying patient, and cuts the evening short.

The dying patient is a man named Fred Carling.  Fred had previously been employed by the hospice where Danny is currently employed.  Fred was also a bully and disliked by many of the other employees, including Danny.  That night, Fred was the victim of a terrible car accident, and it has become clear that he will not live.

However, Danny puts his feelings aside, and visits Fred.  Danny realizes that life is truly a wheel, and brings the man comfort as he dies and passes to the other side.


My Thoughts

Doctor Sleep.  The book with so much beauty.

And I am not just saying that because Danny apparently resembles my man Jax Teller, either!

SONS OF ANARCHY: 203: L-R: Charie Hunnam and Maggie Siff on SONS OF ANARCHY airing Tuesday, Sept. 22'rd, 10 pm e/p on FX. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX

(Although, really, that doesn’t hurt.  Doesn’t hurt in the slightest.)

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Doctor Sleep is billed as a sequel to The Shining.  And in a way, it is (more on that later.)

But to think of it Doctor Sleep as only as a sequel to The Shining (which is one of my favorite King books ever and likely my favorite ghost story ever) is limiting.

For one, I don’t think of this book as a direct sequel to The Shining.  I find it better to think of it as a follow up.

Sure, we have some of the same themes, which include addiction, life after death and people who don’t quite fit the fold.

However, I find Doctor Sleep to actually be pretty different from The Shining.  And this is a good thing, as anyone who has ever heard my rant about sequels will tell you.

Let’s admit it: sequels sucks!  Carrie 2 anyone?  Or how about Pet Sematary 2?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But, you have Phantasm 2, which expands on the original story.  And the Star Wars movies, which build on the first movie to make a complete story, and stand on their own as well.

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And now we have Doctor Sleep.  It also builds on the original story of Danny Torrance, and is a stand alone book.  This is a good thing, as we are staying out of the ridiculous sequel territory, which seems to plague the horror genre in particular.

However, I can’t help comparing and contrasting both books.  So, let’s get it out of our system…

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The Shining is one of the most frightening books ever written.  The ghost of Mrs. Massey.  The clocks with blood in them (still thinking about that weeks after the fact, thanks Stephen King!  And let me thank Obama for good measure!)

Now, Doctor Sleep does have its scary moments.  Dick Hallorann’s story about his grandfather and the old pedophile’s ghost (yeah, there I said it) is great nightmare material.  And of course, the resurgence of Mrs. Massey (and her “leavings”.  If that didn’t make you want to throw up in your mouth, then you are not human) and Horace Dewent added some creepiness as well.

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(Oh, and that top hat.  Is there anything creepier than a top hat drifting in the wind?  I mean besides a red baseball cap worn by a loudmouth, racist Cheeto?)

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But, due to the tone and the messages, I consider Doctor Sleep to be more dark fantasy than horror.  In fact, with the children in danger and the seemingly oblivious adults, Doctor Sleep is closer to The Talisman, or even The Eyes of the Dragon, than anything else.

Even the “villains” in Doctor Sleep (Rose the Hat, Barry the Chink, Diesel Doug, etc) remind me more of villains in a children’s fantasy novel than anything.  Not that there is anything wrong with this.  In fact, given what King was trying to accomplish (again, more on that later), I actually think that this works very well.

In fact, Abra herself reminds me of someone in a young adult novel.  Katnis Everdeen, perhaps?  Or maybe Pippi Longstocking?

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Abra is what I wished I was when I was her age:  courageous, confident, smart and just kicks ass overall.  In fact, she may be a little overconfident (and loves Game of Thrones, woot), but I don’t care.  I loved how she was willing to take on Rose the Hat, taking pleasure in the fact that she hurt Rose.  Talk about taking names and kicking ass!

However, this is a King book.  So there is much more to Abra than meets the eye.  The scene at the end, when Danny tells the stories of his father and grandfather, and Abra’s reaction, is proof of that.  Like Danny, Abra is flawed.  And will probably struggle with alcoholism.  But like Danny, she has hope.  And she will (hopefully) rise above her struggles and do good in the world.  And that is just one thing that makes her one of King’s best female characters to date.  Maybe, if we are lucky, we will one day get a story on grown-up Abra too.

Okay, time to talk about the elephant in the room…

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Well, actually not really.  Or at least a very cute elephant?

That’s right, I am talking about Danny Torrance, all growed up!

In case you can’t tell, Danny is one of my book boos.  I may be happily married, but I think there is a clause in my wedding vows that allows for book and TV boos.  So, relax, I am legal, folks!

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Like King, I would wonder about Danny off and on.  How did he fare after escaping The Overlook?  What kind of man did he grow up to be?  Did he have kids?  God forbid, did he follow in his father’s footsteps?

Not well, awesome, no, and yes and no would be the answers to the above.

And, in all seriousness, what did we expect?

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Cynical, I know.  I was actually reminded of the essay Lime Twigs and Treachery, written by Henry Miller.  I read this waaayyyy back in high school (over 20 years for you nosy folks) and it has always stuck with me.

I had actually forgotten about that essay.  Then I read Doctor Sleep.  And remembered it again.

The basic gist of that essay was that the sins of the father get passed down to the children.  And that we will never be able to escape those sins, which may include abuse.  And alcoholism.  And addiction.

And that is exactly what happened to Danny:  the sins of the father were passed down right to him.  On a silver platter, in fact.

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And what did we expect to happen?

Danny lived through the experience at The Overlook, yes.  But he lost his father, who he loved very much, despite of (or maybe because of) his faults.

He was forced to grow up, and quickly.  He learned some lessons that many people I know in their 30’s still have not learned.

His family unit dissolved.  His mother never fully recovered, either physically or emotionally, as she never remarried.

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So is it any surprise that Danny started drinking in high school?

Is it any surprise that he continued to drink, even when it was obvious that it was destroying his life?

Even as he clearly alienated people?  I don’t think Danny was single because he was ugly.  Rather, he was single because of his demanding mistress:  the booze.

I think that my favorite part of Doctor Sleep is not the part about the monsters, and revisiting Sidewinder (although those parts were certainly no slouch.)

My favorite part of Doctor Sleep was Danny’s journey.

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I loved the fact that the story picked up right after The Shining, showing us that things were not all right with Danny.

I loved the fact that Dick Hallorann was a constant presence in the story, even after he died.

But most of all, I loved the story of Danny’s struggles and his recovery.

One think that King is good at (and believe me, that is a long list) is writing real characters and real situations.  He is able to juxtapose the horror/fantasy element with the reality element (which has included job loss, addiction, bullying, hate crimes and many other familiar situations) and make his story that much more plausible.

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He did that in The Shining, and that is perhaps his most memorable moment.  Who can’t relate to Jack Torrance his struggles to provide for his family and achieve some sort of success somewhere, whether it be with writing, teaching or being the caretaker at a remote hotel?

And King also did it with Danny.  Addiction is a real issue.  Many people struggle with that.  So is childhood trauma and abuse.  Many have also struggled with that.

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King created another “Everyman” in Danny Torrance as well, in detailing his struggles with addiction, and his gradual recovery.  And that is just one of the reasons why calling Sai King “The Master” is not hyperbole.

The answer to the last question, if Danny grew up to be like his father, is yes and no.

Danny did grow up to become an alcoholic.

Danny also became someone with anger issues.

So that’s the yes part.

However, we cannot ignore the no part.  The no part is what makes Doctor Sleep so beautiful.

I love The Shining, but I consider it to be one of the bleakest books I have ever read.  Danny does escape the hotel, but at a huge cost, as his family unit is forever shattered.  Indeed, The Shining is a tragedy, along with a horror story.

Doctor Sleep is the opposite of The Shining.  It offers hope.  And I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use some hope right about now.

When I read Doctor Sleep, I look at it as a kind of redemption.  A cycle is broken.

It is true that Danny followed in his father’s footsteps (see above.)

However, Danny succeeds where his father had failed.

For one thing, he does not succumb to his alcoholism.  He recognizes the problem and seeks treatment for it.  This allows him to be able to hold down a job and maintain a stable home for himself, which is another thing that his father could not do.

Like his father, Danny had his demons.  He literally has his demons, as they escape from The Overlook and follow him into his new life.  Danny is also able to overcome those, unlike his father.

And because Danny is able to conquer his alcoholism and his demons, he is able to step up for Abra and be the man that his father could not be.

It is true that Abra is kidnapped, but Danny and the other adults do most of the dirty work to defeat The True Knot.  This allows Abra to maintain a little more of her innocence, as she can trust that the adults in her life will do the right thing.

Stephen King

I also loved how Danny was able to use the ghosts of his past to defeat The True Knot.  Finally, the demons are unleashed.  The suffering is not in vain.

In fact, there is something empowering about being able to take something has caused you so much pain, and using it to do good.

We all have our demons.  Sometimes, we suppress them.  But the most courageous of us face those demons, rising above them, finally breaking the cycle.


Well, that’s it for Doctor Sleep!  Join me next month as we take a look at the state of current affairs in these parts, as we read and dissect Needful Things!

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Doctor Sleep is another King book set squarely in the King universe.  Here are some of the connections to other King books that I found:

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-The most obvious connection is to The Shining.  The Shining details the time that Danny and his family spent at the haunted Overlook Hotel, and of Danny’s experiences at the hotel.

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-Danny makes the statement “that there are other worlds than these.”  This is similar to a statement uttered by Jake Chambers in The Gunslinger, the first book in The Dark Tower series.

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-The town of Castle Rock is mentioned.  Castle Rock is the setting for several King novels and short stories, including The Body, Needful Things, Cujo, The Dark Half and The Dead Zone.

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-Jerusalem’s Lot is also mentioned.  The town of Jerusalem’s Lot is the setting for the book ‘Salem’s Lot, along with the short stories Jerusalem’s Lot and One for the Road.

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-Abra’s favorite boy band is ‘Round Here.  This band figures into the Mercedes trilogy, which includes Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.

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-Abra is one of a long line of King characters blessed (or perhaps cursed) with psionic abilities.  These characters include Carrie White, Jake Chambers, Ted Brautigan, Kira DeVore, Tyler Marshall, the Breakers (featured in The Dark Tower series) and several others.

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-Abra’s “ghostie people” bear some resemblance to the vagrant dead featured in The Wolves of the Calla, The Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower.

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-The name Charlie Manx is mentioned.  Charlie Manx is the villain in the book NOS4A2, written Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King.

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-Mention is made of Dick Hallorann in the novel It, as Dick saved the life of Wil Hanlon, who would later go to father a boy named Mike Hanlon, a member of the Losers Club.

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-The number 19 is mentioned.  This number is of particular importance in the last three books of The Dark Tower series.

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Family Horrors: My Review of The Shining

Have you ever…

Lived with a person who the human version of a volcano, and you didn’t know if this person was the dormant kind of volcano, or the other kind?

Loved this person beyond all reason, but spent much of your time in fear of them, eventually fearing for your life?

Been isolated, through no fault of your own, with nowhere to turn?

Felt conflicted, not knowing whether to protect yourself, or devote yet more energy and resources to protect your loved one, from his or herself, in the hopes that this person would not self destruct, so that you guys could attempt to build a life together?

Spent untold hours blaming yourself for the awful situation, even though you were actually the reason for anything good in that situation, although you could not see it, because you were too mired in guilt, defending yourself from the attacks that you were sure that you caused?

Still felt sad, and even guilty, even after you escaped your situation?  Not knowing how you would go on without this person who you loved so much, but somehow finding a way?

So, why are we talking about a domestic abuse situation?

After all, that’s what I just described right?

Someone who was in an abusive relationship, but somehow managed to escape, but still have survivor’s guilt?

Well, you would be correct.  But as always, there is more to meet the eye…

You guessed, I have just described a Stephen King story!

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And it is one of his most famous, maybe even his most famous, with a movie that is perhaps even more notorious?

Redrum…

Yes, in case you haven’t guessed, I am referring to The Shining.

And let’s take a moment to acknowledge the red-headed stepchild of the family, otherwise known as The Shinning.  As we all know, all work and no play makes Homer something, something…

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But yes, that The Shining.  The same one that is such a huge part of our culture now.

The same one that is the subject of some pretty entertaining memes.

Admit, you have muttered “redrum” in *that voice.*

Or been petrified by blood coming out of the walls.

Or freaked out by people in animal costumes.

I could go on and on.  The Shining is a frightening book and movie.

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But The Shining is so much more than just being scary.

The Shining is about family, and just what we will do to protect the ones we love the most.

The Shining is also about addiction and abuse, and how those can destroy a family from the inside out, even without the help of a haunted hotel.

In other words, for most of us, family is central.  And losing family is devastating, no matter the circumstances.  Over and over, King drives this theme home in The Shining.

So, welcome to this month’s read and review, and as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to the Torrance family, which consists of Jack, his wife Wendy and their five year old son Danny.  It is revealed that Jack has recently become unemployed from his job as a schoolteacher, and is interviewing for a position as the caretaker at a hotel called The Overlook Hotel, in Sidewinder, Colorado.

It turns out that the interview is just a formality, and Jack is hired for the position, although the hotel’s manager, Stuart Ullman, is reluctant to hire Jack, as Jack has had past problems with alcoholism and controlling his temper.  Jack assures Ullman that the alcoholism is no longer an issues, and that he and his family can handle the isolation that will come with the job, which will require Jack and his family to live at the hotel during the winter and be cut off from all civilization.

During a tour of the hotel, the maintenance man, Watson, shows Jack how to adjust the pressure of the boiler so that the hotel does not catch fire.  Jack also learns that the previous caretaker, Delbert Grady, murdered his family during his stint as a caretaker.  Watson also tells Jack that the hotel has had a few deaths, and one of those occurred during the previous summer.  An older woman, Mrs. Massey, stayed at the hotel with her much younger suitor.  When her suitor abandoned her, Mrs. Massey committed suicide in room 217, in the bathtub.

In the meantime, Danny and Wendy await Jack’s return.  The Torrance family has relocated from Vermont to Colorado, due to Jack’s job loss, and Wendy has some concern that the move has not been easy for Danny.  We also learn that Danny has been a victim of Jack’s temper, as Jack accidentally broke Danny’s arm a few years prior, due to Danny spilling beer on his school papers.

We also learn that Danny is gifted with some unusual abilities:  he sometimes has knowledge of future events, or events in the present that he would otherwise have no knowledge.  Danny sees these visions through his friend Tony, another boy only visible to Danny, and referred to as his “imaginary friend” by Jack and Wendy.  We learn through Danny that Jack and Wendy’s marriage has been troubled, due to Jack’s alcoholism, and that Danny has feared that his parents will divorce.

Danny has another frightening vision brought to him by Tony as he is outside waiting for his father to get home:  he sees himself in an unfamiliar place being chased by someone, and also sees the phrase “REDRUM.”  Danny becomes frightened and has no idea what this vision could mean.

Finally, Jack arrives home.  Danny is overjoyed to see his father and glad that his father got the job at The Overlook Hotel.  However, Danny thinks that he sees a bloody mallet in the front seat of his father’s car.  When he looks at the front seat again, Danny realizes that is just a bag of groceries.

Jack makes a trip with Danny to a pay phone, so that he call his friend Al Shockley, who helped him get the job at the Overlook Hotel.  Jack recalls how, during one drunken night, Al hit a bicycle that was left in the middle of the road while driving himself and Jack home.  It is this incident that prompted Wendy to ask for a divorce, but Jack is able to stop drinking, and Wendy decides to stay, as she loves her husband and son.

That night, Danny has yet another, and Tony warns him not to go to the Overlook for the winter.  Danny is frightened, but does not say anything to his parents, as he knows how important this opportunity is for his family.

The Torrance family then arrives at The Overlook Hotel.  Danny is still feeling uneasy, but does not tell his parents, as he is still aware how important this opportunity is for his family.

After his family arrives at The Overlook, Danny is introduced to the hotel’s chef, Dick Halloran.  Danny and Halloran take a liking to each other immediately.

Halloran is able to ascertain that Danny possesses psychic abilities, to which he refers to as “the shining.”  Halloran tells Danny that he is not alone in possessing this gift, as Halloran also possesses it, although his ability is not as strong as Danny’s.  Before Halloran bids Danny goodbye for the winter, he warns Danny that he may see things in the hotel, as the Overlook is an old hotel and several unpleasant events have occurred there.  Halloran tells Danny that what he sees are akin to pictures in a book, and that nothing should be able to harm him.  Halloran warns Danny to stay out of room 217, as he may experience something unpleasant in that room.

Ullman gives the Torrance family a tour of the hotel shortly after Halloran and the other employees leave for the winter.  True to Halloran’s statement, Danny sees what appears to be blood and brains on a wall.  However, Danny looks away, and the vision soon vanishes.

