The Great Race: My Review of The Running Man

Lately, the world has been a bit topsy-turvy.

Maybe I am looking at it through a looking glass

Or did Barry Allen make an ill-advised trip, and travel back in time, so now that we have a paradox on our hands, so to speak?

(Not to be confused with our beloved Earth 2, where science accelerates at a rapid rate, and villains are the mayors of cities and heroes are well…kinda douchebags, actually.)

Maybe I traveled into an alternate reality, where Superman is the adopted son of undocumented migrant workers, and has a really, really close relationship with Zod, and Batman is literally backwards, and kind of sucks…

Well, actually no.

Not that I am knocking on any of the above, and wouldn’t be open to a little possible experimentation…

Although I could argue that Barry Allen and his ill-advised time travel has had some kind of effect on my reality…

After all, the Cubs are World Series champions!

And we may not have Leonard Snart as mayor, but hey, we have a Cheeto for president! So maybe that time travel did do something!

Now, if only it had won me the lottery…

Or at least given me cool super powers!

Okay, back on topic…

I have actually traveled to alternate reality, even though that trip to Earth 2 is still on my bucket list.

In other words, I have read a book written by that Bachman fella…

Well, I am really not sure if those guys are one in the same, even if that whole story about death from cancer of the pseudonym is slightly suspicious…

Hey, you never know.  If young boys and and middle-aged priests can “die” in one world, and be re-born into another (cooler) world, maybe writers can be stricken with cancer of the pseudonym, and end up being re-born on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, where the writer in question takes a grisly sort of janitorial type of job, collecting macabre souvenirs as a form of payment…

Okay, again back on topic.

So, I read a Stephen King book.

Yeah, water is wet, the sun rises in the east, and Cheetos make terrible leaders of the free world…

So what else is new?

Well, this book is actually new, at least somewhat.

As most of us probably know, early in his career, The King of Horror decided that he would like to write non-horror stories, every now and again.

While King has actually written some fantastic books that can be classified as not horror (The Talisman, 11/22/63, Different Seasons and The Eyes of the Dragon all readily come to mind), early on his career, he was bound by some silly rules about how many books he could publish in a year.

Somebody thought that there was such a thing as too many Stephen King books!  And they thought I was the crazy one!

So King did what any sensible King of Horror would do.  He created a pseudonym.

As far as I know, this pseudonym did not come to life and murder people, forcing a flock of birds to be called, so they could carry him off, kicking and screaming.

(However, if he is employed by the friendly folks known as SAMCRO, all bets are off, as you gotta do what you gotta do to survive over there in the charming town of Charming, California.)

King named this pseudonym Richard Bachman.  And for a while, that Bachman fella did pretty well for himself.

He wasn’t a horror writer, per se.  No, Bachman explored the darkness of human nature.  Man’s inhumanity to man, in other words.

He wrote of violence at school, corporate greed and of a dystopian government, that might actually not be fiction at this point.

And Bachman also wrote of our obsession with television, and our need to be constantly entertained, even at the expense of the feelings (and maybe even lives) of our fellow man.

In other words, I am currently reading The Running Man.

Dicky Bachman has come out to play.

So let’s indulge him, as we read and dissect The Running Man.

And, as always:

Continue reading

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

Burnin’ For You: My Review of The Fireman

It should be no secret that one of my favorite books of all time is The Stand, written by The Master.

Cleaner 3

I have read this particular book more times than I can count (and seen the movie, too.)

The themes resonate with me, and I just love the story line.  I also love the characters, as they are unforgettable.  Stu Redman, Tom Cullen, Nick Andros, Nadine Cross, Harold Lauder…they are forever etched into my brain.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

nadine_cross

So imagine my excitement when I heard about a “new” The Stand.  Not better or anything like that (as if, right?) but another re-imagining, if you will.  The same kind of story, just told in a new way.

Sign me up, I said!  I’m there, no questions asked!

Well, after the months of anticipation, I finally got the “new” The Stand, aka The Fireman.  And The Fireman is written by none other than The Master 2.0, aka Joe Hill.

Joe Hill 2

I have read everything that Joe Hill (the son of The Master, aka Stephen King) has ever written.  And he has quickly established himself as one of my favorite writers.  He comes by the moniker The Master 2.0 honestly.  Joe is certainly a chip off the old block, and may (gasp) even do some things better than the old block, although only time will tell on that statement.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Joe Hill’s latest novel, The Fireman.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to a young woman named Harper Grayson.  Harper is a school nurse, and loves her job.  We also learn that there is a massive epidemic that is slowing taking over Harper’s world.  The doctors and scientists refer to this plague as Draco Incendia Trychophyton.  To the general public, it is known as Dragonscale.  Anyone afflicted with Dragonscale first develops black and gold marks across his/her body.  At some point, the person afflicted with Dragonscale bursts into flame, dying an agonizing death.  There is no known cure for Dragonscale.