Several weeks pass uneventfully for the Torrance family.  Jack is finally able to work on his writing, and thinks that he may be able to finish the play he is working on.  Jack and Wendy notice that Danny is a little withdrawn, but think nothing of it.  Danny continues to push himself to learn how to read, so that he may be able to communicate with his friend Tony, who has shown him signs with written words in the past.

One day, Jack finds a wasp nest on the roof of the hotel.  He kills the wasps with a bug bomb, and gives the nest to Danny as sort of a souvenir.  Danny is thrilled with the nest, and puts it in his bedroom.

That night, Danny is getting ready for bed in the bathroom.  When he does not come out of the bathroom, Jack and Wendy become anxious, and Jack breaks down the door.  They find Danny in a trance, but are able to rouse him.  Danny does not remember what happened, so Jack and Wendy put him to bed.

Later on, in the middle of the night, Jack and Wendy are awakened by Danny.  Danny is being attacked by the wasps from the nest given to him by Jack earlier.  Jack is able to kill the wasps, but cannot understand why the poison he used earlier did not work.

The next day, Wendy and Jack take Danny to see a doctor in town.  The doctor examines Danny and is able to find nothing physically wrong with Danny.

The doctor asks Danny to try and summon Tony.  Danny falls into a trance again, but is unable remember anything when he comes to.  However, Danny tells the doctor that his mother had a sister who passed away as a child, which is information he did not previously have.  Danny also tells the doctor that his parents had previously contemplated a divorce, but have since changed their minds.  The doctor refuses to believe that there is anything unusual about Danny. and reassures Jack and Wendy that Danny is simply an imaginative child, and that he will eventually grow out of his unusual behavior.

While he is setting rat traps in the basement, Jack finds a scrapbook of sorts.  When he opens up the scrapbook, Jack finds much information in regards to the history of the Overlook.  It turns out that the Overlook has seen many changes in ownership and has also been the scene of some violent crimes.  Jack becomes absorbed in this history, and also begins to exhibit behaviors that he exhibited when he was drinking, such as wiping his lips and dry swallowing Excedrin.

Danny also begins exploring the hotel, without the knowledge of his parents.  He is again tempted by Room 217, despite Halloran’s warnings.  Danny is able to resist the temptation, but thinks that he sees a fire extinguisher come to life, turning into a snake.  However, once again, he does not tell his parents about this incident, as he understands how important the job at the hotel is for his family.

Jack makes a trip to the library to do more research on The Overlook Hotel.  He places a phone call to Stuart Ullman, goading Ullman in regards to the history of the hotel, stating that he will one day write a book about the hotel.  This angers Ullman, and Jack regrets his actions as well.

After speaking with Ullman, Jack receives a call from his friend Al Shockley.  It turns out that Al owns part of the hotel, and is angry at Jack for making that phone call.  Al forces Jack to promise not to call Ullman again, and to not write any books about the hotel.  Jack is angered, but agrees, in order to keep his job.

Both Wendy and Danny become worried about Jack.  They sense that Jack is having trouble coping with his alcoholism, but are unsure of how to help him.  Wendy asks Danny if he would like to leave The Overlook, and Danny agrees that he would.  However, Danny is not happy with the alternative option:  staying with Wendy’s mother, as Wendy and her mother do not get along.  Wendy agrees to stay at the hotel with Jack for the winter, and hopes that things will get better.

One day, as Jack is trimming the hedge animals in front of the hotel, he is badly frightened.  He thinks that the hedge animals have moved.  He tells himself that this is impossible, and likely a hallucination caused by his struggles to remain sober.

The weather worsens in Sidewinder, and the Torrance family begins to feel the hotel closing in on them.  The only means of communication is a CB radio.  They are otherwise cut off from the world, unable to leave the hotel.

One day, Danny finally gives in to temptation and visits room 217.  When he opens the bathroom door, he encounters the ghost of Mrs. Massey.  The ghost then attempts to strangle Danny.

While Danny is being attacked in Room 217, Jack and Wendy have dozed off in their quarters.  However, Jack awakens to the voice of his dead father on the CB radio, warning him that Danny has broken the rules and visited room 217.

Once Wendy and Jack come to their senses, Danny appears at the top of the stairs.  Danny is bruised and bleeding from his encounter with the ghost in room 217.

Almost immediately, Wendy blames Jack for Danny’s injuries, convinced that Jack tried to hurt Danny in his sleep.  She chases Jack off and locks herself and Danny in the bedroom.

Jack is angered by Wendy’s treatment of him, and retreats to the empty bar at the hotel.  Jack then begins to fantasize about drinking again.

The fantasies about drinking seem to become real as Jack strikes up a conversation with the bartender he believes would have been serving the hotel back in its prime.  Jack refers to this man as Lloyd, and requests that Lloyd serve him 20 martinis.  Lloyd also appears to commiserate with Jack over his troubles.

Finally, Jack realizes what he is doing and snaps out of his trance.  Wendy appears with Danny at the bar, and Danny begins to have convulsions.  Jack is able to bring Danny out of his catatonic state, and tries to find out what happened to Danny.

Danny tells his parents about what happened in room 2017, along with the other incidents that he has experienced during the family’s stay at the hotel.  Wendy also tells Jack how worried she and Danny have been about him, as he appears to be struggling with his alcoholism.  Jack heads to Room 217, to see if he can find anyone or anything there.

When Jack arrives at Room 217, he investigates it and does not find anything.  However, when he leaves the room, he notices that someone or something is watching him.  However, he tells his family that he did not find anything in the room.

Later that night, Jack and Wendy begin to argue over their situation.  Jack reminds Wendy that they are snowed in, and that an escape attempt may kill them.  However, Wendy remembers that the hotel has snow mobiles, and Jack reluctantly promises to test them out the next day, so that they may possibly escape the hotel.

That night, Jack struggles with his anger at his family, as he feels that he will have no other options if they leave the hotel.  He dreams that he sees a ghost of one his students in Room 217, and that he attacks that ghost.  However, the ghost then turns into his son.  Jack awakens to find himself standing over Danny’s bed, and shocked by his behavior.

In the morning, Jack takes a look at the snow mobile and finds it in working order.  However, he is unable to bear the idea of leaving the hotel for a fate unknown, and deliberately sabotages the snow mobile, so that his family will remain stranded at The Overlook.

The weeks pass without incident.  Danny tells his mother that he still afraid of the hotel, but that he understands that his family has no other options.

One day, Danny is outside playing on the hotel’s playground.  He is playing in the miniature version of the hotel when he begins to feel trapped inside, and very frightened.  Danny makes his way out of the playhouse, and heads back to the hotel.

Danny also has a bad scare when he heads back to the hotel:  he sees the hedge animals move, and they begin to chase him.  However, Danny is able to make it back to the hotel, where he collapses on the porch from fright and exhaustion.

Danny tells his parents what happened.  However, Jack does not believe him and tries to convince his son that the movement of the hedge animals was a figment of his imagination.  Danny realizes that Jack is lying and that Jack has also seen the animals move.  When he tries to tell his father this, Jack slaps him across the face, angering Wendy.

Jack and his family are awakened later that night by the sound of the elevator running.  The elevator had not previously been in use.  Jack gets up to investigate the noise, with Wendy and Danny in tow.

When he investigates the elevator, Jack does not find anyone or anything there.  However, the Torrance family finds evidence of a party, which includes streamers and balloons.  Wendy and Danny also hear noises associated with a party, such as people talking and music.  Jack denies that anything unusual is happening, and chalks up the issues with the elevator to a short circuit.

A few days later, Danny comes across an old clock that no longer appears to be working.  However, the clock comes to life, and the figures in it commit lewd acts.  The clock then stops, and Danny has another vision.  He sees the word REDRUM again, and realizes that it is murder spelled backwards.  Danny is terrified, and sends a telepathic plea to Dick Halloran for help.

Hallorann is in Florida, working at his winter job.  He receives Danny’s message, and realizes that the situation at The Overlook Hotel is serious, and that he must return to Colorado as soon as he can.

As Hallorann is looking for a flight to take him to Colorado, Wendy and Danny sense that the hotel is closing in on them..  The hotel is working through Jack, in order to get to Danny.  When Danny tries to leave his quarters, he is accosted by a man in a dog costume, who tries to attack him.  Danny continues to call to Hallorann for help, but the hotel senses what Danny is doing and puts a stop to it.

Finally, Hallorann is able to find a flight to Colorado, and heads to the hotel, hoping that he will not be too late.

Jack becomes convinced that the hotel wants him, and not Wendy or Danny.  Jack encounters the ghosts of the hotel’s previous employees and guests, and is able to get drunk.  One of the ghosts, the ghost of Delbert Grady (the previous caretaker of the hotel), alerts Jack to the fact that Danny is trying to escape from The Overlook, and tells Jack that he must do whatever he needs to do to correct Danny.  Jack is also shown a vision in the clock:  a man beating a little boy with a roque mallet.  The clock then fills with blood, much to Jack’s disbelief.

Finally, Hallorann is able to find a flight to Colorado, and begins the trek to Sidewinder.

Wendy and Danny stay sequestered in their quarters, and are able to hear Jack in his drunken rage.  Wendy ventures out of their quarters to find food for her and Danny, and finds Jack passed out at the bar.  She realizes that Jack is somehow drunk, even though there is no alcohol anywhere in the hotel.

Jack regains consciousness, and begins to attack Wendy.  Wendy realizes that he intends to kill her and Danny.  Danny comes to the defense of his mother, and Jack also attacks Danny.  Wendy is able to finally subdue Jack by hitting him on the head with a glass.

Wendy and Danny drag Jack to the pantry, intending to lock him in there, for his safety and theirs.  Jack regains consciousness and fights them, but they are able to shut the door on him in the nick of time.

Even though they retreat to the their quarters, Wendy and Danny are still able to hear Jack’s protests, along with the elevator and other sounds that indicate that the hotel is coming to life.

The ghost of Delbert Grady finds Jack in the pantry.  Jack promises to kill Wendy and Danny, in exchange for his freedom.  The door is somehow unlocked, and Jack picks up a roque mallet, and looks to find his wife and son.

In the meantime, Hallorann continues to make his trek to The Overlook.  The hotel realizes what he is doing, and sends him a message, in an attempt to scare him off.  Hallorann fights it, and is determined to make his way to The Overlook.

Wendy begins to suspect that Jack has somehow escaped the pantry.  She heads downstairs, but this proves to be a mistake, as Jack is waiting for her.  Jack attacks her with the mallet, but Wendy defends herself with a knife.  She heads back upstairs, but an angry, inhuman Jack follows her, determined to kill her.

Finally, Hallorann arrives at the hotel, but is attacked by one of the hedge animals.

Wendy is able to flee from Jack, and hides in the bathroom.  She defends herself with a razor blade she finds in the medicine cabinet, all the while wondering where Danny is hiding, as she has been unable to find him.  She also realizes that the hotel has completely possessed her husband, and that Jack is no longer in control of himself.

Hallorann is able to fend off the hedge animal by lighting it on fire and makes his way into the hotel.  However, he is then attacked by Jack and loses consciousness.

Danny is in some kind of catatonic state.  He is visited by Tony, and realizes that Tony is a future version of himself, Daniel Anthony Torrance.  Tony tells Danny that his mother and Hallorann may be killed by Jack, unless Danny does something about it.  Tony then reminds Danny that he will remember what his father forgot, and vanishes.  Danny then returns to consciousness.

Finding himself in the attic on the third floor, Danny hears his father calling for him.  Resisting the urge to obey his father, Danny attempts to hide from Jack.

Wendy regains consciousness, and finds Hallorann.  She rouses him, and both hear the sounds of Jack on the prowl for his son.

Danny confronts the creature that had once been his father.  He tells his father that the hotel is using him, and will discard him once he has served its purpose.  Jack briefly makes an appearance, and tells Danny to run.

Danny then realizes that his father has not maintained the boiler, and that the hotel will go up in flames.  He runs, searching for his mother and Hallorann, so that they may escape before it is too late.

Wendy, Hallorann and Danny are reunited.  Halloran senses the urgency, and the three make their escape.  The hotel catches on fire shortly aftewards and is completely destroyed.

Even after they escape, the hotel tries to urge Hallorann to hurt Danny.  Hallorann fights the urge, and escapes with Wendy and Danny by using the snow mobile.  Soon, they reach civilization, away from the hotel and the haunted grounds.

Several months later, Hallorann has found work at lodge in Maine.  Danny and Wendy also stay at the lodge for the summer, but Wendy plans on relocating to Maryland, in favor of a new job and fresh start.  Danny is still saddened over the death of his father, but Hallorann reassures him that he will always be there for him, and that Danny will eventually recover from his ordeal.


My Thoughts

I have said it once, and I will say it again:  I appear to be incapable of reading anything that does not make me its emotional bitch in the end.

And The Shining is no different.

I have a few King books that are able to get to me on a personal level.  These include It, Bag of Bones and Rose Madder.

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Well, now I can add The Shining to that list.

And I would not be alone in that sentiment.  Out of all of King’s work, it seems like The Shining is the one that has had the biggest grip on popular culture.

Even non horror and non King fans get what “redrum” means.

The Shining is so compelling that Felicity was reading it in an episode of Arrow

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Jack Torrance, you have failed your hotel!

(OK, that one was admittedly bad.  Maybe Jack should have tried harder to save his city  hotel.  OK, I will stop now before someone sends the ghosts of the Overlook or perhaps Damien Darhk after me for making these bad jokes!)

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And there is a good reason why The Shining (both the book and movie) has the grip that it has on popular culture.  Actually, there are a few good reasons.

The Shining is scary.  Really scary.  Really fucking scary.  Fucking scary as hell, as a matter of fact.

OK, Captain Obvious is on board…

Stephen King wrote The Shining.  He is the King of scary.  So of course his books are scary, right?

Well, many times, King’s books are scary.  King does a lot of things besides scary (which he also does in The Shining, and which we will talk about later), but if you mention his name, the first word that comes up is scary.  That is what he is primarily known for:  writing books that will scare his Constant Constant Readers into a change of pants.

After all, who hasn’t been home alone except for the dogs, and felt her skin crawl while reading the likes of It, ‘Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, Revival or almost any other King book?

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

(Or is that just me?  OK, just checking, no judgement, right?)

Even The Body and 11/22/63 have creepy elements in them, and those are not traditionally billed as horror stories.

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Well, add The Shining to that list.  And believe me, it has earned that spot on the list.

First of all, there is the setting.  We have an isolated, abandoned hotel in the dead of winter.  Forget about the ghosts for a minute, and think about that instead.  Being trapped in the middle of nowhere is a real fear.  And The Shining plays upon that fear almost right from the opening pages, before we even have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of those lovely, hospitable creatures that call The Overlook Hotel home.

In fact, I could even rightfully argue that the hotel is a character, in and of itself, in much the same way that Danny, Wendy, Jack and Dick Hallorann are characters.

I find this utterly fascinating:  only King has the ability to turn an inanimate object, like an isolated hotel, into a compelling, fleshed out character.  Much love for The Master!

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But, I don’t want to forget about the ghosts.  No, let’s not do that!

Now, the build up to the ghosts is a nice, slow burn.  There are a couple of flashes here and there, like the blood and brains Danny sees in the one room on his first tour, along with the incident with the wasps.  But King spends the first half of the book getting us invested in Danny and his parents, and even the hotel.  So the ghosts take a back burner, at least at first.

But then King unleashes them.  And good things (or is it really scary things?) come to those who wait.  And the payoff is grand.

It had been many years since I read this book.  And a few details may have escaped me.  But lucky me, they came back to me on my re-read.

There is the ghost of Mrs. Massey.  Now, thanks to Kubrik and his movie, I have never really forgotten about her.  But she deserves mention here.  I may make jokes and kid around with all The Shining references, but here is my confession:  I do that to hide the fact that she still scares me into a change of pants, even to this day.

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(Again, we cool and no judgement, right?  Whew!)

Although Mrs. Massey scared me, and the guy in the dog costume scared me (who does that?  Who wears a dog costume and makes the rounds at a party, greeting people by barking?  Ew much?), along with the ghosts of Grady and Lloyd, I think the honor goes to…

You got it, the clock!

I know that a wind up clock is not what most people associate with this “redrum” of a book.  However, that is one seriously scary scene.  And it would actually be two scenes, as Danny sees the figures in the clock do some unspeakable things to each other after it comes to life, and then Jack also sees the same clock come to life, showing him a guy murder a kid with a roque mallet.  And then the clock fills with blood.  Nice touch, Sai King!

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Okay, we have paid the ghosts their due.

So let’s take away the ghosts now.  Let’s take away the spooky hotel.  Let’s take away a little boy’s mysterious, PSI powers.

We are doing away with anything and everything supernatural.