One day, Harper and several of her students witness a man burst into flames, due to the effects of Dragonscale.  This is a traumatic experience for Harper.  She returns home later that night and speaks to her husband, Jakob, who insists that she not continue working at the school, as Jakob is deathly afraid of becoming infected with Dragonscale.

Some months later, we learn that Harper is volunteering at a local hospital that mainly houses patients with Dragonscale.  The job is hard, as so many have died from the effects of Dragonscale, but Harper sticks with it.

One day, a man in a fireman’s suit brings in a little boy who is very ill.  The man becomes belligerent, stating that the boy’s case is an emergency.  After some arguments with the head nurse, the boy is examined and found to have a ruptured appendix.  It is also discovered that the boy’s name is Nick, and he is deaf.  The doctors operate on the boy, and he stays in the hospital for three days.  On the fourth day, the boy has disappeared.  The staff at the hospital is puzzled over this, as his room was located on an upper floor, and there are no signs of any forced entry.

While volunteering at the hospital, Harper meets a woman named Renee.  Renee is positive and upbeat, doing her best to make sure that those afflicted with Dragonscale get some happiness during their last days.  Renee reads to the children, and is not afraid to comfort the dying.  Harper becomes friends with Renee, and is devastated to learn that Renee is infected with Dragonscale.  One day, while reading to the children, Renee realizes that she will be overcome by the Dragonscale, and makes an exit from the hospital.  It is presumed that Renee passes away from the disease, but her body is never found.

Shortly after Renee’s death, the hospital where Harper is volunteering burns down.  Her husband, Jakob, offers her comfort, and tells her that he is determined to enjoy life, even if there is not much of that remaining for them.  That night, Harper and Jakob make love, and conceive their first child.

Harper soon finds out that she is pregnant.  Shortly afterwards, she she also finds out that she has somehow contracted Dragonscale.  Upon learning this news, Jakob becomes hysterical and leaves their home.  Jakob also begins to pressure Harper to end her life, even though Harper is opposed to this, as she is pregnant.

As the weeks pass by, the hysteria mounts.  Infected people are rounded up and put into concentration camps.  Some people take it upon themselves to rid the world of infected people, and resort to violence to do so.  Harper even receives a visit from some mysterious people in Halloween costumes, who somehow know that she is pregnant and offer prenatal vitamins to her.  Harper sees a man in a fireman costume when she sees these people.

One day, Harper makes the call to her brother Conor to let him know that she is pregnant and also infected with Dragonscale.  Conor and his wife become very upset at the news, but Harper begs them to take care of her baby, as she is convinced that she can still deliver a healthy baby.

Shortly after the conversation with her brother, Harper receives a visit from Jakob.  Jakob is hysterical and is convinced that he has contracted Dragonscale, even though Harper is not convinced of this.  Harper is frightened of Jakob, as he has come armed with a gun.

Jakob attacks Harper, but she retaliates by attacking him with a wine glass and is able to escape.  She then encounters the mysterious fireman she first met at the hospital, along with a woman named Allie who is wearing a Captain America costume.   The fireman fends off Jakob, and Harper realizes that he is also infected with Dragonscale.  However, the fireman appears to be able to control the effects of Dragonscale, and is even able to use the affliction as a sort of weapon.

The fireman and Allie lead Harper to a refugee camp that has been set up for those afflicted with Dragonscale.  There, Harper encounters Renee, the nurse who she thought had died from the effects of Dragonscale.  She also meets a man named Tom Storey, who is referred to as Father Story.  We also learn that the fireman’s name is John.  Harper is treated for her fractured ankle at the camp, and others also tell her that the Dragonscale can be controlled, and that death is not automatic.  Harper also learns that Nick, the deaf boy who was suffering from appendicitis at the hospital, is also a resident at the camp.  She also meets a woman named Carol, who is the daughter of Father Storey.

Later on, Harper speaks to Renee, who tells her the story of how she survived the Dragonscale and learned to control it, as opposed to letting it control her.  It appears that the Dragonscale responds negatively to distress and positively to happier emotions.

As the months go by, Harper struggles to adjust to life at the camp.  The camp begins to run low on supplies, and begins rationing food.  Harper also learns that the members of the camp were forced to kill another member, Harold Cross, who was going to betray them to the outside world.  This would allow the Cremation Squads, a group of people who have taken it upon themselves to destroy those who are infected with the Dragonscale, to find the camp.  Harper also begins to exhibit signs of infection, such as smoke coming from her skin, but still is not able to control the effects of the Dragonscale.

One morning, Harper awakens.  Her clothes are burning and she begins to feel that she is going to succumb to the Dragonscale.  She heads outside for a walk, and thinks that she hears John, the fireman who secludes himself from the rest of the camp, telling her not to give up.  This encourages Harper, and she returns to the camp, feeling somewhat at peace with herself.

Harper volunteers for kitchen duty the first day the rationing comes into effect.  She feels a joy when she realizes that people are volunteering to skip a meal so that others may eat.  She begins to sing a song from Mary Poppins, and feels a sort of euphoria that is so intense that she even temporarily forgets her own name.  At this point, Harper has learned how to control the effects of the Dragonscale, and begins to feel more optimistic.

It is soon revealed that someone is stealing items from women’s dormitory.  Father Storey makes a plea for that person to come forward, but no one does.  Harper becomes a victim of the thief, who steals the care package that she has made for her unborn child.  However, Harper momentarily forgets about the thief, when the fireman, John, makes his way into the camp and tells Harper that he needs her assistance, as there are two more refugees who have made their way into the camp.

While searching for medical supplies to assist the refugees, Harper finds a notebook that had been kept by Harold, the traitor who was killed a few months earlier.  Harper puts the notebook aside for the moment, and makes her to the rescue mission.

The rescue mission proves to be difficult, as the group is attacked by a Cremation Squad, which is a group of people who have taken it upon themselves to kill anyone who they believe is infected with Dragonscale.  John the fireman is able to distract the squad, and is able to escape with Harper’s help, even though he is injured.  Harper notices her husband Jakob on the squad, but he does not recognize her.

Harper helps John back to his cottage, and does her best to tend to his injuries.  She is summoned back to the main camp, however, because Tom Storey has also been badly injured.  Harper attempts to save Father Storey with her makeshift equipment.  He does not die, but does slip into a coma for two months.

The two convicts are accused of attempting to kill Father Storey, despite the lack of evidence.  Harper and Renee speak out against this, stating that keeping the men as prisoners in inhumane conditions is wrong.

Harper then heads back to her house, as she needs supplies.  She is surprised by the appearance of her husband, Jakob, and two fellow members of his Cremation Squad.  One of these men is the Marlboro Man, who is also a conservative radio talk show host.  Harper is able to hide from the men, and heads back to the camp several hours later.

After she returns to the camp, Harper heads over to John the fireman’s house.  She treats him for his injuries to the best of her ability, and learns the story of how he came to know Carol’s sister Sarah, who was the mother to Allie and Nick.  Harper begs John to teach her how to control the Dragonscale, but he refuses.  John tells Harper that he can use the Dragonscale to provide a distraction, so that she can obtain some desperately needed medical supplies.

When Harper returns to the camp, she finds out the other residents are angry with her, as they feel she could have betrayed their secrets.  Carol has punished Allie for neglecting her duties and letting Harper leave by placing a stone in her mouth so that she cannot speak.  Harper tells Allie that she will not accept the punishment, and Allie doesn’t have to either.  However, Allie ignores Harper and continues to play martyr.

Harper speaks to Renee, and the two worry about the direction that the group is taking, as they feel that Carol has become a dictator.

The next day, Harper is brought to Carol.  She also encounters one of the convicts who was previously rescued, named Gil, in Carol’s quarters.  Gil tells the story of how he and his friend Mazz escaped from prison, as they realized that people who were claiming to help them actually intended on killing them, as they witnessed several infected prisoners being shot.  Carol tells Gil that he still must remain in the camp’s prison, as she believes that Mazz was actually responsible for injuring her father and that Gil was an accomplice.  Harper also outlines John’s plan for obtaining medical supplies.  Carol is reluctant, but still tells Harper to put the plan in motion as soon as possible.

After the confrontation with Carol, Harper is attacked by group of girls, who pelt her with snowballs and force a stone into her mouth as punishment.  Allie is among the group, but does nothing to stop the attack.

The attempt to obtain medical supplies turns violent when the group hijacks an ambulance.  Several people are murdered and injured.  Harper attempts to help the injured, but is rebuffed by other members of the group.  Harper and her group are then attacked by a group led by Jakob and his friend the Marlboro Man.  Several members are killed, but Harper and a few others manage to escape, as what appears to be a phoenix shows up at the right time.

When Harper returns to the camp, she finds out that Father Storey has a close call with death but is still alive.  Carol is distraught, and tells Harper that she is only allowed to stay at the camp to care for her father.  Carol tells Harper that if Father Storey passes away, she will be forced to leave the camp.

Harper then receives a letter from Allie apologizing for her actions.  She speaks with another member of the camp, Michael, and learns that it was Allie who told the John the fireman what was happening when the group hijacked the ambulance, and that John sent over the phoenix to distract the Cremation Squad.  Michael talks of leaving the camp with Harper, Allie and other members who are unhappy with Carol’s rules.