With most horror stories, if you took away all the supernatural elements, you would not have a story.  You would have the equivalent of a car with no engines, no tires, probably even no stereo to listen to the music on.

But this is where King separates himself from the pack, and shows us why he has earned the moniker “The Master.”

SK give me what I won

You can take away anything and everything supernatural in The Shining.

And you are not left with an empty vehicle that won’t go anywhere or play any music.

Rather, you have a vehicle that is functional.  It may have no “extras”, like the fancy tires and state of the art stereo system.

But this vehicle will run.  We can drive it, and it can still take us places and can be counted on for a journey.

In other words, The Shining is not just about ghosts.

The ghosts make the story fun, and provide some great scares (again, Mrs. Massey).  But they are not what makes this story so memorable and so effective on so many levels.

At its core, The Shining explores familiar territory.  Or familiar to anyone who has had to “adult” for more than thirty seconds of his/her life.

The Shining is about family.

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The Shining is about addiction and the devastating effects it has on the addict and the addict’s loved ones.

The Shining is about unemployment, and how devastating it can be to lose one’s job and place in the world.

In fact, the Torrance family’s stay at The Overlook Hotel could be seen as metaphor for being trapped in an abusive relationship.

In an abusive relationship, the abuser will use isolation as a tactic.  This is what my ex did to me:  he cut me off from everyone and everything that I loved.  And then the monsters were unleashed.

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Like Danny, I lived in fear.  I also constantly questioned myself and blamed myself, as Danny did, when his father and the hotel would do terrible things.  I believed, like Danny, that I had caused those things.

Like Danny, I believed that there was something I could do to keep the monsters at bay, and prevent the terrible things from happening.  I shouldered much responsibility for what happened, and looked for ways to prevent (like Danny avoiding certain parts of the hotel.)

But, like Danny, it became too much, and escape became necessary to save my life.  Danny agonized over the escape, and so did I.  Escaping from an abuser is never easy, as you are running from someone you love, sometimes a person you love beyond all reason.

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And the recovery is not easy, as evidenced by the end of the book.  Like Danny, I spent much time crying.

But, again, like Danny, I found the light.  Light is never so beautiful as when you escape that darkness.


Well, that’s it for the roller coaster otherwise known as The Shining.  Join me next month for a reunion of sorts, when we review and dissect the follow up to The Shining, aka Doctor Sleep!

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Even though The Shining is an early King work, it is still set squarely in the King universe, and shares some notable connections with other King books.  Here are the connections I found:

-The most obvious connection to another book is to Doctor Sleep, which follows the adventures of Danny Torrance in adulthood.

-The town of Sidewinder is mentioned in the novel The Talisman.

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-Danny has PSI abilities.  Many other characters in the King universe have these abilities, including Carrie White, Jake Chambers, Kyra DeVore (Bag of Bones) and the Breakers in The Dark Tower series.

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-Room 217 is the room that houses Brady Hartsfield in the Mercedes trilogy, which includes Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.

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-In the book The Drawing of the Three, Eddie recalls a movie that he has seen, titled The Shining.  Even if Stephen King does not exist in every reality (or even most of them), apparently some version of The Shining does exist on more than one level of The Tower, and may even exist on all levels of The Tower.

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-The ghosts seen by Danny at The Overlook Hotel bear some resemblance to the “vagrant dead” mentioned in The Wolves of the Calla and The Song of Susannah.

Roland dance

-In the novel It, Dick Halloran makes a brief appearance in a story in a flashback regards to Derry’s history.  Hallorann saves the life of Wil Hanlon, who would later go on to father Mike Hanlon, one of the members of the Losers Club.

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My Review of The Dark Half

By nature, most human beings possess dual natures.

It makes sense if you think about it, actually.

We have our public selves.  That’s the self that we present to the world.  That self is polite.  That self observes “social mores.”  That self knows not to cut in line, for example.  Or it knows that we use eating utensils to eat, and not our fingers.  Our Sunday best self, in other words.

And then there is the private self.  That self has no problem eating with its fingers.  Or maybe cursing at someone to get out of its way already.  Some may call this the “id”, per Sigmund Freud.  Or, if we want to be kinder, the casual Friday self.

Often, being creative requires one to get in touch with that darker side.  Some of the best art is born from darkness, actually.  Art can be a good outlet for that darkness, allowing the artist to express those dark desires.  At the very least, people may admire the end result.  Or perhaps the artist can even make a viable living by expressing that dark side.

Usually, that dark side is kept under wraps.  Artist does his/her thing, perhaps gets praised for it in some way, lets off steam, and it’s done, right?

Well, most of the time…

However, (wait for it) if you are a character in a…you guessed it…Stephen King book, its not that simple.  No, nothing in a Stephen King book is ever that simple, is it?

(In case you forgot which blog you were reading.)

Simpsons SK

One of my favorite novels by The Master is The Dark Half.  On the surface, it is a horror novel.  After all, someone’s pseudonym comes to life and does horrible things.  And don’t get me started on sparrows…

But, as with most of King’s work, The Dark Half is much more that what it seems to be on the surface.  This is a novel that has much to say about the creative process, and the effect that process can have on the writer and the writer’s loved ones.

Plus, it takes place in one of my favorite King towns, aka Castle Rock.  And it has Alan Pangborn as a character…Pangborn has long been one of my favorite King book boos!

In other words, what’s not to love about The Dark Half?  It has a fascinating villain, along with some creepy imagery.  It’s perfect, in other words.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of The Dark Half.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins in 1960, and we are introduced to a young boy named Thad Beaumont.  Thad is an aspiring writer, and already receiving recognition for his writing.  Thad has also begun to suffer from serious migraines, but his doctor is unable to find a cause.  Along with the migraines, Tad hears the sound of birds.

One day, Thad collapses at the bus stop.  He is rushed to the hospital, and his doctors believe that he may have a brain tumor.  However, the doctors do not find a brain tumor when they operate on Thad.  Instead, they find eyes, teeth and other body parts in Thad’s brain.  The doctors believe that they have found an unformed twin that was digested by Thad in the womb.  The doctors elect not to tell Thad’s parents the full truth in regards to their discovery, and Thad’s parents are led to believe that the doctors have found a brain tumor.  The surgery is successful, and Thad is soon released and goes back to living a normal life.

We are again introduced to Thad, twenty five years later.  Thad is married to a woman named Liz, and is the father of fraternal twins named Wendy and William.  Thad is also a writer, but has only found success using the pseudonym of “George Stark.”  Under George Stark, Thad has written crime novels that have achieved commercial success.  The novels written under Thad’s own name have not been nearly as successful, commercially or critically.

Eventually, a man named Frederick Clawson discovers that Thad Beaumont and George Stark are the same man.  Clawson attempts to blackmail Thad, but Thad discloses the fact that he is also George Stark in a People Magazine interview, and even holds a mock “funeral” for George Stark. Thad then decides that he will attempt to write a “serious” novel under his own name, and is even glad that George Stark is “dead”, as Stark appears to be a violent, insane man.

Shorty after the “death” of George Stark, strange things begin to happen.  Homer Ganache, Tad Beamont’s caretaker, is beaten to death with his prosthetic arm.  Frederick Clawson is also murdered.  Thad’s fingerprints are somehow found at the scene of both crimes.

In the meantime, Thad writes a mysterious sentence in the novel he is working on.  The sentence is “The sparrows are flying.”  This sentence is also written in blood on the walls of Frederick Clawson’s apartment.  Tad also begins to hear the sound of birds again.

The fingerprints are traced back to Thad, and Thad is questioned by Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who is certain that Thad is guilty of both murders.  However, Pangborn becomes less convinced once he speaks to Thad, and everyone is mystified by the murders.

Thad visits his doctor and undergoes a CAT scan, as he has been hearing the bird sounds again.  At his office at the university, he appears to go into a trance, where he writes some seemingly random words on a piece of paper.  This incident frightens Thad, and he burns the piece of paper.

In New York City, a woman named Miriam is attacked by a blonde man who calls himself George Stark.  The man forces Miriam to place a call to Thad, and Miriam tells Thad that she is being attacked.  Miriam turns out to be the ex-wife of Thad’s agent, Rick.

Thad is frantic, and finally reaches Sheriff Pangborn.  He has Pangborn check on Miriam in New York, and tells Pangborn that Miriam’s attacker is calling himself George Stark.  Thad also gives Pangborn the names of everyone associated with the People magazine article on himself and George Stark.  Thad gives Pangborn a description of Stark, and tells him that he will fill him on the rest of the details in person.

In the meantime, in New York, the man calling himself George Stark murders three more people associated with the People magazine article in gruesome fashion, along with two police officers.  One of the murdered people is Rick, the ex-husband to Miriam.  While the murders occur, Thad dreams of them in his home in Maine.

The next morning, Thad tells Sheriff Pangborn everything, including the headaches he experienced as a child, and of how George Stark came to be.  Thad is convinced that George Stark has come to life, and is seeking revenge for his “death.”  Pangborn is skeptical, but says that he will speak to Thad’s doctors, including the doctor who operated on Thad as a child, to see if he can get any more leads.

The authorities wire-tap Thad’s phone, in an attempt to track down Stark.  Shortly after the phone is tapped, Stark calls back, and says that he has killed more people.  Later, it is discovered that Thad’s voice print and Stark’s voice print are nearly identical.

Pangborn also places a call to the doctor who operated on Thad as a child, and leaves a message for the man to call him back.

Thad also speculates that he knows exactly what George Stark wants:  for Thad to write another novel under Stark’s name.  Thad contemplates doing just that, if it will put an end to Stark’s violent rampage.

One day, Thad makes a trip to the local grocery store and receives a phone call from George Stark while he is shopping.  This call confirms Thad’s suspicions:  Stark does indeed want Thad to write another novel under the Stark name.  Stark threatens to hurt Thad’s family if Thad does not comply.

Over the next few days, Thad and his family are on edge, as they wait for Stark to make another appearance.  One afternoon, Thad and Liz’s infant daughter, Wendy, takes a tumble from the stairs and receives a bruise.  Later that evening, Wendy’s twin brother, William, also receives a bruise in the same place on his body, even though he was not physically injured.  This gives Thad some insight into George Stark and his relationship with Stark, even though he is still not sure what to do about Stark.

Thad attempts to communicate with Stark in his study one afternoon.  When he does so, he finds out that Stark needs him to write another book because Stark is dying and will only live if Thad writes another book.  Thad also sees a large group of sparrows outside of his house, and is forced to stab himself in the hand with a pencil, courtesy of George Stark.

In the meantime, in New York City, George Stark experiences what Thad is experiencing, and also stabs himself in the hand with a pencil.  We also learn that Stark’s body is deteriorating, presumably because Thad has not written any George Stark novels.  Stark leaves New York City, and makes his way to Maine and Thad.

One day, Thad goes to his office at the university where he is employed during the school year, under the guise of doing some work.  However, Thad is really attempting to get in touch with Stark again.  Stark contacts him on the phone of one of Thad’s colleagues, and again demands that Thad begin work on a new novel.  Thad also finds out that Stark is calling from Thad’s house, and also sees a large group of sparrows again.

Thad’s colleague Rawlie explains the significance of sparrows in folklore:  sparrows are psychopomps, or harbringers between the living and the dead.  The job of the sparrows is to guide lost souls back into the land of the living.

After speaking to Stark, Thad agrees to meet him at his and Liz’s summer home in Castle Rock.  Stark tells Thad that his wife and children are unharmed, but he has killed the two police officers who were supposed to protect Liz and the twins.

On the way to his summer home, Thad calls his colleague, Rawlie, and requests his help.  He meets Rawlie, and takes Rawlie’s car, so that he can drive it to his summer home.  While he is talking to Rawlie, Thad sees another large group of sparrows.

Sheriff Pangborn is finally able to speak to the doctor who operated on young Thad.  The doctor tells Pangborn that he did not actually remove a tumor from Thad’s brain.  Rather, he removed body parts of an unformed twin which had been consumed by Thad while he was still in the womb.  The doctor also tells Pangborn that a large group of sparrows was seen outside of the hospital during the operation.

Pangborn also receives a report of a stolen vehicle.  The stolen vehicle is an Oldsmobile Toranado, which happens to be the vehicle that Thad described George Stark as driving.  After receiving the report of the officers killed at Thad’s home, Pangborn deduces that Thad may be headed to his summer home, and follows him there.

Stark arrives at the summer home with Liz and the children.  He ties Liz up after discovering a pair of sewing scissors that she had hidden on her skirt.  Pangborn also arrives at the summer home, but Stark also captures him and ties him up.

Soon, Thad also arrives at the summer home, and sees that Stark is holding Pangborn and his family hostage.  Thad also notices the large group of sparrows, which Stark does not appear to see.

Stark demands that he and Thad begin writing a new novel, and Thad complies.  Stark holds Thad’s children as hostages, using them as a collateral of sorts.  Liz and Pangborn are forced into another part of the house.

For a time, Stark and Thad work on the new novel.  Previously, Stark had literally been deteriorating, but his wounds begin to heal.  Suddenly, the sparrow descend upon the house.

The sparrows invade the house and head for Stark.  Stark attacks Thad and tries to run from the sparrows but is unsuccessful.  The large group of sparrows descend upon Stark, and literally carry him away from Thad and his family.

Some time later, Thad meets with Sheriff Pangborn at his summer house, which has nearly been destroyed by the incident with Stark and the sparrows.  Pangborn is still having trouble believing what happened, but knows that he has witnessed something unbelievable.  With Pangborn’s blessing, Thad sets fire to the house.

For a time, Thad watches the flames, and then leaves with his family.  Pangborn wonders what will become of Thad’s marriage, as Liz has witnessed what Thad is capable of creating.


My Thoughts

The Dark Half.

In other words, never a more appropriate title.  Especially the second word in the title.

Stephen King has been known, obviously, for his dark subject matter (no pun intended.)

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Novels like Pet Sematary, Thinner, The Long Walk, The Dead Zone, Roadwork and quite are few others are books are known to be especially bleak.  The Dark Half is another one that it bleak.  And I think that The Dark Half may be one of his bleakest, possibly almost as bleak as Pet Sematary.

One of the things I noticed about The Dark Half is the character development.  King is known for creating likable characters.  I mean, who doesn’t love a Stu Redman, Eddie Dean, Beverly Marsh or even ole long tall and ugly himself?

Roland 1

However, I cannot say the same thing about the characters in The Dark Half.  In fact, I would have to say that my favorite character in The Dark Half is the minor character, aka Sheriff Alan Pangborn.

This isn’t to say that I actively disliked Thad Beaumont, who is the protagonist and so-called “good guy.”  I just found little to like about him, and thought that he was more of a prop for the bad guy, George Stark.

I would characterize The Dark Half as a book that is more plot driven than character driven.  There is nothing wrong with this, either.  I actually find the premise of this book fascinating, and yet another underrated Stephen King book.

One of the things I find fascinating about The Dark Half is actually George Stark himself.  And there are a few reasons why I find him so interesting.

George Stark

For one, he is just evil.  Pure evil.

With some of King’s bad guys (Jack Torrance comes to mind), sympathy can be summoned.  Sure, the person is bad, but they are human underneath it all, and may actually have reasons for being bad, even if we don’t necessarily understand or agree with those reasons.

Not so with George Stark.  There is nothing good about George Stark.  Nothing good at all.  The man (and I use that word loosely, more on that later) is just evil incarnate.

He’s ruthless.  He’s vindictive.  And creative.  He may not be able to write a story by himself, but he sure comes up with inventive, horrible ways to kill people.

In fact, I did think a bit of this guy when I read about Stark:

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It’s true that this guy may be a little more humane than Stark, but still, the comparison stands.

And there is just some about a guy who is evil simply for the sake of being evil…in other words, I love it!

So…

Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog…

So what the hell is Goofy?

Or, in this case, what the hell is George Stark?

The Master does tease a bit about Stark, but trying to determine his true origin is almost as difficult as trying to determine Goofy’s true species.

We know that Thad had an un-formed twin that he absorbed as an infant.  And that parts of that un-formed twin were found in Thad’s brain, of all places.

Somehow, this un-formed twin became an issue right when Thad hit puberty, and developed his writing talent. The doctors removed it.  And there was nothing unusual then, other than a large flock of sparrows that invaded the hospital where Thad was staying.

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Then, years later, Thad’s wife miscarries.  She was pregnant with…twins.  Not coincidentally, George Stark comes into being.  And Thad starts becoming somewhat successful as writer, using the George Stark pseudonym.

Then, Stark “dies” again, although he refuses to stay dead, and makes life miserable for a lot of people, including the man who is either his creator, or maybe just his brother, aka Thad.  And then the sparrows come back, although Stark cannot see them.  However, Thad is aware of their presence.

My theory is that Thad has the ability to create twins.  After all, he fathered twins twice.  He himself was a twin.