Harper then visits John, and finds out that he has pneumonia.  She talks of leaving the camp, but tells John that he should lead that group, as she feels that she needs to stay to give birth to her baby.  Harper administers what treatment she can to John, and learns the story of how John, Allie, Nick and Tom learned to control the effects of the Dragonscale through singing.  However, John does not give any details as to how Sarah, who was never infected with the Dragonscale, died.

Back at the infirmary, Harper reads the journal of Harold Cross, the man who was thought to be a traitor.  She learns that there is an island for those infected with Dragonscale, known as Martha Quinn Island.  An internet search on a contraband cell phone confirms that this island is real.  Shortly after Harper digests this news, she receives another surprise:  it appears that Tom Storey has awakened from his coma.  However, Harper is not able to get any information from Tom, as he appears to go back to sleep.

John, Harper and several other members meet at John’s cottage one night to discuss plans for a possible escape from the camp.  Harper is chosen to be the leader of the group, due to her calm manner.  Harper stays behind when the others leave.  She shares a kiss with John, and learns the full story behind Sarah’s death.  Apparently, Nick had figured out how to fully control the Dragonscale, and taught John how to do so.  Sarah deliberately infected herself with Dragonscale, as she considered it a blessing, and not a curse.  However, Sarah did not allow for the infection to be in her body for a long enough time (according to Harold Cross’ notes, one needed to be infected for at least six weeks before the Dragonscale spread to the brain) and burned to death before she could control the infection.  However, not all of Sarah burned, as a part of essence remains in John’s cottage.

When Harper awakens the next morning, she finds out that Tom Storey has regained full consciousness.  And Tom has news to share:  he tells Harper that Carol, his daughter, deliberately set up Harold Cross to be murdered by a Cremation Squad, in order to make an example of him.  Father Storey asks that John be brought back to the camp, along with Allie, Nick and Carol, so that he may have his family by his side.

After receiving this information, Harper pays a visit to John’s cottage, and brings him back to the camp, so that he can speak to Tom Storey.  However, they are attacked by Michael, who actually is on the side of Carol and is not interested in fleeing the camp.  Michael also set up Harold Cross to be murdered by the cremation squad.  Michael also attempted to have Harper killed, as he was the one who set the Cremation Squad upon her when she returned to her home for medical supplies.  Michael has killed Tom, and plans on framing Harper for the murder.  He forces Harper to inject herself with insulin, to make it look like a murder and attempted suicide.

When Harper awakens, she faces Carol, along with an angry mob.  Harper, John and their followers are accused of conspiring to kill Tom Storey with intent of turning the camp into a prison camp.  Mazz, one of the rescued prisoners, also comes forward as a double agent.  The mob then begins to pelt John with stones.

Harper begins to fight, and finds that she can use the Dragonscale to do so.  She is able to rescue John, and she, Allie and John attempt to escape.  They realize that Nick, the young deaf boy, is also helping them, as Nick uses the Dragonscale to create a giant hand that is termed the Hand of God.

However, all is not well, as Nelson Heinrich, thought to have been killed in the heist of the ambulance and medical supplies, has led a Cremation Crew to the camp.  Harper, John, Allie and the rest of the members take shelter in the empty church.  There, Carol and her followers commit a sort of mass suicide, going up in flames while singing.

Renee and Gil find a firetruck, and use that to defeat the Cremation Squad, which includes Harper’s ex husband Jakob, and the Marlboro Man.  However, Gil is shot in the process and loses his life.  Nick leads Harper and the rest of the survivors to a sandy pit, and confesses that he was the thief who had been stealing supplies.  John does not come along, but promises Harper and the others that he will meet up with them in a day or two.

At the hideout, Nick tells the story of how Michael tricked him into stealing the items.  Shortly afterwards, John the fireman returns.  John makes another trip to gather food and supplies, and the survivors also hold a funeral for Gil.  John and Harper make plans to leave for Maine for Martha Quinn Island, as there are still Cremation Squads hunting the group.

The next morning, John, Harper and the rest of the survivors head for Maine via a truck, in an attempt to get to Martha Quinn Island.  Renee sees a cat that she thinks to be her cat, Mr. Truffles, and the group votes to bring the cat along, although John is not happy about this, as he feels the cat may be a danger to them.  After a tense inspection, the group passes a checkpoint and arrives in Maine, which has been destroyed by the Dragonscale.

The survivors are then attacked by Harper’s ex-husband, Jakob, who has tracked them down to Maine.  Harper battles her ex-husband, and is saved by a woman of flames, who is the essence of Sarah, Nick and Allie’s mother.  Jakob is literally burned alive. John also survives the attack, but is badly hurt.  The essence of Sarah bids her goodbyes to John, Nick and Allie, and then literally winks out of existence.

Harper and her friends continue on their way to Martha Quinn Island.  However, Harper grows increasingly worried about John, who contracts pneumonia in addition to the rest of his injuries.

As the group makes its way to Martha Quinn Island, they find supplies and provisions along the way.  However, the healthy people greet them with mistrust, and do their best not to make any contact with those infected with Dragonscale.  Someone also leaves antibiotics for John, who then begins to show signs of recovery.

Finally, the group makes it to Martha Quinn Island.  However, on the boat ride to the island, Harper finds out that they have been tricked:  there is no island for survivors.  Instead, the infected are euthanized, in attempt to rid the world of Dragonscale.  John confronts Jim, the captain of the boat, and is shot in the stomach.  However, John uses the power of the Dragonscale to burn the boat and their attackers, saving Harper and the others.  The group is then rescued by Don Lewiston, another survivor from Carol’s camp who had previously gotten a head start to Martha Quinn Island.  Once they are on Don’s boat, Harper gives birth to a baby girl.  The baby is also infected with Dragonscale.  Harper names her Ashley.

Don speaks of other islands for those infected with Dragonscale, and Harper and her friends agree to set sail for them, in the hopes that they will be able to survive in the new world they now inhabit.


My Thoughts

Well, let me just say this much:

Joe Hill, you are on fire!

Joe Hill 1

Seriously, this book was smoking, and fanned the flames of my love for Joe Hill and his writing!

Ok, we got that out of the way, aka the obligatory fire puns that I intended to burn you with (see what I did there.)

So, let’s get something else out of the way…

As I have said before, Joe Hill may be the son of The Master, but he is definitely his own man.  And I love that about him.

However, there were so many nods to The Master, and I had so many fan girl moments…

So let’s talk about those…

First of all, the homage to The Stand.  My favorite King book of all time.  So of course, the fan girling was intense.

For instance, a deaf kid who just happened to be named…Nick?!  You bet!  My number one book boo exists on the Joe Hill level of The Tower…who knew???

Nick

The many references to Watership Down!, and the guy who claimed he couldn’t get into into a book about rabbits, but loved the book anyway…sound like our favorite redneck from East Texas, anyone?

watership down 1

A character named Harold Cross?  Is he the unfortunate lovechild of the couple we loved to hate in The Stand?

And the homage went way beyond even The Stand

Nozza-la, anyone?  Hey, you gotta take what you can get, you can’t be picky about soda in the post apocalyptic world.  Now excuse me while I take a look at my Takuro Spirit, can’t seem to find anyone to service this particular vehicle for some reason…

Oh, and a scary guy with a croquet mallet?  Now I’m craving “red rum”…hope that’s something you can “overlook!”

redrum

The mention of Tom Gordon…a girl can love him, right?

Ok, enough with the bad jokes…time to take a stand against them…haha!

I also loved the references to pop culture in this book, along with the humor.  Someone is definitely a chip off the old block.

I mean, he had Glenn Beck catch fire and burn to death…giggle snort…this brought a much needed smile to me that day!

Although he was bit harsh on JK Rowling.  But somehow, it’s fitting that the masses would turn on her for trying to help those who contracted the ‘scale…

Harry-Potter-Prequel

And the pod people had taste in music…they sang U2’s One…swoon!

Time to talk about Harper Willowes, our main character.

This book may be titled The Fireman, but make no mistake about it:  this is Harper’s book (sorry John, you are still awesome anyway!)

We have Arya Stark.  We have Beverly Marsh.  We have Robin Martine, from Malus Domestica by SA Hunt.

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And now we have Harper Willowes.

In other words, Harper is a bad ass woman. Extremely bad ass.  And she did most of this bad assery while she was pregnant…mind = blown!

Anyone who escapes from an abusive relationship is a bad ass, in my book.  And Harper did that, relatively early in the story, when she got away from Jakob (really, this guy should top a list of book douches.  Beats women and listens to conservate talk radio…real winner right there!)

While John the Fireman may be the camp’s X Factor, Harper Willowes is really the camp’s heart.  Her fellow survivors come to depend on her, and not just for her nursing skills.  Harper is able to remain calm and rational, when most people are not.  She is even able to remain calm and rational in regards to her child, whom she considers turning over to adoptive parents once he/she is born, so she does not pass the ‘scale on to her child.

Harper is someone you want on your side at any time (although I will skip the Mary Poppins, thanks), but especially in a time of crisis.  There is something to be said for someone of that nature, as I can think of few people that I know personally whom I could trust in a time of crisis…makes me actually wish Harper was real.

Joe Hill did a good job with his previous female characters, such as Georgia (Heart Shaped Box), Vic (N0S4A2), Merrin (Horns) and now Harper (The Fireman.)  Finding a good female character in any book can be a problem, but so far, Joe Hill is stepping up to the plate nicely in this regard.

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So, let’s talk about the structure of this book, and the ending.