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So did he create Stark?  I think that he did, actually.  I think Thad was perhaps blessed (or maybe cursed) with that ability to create and harbor other personalities, much like Susannah Dean of the Dark Tower series.  And Thad’s ability to create and harbor these other personalities seems to be directly linked to his creative ability.  In fact, maybe Thad’s ability to create other personalities is an extreme manifestation of his writing talent, similar to how Edgar Freemantle (Duma Key) is able to alter reality with his paintings.

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Another reason why I love The Dark Half is because this is a book that has a lot to say about the subject of creativity.

King has written several book that touch on the subject of creativity.  Duma Key, Misery, Finders Keepers, Bag of Bones and even The Dark Tower are all books that touch on the subject.

Additionally, many of King’s characters happen to be writers, or artists of some kind at, at the very least.  Mike Noonan, Bill Denbrough, Ben Mears and Jake Epping are all King characters that dabble in writing of some form.  Even poor Jack Torrance (The Shining) was an aspiring writer.  Writing is something that King is familiar with (for obvious reasons), so it often gets incorporated into his stories.

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However, King is not merely content to incorporate writers as characters into his stories.  Since he is The Master, he needs to take an extra step or four.

In other words, King often writes about writing, not just the writer.  In fact, the art of writing is a major plot point to several of his stories, including Bag of Bones, Misery and even The Dark Tower.

The effect of fiction on both the writer and the reader is another major theme in many of King’s works.  Again, Misery, The Dark Tower, Finders Keepers and Bag of Bones, along with several other stories, also address this theme.

And it could be argued that The Dark Half addresses all of these themes in one fell swoop.

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We have the main character, Thad Beaumont, who is a writer.  Thad struggles to obtain the kind of success he wants, since the “literary” books that he writes do not sell well, and he is forced to rely on the “pulp” books about Alexis Machine to pay the bills.  This is a struggle, and causes Thad to question where he fits in as a writer.

Obviously, The Dark Half deals with the effect of fiction on the reader.  When he wrote as George Stark, Thad found a rabid fan base.  When Thad writes as himself and not George Stark, his fans (although they could really be considered Stark’s fans) are disappointed, and refer to his work as “terrible.”  Often, fans of a particular offer become entitled, and grow angry when the author does not “deliver.”

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The effect of fiction on the writer is also addressed in The Dark Half.  Thad claims to want to write a “serious” novel, but it seems his heart is never in it.  He blames the distraction of George Stark on not being able to write his “serious” novel,   However, Thad gets enjoyment when he starts writing the novel that Stark demands of him.  Again, this causes Thad to question just where he fits in as a writer, and just what success means.  Does success include writing something that he himself is satisfied with?  Does it include pleasing his fans?  Does include “critical” success?

As most Constant Readers know, Stephen King, for a time, wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.  In King’s mind, writing under the Bachman name would allow him to step outside his “genre,” or write works that were not “just horror.”  King had become typecast as a horror writer, and feared that he would be unable to explore any other type of writing, as people had come to expect him to write horror stories, and nothing else.

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Of course, anyone who pays attention to King should know that he is a great writer, period.  He does write scary stories, but there is so much more to King than “horror.”  The Dark Tower series is an epic fantasy series, much like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.  11/22/63 is a story about time travel and King’s feelings in regards to the Vietnam War.  The collections Hearts in Atlantis and Different Seasons both contain stories that cannot be classified as horror stories.  In fact, it can be argued that King’s strength is writing about ordinary people faced with extraordinary situations.  This is evident even in his books that are horror stories, in characters such as Danny Torrance, the members of The Losers Club, Jack Sawyer (The Talisman and Black House) and so forth.  King’s writing is so effective because people can relate to it, and the situations become that much more believable,

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But early on in King’s career, he likely felt compelled to write horror fiction, at least under his own name.  People had come to expect that, after all, and wouldn’t read something outside the horror genre, something that dealt with “real life situations.”  Even today, there are people who are still prejudiced in regards to King:  they either still think he “only writes scary stories” or have no interest in the non-horror works written by King.  I have known more than a few people who have complained about that Dr. Sleep is not a direct sequel to The Shining, despite the fact that The Shining was written when King was much younger and in the beginning stages of his problems with drugs and alcohol.  Their reactions are similar to a fan’s reaction to Thad’s work not written under the George Stark name:  they are unable to read it, because it is not the formula they had grown used to.

In order to write other types of fiction, King developed the pseudonym of Richard Bachman early on in his career.  Under the Bachman pseudonym, he was finally free to write other types of fiction, i.e. not horror fiction.  And with the exception of Thinner, most of the Bachman books do not contain supernatural themes.  Roadwork, The Long Walk, Rage and The Running Man are all disturbing on some level, but they are disturbing because they deal with “real life horrors,”  such as the exploitation of our youth, corporate greed and our need to be entertained via television.  In other words, Bachman’s work may be a little more mainstream, even though the Bachman books could still be considered to be in the horror category, although not the supernatural or fantastical horror category.

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For several years, Bachman, like George Stark did for Thad, provided King an outlet to explore other types of writing.  However, all good things must come to end.  Like Thad, King was forced to kill off his “twin” when it was discovered that Richard Bachman and Stephen King were in fact the same person.  And, like Thad, King went about the “murder” in humorous fashion, even saying that Bachman passed away from “cancer of the pseudonym.”

(Side note:  Bachman never died.  He just works on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, helping Jax and his friends dispose of dead bodies, demanding to listen to music when he works.)

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But, like George Stark, Richard Bachman will not stay dead.  Eventually, Bachman emerged in other King works, like the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, Misery and Cujo, which are all books that contain themes of real life horror, as opposed to supernatural horror.  Dicky Bachman even managed to publish posthumous works, such as The Regulators and Blaze.

In other words, an artist’s “dark side” can never truly be killed.  Richard Bachman is still alive and well, manifesting himself through the works of Stephen King.  And George Stark may have been carried off to parts unknown by an unimaginably large group of sparrows, but do we really believe that was the end of him?

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Darkness lives in all of us.  And like it or not, it is a vital part of the creative process.  And any attempts to bury that darkness will backfire on us.  Eventually, the darkness will be unleashed.  And the world is not usually able to accept or handle that darkness.


Well, that’s it for The Dark Half!  Join me next month, when I review and dissect Black House.

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Like of all of King’s work, The Dark Half is set squarely in the King universe and is connected to several other King books.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-Part of The Dark Half is set in the town of Castle Rock.  Castle Rock is the setting for several King books and short stories, including The Dead Zone, The Body (Different Seasons), Needful Things and Cujo.

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-Thad Beaumont is mentioned by Mike Noonan in the book Bag of Bones.  It is revealed that Thad commits suicide several years after the events in The Dark Half.

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-Alan Pangborn is a major character in the book Needful Things.  Pangborn also alludes to Thad’s suicide and the fact that his wife divorces him shortly after the events in The Dark Half.

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-The town of Ludlow is mentioned.  Ludlow is the setting for the novel Pet Sematary.

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-The town of Harlow is also mentioned.  Part of the novel Revival takes place in Harlow.

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Clowning Around in the Sewers: My Review of It

Origin stories…

They are pretty fascinating, at times.

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After all, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Even your friendly neighborhood gunslinger has an origin story!  Turns out, he wasn’t always a cold-blooded killer, who knew?

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And hey, even I have one…so here goes nothing!

Sometime in the summer of 1988, I attended a day camp.  I was ten years old and quite impressionable (see the part about being 10 years old).  One of my counselors told me and the other impressionable kids (well, I am making assumptions that everyone was as gullible impressionable as I was, but I digress) a story about a clown that lived in the sewers and killed people, but could only be seen by kids.  Of course, I took this story quite seriously.  In fact, I spent an entire summer assiduously avoiding storm drains, and watching my back when I took a shower or even (gasp) used the bathroom in any way.  In other words, just a typical summer for a ten year old with an overactive imagination.  The clown soon become forgotten, to be replaced with thoughts of MacGyver (was that a first name or a last?  And wow, science just got hot), Quantum Leap (I aspired to build a time machine and Sam Beckett was my spirit animal) and whatever else a really nerdy, awkward, ugly duckling with limited social skills growing up in the 90’s became obsessed with.  That clown soon became a faded memory, and even quit visiting my dreams for a while (whew).

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Flash forward two years.  That extremely nerdy, awkward ugly duckling had growed up (so she thought) and had hit the big 1-2.  And became interested in all things macabre.  She was always looking for something to read, and something to watch on TV.  If either of these pissed off her parents, well, that was added bonus!

Enter a new mini series that aired over two nights on network TV.  It was based on the work of some horror writer I never heard of, Stephen King.  And it was about a clown who lived in the sewers, and happened to…you guessed it…terrorize kids!  The memories of that summer came flooding back to me, and my blood ran cold.  So of course I had to watch this mini series…

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And I was blown away by that mini series (I was 12, what else can I say).  Tim Curry brought a voice to that evil clown, and my dreams became a hoppin’ place once again.  And those kids…where was my Losers Club?  I wanted to play down in the Barrens, dammit!  One of the Losers was even a girl, and she kicked ass!

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When I found out this mini series was based on a book of the same name, It, of course I had to find the book, since I thought that movie was pretty darn good.  So the book would be worth a read, right?

I was intimidated by the size of the book.  Over a 1000 pages!  Well, I would be reading that one for months…

One week later, I finished the book.  And I loved it!  I also learned that movies rarely do books justice, but that is another post.  I had to find more books by this King guy…where had he been all my life?

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And so it begun…

My origin story as a Stephen King fan, that is.  If you are still reading this at this point and are surprised, I am not really sure what to tell you, other than, well it’s this blog, after all!

So obviously, King’s books bring back many fond memories, and I never tire of them.  And in light of my New Year’s resolution to read at least one King book a month, I am going back to my origins:  the book It.  Like the Losers, I am coming home.  I am becoming a child again, and revisiting my past, along with Bill, Ben, Bev and the rest of the gang.  Per the line of one of my favorite songs:  “Oh don’t sorrow, oh don’t weep, tonight at last I am coming home.”  And I can’t wait.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of It, whose short title belies the depth of this story.  And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The book begins by introducing the reader to a boy named George Denbrough.  Georgie is the younger brother of Bill Denbrough, who is 10 years old.  Georgie and Bill live in the city of Derry, Maine, where there has been a lot of rain and flooding.  The year is 1957.  One afternoon, Georgie heads out to play with a boat made out of newspaper that Bill helped him make.  The rain has receded a bit, but Georgie still loses his boat in the sewers of Derry.  Georgie becomes upset, but forgets about his boat when he sees what appear to be a pair of glowing eyes looking up at him from the sewers.  Those turn out to belong to a clown who looks like a cross between Bozo the Clown and Clarabell the clown.  Much to Georgie’s astonishment, the clown speaks to him from the sewers, and offers him a balloon.  The clown introduces himself as Bob Gray, or Pennywise the Clown.  However, the clown is not friendly, or even human.  The clown entices Georgie to lean a little closer, and attacks.  Georgie’s arm is torn off, in much the way someone might tear the wing from a fly.  Georgie dies almost immediately, leaving his older brother Bill and their parents in a state of shock.

The book then skips to the year of 1984.  We are told of another murder in Derry, this time of a young, somewhat childlike gay man named Adrian Mellon.  The murder is told in flashbacks, when the local police question the young man’s partner, Don Haggarty, and the local bullies deemed responsible for the murder.  The bullies attacked Adrian one night, targeting him because of his sexuality.  Both Don and the bullies state that a clown was also at the scene and that the clown killed Adrian.  Don also reports that thousands of balloons floated to the sky at the site of the murder.  However, the local authorities do not believe Don or the bullies, and the bullies are tried and convicted of the murder.

Several months later, in 1985, six adults receive a phone call from a man named Mike Hanlon.  The adults are scattered across the country and even the world, but all grew up in Derry, Maine.  The adults are Stan Uris, Richie Tozier, Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kraspbrak, Bill Denbrough and Beverly Marsh.  All of the adults are told by Mike Hanlon that they must return to Derry, and most begin making the preparations.  However, Stan Uris is unwilling (or perhaps unable) to face what awaits him in Derry, and commits suicide by slitting his wrists in his bathtub.  Additionally, Beverly narrowly escapes her abusive husband, Tom, who nearly kills her for daring to leave him and return to Derry.  All of the adults have hazy memories of what happened during one summer of their childhoods in Derry, but all know that they must now return to Derry.

We then learn of how those seven children spent the summer of 1958.  The books tells of how the seven meet, and form a club they call The Losers Club, as all seven children are misfits in some way or another.  All seven children are also victims of abuse from Henry Bowers, the local bully.  Additionally, six of the seven children have encountered Pennywise the Clown in some manner, and have survived to tell the tale.  Ben saw the clown as a mummy, Eddie saw the clown as a leper in an abandoned house, Bill was attacked by the clown when he picks up an old photo album belonging to his deceased brother, Beverly heard voices in the drain in her bathroom and then sees blood come from the drain that is visible only to her and the other Losers, Mike saw a giant bird that attacks him, and Stan encounters the clown in an abandoned piece of property while he is bird-watching.  Richie tells the others he did not encounter the clown on his own, but he makes a trip with Bill to the abandoned house where Eddie saw the leper.  There, Richie and Bill encounter the clown in werewolf form.  Bill shoots the werewolf with him father’s gun, and Richie also attacks it with his sneezing powder (Richie is the comedian and practical joker of the group).  The two narrowly escape the clown on Bill’s bike Silver, and realize that they are pitted against a great evil. During that summer, Ben Hanscom falls in love with Beverly.  Beverly falls in love with Bill Denbrough.

The book skips to the present and to the viewpoint of Mike Hanlon.  Mike has begun researching the history of Derry, and discovered that the town has a violent past.  Mike tells of one of these incidents, which was relayed to him by his father before his father passed away.  Mike’s father tells of The Fire at the Black Spot, which was a fire that occurred in 1937, when Will Hanlon enlisted in the military and was stationed in Derry.  The Black Spot was a night club founded by some of the African American members of Will’s unit, which was known as company E.  The fire was started by Derry’s version of the Klu Klux Klan, known as the Maine Legion of White Decency.  Nearly 80 people perished in the fire.  Will tells Mike that he saw what appeared to be a giant bird dressed as a clown flying off with some of the bodies, confirming Mike’s suspicions that the presence of Pennywise and the town’s violent history are closely related.  Mike struggle with the decision to call the rest of his friends, but thinks that his heart will tell him when the time is right.

One by one, the adult Losers (minus Stan Uris) return to Derry.  Mike arranges a reunion lunch, and the adult Losers reunite and catch up with each others’ lives.  Mike also brings his friends up to speed on the nine child murders that have occurred in Derry over the past several months, and the Losers vow to stay in Derry and fight It, although they know that their odds are not good.  At the end of the meal, the Losers receive some fortune cookies that are actually a trick of Pennywise the Clown.  Each cookie contains something that each Loser fears, such as blood, insects, etc.  The Losers leave the restaurant, and split up to visit a place in Derry outside of the Barrens that meant something to them as children.  Bill tells them that when the first encountered the monster as children, the encounter was experienced alone, and that the same will probably happen to them as adults.

True to Bill’s statement, the Losers do have individual encounters with It:  Ben sees the clown at the library, Eddie sees the clown in the form of some of his deceased classmates at the local baseball field, Beverly encounters a witch in her old apartment that resembles the witch from Hansel and Gretel and Richie encounters the clown in the form of a Paul Bunyon statue that has come to life.  Richie also remembers that he had a similar encounter as a child, but dismissed it as a dream.  Bill and Mike do not encounter Pennywise, but Bill finds his old bike, Silver, at a second-hand shop.  Bill and Mike spruce up the bike, and figure that Bill finding the bike is not coincidental.

The story switches to the perspective of Henry Bowers, the Losers’ childhood bully.  Henry currently resides at Juniper Hill Asylum.  Henry was found guilty of the child murder that occurred in the summer of 1958, along with the murder of his father.  However, the only murder actually committed by Henry was the murder of his father.  Pennywise the clown is able to communicate with Henry and convinces him to do Its bidding and kill the adult Losers.  It helps Henry escape Juniper Hill, and Henry heads to Derry to finish the job.

We also learn a bit more about the history of Derry and the violent events that appear to be connected with the child murders that occur every 27 years or so.  Mike learns of the massacre of the Bradley gang, a gang of criminals from the Midwest on the run from law enforcement.  The gang holes up in Derry, and the citizens soon dish out their own form of justice and murder every single member, even the women, while local law enforcement looks the other way.  Mike also learns that Pennywise the clown was seen at the confrontation, once again confirming how much a part of Derry the clown really is.