Especially about the ending, but more on that later.

A prevailing theme in this book was the fact that our greatest enemy is…well…us.  I was constantly reminded of that old Pogo cartoon, where one character tells another that he has met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

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This book did not need an evil wizard (although there is nothing wrong with those) in order to be scary.  Nor did it need need an infectious horrible disease that kills people in horrible ways (nothing wrong with that though, either, natch.)

Instead, humans were the bad guys in this book.  We had the members of The Cremation Squads.  Just the name of that is horrible enough.  They also carried out that first word, burning those believed to be infected with Dragonscale, in the name of keeping everyone else safe.  So definitely pretty horrible.

But we also had fanaticism, aka “Mother” Carol and her band of zealots.  And these guys were supposed to be on the side of the good!  However, their treatment of those who had the nerve to disagree with them was almost as bad as what the Cremation Squad did those infected with the ‘scale.

Fanaticism is something that comes up often in the works of Papa King, and Mr. Hill seems to be a chip off the old block in that regard as well.  I was constantly reminded of Ms. Carmody in The Mist, and how her religious fanaticism was almost as big a threat as the inter-dimensional monsters.  Her fanaticism was also about as useful as Carol’s fanaticism when the big showdown came, and both women ultimately proved themselves useless in the fight against the greater enemy.

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Joe Hill spent a great deal of time discussing how those infected with Dragonscale were treated, and the parallels I drew were disturbing, to say the least.

Throughout time, there has always been some sort of threat.  At least, we are led to believe we need to be afraid of something.  After all, if there is not someone or something to fear and persecute, then what good is being human, right?

We have had Ebola virus.  The internet gets really interesting, when it finally becomes public knowledge that there have been people infected with Ebola who have been traveling in and out of our country (and others) for decades.  Suddenly, everyone becomes an expert in biology and obtains medical license, and knows the best way to handle those infected (hint: it usually involves something much more inhumane than offering the sick chicken noodle soup.)

There is the Islamo-phobia that Glenn Beck, Donald Trump and the rest of the Faux News crowd is intent on perpetuating.  After all, if I am not in constant fear of a terrorist attack by Muslims (since white Christians never commit those, natch), then I am just not a good American!

Way back when, we had the Jewish refugees.  Many requested refugee status when things started to go south in Germany, and were denied.  Or if they did manage to migrate here, they were shunned, almost as if they had a disease that people feared because most did not understand it.

Sounds pretty familiar, huh?  I have said it before and I will say it again:  human fuckery is the worst kind of horror there is.  And Joe Hill drives home that point again and again, in The Fireman.

Ok, let’s talk about the ending to this one.

I admit it, I grew complacent.

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What can I say, it was last week…I was naive back then!

This ending has left me to conclude that Joe Hill is a genius.  Seriously, he needs to win a Pulitzer prize!

Now, I should have had a clue.  They were calling the so-called sanctuary “Martha Quinn Island”, after all.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Martha Quinn, but she is sort of a relic (gah, I just got old.)

Joe Hill was born in 1972, and is only six years older than I am.  In other words, we are of the same generation.

And my generation tends to idealize the 1980’s, in much the same way that my parents continue to idealize the 1960’s.

So naming the so-called sanctuary after an 80’s icon is just somehow fitting.  We want to believe that the 1980’s were a simpler time, in much the same way that we want to believe that there just has to be a sanctuary somewhere that will take care of in our time of need.  How could there not be?

I was struck by how easy it was to lull (most) of the survivors, once they had escaped Carol, along with the defeat of the Cremation Squad.  It reminded of the rabbits in Watership Down! who are actually captives of a farmer who raises them for food, but they don’t know they are captives.  Like Harper and the other survivors, they become complacent.  And of course, they don’t come to a good end.

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Honestly, the ending shocked me a bit, but in the end (see what I did there), I was not entirely surprised by this ending.  And I believe that this ending was the only ending and therefore the right ending.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever so cut and dried in “real life.”  We want to believe that there is still good out there, and that there are people who have our best interests at heart.  Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to be fooled, even though we know that we should be more aware.  We don’t want to believe that we will lose that job that we have had for years.  We get married, and think that we will live happily ever after.  We don’t want to believe that anyone we love can die, much less die before their time.  And we would like to believe that if there was a plague that resulted in us contracting a disease that could potentially result in a painful death, that there would be people out there dedicated to possibly curing the disease, as opposed to simply eradicating those afflicted with the disease.

But again, human fuckery rears its ugly head.  It probably started with human fuckery, and then it ends with human fuckery.  Joe Hill reminds us this yet again.

But with this ending, Joe Hill also gives us something else:  hope.  After all, Harper safely delivers her baby.  And she will keep her baby, as the baby is also infected with Dragonscale.  Harper may have lost John, but Nick, Renee, Allie and the others survive.  And if they survived, along with their rescuer Don, there may well other survivors.  And maybe, just maybe, there will be a chance to rebuild.

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Fire can be used to destroy.  But like almost everything, fire has a dual nature.  Fire can be used to create as well.  And sometimes, everything must be destroyed, if we are ever to have a chance to emerge from the ashes, much like a phoenix, and attempt to rebuild.


Stephen King has said that if he passes away and leaves any unfinished manuscripts, he is not worried because he knows that Joe Hill is more than capable of finishing those manuscripts.  And this is a comforting thought, indeed.

And it’s also a comforting thought that Joe Hill is just getting started, and that we are only at the beginning of a great writing career.  And I can’t wait to find out where that career will lead.

 

 

Since Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion 1.9

Well, looky what we have here…

Seems the internet has bent a little more as of late…

And this time, neither the Kardashians nor a certain ugly dress were responsible for it!

ugly dress

 

In other words, we have further news on something that we have all been anticipating…

No, its not an official announcement that Donald Trump has chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate!  I mean, if I wanted scary, I would watch a Stephen King movie…you know, scary motherfuckers like Stephen King (at least according to a certain former pimp)?

Donald Trump 1

Oh wait…

I believe this news does have something to with The Master, actually…

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Oh, that’s right…how could I have forgotten! Oops…

It appears that we have more news in regards The Second Coming  the upcoming Dark Tower movie!

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Sony Pictures has provided us with a release date.  Yes, an actual release date (fingers crossed).

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In other words, the beast has been reawakened.  And boy, is the beast loud!

Well, maybe just a dull roar, actually.  The beast was pretty loud, though, when the intent to make a movie was announced.  Broke the sound barrier, actually.

So yes, people are talking.  And debating.  And contemplating.  And rightfully so, as King considers this series of books to be his magnum opus, and so do many of his readers.  People want to see a movie, and to see that movie done right.  Books can be tricky to adapt to screen, and although some recent adaptations have been good (The Hunger Games is a prime example), there have been many bad on-screen adaptations (many of which are attached to The Master’s name.  That one was directed at you, 2002 Carrie.  And don’t think you are getting off either, Running Man!)

And yes, I will admit to being one of the speculators.  And a pretty vocal one, at that.  I believe that a good movie(s) can be made out of these books, and I will stand by that statement until (which hopefully does not happen) I am proven otherwise.  More detail can be found on that opinion here.

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But, as they say, opinions are like a certain body part none of us can function without…I believe it has to do with the gluteous maximus (I think).  In other words, we all have opinions, and some of us are not shy about expressing them.  I would be in that category, although social media and this blog are my preferred mediums, since none of my loved ones or the awesome man I married have the faintest idea of what I am blathering on about.

So, time to get down to business, and perhaps have a little fun!  I want to talk about casting for a couple of more major characters that I did not discuss in the previous entry.  The Dark Tower series also has a lot of supporting characters.  Some may only be present in one book or only a few pages, but these characters are important to the story, and deserve great casting choices.  And last, but certainly not least, I would like to discuss the music for The Dark Tower movie(s), as that is almost as important as the casting.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

(Oh in case you were curious about the title…just go ahead and move that decimal one place to the right, say thank ya.  See what I did there?  You are very welcome!)

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Casting

In this section, we will discuss the casting for the movie.  I will be including several characters, both “major” and “minor.”  This is almost at random, with names that I have pulled out of Roland’s cowboy hat, so please bear with me and do not take offense if I have not included a favorite character of yours…so many blog entries, so little time (or something like that).

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Eddie Dean

I have already made my casting choice pretty clear for our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  And while I still have much love for Roland, Eddie Dean has always been my favorite (sorry Roland, hope you aren’t hurt by this).  Eddie Dean is the book’s resident smart ass (his quips are currency, I think) but he also has a dark side, as he is a recovering heroin addict.  So we need someone a bit edgy to play this character…

Eddie 1

Aaron Paul has always been a popular casting choice, for obvious reasons (his role on the show Breaking Bad being a huge one).  Plus the guy has flat out volunteered to play Eddie and has expressed an interest in being in these movies.  So he is a decent choice…

However, my first pick for the role of Eddie Dean is Steven Amell.  Yes, Arrow/Casey Jones as Eddie Dean.  Amell is an immensely talented actor, and is about the right age for the role.  And he has proven acting chops in playing a dark, gritty role, as evidenced by the title role on the show Arrow.  Amell has made a beloved comic book character come to life, and I have complete faith that he could do the same with a beloved Stephen character.  Oh, and he is definitely not hard to look at either!