In the meantime, Bill and Beverly’s respective spouses are determined to find out why their partners have suddenly left town.  Beverly’s husband Tom, beats the information out of one of Beverly’s few good friends who helped her escape.  Bill’s wife Audra simply books a flight to Maine, as she is extremely worried about her husband.  Both head into Derry, not understanding what lies ahead.

The Losers reconvene at the library later that night, and begin to recall the events of the summer of 1958.  The children spent much of the summer of 1958 playing in the Barrens, a wooded area in Derry that remains mostly abandoned and forgotten.  Because of this, the Losers are able to meet and try to figure how to rid the town of Pennywise the clown and not be bothered by Henry Bowers and his friends.  The children also build an underground clubhouse in the Barrens, which offers them even more protection from Henry and any other bullies.

Mike recalls how he became a part of the club that summer.  One day, Mike is chased by Henry Bowers, as Henry lives next door to Mike, and has been taught to hate black people by his father.  Henry’s father has blamed all of his problems on Mike and his parents, so Henry makes Mike’s life miserable at any opportunity.  When Henry is chased by Mike on this particular day, he runs to an area just outside the Barrens and encounters the Losers.  The Losers defend their territory by hurling rocks at Henry and his friends, in what is termed the Apocalyptic Rock Fight.  Henry and his friends are forced to retreat but swear revenge.  Mike then becomes a part of the Losers Club, and soon learns of their encounters with Pennywise the Clown and their determination to kill It.  Mike also tells of his encounter with Pennywise, and brings one of his father’s old photo albums to show his friends.  The clown is in nearly every picture.  The clown also makes an appearance while the children look at the album, and promises to kill them all if they do not back down.

Richie recalls the smoke hole ceremony performed by the Losers that summer.  Ben reads about the ceremony in a book.  He learns that it was a ceremony performed by Native Americans, and it involved breathing in smoke, which was supposed to induce visions.  The Native Americans performed this ceremony when the tribe had unsolved problems or unanswered questions.  The Losers perform this same ceremony by burning green wood in their underground clubhouse.  However, all bow out except Mike and Ritchie, who travel back in time and witness the arrival of It in Derry several million years ago.  The boys sense that It is actually an extra-dimensional monster, and very evil.  They impart this information to the others, and continue their mission to rid Derry of the monster.

Eddie recalls that Henry Bowers broke his arm that summer, in retaliation for the rock fight.  That day, Eddie headed to the drugstore to pick some prescriptions for his mother.  The owner of the drugstore, Mr. Keane, pulls Eddie aside and tells him that he does not actually have asthma, and that his symptoms are psychosomatic.  Mr. Keane tells Eddie that this is the doing of his mother and doctor, and that his asthma medicine is simply water with a medicinal taste.  Eddie becomes upset, but knows deep down inside that Mr. Keane is right.  Henry and his friends are able to corner Eddie outside the store as he is by himself, and Eddie’s arm is broken in the scuffle.  Eddie spends a few days in the hospital and his friends attempt to visit him.  On the first attempt, his friends are driven off by his overly protective mother, who does not approve of these new friends.  The Losers are not deterred, however, and come back later that night.  They sign Eddie’s cast, and tell him that their plan is to make silver slugs that they will shoot at It with a slingshot.  The plan is for Beverly to shoot the monster with the slingshot, as her aim is the best.  Eddie also has a confrontation with his mother, telling her that he will not choose her over his friends.

Beverly recalls another encounter with It that summer, when she heads to the dump to practice shooting with the slingshot.  Beverly nearly has a run with Henry Bowers and his friends, but is able to hide herself. Henry and his friends leaves, but one of the bullies, Patrick Hockstetter, stays behind.  Patrick Hockstetter is a sociopath who keeps an abandoned refrigerator in the dump.  Patrick is using this refrigerator to trap and kill animals, which are either pets or strays that he finds.  Patrick also killed his baby brother as a young child.  Patrick becomes the next victim of Pennywise the clown, who takes the form of flying leeches, and Patrick is eaten alive.  Beverly is also attacked by the leeches, but is able to use the slingshot to hurt the monster and escape.

The Losers also recall how they made silver slugs to use a weapon against Pennywise that summer.  They gather one night at Bill’s house, and melt down a silver coin that was passed from Ben’s deceased father down to Ben.  The process is a quick one, and the Losers now have a weapon against Pennywise.  And the Losers use that weapon against Pennywise.  They confront the monster at the house on Neibolt Street.  Beverly uses the slingshot to hurt the monster, but does not kill It.  However, the monster retreats, and all is relatively peaceful for about two weeks.

The adult Losers leave the library for the night, and agree to meet at the Barrens the next morning.  Before they leave the library, their hands begin to bleed, as they swore in blood to return if It still lived.  The Losers take the blood oath again, and wonder just what they are in for.

Bill and Beverly walk back to their hotel, and Beverly talks of her father’s abuse.  Beverly also remembers one day in August, as she returned home after playing in the Barrens with her friends.  She was confronted by her father, who accused her of performing sexual acts with the boys, and physically attacked his daughter.  Beverly realized that her father was possessed by It, and ran from him. Beverly thought that she had escaped her father, but does not know that Henry Bowers and his friends are also waiting for her.  Henry and his friends were under the influence of It.  Henry also killed his father that day.

The story flashes back to 1985, as Mike Hanlon prepares to close the library for the night.  However, Mike is interrupted by Henry Bowers.  Henry attacks Mike, but Mike is able to defend himself.  Mike calls 911 and hears the voice of Pennywise the Clown and begs for someone to help him so that his wound does not become fatal.

Beverly and Bill head back to Bill’s hotel room.  They are seeking comfort and make love to each other.  As she falls asleep, Beverly once again flashes back to that day in August of 1958, when Henry and his friends chase the Losers Club down to the sewers, forcing a final confrontation with It.

In 1985, Henry is met by It, who has taken the form of his deceased friend, Belch Huggins.  It drives Henry to the hotel the adult Losers are staying at, and gives him a list of the room numbers occupied by each Loser.  Henry chooses Eddie as his first victim, and attacks Eddie.  However, Eddie fights back and kills Henry, breaking his arm again in the process.  Eddie calls Bill and the others back to his room, and they decide what to do about Henry’s body, and determine that involving anyone else in the town, including the police, will only make things worse.  The Losers also find out that Mike was attacked by Henry and is gravely wounded.  The Losers decide that they need to confront Pennywise again and that there is no other choice.  Again, they head to the Barrens and use the same entrance they used in 1958 to get to Pennywise’s lair.

In the meantime, both Audra and Tom (Bill’s wife and Beverly’s husband, respectively) have arrived in town.  Both begin to have peculiar dreams:  Audra dreams that she is Beverly, following Bill to fight Pennywise, and Tom dreams that he is Henry, chasing Beverly and the rest of the Losers in the sewers.  Both awaken and become trapped by Pennywise.  Pennywise is able to influence Tom, and Tom kidnaps Audra for It.

The story goes back and forth between 1985 and 1958, telling of the Losers’ confrontation of It in 1958 as children, and in 1985 as adults.  In 1958, Henry continues to chase the Losers into the sewers.  However, the Losers are still able to find Pennywise and his lair, and Bill enters what he calls the “deadlights”, or the true home of the monster.  With the help of a mysterious creature simply known as “The Turtle”, Bill battles Pennywise in Its true form, and believes that he has defeated the evil.  Richie pulls Bill back from the deadlights, and the Losers Club escapes from the lair, believing Pennywise to be defeated.  However, as they attempt to exit the sewers, the Losers nearly lose their way, as their bond is beginning to dissolve.  In order to keep the bond intact, Beverly makes love to all of the boys.  This act restores the bond, and the children are able to find their way out of Derry’s sewers.  Stan cuts all of the Losers hands with a coke bottle, and all seven promise to return to Derry if Pennywise is not dead.  All of Henry’s friends are killed by It, and Henry is institutionalized for the murder of his father

In 1985, Bill, Ben, Beverly and Eddie confront Pennywise once again.  Bill again faces Pennywise in the deadlights, but is accompanied by Richie.  The two fight the monster in the deadlights and defeat it.  Eddie also fights the monster in Its physical form and defeats it as well, but loses his life in the fight.  The monster’s true form is something close to a spider, and the spider has laid eggs.  Ben makes sure all the eggs are destroyed.  Bill also rescues his wife Audra,who is still alive but catatonic, and he and his friends make their way out of the sewers.  Once the Losers emerge from the sewers, they realize that Derry has nearly been destroyed by a rainstorm, which stops almost the moment Pennywise is defeated.

A few days later, the remaining members of the Losers Club leave town and return to their lives, and they are already beginning to forget each other’s names and other vital information, including the battle with Pennywise.  Beverly has fallen in love with Ben, and the two plan to head back to Nebraska, after filing a missing person’s report on Beverly’s husband Tom, who was actually killed by It.  Only Bill and the catatonic Audra remain, along with Mike, who is still in the hospital.  Bill has nearly given up hope on reviving Audra, until he gets an idea.  He takes Audra for a ride on his old bike Silver, with hopes that the magic remains in the bike.  The magic does remain, and Audra is revived, with no memory of what happened after she arrived in Derry.  Bill and Audra then return to their life.  Bill, along with everyone else, has forgotten the experience in Derry, but continues to lead a happy and productive life.


My Thoughts

Well, I will say this much:  It is a monster of a book.  And I am not just talking about the length…

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Yes, It is one scary book, with what has to be one of the most iconic horror villains in history.  Who in the free world  doesn’t recognize Pennywise the clown?

But there is so much more to this book than a clown living in the sewers…

I recognize so much of myself in this book, as a matter of fact.  I was a Loser growing up, and I still consider myself to be a Loser.  And I am proud of that, as a matter of fact.

Loser

But I know the pain what those kids went through all too well.  In one part of the book, it is said that the kids turned into ghosts one afternoon, and no one, including their parents, seemed to know that they existed.  Well, that was not a bad description of my child, at certain points.  Often, I wondered if people even knew, or cared, if I was alive.

childhood is hell

Which brings me to my next point: Yes, that clown was scary as fuck (more on that later).  But I was more afraid of the real-life horrors that the Losers had to face.

For example, the bullying.  I was a victim of bullying as a child, and it was frightening.  Getting beat up is scary.  But perhaps what is even more frightening is having to live with the anticipation that the act of terrorism could happen at any moment, and you were powerless to do anything about it.  Or the most frightening of all:  the fact that you were alone, and no one, not the other kids and not even the other adults, would go to bat for you, and you were on your own when it came to fighting the monsters.

Henry Bowers

And then there was the abuse.  Many of Stephen King’s books deal with abuse in some form or another, and It is no different.  Child and spousal abuse are huge themes in It, and make up the tapestry of real-life horrors that many people have to deal with on a daily basis.  And I have been there.  I am a survivor of domestic violence.  Trust me, no horror story can hold a candle to living with an abuser.  My “Tom” was much like Beverly’s Tom (and father):  I didn’t know when the horror would be unleashed, and I felt like a prisoner in my own home.  And the scene when Beverly left Tom for good mirrored so much of a fight from my own first marriage, in a hotel room.  Like Beverly, I was frightened for my life, and actually thought that I would die.  And I completely understand the shame that Beverly felt, and the lies that came afterwards.  Beverly could not even admit to her closest friends (at least at first) the truth about her marriage.  It was only after things came to a full circle, so to speak, that Beverly actually admitted how abusive her husband was.  Living in an abusive marriage is much more frightening than most horror movies.  The movies have a beginning and an end, and someone usually defeats the monster.  But it is not so neat when any form of abuse is involved, and many survivors, including myself (and probably Beverly) would rather have faced a clown in the sewers with a slingshot and pair of silver bullets, than to actually face our abusers.

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And speaking of Beverly, I think I need to clear the air about something.

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Yes, I am talking about “that scene.”

I probably don’t need to explain myself, but I am talking about what is so eloquently referred to as (not my words) “the gang bang in the sewer.”  In other words, I refer to the scene near the end of the book, when Beverly has sex with all six of the boys, in order to escape the sewers and return to the light of day.

I would be lying if I said that this scene was not a little disturbing, because it is disturbing.  After all, we are talking about 11 year old children.  When I was 11 years old, I was still playing with stuffed animals and wouldn’t touch boys because they had “cooties.”  I was still very much a child, in other words.

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But, I was also about a year away from needing my first bra.  My skin had already begun to break out.  I was at least 5’4″, only a few inches from my adult height of 5’9″ and change.

In other words, I was crossing the bridge into adulthood.  And the Losers were crossing that bridge as well.  They had to behave as adults that entire summer, in dealing with a monster that their town simply refused to acknowledge.  Really, we could argue that the monster was their town.  And all seven of them recognized that fact on a fundamental level.  The Losers longed for the grown-ups to come in and take charge, but really, a grown-up “taking charge” would have just hindered their quest, since they were more adult than 99% of the adults around them.

And what do adults do, aside from being able to choose Oreo cookies as a valid breakfast option?  Well, Oreo cookies are great and all, but being an adult involves a few more choices than breakfast.  And one of those choices is who to love, and how to express that love.

Beverly

In other words, adults have sex.  In fact, having sex is probably a consolation prize for being forced to be responsible, aka working and paying bills (kidding, kidding).  But sex is one of the choices of adulthood.  And sex is often viewed as one of the major transitions from childhood to adulthood.

And this is exactly what happened during the “sewer gang bang.”  The Losers Club crossed the bridge from childhood to adulthood during that afternoon.  They had been walking the bridge that summer, but fully crossed over that day when they finally did “It.”  For Beverly in particular, it was an especially meaningful experience.  She had been receiving the message all summer from her own abusive father that sex was “dirty” and that she needed to remain “intact.”  With this act, she was finally empowered and saw the “sex act” for what it really was:  the ultimate act of love with some special people.  And it was not a repulsive or ugly.  It was just beautiful.

Ben and Beverly

Before we talk about the clown (trust me, we are getting there), I want to pay homage to another character in this book that is often overlooked.

I am talking about the town of Derry Itself (see what I did there). In all seriousness, though, no one can write the small town like The Master.

small towns 1

Again, if I start to get nostalgic about small town life, all I have to do is crack open a Stephen King book.  And bam, there goes the nostalgia!

I feel like my own unnamed Indiana hometown could have been Derry’s Twinner.  Sure, we didn’t have a clown living under the sewers (I can’t entirely vouch for that, though) but the rest of the similarities were just frightening.  Such as people’s attitudes towards bullying.  Man’s inhumanity toward’s his fellow man was accepted in Derry, and it was accepted in my town.  And you had to belong.  In other words, if you were like me and spent a minute of your life outside the town, you were an outsider and subject to punishment for that act.  And there is a culture in small towns, whether it be through its local celebrities, certain stores and restaurants that cannot be found anywhere else or maybe even a “funny fellow” that always seems to show at the local celebrations mass slayings of people  that makes sense to locals, but causes anyone else to shake their heads and wonder why something so trivial can hold so much meaning.

derry connection

Ok, the clown…

Yes, we are finally there, so let’s talk about the most iconic clown…ever.

Pennywise-Ronald meme

Now, to me at least, there is something inherently creepy about clowns.  I am not really sure why this is.  Maybe it’s because they hide under all that face paint.  Or that they don’t wear regular clothes but instead wear garish colors and over-sized shoes.  And they try to make us laugh.  Now, I like to laugh…don’t get me wrong.  But when people, especially ones hiding under grease paint and wearing garish clothes that come complete with over-sized shoes try to force it on me, then the laughter becomes forced.  In fact, the laughter turns into a weapon.  And the laughter is no longer fun, but something to be feared.

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So, the clown is inherently scary.  But at the same time, the clown is also associated with childhood and fun times, like the circus.  So, a perfect lure, in other words.

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And it worked.  It fed off the fear of children.  And in order to do that, It had to lure them in somehow.  And fool those children, at least momentarily.  And what better way to do that, than to bring up happy associations, such as the circus?  And children are imaginative, and can be emotional hurricanes of sorts.  So the monster had it right:  conjure up the happy emotions, and then (literally) scare them to death, almost in the same breath.  And children, unlike adults, have fears that are easy to capitalize on.  Mummies, werewolves, witches and the rest of the usual suspects are all ripe for the picking.  And, as stated in this book, a haunt is a place where animals come to feed.  And what better place to feed for such a creature than a city full of the rich imaginations of children, providing the food needed to nourish such evil?  That is, until It’s own source of food was used against It, and It became the hunted, instead of the hunter.  And the lion was vanquished by the antelopes, proving that sometimes, even the underdogs can fight the good fight, and come out the winners.

It 2


 

So that’s It!  Or maybe I mean that I am done with my review of one of The Master’s most iconic books, and a book that stays with me to this day, no matter how many times I read it!  So join me next month for February’s read and review, where we take a short detour to Derry yet again, but we are staying away from the sewers this time, since love is in the air!  That’s right, I will be reviewing and dissecting Bag of Bones, another favorite of mine!

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Like most of King’s other work, It is part of the Stephen King universe, and it connected to many of his other books.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-It takes place in Derry.  Derry is a hotbed of activity in the King universe, and several other King stories take place in Derry.  These include Bag of Bones, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher and Secret Window, Secret Garden.  Derry is also mentioned in countless other stories, including Revival and The Tommyknockers.

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-Pennywise refers itself to Legion.  Legion is also mentioned in other King works, including The Storm of the Century and The Stand.

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-Ben Hanscom is said to live in Hemingford Home, Nebraska.  Hemingford Home is also the home of Mother Abagail in The Stand.

Mother Abigail

-Pennywise is similar to Dandelo, a creature encountered by Roland and Susannah in the final book of the Dark Tower series.  Both creatures feed off of human emotions, although fear and laughter appear to be the central ones.  Additionally, Dandelo owns a robot that he refers to as Stuttering Bill.  It is possible that the Losers did not completely destroy It, and that Dandelo may be one of Pennywise’s offspring.

Dandelo 1

-Dick Halloran is mentioned as a friend of Wil Hanlon.  Dick Halloran is a major character in The Shining, and also makes an appearance in Dr. Sleep.  In essence, by rescuing Wil from the fire at the Blackspot, Dick Halloran helped give birth to the Losers Club.

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-Mike Hanlon makes an appearance in the book Insomnia.

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-In the book Dreamcatcher, Jonesy sees a statue that the Losers Club has dedicated to the missing and murdered children in Derry.  However, the statue is defaced with graffiti that says “Pennywise lives”, provoking further speculation that the Losers did not completely destroy Pennywise.

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-The house on Neibolt Street is similar to the house that Jake uses in The Wastelands to enter Mid-World, and even contains the same kind of wallpaper.

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-The Losers frequently refer to The Turtle.  In the book The Wastelands, Maturin the Turtle is said to be one of the Guardians of the Beam.

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-Beverly references the Castle Rock Strangler.  Of course, this is the killer that Johnny Smith helps to catch in the book The Dead Zone.

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-In the novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping meets two children and teaches them how to dance the “lindy hop.”  These two children happen to be Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier, and Jake meets them shortly after the children have confronted Pennywise in the sewers of Derry.

card-1963

 

Sideshow Attractions: My Review of Humbug

For most of my life, I have considered myself a freak.  And I have accepted this fact, embraced it, even.

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However, I have spent much of my life looking for my fellow freaks…I mean, they have to be out there somewhere, right?  In fact, let me give a shout-out to my bee people…I know you’re out there somewhere!

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In fact, what if a community existed, made for just us freaks?  Sounds pretty cool, huh?

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Well, maybe.  Being able to be with your own kind is always a good thing.  However, even communities of freaks can have their drama…

Freaks and Geeks 1

Although, on a certain TV show, that drama can escalate a bit…

Well, a lot actually…

Yes, I refer to The X Files.  More specifically, I refer to what I consider to be a classic episode:  Humbug.

Humbug 1

Humbug was a disturbing episode, because unlike most of the episodes of The X Files, it was actually somewhat plausible.  The premise is still a far reach, but it is actually not much of a stretch to imagine conjoined twins who have gone rogue.  The setting is something that is also attached to the “real world”:  the circus and its performers.  For me, the circus has been fascinating, and a little frightening as well.  Even though I am a freak, I can hide my “freakiness” when needed.  However, there are those who cannot hide what makes them different, and were exploited back in the day by an unnamed man.  People with genetic abnormalities are still feared by many even today, even though science has shed light on many of these conditions and taken away some of the mystery.  Still, the circus and its performers is seen as mysterious, and a backdrop for many horror themed shows, such as The X Files, American Horror Story, etc.

So, with out further ado, here is my recap and review of the freak show known as Humbug!

Oh, and as always:

Spoiler alert


 

Synopsis

Humbug begins with two boys playing in a pool one night in Gibsonton, Florida.  The brothers are interrupted by a man with a skin condition that makes the man look like he has alligator scales.  The man is actually the boys’ father, and tells the boys that they must now go inside and go to bed.  The man stays in the pool by himself  for a bit, but he is not alone, as he is attacked by an unknown intruder.  The attack proves fatal, and the man is quickly killed.

Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are sent by the FBI to investigate this murder, along with several others that may have been committed by the same person.  It turns out that Gibsonton is actually a town established for “circus freaks”, and that most of the inhabitants are “freaks”, or people who genetic abnormalities who have worked the sideshow circuit.  Mulder and Scully encounter several of the “freaks”, including Dr. Blockhead, who is able to endure large amounts of pain and has turned this ability into a sideshow act, and his partner, The Conundrum, who is a “geek” and able to eat anything, but never speaks.  The local sheriff is even a former sideshow freak, known as Jim Jim the Dogface Boy, due to the excess hair on his body.  The sheriff tells Mulder and Scully that he retired from the sideshow circuit once he began losing his hair, and took up a career in law enforcement instead.

Mulder and Scully are given temporary quarters in the Gulf Breeze trailer court.  There, they meet a dwarf named Mr. Nutt, who acts as the landlord, and an alcoholic named Lanny, who has a undeveloped conjoined twin named Leonard, who is kept hidden.  The agents pursue several false leads as suspects, including Mr. Nutt and even the local sheriff.  Eventually, they arrest Dr. Blockhead for the murders, who protests that he is innocent.

The agents and the local sheriff begin the process of charging Dr. Blockhead, but are interrupted because another inhabitant of the town has been murdered.  Mr. Nutt is the murder’s latest victim.  Lanny becomes distressed and the sheriff puts him into the “drunk tank” to “sleep it off.”  Mulder and Scully speak to Lanny and eventually discover that the murders are being committed by his conjoined twin Leonard.  Lanny is dying of complications due to alcoholism, and Leonard is searching for a new host.  Somehow, Leonard is able to separate himself from Lanny, and does so when Lanny is in the jail cell.  Mulder and Scully realize that Leonard has escaped again, using the window in the jail cell, and decide to pursue him.

Mulder and Scully track Leonard down to a local fun house.  However, Leonard is able to deceive the agents again, using his small size and quick movements.  The agents realize that Leonard has escaped them once again, and wonder where he is now.

In the meantime, The Human Conundrum is taking out his trash and is attacked by Leonard.  There is a struggle, and The Human Conundrum is seen laying on the ground, with his stomach somewhat distended and a contented smile on his face.

The next morning, Dr. Blockhead makes plans to leave town, as he fears that Leonard is still on the loose.  Scully reveals that Lanny passed away the previous night, due to complications from alcoholism.  The Human Conundrum sits in the passenger’s seat of the car, but appears unwell.  Mulder and Scully inquire about his condition, and The Human Conundrum remarks that it may have been something that he ate, speaking for the first time.  Dr. Blockhead and his friend then leave town, leaving behind a horrified looking Mulder and Scully.


 

My Thoughts

Oh, Humbug

So much to love about you, and I don’t know where to start!

First of all, I love the idea of a community of “freaks.”  I have always been a freak, and the idea of living among my own kind is just awesome.  Imagine encountering your kind everywhere, from the grocery store to your kid’s kindergarten teacher to even the local sheriff.  You would no longer be the one who stood out for whatever reason, so you could be known for other reasons (well, known for reasons other than being a conjoined twin who murders people, even if unintentionally.  I would think that it would be better, say, to be known being able to bake the perfect loaf of banana bread.  I am sure even The Human Conundrum would be able to appreciate a good loaf of banana bread).

I also love the homage that Humbug pays to PT Barnum, the circus and sideshows in general.  And there are more than a few of those in this particular episode…

The Fiji Mermaid for instance.  One of Barnum’s most famous “exhibits”, and Humbug referred to it multiple times.  Hey, it was even a suspect for the murders!  You know you’ve made it big when you get to be one of Mulder’s suspects!

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I also loved the carnival speak that was thrown around in this episode.

I heard the term “rube”, so of course my mind immediately went here:

Rose the Hat

And again, the references to the classic sideshow acts, such as the Dog Faced Boy, the Alligator Man, the Bearded Lady just added another dimension to this episode. making it that much more memorable.

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So let’s talk about the cast of characters in this episode, as there are quite a few of them.

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I love the funeral scene in particular…it was a who’s who among the circus performers…it was awesome!

However, there are a couple of particular characters in this episode that stand out…

And boy, do they put the C in character!

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Yes, Dr. Blockhead, and his loyal friend, The Human Conundrum!

And no, I don’t even know where to begin with these two…

I think the best scene in this episode is when good old Dr. Blockhead tries to scare Scully, but she won’t have any of it.  She pretends to eat a bug, much to the astonishment of Dr. Blockhead.  And then, much to the astonishment of Mulder, she pulls the bug out of his ear.  What do you know, two for the price of one!

And of course, Mulder on his morning jog.  Jogging can be interesting, can’t it?  Especially when you see a guy gleefully munching on a very much alive fish?  Ah, the benefits of early morning exercise…suddenly, the small furry dogs that seem to have it in for me while I am out on my morning jog are pretty mild…wait, scratch that…those dogs scare me way more than blue tattooed guys who have the worst case of the munchies!

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Then, we have The Human Conundrum…

Boy, does he live up to that conundrum part, too!

Right up to the very end, even, when he ended up being the “hero” of the episode…

And speaking of the ending to this one…

Really, this may be one of the best endings to anything ever, let alone an episode of The X Files!

The chase of Leonard through the funhouse, after he escaped from the jail cell…this episode is not a scary one, for the most part, but Scully in the funhouse…shudder!  It was those magic mirrors…those things are pure evil, I say!

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And Leonard himself…sufficiently disgusting and gruesome.  In other words, I wholly approved!

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However, poor Leonard…where did he go?

It seems like he just got swallowed up, poor guy!  I just hunger to find out what happened to him…

In fact,the end of this episode can just leave you speechless…

Well, unless you are The Human Conundrum!

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Well, folks, that’s a wrap on Humbug!  Join me next week for my recap and review of Our Town!

Our Town 1

Uh no, oops, wrong town!

Join me next week, so we can discuss the episode that forced teenaged me to become a vegetarian (well, maybe)!  There, that’s better!

Tune in next week…same Bat time, same Bat channel!

batman and robin

 

My Top 10 Scariest Stephen King Books

So, it’s that time of year again…

Yes, Halloween is drawing upon us…

The season for scary stuff!

Like watching scary movies…Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, here we come!

Oh, and don’t forget watching NFL football, especially Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts!  And I am not talking about the good kind of scary here, unfortunately…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

But there is a good remedy for when your football team is so embarrassing that the local Fox syndicate switches from the Colts game to the game played by the other not scary good team (the Washington Redskins, as a matter of fact)…

Yes, a little therapy from The Master!

stephen-king-cover-ftr

Football team got ya down?  Go read some Stephen King, and be reminded as to what is really scary!  Suddenly, two interceptions thrown by your darling quarterback (sorry Andrew, you know I still got love for ya) seems pretty tame!

Yes, Stephen King is scary.

Well, his writing, at any rate.  He doesn’t look too threatening in that picture, but one never knows.

Stephen King is many things, and I have spent an incredible amount of time on this blog (who knew) addressing those things.  Most importantly, he is a great writer.  He has the ability to even appeal to the non-horror fan (well, the one who will give him a chance, anyway).  He creates characters that readers get attached to (and kills them off and seems almost gleeful about it, but I digress).  He is also the Everyman, giving the reader realistic scenarios, and then casually placing in the horror and/or fantastical element, making the story that much more believable.

But, I would like to get back to fundamentals for a moment, if I may.  Stephen King writes scary stories.  This may sound like Captain Obvious tooting his horn, but the man is able to frighten folks.  And frighten folks badly.  It could be the fact that seemingly “good” characters often go “bad”, at the drop of a hat.  Or maybe it’s the element of realism that makes it seem a certain room in a hotel really could be bad news.  Or maybe because he makes great villains, including evil clowns, that haunt the dreams of many a 90’s kid.

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Whatever the reason, people find Stephen King books frightening.  And many enjoy being frightened.  Some people skydive (eek).  Some watch Indianapolis Colts football (eeek, maybe I should skydive instead).  Some people enjoy drag racing.

And then there are the stalwart, the steadfast, the bold (you know, like me?)…we read Stephen King for our fear fix!  After all, gotta get the good old adrenaline rush somehow, right?

And a King book will give you that and then some!  In fact, many King books may just scare you into a change of pants!

With that being said, here is my list of the top 10 scariest books of all time.  Please note, this is my opinion only, and not to be taken as gospel…

Oh, and as always:

Homer spoiler


 

10)  Rose Madder

As I have stated before, one of King’s strengths as a writer of horror is the human horror.  Sometimes (well actually, a lot of times), men are beasts to their fellow man…

And woman.

The villain in the book Rose Madder is human.  Well, in appearance at least.  However, on the inside, Norman Daniels does not pass for human.  Not even remotely.

Norman Daniels savagely abuses his wife Rosie, for the nearly 14 years of their marriage.  To boot, he is racist.  And uses his position as a police officer to grossly abuse his power and literally get away with murder.  It is only a mere drop of blood on the sheets that awakens Rosie one morning, when she runs away from her hellhole of a marriage and attempts to begin a new life, free of the horrific abuse.  But, as can be expected, Norman does not take Rosie’s flight lightly, and leaves behind a trail of bodies in his quest for revenge and his hunt for Rosie.  It takes a magical painting set in the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger for Norman’s trail of blood to be halted.  Even then, the death count is enormous, and Rosie is barely able to cope with the events.

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There is a line in the book that where Rosie thinks that after surviving her horror of a marriage to Norman, anything else is pretty cut rate.  As a survivor of an abusive marriage, I would have to agree with that assessment.  When you are married to an abuser, you don’t need to Stephen King or scary movies to get your fear fix.  An argument with your spouse will give you that fix in spades.

norman daniels


 

9)  From a Buick 8

The unknown is scary.  HP Lovecraft played upon on our fears of the great beyond, with stories such as The Colour Out of Space and The Dunwich Horror.

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Stephen King has cited HP Lovecraft as an enormous influence.  This is evident in his novel From a Buick 8, which tells the story of a mysterious vehicle that becomes the charge of a police department in a small town in Pennsylvania.

It quickly becomes evident to one of the officers of that police department that the “vehicle” is not actually a vehicle at all, but rather an object from another dimension beyond human understanding.  The vehicle becomes the center of many odd occurrences, and the police department struggles to do damage control.  However, the vehicle is responsible for the disappearance of at least one person and the death of the department’s mascot, a dog named Mr. Dillon.  There is even a confrontation of sorts with one of the creatures from the unknown dimension.  The images King paints are disturbing, especially when he references the fact that our world may be as frightening or even more frightening to those creatures as their world is to us.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this novel is the fact that the “vehicle” very nearly traps a young man who is the son of a fallen police officer, and sees the “vehicle” as his one remaining connection to his father.  The young man is saved by timely intervention from another officer, but barely.  Sometimes, a person with an obsession is the most frightening of all.

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings


8)  Revival

Revival is another novel that deals with our fear of the unknown.  More specifically, Revival deals with the last of the unknown frontiers:  death, and what may happen once we die.

Revival is also a morality play, much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  If we have the means to find out what happens after death, should we?  And what will be the consequences if we intervene in matters that we (probably) have no business intervening in?

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The consequences for Jamie Morton and his friend Charles Jacobs are not pretty.  Jamie Morton first met Charles when he was a child, and Charles was the pastor in his rural hometown.  However, tragedy strikes Charles Jacobs, and he is forced to leave town after a disastrous sermon that comes to be known as “The Terrible Sermon.”  The experience shakes Jamie’s religious beliefs to the core, and Jamie is never quite the same afterwards.

Charles is also shaken to the core by this tragedy, and quickly becomes a man obsessed.  Charles discovers what he refers to as “the secret electricity”, and believes that this mysterious force will allow him to find out what happens after death.  Jamie refers to Charles as his “fifth business” throughout the book, and encounters him by chance when he is an adult.  Jamie is addicted to heroin, and Charles is able to use his “secret electricity” to cure Jamie of his addiction.  Jamie feels that he owes Charles a debt, and agrees to help him conduct what turns out to be his final experiment: using the “secret electricity” to find out what happens when we die.

And it turns out that sometimes ignorance is bliss.  As stated before, the consequences are not pretty for Jamie and Charles, and Jamie’s “cure” for his heroin addiction has come at an enormous price.  The ending is disturbing, reinforcing the belief that at least sometimes, not knowing is the best option of all.

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7) Desperation / The Regulators

Yes, I know that this entry actually consists of two books.  However, I am considering one work for my purposes, since both books mirror each other, with one being written by Stephen King, and the other being a posthumous script from the poor, beleaguered Richard Bachman, who died an untimely death due to cancer of the pseudonym.

Stephen-King-Sons-of-Anarchy

Both Desperation and The Regulators are also tied together by one of King’s uber-villains, Tak.  Tak may not be as creepy as Randall Flagg or Pennywise the Clown (at least to some), but he is able to hold his own in the King universe.  Tak is frightening because he is able to drain people almost like human batteries (mostly), and discards them in the same manner.  However, there is one human that Tak cannot drain, and that is Seth Garin (the autistic boy in The Regulators).  What Tak does to Seth is perhaps even more frightening:  he uses Seth body to manipulate his surroundings, causing the suicide of Seth’s uncle, exploiting Seth’s aunt and killing many people in Seth’s neighborhood.  Ultimately, Tak is beaten, but at the cost of Seth’s life and many others.

Desperation and The Regulators are not only frightening because of the entity Tak, but also because they deal with a theme that many of us can relate to:  isolation.  Desperation begins with a couple who becomes stranded in a small, seemingly abandoned desert town after they experience vehicle trouble.  In The Regulators, Seth and his aunt are isolated due to Seth’s handicap and Tak’s effort to alienate Seth’s family from those who might help them.  Isolation is a big theme in many King books, and once again it adds that element of realism to the story to make it that much more frightening.

Tak_Likes_TV_by_bluefreak


 

6)  The Stand

It is no secret that horror and fantasy are closely related.  In fact, one could almost say that horror is fantasy taken to the next, darker step.  From the Orcs in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to the witches in SA Hunt’s Malus Domestica, to the Others in the Game of Thrones series, many works that are considered to be fantasy and not horror certainly contain some frightening elements.

samfrodo

The Stand is another book that toes the line between dark fantasy and horror.  On one hand, there are reluctant heroes (Larry, Stu and Nick).  But on the other hand, there is an evil wizard figure (Randall Flagg).  The evil wizard tends to be a common archetype in fantasy stories (Sauron is a good example).  But Flagg is something beyond the ordinary evil wizard (if such a thing exists).  Flagg invades the dreams of the survivors of a great plague that has wiped out most of Earth’s population.  Frannie Goldsmith is one of those survivors.  Frannie is pregnant, and dreams of being chased by The Dark Man (Flagg), who has a coat hanger in his hand.  Nick Andros and Tom Cullen, two other survivors who are a deaf-mute man and mildly mentally handicapped man respectively, encounter Flagg’s presence when they seek shelter from a tornado that may have been sent by Flagg to dispose of them.  Mother Abagail, who is Flagg’s counterpart on the side of the White, encounters Flagg when she is gathering food for her charges.  Flagg has transformed to a weasel, the one creature that frightens the old woman.  Mother Abagail is nearly beaten by Flagg, but is still able to best him the end.

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The Stand is one of King’s best books, blending both elements of fantasy and horror to make it a truly frightening, yet fantastical read.

Trashy 1


 

5)  Black House

Black House is another novel (co-written by Peter Straub) that may be considered part of the fantasy genre, along with its predecessor, The Talisman.  However, it is Black House (much like The Stand) that toes the line between fantasy and horror.

morgan sloat

One of the reasons Black House is so frightening is because it contains a human villain that is unfortunately all too realistic.  There is a supernatural villain, a creature known as Mr. Munshun, and King’s ultimate uber-villain, the Crimson King, is also alluded to in the book.  However, the human villain, Charles Burnside, is another person that is human in appearance only.  Charles Burnside appears to be a senile man suffering from the indignities of dementia and living out his final days in peace in an unsuspecting nursing home.  However, the reader learns that Burnside is actually a serial killer who targets children.  Burnside has made a grisly contract with Mr. Munshun and the Crimson King:  he allows Mr. Munshun to possess his body so that he may murder children, in exchange for seeking out children PSI abilities who Munshan and the Crimson King can use for their evil purposes.  Charles Burnside and Mr. Munshun are eventually defeated, but not before Burnside has murdered several children and left a small town nearly paralyzed in fear.

CK 4

Charles Burnside is another one of King’s chilling examples of man’s inhumanity to man.

gorg_and_mr_munshun


 

4)  ‘Salem’s Lot

If I mentioned ‘Salem’s Lot to you, and you responded with “vampire story”, you would be correct…

But, wait…there’s more!

‘Salem’s Lot is indeed a book about vampires.  And those vampires are scary.  The head vampire is killed but his TEETH are still alive and bit Ben Mears…so the vampires in this book are indeed gruesome.

salem's lot

But, like most really everything single thing he has ever written   of King’s work, ‘Salem’s Lot is much more than a vampire story.  Much, much more, in fact.

‘Salem’s Lot is a story about a small town, and how the small town succumbs to the vampire plague.  There is clinical language and some medical terms included when the “patients” are diagnosed, and that just adds another level of gruesomeness to what is already frightening.  Also, the description of how quickly the people in the town are either transformed to vampires or killed in some awful manner is quite disturbing, given how attached the reader gets to these characters and the town itself.

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However, ‘Salem’s Lot is also a haunted story.  Most of the action centers around the Marsten House, which is the local haunted house.  We learn some of the history of the house through Ben Mears, who believes he saw the ghost of the former owner as a child.  The house was a site for many terrible deeds that involved children, and King is able to weave this seamlessly into the vampire tale, thus adding an extra dimension of terror to an already scary story.

'Salem's Lot 4

Note:  Nowhere is it mentioned in ‘Salem’s Lot that vampires sparkle!

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3) The Shining

The Shining is another King work where there is more than meets the eye.  Perhaps the most famous, or perhaps infamous (thank you, Stanley Kubrik), of all King’s work.  On the surface, the story is another haunted house story (well, haunted hotel actually).  The ghosts wreak havoc on the Torrance family, and there are some truly scary moments involving the supernatural aspect of the story (the blood from the walls, the dead woman in the bathtub and a ghostly New’s Year Eve party all come to mind, along with several others).

the-overlook-hotel

However, what many people may fail to realize is that The Shining is also frightening because it tells the story of the disintegration of the family unit.  Humans are social animals, and to most of us, the family is the most important unit of all.  The Torrance family feels the same.  Danny loves his parents, even they (especially his father, Jack) have failed him on many occasions.  Wendy and Jack Torrance love Danny, and each other as well.  Jack wants to do nothing more to provide for his family, which is why he takes a job that is less than ideal, given his education and his addiction to alcohol.  But that family unit slowly begins to dissolve even at the beginning of the story.  However, we are led to believe that maybe there is hope for this family, as they make an effort to draw together and achieve a fresh start.  Tragically, this is not the case, as Jack ultimately succumbs to his demons, and Wendy and Danny barely escape with their lives.

Again, Stephen King is a master at including that element of realism in his stories, making them that much more believable and terrifying.

redrum


 

2)  It

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Obviously, John F. Kennedy did not ever encounter Pennywise the Clown

We all have fears.  When you are an adult, they may be more abstract, such as fear of failure, financial worries, fear of divorce and so forth.  But children’s fears are pretty concrete:  most fear things such as movie monsters, vampires, spiders and so forth.  So what if there was a monster out there that could take the form of whatever a child feared most, and literally scare them to death?  And maybe this monster needs to only be visible to kids (since adult fears are too abstract to capitalize on) and live under the sewers, where It can quietly do its dirty work?

pennywise

Enter Pennywise the Clown!

And yes, Pennywise the Clown makes the novel It terrifying.  He is a clown that lives under the sewers…first strike.  He can take on the form of ANYTHING that one fears…strike two.  And Pennywise is an extra dimensional monster…I know, not really giving that clown a good character reference, am I?

However, as frightening as Pennywise is (which is at a level 19, at least), there are so many other aspects to this book that nearly beat out the clown that lives in the sewers.  It deals with spousal abuse, child abuse and bullying.  The Losers Club spends most of that terrible summer in a lot of danger, but much of that danger is NOT supernatural.  The children face bullying from the local town bully, and must constantly watch their backs.  The adults in town do not care about either the danger under the sewers (even though most can’t see it, nearly everyone is aware of its presence).  Nor do the adults care about the bullies, even though they are as aware of the bullies as they are of the monster under the sewers.  The lone female Loser, Beverly Marsh, is being abused by her father, and the abuse is becoming increasingly sexual in nature.  Other children are abused or neglected.  It seems that no one is safe from the town of Derry, and if one is not killed by Pennywise, his/her parent or spouse will step in and do the job instead.

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Childhood is hell.  There is no other way to put it.  And It capitalizes on that concept, showing us just how much more hellish it is for some than others.

It 3


 

And now, for what I believe to be the scariest Stephen King book of all time…

drum-roll-please


Pet Sematary

Yes, Pet Sematary has made the top of the list, and I consider it to be King’s scariest book of all time for a multitude of reasons.  So let’s talk about those reasons.

pet sematary book 1

First of all, the concept of Pet Sematary is really scary.  An ancient Native American burial ground, poisoned by the spirit of a Wendigo that has the ability to re-animate dead animals that come back as zombies, which teaches kids that “sometimes dead is better.”  Can anything get scarier than that?  I have read a lot of stories about the Wendigo too. and the Wendigo is one of the creepiest entities I have ever come across.  So, yes, very disturbing right there…

Pet Sematary 2

But the burial ground is not only for animals.  No, the burial ground can be used for humans too, so yay?

Well, not really.  When humans are buried at the site, they do not come back right either.  And the problems are way more serious than a nasty smell or the need to hunt more rodents than usual.  The Wendigo is able to possess the body of the human, and render its subject with knowledge that he/she should not have.  And this knowledge is not pleasant.  Most of the knowledge is of the hateful variety: affairs and other dastardly deeds that were better off to remain secret.  The Wendigo is not benevolent, and has malice towards the living.

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

However, to me, the scariest thing about Pet Sematary is that I relate to Louis Creed.  The only evil in the book is the Wendigo spirit.  Gage Creed is not evil, he is the victim of a terrible tragedy, in both life and death.  Jud Crandall is not evil, he is a kind man who was only trying to help his friend.  Rachel Creed is not evil, she is only a protective mother who has an (understandable) fear of death.  Church the cat is not even evil, he is simply a beloved pet who also became an unfortunate victim of circumstances.

pet semetary 1

Most of all, Louis Creed is not evil.  He is a loving father who (again, understandably) became mad with grief, and was willing to do anything to bring his son back and make his family whole again.  He believes that he has found a way to do that, and that he can also use science to combat any problems.  Sadly, he is proven horribly wrong, condemning himself and his family to an eternity of damnation.  But if I were Lewis, and placed in his tragic situation, who is to say that I would not do the same thing?  I am close to someone who has lost a child, and the pain is unbearable.  You will do anything to stop it, even if it is something that may have dire consequences later on down the line.

So if I knew there was a possibility that I could bring back a deceased loved one, who is to say that I wouldn’t?  I would be thinking about my loved one, not about any consequences.  And that is frightening to me:  to be that mad with grief that I would be willing to ignore Nature, and get involved with matters that I really have no business being involved with.  And grief is frightening in that way:  the pain blinds us, so we cannot see what is in front of us that may actually be worse than the grief.

kinopoisk.ru


 

Ghosts are scary…

Vampires are scary…

Haunted hotels are scary…

Heck, Indianapolis Colts football is scary!

But what is the scariest thing of all?

That’s right, someone who has never experienced the awesomeness that is a Stephen King book!

Why should Christmas get all the fun?  It is also allowable to give gifts on Halloween, so do your part, and give someone who has never had this experience the greatest Halloween gift of all:  a Stephen King book!

Happy reading!

RoaldDahl

True Detective Recap and Review: Season 2, Episode 6

Yes, sometimes you just need a reset.

Actually, sometimes a reset is just what the doctor ordered (well, as long as the doc in question is not evil Rick Springfield…ewwww).

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And as I stated last week, True Detective certainly benefited from the reset.

Again, this week…the benefits of the reset were certainly visible.  In fact, the game has kicked into full gear, and we are finally making some progress…

With that being said, here is my recap and review of True Detective, season 2 episode 6!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

 


Synopsis

The episode begins with a confrontation between Ray and Frank in Frank’s house.  Ray wants to know why Frank sent him to the wrong man, as the man he killed did not rape his ex-wife.  Frank responds that he was given bad information, but that he will track down the man who gave him the information, if Ray will help him recover a hard drive owned by the deceased Ben Caspere, as the hard drive main contain clues to Caspere’s murder.  A truce is then called between the two men, and Ray leaves Frank’s home.

True Dective 2

Ray then visits his ex-wife’s rapist in prison, and tells the man that he intends to badly hurt him for what he has done to Ray’s family.  Ray visits with his son Chad, but the visit is uncomfortable, as it is being supervised by a state official.  Ray then heads home, and indulges in drinking and a massive cocaine binge, smashing all of the models that he and Chad built.  Ray calls him ex-wife and attempts to make a deal with her:  he will allow her full custody, as long as she agrees to not reveal Chad’s parentage to him, if it turns out that Ray is not his father.  His ex-wife reluctantly agrees to these terms.

Ray 2

Frank and his wife Jordan pay a visit to the bereaved family of Frank’s deceased business associate, Stan.  The couple offers comfort to Stan’s widow and son.  Frank then meets with people whom he thinks may have information in regards to Ben Caspere.  Frank tortures one man, and the man gives up the name of a woman, Irina, who may have information on the blue diamonds that once belonged to Caspere and were sold to a pawn shop. The woman tells Frank that an unidentified police officer told her to sell the diamonds.  Frank convinces the woman to meet with him, but finds her murdered once he arrives at their pre-arranged meeting place.

Frank 1

Paul continues to track down the blue diamonds, and meets with a jewelry store employee who once sold them in his store.  The owner speaks of a robbery/shootout in 1992, and of two children who were orphaned due to the incident.  The owner tells Paul he knows little about the children, other than their approximate ages in 1992 and that they then became part of California’s foster care system.

Paul 1

Ani makes preparations to attend the sex party to obtain information.  Paul and Ray place a tracking device on her so that they may know of her whereabouts.  Ani boards a bus, and has to give up all her personal belongings, including her cell phone and purse.  Ani arrives at the party and is almost immediately drugged by the hosts of the party, and is propositioned by a much older man.

Ray and Paul spy on men making some kind of land deal, similar to the one Frank had made with Ben Caspere.  Ray and Paul then steal some of the documents so that they can be reviewed.

In the meantime, the drugs are affecting Ani, and she begins to have terrifying flashbacks of being molested as a child.  However, Ani purges the drugs from her system, and steals a carving knife.  Ani then notices Vera, the subject of her missing person case.  Ani rescues Vera, and stabs a man with the knife, escaping from the mansion.  Ani and Vera then are rescued by Paul and Ray, who speed away from the mansion as quickly as possible.


My Thoughts

Well, then.

Finally…

The confusing, winding road known as True Detective, season 2 is finally leading somewhere…

And…

ermahgerd 1

Yeah, in a nutshell, I suppose.

This episode may be the most eventful episode of the season so far.  Like the shots of highways and traffic this show seems so fond of, this season started out slow, and was almost meandering.

Not this episode.  This episode sped down the open road, much like the car that contained our heroes in the final scene.  So buckle in guys, and let’s get ready to take a ride!

roller coaster 1

First of all, the show now seems to want us to be invested in the characters.  We got to see Ray have a cocaine and booze infused temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums.  We also got to see the alleged gangster Frank console a dead friend’s child.  Now, I don’t think this is coincidental.  The show is gearing up for something major.  A death perhaps?  It would seem that way, although maybe that thought is just a little bit over-simplified.  However, I do think that there will be something major that will happen with one or more characters in one (or both) of the upcoming episodes.  So right now, this is just speculation, but only time (and the remaining two episodes) will tell.

True Detective 3

Another curious thing that I noticed about this episode was the photograph of two children with dark hair, who would be in their mid to late twenties if they were still alive today.  The two Chessani children have dark hair, and appear to be in their mid to late twenties.  Somehow, I don’t think that this is a coincidence either.  Chessani’s daughter has even stated that her father is “evil.”  And we know that Mayor Chessani himself is a shady character.  So it does not seem to be much of a stretch to speculate that even his means of acquiring children would perhaps be surrounded by shady circumstances.  The children were orphaned by a robbery that went wrong.  Or were they?  Was something even more sinister at work?  Again, its pure speculation, and only time (and the next two episodes) will tell.

Well, ok.  You want to get to the good stuff, right?  Right?  RIGHT???

Yes, the “sex party” scene.  The one that the internet has been abuzz about for the past several months…

eyes wide shut 1

Well, not quite as creepy as this movie, although the entire last 7 minutes or so of the episode probably would have made Kubrick proud…

Maggie Simpson 1

In all seriousness, the scenes at the sex party were very, very well executed.  I loved how we could see the party from Ani’s perspective, who happened to be stoned out of her mind (well, until she took it upon herself to change that).  I also loved how the past and present was merged (Ani appears to see her molester at the party and the two settings bleed into each other).  My heart was literally in my throat the entire length of the part, and I am sure my sigh of relief once Ani escaped was audible.

Oh, and speaking of Ani…

True Detective 4

I think we are in for a major character arc, and soon (I know, only two episodes, but still).  The flashbacks scenes were creepy and just confirmed my suspicions…Ani was in fact molested as a child.  And we don’t know who the perpetrator was…could it have been the creepy Dr. Pitlor?  Or maybe one of her father’s other creepy friends?  Hell, could it have been her father himself?  At the very least, Ani’s creepy dad was probably complicit in whatever abuse she endured as a child.  She has seemingly repressed it up until now (although I am wondering if Dr. Pitlor had something to do with the repression as well, since he seems to be good with mind games, in a literal sense).  My heart also broke wide open for Ani during the final few minutes of the episode, as she was weeping.  I don’t think these were tears of joy or even from the trauma of that horrible party…I think they were actually tears of sadness and shock from the sudden recovery of her past memories.  My heart aches for Ani, and I hope that the show gives us some answers and some closure for poor Ani.

 

 


 

Well, that’s it for this week’s dissection of the roller coaster ride known as True Detective.  Join me next week, as we delve into the penultimate episode of murder, corruption, sex and all that other good stuff.

True Dectective 1

Top 10 Friendships in Stephen King Books

All my life, I have been a loner.  A Loser, some might say.

Loser

Making friends has never been my strong suit.  Although I do have one good one now.  And she knows who she is, and how much I love her.  And how proud I am to call her my friend.

Forgive

But throughout much of my life, its just been me, myself and I.  I like being alone, but sometimes it gets a little old.

saved by the bell

So what do I did I do (and still do)?

What any sensible person does?  Grab a good book…duh!  A good book is a cure for almost anything, including the flu, being dumped by your ass hat ex and yes…loneliness!

I was able to lose myself in the adventures in these books (everything from Anne McAffrey to David Eddings to Madeleine L’Engle to almost any other category that you could think of).  Another trip to Pern?  Sure, sign me up stat!

Pern 1

But perhaps the biggest part of these books were the characters.  I identified so much with these characters.  My spirit Losers, much of the time.  And how I wished I could have a cup of coffee with some of these guys, and just chew the fat with them for a few hours.

And some of my most memorable book friendships (not to be confused with my book boyfriends, thank you very much) came from stories by Stephen King.

Jon Snow

Believe it or not, the man known for rabid dogs, killer clowns that live in the sewers and shit weasels has also created some memorable friendships.   Really, is there anything he can’t write about?

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Stephen King is just great at creating memorable characters.  And he can also portray relationships very well.  This combination makes for some great friendships between his characters.  Sometimes these relationships end in tragedy and sometimes at least one party makes some kind of noble sacrifice for the good of the other.  Or sometimes what was once a beautiful relationship turns toxic.  However, these relationships are rich and woven seamlessly into the tapestry we call a Stephen King book.  In other words, they are never dull.

With that being said, here are my top 10 friendships in all of Stephen King’s books.


 

10)  Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton (Revival)

Some friendships withstand the test of time and just endear.  Normally, this is a good thing…

However, what is good in our world is not always good in a Stephen King novel.  In other words, there are some friendships that just should not be, and this includes the one between Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton in Revival.

SK 2

Sure, the relationship between the two main characters in Revival starts off innocuously enough.  A young preacher with a beautiful family, who just happens to have an unusual hobby (electrifying, you might say).  And a five year old boy who is impressionable, and eager to please.  And he also gets caught up in the preacher’s new hobby and becomes an eager assistant to his new friend…kind of sweet, actually.

Well, the friendship between young Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobson does start off as sweet and even a little touching.  But like most things in the King universe, all good things must come to an end.  And the relationship between Charles and Jamie does seem to come to an end, when a tragedy strikes.  Charles flees town, but Jamie is never quite able to forget the dynamic preacher.

A chance meeting years later re-kindles the friendship between the two.  At first, it seems that this is a good thing, as Charles is able to help Jamie kick his heroin habit.  However, the friendship soon becomes dangerous, as Charles persuades Jamie to assist him him in one final experiment that should not have taken place.  The results are tragic, and the consequences for Jamie, Charles and several other people are simply horrible.  Throughout the book, Jamie refers to Charles as his fifth business, and feels that he owes the man a favor.  However, the relationship between Jamie and Charles is proof that some debts are best left unpaid.

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9)  Dolores Claiborne and Vera Donovan (Dolores Claiborne)

Vera Donovan reminds her friends Dolores Claiborne (in the book of the same name) that sometimes an accident is a woman’s best friend (especially when it comes to husbands who abuse their daughters in unspeakable ways).

DoloresClaiborneNovel

While it is true that the accident that befalls Joe St. George winds up being a very good friend to poor Dolores, Vera Donovan ends up being the best friend that Dolores ever had.  Vera is able to offer some sage advice to her employee that helps save the well being of her employee’s family.  However, more importantly, Vera provides a listening ear for Dolores and acts as a sounding board of sorts, allowing Dolores to vent in relative safety.  Dolores is poor and lives in a hard world.  The treatment she endures from her husband and society in general is a constant reminder of how hard the world is for a woman like Dolores.  Vera’s situation is not as difficult (due to her wealth), but is still actually not much better than Dolores’ situation (it is implied that Vera may have been great friends with an accident that befell her husband).  However, Vera suffers from extreme loneliness, and that loneliness is only abated by the presence of her housekeeper (and later full-time caregiver).  Each woman provides what the other is unable to provide for herself, and is a complement to the other.

The relationship between Dolores and Vera can almost be considered symbiotic, as there is mutual benefit enjoyed by each party.

Dolores C


 

8)  Jack Sawyer and Henry Leyden (Black House)

Like I said before, making friends has never been a strength of mine.  I was an awkward kid.  Now I’m an awkward adult.  And not cute awkward either.  More like what the fuck is wrong with you kind of awkward…

Hawkeye 1

So my social calendar is still almost as empty as it was during my childhood, except for a few special people.  And finding those special people is just even more awesome, since making friends becomes harder as you age (one of the few benefits of government sponsored babysitting er school is that you do get to be around your peer group.  Adulthood is not so cut and dry).

Jack Sawyer is a King character that seems to have the same problem:  he has trouble connecting with people, and is therefore very isolated.  However, his friendship with his blind neighbor Henry Leyden helps to bring him out of that isolation.  Jack begins to realize, through his conversations with Henry, that he is part of a higher purpose, and that he cannot continue to ignore his calling.  Jack also realizes that he must open up in regards to his childhood experiences in The Territories, because his knowledge may save someone’s (or several someone’s, for that matter) life.

Henry and Jack’s friendship is another example of a King relationship that ends in tragedy.  The fact that Henry passes away shortly after Jack finally makes the decision to remove some his walls just makes this particular friendship even more bittersweet.

gorg_and_mr_munshun


 

7)  Roland and Sheemie (The Dark Tower series)

One of the reasons why I love King’s work is his portrayal of the disenfranchised (i.e. the underdogs).  The disenfranchised (or underdogs) often play major roles in King’s work.  Oftentimes, these characters are among King’s most memorable, and they are portrayed in a loving (as opposed to pitiful) light, causing the reader to emphasize with the character, as opposed to pitying the character.

Sheemie Ruiz is one of these underdogs.  Sheemie is a mildly mentally handicapped young man who is first encountered by Roland Deschain and his friends during a fateful few months spent in the town of Meijis.  Roland and his friends stand up for Sheemie when he is wronged, and a friendship is born.  Sheemie soon becomes part of the ka-tet, and an integral member, to boot.  Sheemie’s contribution to Roland’s quest is a large one, and the gunslinger is never able to forget the young man he met during those fateful months in Meijis.

Roland and tet 1

The friendship between Roland and Sheemie is another example of a bittersweet relationship.  Even though the two are reunited many years later (and Sheemie once again becomes a contributor to Roland’s quest), Sheemie also becomes yet another casualty in Roland’s quest.

sheemie


 

6)  Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran (The Shining, Dr. Sleep)

Some of the best friendships are ones that span a wide gulf, whether that gulf be age, social class or any number of other factors.  After all, variety is the spice of life!

Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran are a perfect example of this type of friendship.  On the outside, the two could not be more different:  when they first meet, Dick and Danny are nearly 50 years apart in age.  Danny is the only child of two loving parents, and Dick is a confirmed life-long bachelor.  However, there is more that meets the eye for both Dick and Danny, as both possess PSI abilities that Dick refers to “the shining.”  In other words, both possess paranormal talents that render them outsiders, especially Danny.  However, Danny is able to receive some comfort from Dick, as he begins to realize that he is no longer alone.  And Dick is able come through for Danny in a way that most of the adults in Danny’s life (especially his father) are unable to do, when Danny uses his abilities to call on Dick to rescue him and his family from a haunted hotel that wishes to use Danny as a sort of human generator.

the-overlook-hotel

Although the two fall out of touch, Dick is still able to come through for Danny yet again when needed, this time when Danny is forced to become an adult and help another psychically gifted child who has become endangered.  However, there is an added twist:  Dick is able to reach out from beyond the grave and offer his assistance.  The fact that Dick is able to assist Danny from beyond the grave makes this friendship even more endearing and powerful.

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5)  Wolf and Jack Sawyer (The Talisman)

Move over, Seth Rogen and James Franco.  You guys may be seen as the quintessential bromance, but someone has you beat on that front!

seth and james

Yes, Wolf and Jack Sawyer are actually the quintessential bromance (at least in this blogger’s humble opinion that worth at least 2 pesos, dammit).  And werewolves and 12 year old boys nicknamed Traveling Jack make much better couples, anyway.

wolf and jack

In all seriousness, Wolf and Jack are another example of a friendship that spans a great divide.  And the great divide is literal, since Wolf and Jack are actually from different worlds.  And not of the same species, as Wolf is a werewolf.  However, that does not matter to either Wolf or Jack, as they draw together in Jack’s quest to save his mother from dying of cancer (and save her Territories Twinner in the process).  Wolf becomes Jack’s guide in a world he does not understand, and Jack returns that favor to Wolf when the two are forced to continue their question in Jack’s world.  This friendship is truly complementary, as Wolf and Jack are able to provide each other with what the other needs.

And Wolf and Jack also fight together, to the very end.  This is yet another example of one of King’s tragic friendships, as Wolf sacrifices his life doing what he does best:  protecting the herd.

morgan sloat


4)  Nick Andros and Tom Cullen (The Stand)

Again, the underdogs and disenfranchised.  I cannot emphasize enough that these guys are some of King’s most well rounded and well written characters.  And Tom Cullen and Nick Andros definitely fall into the underdog category.  And both also fall into the well rounded and well written category.

Nick Andros 1

Nick Andros is a deaf mute, while Tom Cullen is a mildly mentally handicapped man.  Both are survivors of Captain Trips, aka the super flu that has killed off 99.999% of the population.  Nick communicates through writing, and Tom cannot read.  But somehow, these two manage to save each other, both from actual physical dangers and from loneliness.  Even though they cannot communicate at first (due to their handicaps), a deep lasting bond develops between the two.  The two men are able to eventually communicate when they meet Ralph Brenter, and all three become integral members of the Boulder Free Zone.  However, this friendship ends in tragedy when Nick is killed by a bomb placed in house that he is in while meeting with other members of the Free Zone.  Tom never forgets his friend, and thinks of him fondly.

Nick and Tom 2

This is another relationship that extends beyond the grave, as Nick’s ghost helps Tom save Stu Redman from certain death after the defeat of Randall Flagg.

man in black


 

3)  Jake and Oy (The Dark Tower series)

Ah, a boy and his dog…does it get any sweeter than that?

lassie-and-timmy

Well, actually, make that a boy and his bumbler.  But its still the same in principle.

Oy 1

Animals are often major players in King’s works.  Cujo, Kojak and even the unfortunate cat Church all played major roles in the lives of the human beings around them.  Oftentimes, King’s animals are better people than the people in his stories, and Oy is no exception to that rule.

Cujo

Oy and Jake are another pair who manage to save each other.  Oy was an outcast from his pack and rescued by Jake, and joins Roland and the tet in their quest to save the Dark Tower.  Oy repays that favor in spades when he helps Roland save Jake from Gasher, a psychotic pedophile who seeks to rob Jake of his innocence.  This is just one of many times when Oy proves his worth as a four-legged gunslinger.  Oy is also the final piece of the puzzle for Jake, in that it is Oy who finally helps Jake feel at home in Mid-World, after his violent exit from his own world.  Oy becomes the glue that holds Jake to the quest, and to his new home in a strange place.

“I ake.”

Truer words could not be said by a billy bumbler (or anyone else), in expressing his feelings after what is one of the saddest deaths in any piece of literature I have ever read.

Jake and Oy


2) Duddits, Pete, Henry, Beaver and Jonesy (Dreamcatcher)

Childhood and all the joys and traumas associated with it is a major theme in many King books, and these books are among some of his best works.  Dreamcatcher is a novel that deals with childhood, especially the friendships that are formed between children.

Duddits 1

Pete, Henry, Beaver and Jonesy are a foursome.  They are the quintessential best friends, and are seemingly average children.  However, when they stand up for child with Down syndrome (Douglas “Duddits” Cavell), that changes.  Not only do the boys do something courageous and even noble, they make a new friend who will change their lives forever.  Duddits is able to open the boys’ eyes, making them see the world in a new light.  Duddits also gives the boys a gift of telepathy, as Duddits is no ordinary child.  This gift (and Duddits’ powers) will come in handy in adulthood, when the boys (who are now men) must face another adversary, one that is far worse than the bully they confronted as children.  Once again, Duddits brings the men together, and allows them to defeat the enemy before it has a chance to endanger our planet.  The ending is bittersweet, as Duddits, Pete and Jonesy sacrifice their lives in the fight.

Quality: Original.   Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003).   Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.   Photo Credit:   Doane Gregory.   Copyright:   Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

Oh, and shit weasels.  Perhaps one of the most delight creatures in any Stephen King book (or any book, for that matter).

byrus

 


 

And now, I present to you my favorite Stephen King friendship of all time…

*drum roll please*

drum-roll-please


1)  The Losers Club (It)

Well, what can I say, I’m not sure how else I can put it…

So I will just come out and say it.

Childhood is hell.  Really, I can’t think of a better way to say it.  And its so so true.

childhood is hell

Matt Groening even wrote a book about it…

However, the rabbit-like creatures (or whatever the heck they are, jury is still out on that one) in Matt Groening’s work have nothing on Ben, Beverly, Bill, Richie, Eddie, Stan and Mike.

Losers club 1

These guys really did have one hell of a childhood (see what I did there).  And that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Well, shape-shifting clowns that live in the sewers cannot possibly ever be a good thing.  And when the clown employs local bullies to do its dirty work, that is also not a good thing.

So what’s a kid living in scenic Derry, Maine to do?
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Somehow survive the encounters with that evil clown, and find other survivors to help fight that motherfucker!  And bonus points in giving that group of friends a cool name, aka The Losers Club!

It 3

It was the book that popped my Stephen King cherry, and unlike certain other “first times”, I enjoyed this cherry popping immensely.  And my favorite part of It was the friendship between the kids.  I identified with all of them in one way or another, as I was bullied, and the notion of a clown living in the sewers of my hometown wasn’t really THAT far-fetched.

Beverly

I actually would have gladly fought alongside the Losers Club, risking my neck to defeat that bad, nasty old clown who had a horrible habit of killing the local kids (although he wasn’t picky, adults would do if times were lean).  I often felt invisible as a child, and I saw so many parallels to Derry in my own small, hometown, as it seemed everyone overlooked the wrong, and chose not to see what was really going on right underneath their noses.  I especially identified with Beverly Marsh, the lone female of the group (gingers of above average height, unite!) and longed for a love such as the one Ben had for Beverly.

Ben and Beverly

At one point in the book, one of the characters states that the other members of The Losers Club were the best friends he/she ever had.  And I agreed:  the members of The Losers Club were the best (book) friends I ever had.  And that is still true today.

Pennywise 5


So there it is:  my top 10 friendships in Stephen King’s books.  Well, some of these friendships may not exactly be healthy ones, but all of them are certainly memorable.  And they are just one part of the amazing tapestry that we call a Stephen King book, adding layers of richness and color to an already elaborate, complex design.

So do you really want to be a friend to someone?  Well, here’s an idea:  introduce them to a Stephen King book, if he/she has never had the pleasure of experiencing one.  And I will guarantee you that you will make a friend for life!

RoaldDahl