Steven Amell 1

Randall Flagg

Now, this role is an interesting one to cast.  It has been played before by Jamey Sheridan Billy Ray Cyrus’ twin brother on crack in the 1994 mini series adaptation of The Stand.  Matthew McConaughey has also been cast in the upcoming The Stand reboot (squee).  So, pretty simple, right?  Just stick McConaughey in the Dark Tower movie, and call it good?

man in black

Well, not really.  While this may be the same character in The Stand, the Dark Tower series and a multitude of other King books (the very definition of an uber villain), it is NOT the same incarnation.  In The Stand, Flagg is charming, a bit like a sleazy car salesman.  And very…American is the best word I can think of.  Matthew McConaughey can pull that off.  In fact that’s what he does.  So good casting choice.  For The Stand, that is.

The Stand mashup

But let’s talk about Dark Tower Flagg.  Dark Tower Flagg is the embodiment of an evil wizard.  And he is cruel and arrogant.  It seems like most people know he is evil and do their level best to avoid him.  In other words, almost a polar opposite to the incarnation of Flagg in The Stand, who almost seems more “human.”  As wonderful as Matthew McConaughey is, I have my doubts on whether he can pull that role off or not, so I think we need a different casting choice.

My nomination for the actor to play Randall Flagg in the Dark Tower movie is Walton Goggins.  Again, this is another actor with proven acting chops for a particular role in these movies.  Goggins played an excellent villain in his role as Boyd Crowder on the TV series Justified.  In fact, I think I looked up arrogant in the dictionary and found a picture of Boyd Crowder!  In all seriousness, Groggins is a character actor, which is exactly what is needed for the role of Randall Flagg, and I hope that the casting gods hear me, and pick well for this role.

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The Crimson King

This is an interesting role to speculate, as the Crimson King is a villain that is actually not visible very much in the books, until the final book in the series.  His presence is implied and his name mentioned, but he is, for the most part, not visible, much like the great wizard behind his curtain.

CK 3

However, just because something is true in the books does not necessarily mean it will be true in the movies.  In other words, I think that the Crimson King will be enjoying an increased bout of visibility, and therefore a larger role.  After all, film is a different medium, and sometimes adjustments need to be made in order to convey a story.

And the Crimson King is a worthy role.  It is implied that he is the boss of all evil in the King universe.  So therefore, we need someone distinguished to take on this role.  My vote is for Donald Sutherland.  You can’t get much more distinguished than Donald Sutherland.  Again, more proven acting chops, especially given his role of the bearded Oompa-Loompa of President Snow in the Hunger Games movies.

President Snow 1

Blaine the Mono

Really, I thought that the Joker was bad news. And I am not backing away from that statement any time soon, either.

Joker 3

But then, I encountered Blaine the Mono…

Yes, a talking, evil, insane monorail has made me rethink my definition of bad news.  The Joker still ranks up there (or is it down there) but a talking monorail who releases poison gas on entire cities may give the Clown Prince of Crime a run for his money…

Joker 1

And who better to play one of the best villains in the Stephen King universe (and possibly in literature, period) than Mark Hamill?  After all, Blaine does make me think of the Joker, and Mark Hamill owned that role in the Batman animated TV series of yore (although he is reported to be reprising the role in the upcoming animated Batman movie The Killing Joke.  Whoever said life is not good has obviously not heard this bit of news).  Blaine will consist entirely of CGI, but the voice acting will be almost as important, if not important as, the CGI.  And Mark Hamill can make Blaine happen…that’s right folks, you heard it here first!

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Stephen King

So is is possible to write a series of books that you think is so awesome that you include yourself in them?

Well, with the Dark Tower series, the answer is yes.  Stephen King is a character in the series, and an important one at that.  Despite the divisiveness among fans that this move has provoked, King continues to remain a vital part of the series, and this part should not be ignored.

The easy answer would be to just have King play himself.  After all, he has been known to dabble in acting, and has appeared in several of his movies, and even made a guest appearance on one of his favorite TV shows (yeah, this was a wet dream come true for me…just deal with it).  However, King should not quit his day job (aka writing books I can’t put down), and leave the acting up to the big boys.

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So who does that leave?  Well, one of my picks would be John Cusack.  Cusack already has a relationship with King, and an understanding of the material (he starred in 1408 and will star in the upcoming movie adaptation of Cell).  Cusack has the ability to play a nerdy writer, which is actually what King is (don’t worry, Sai, that is a compliment of the highest order).  Cusack can bring the life to this role, and would be an excellent choice.

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The Low Men

I firmly believe that comedy is actually an essential part of horror.  It appears that Stephen King would agree with me, as there is a lot of comedy gold in his books, even the Dark Tower series (yes, really!).

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One of the funny parts to the Dark Tower series are the Low Men.  The Low Men are actually humanoid creatures, but have animal heads.  And they talk.  Creepy, in other words.  So maybe not actually funny, unless you have a dark sense of humor, like yours truly.

And one actor who can do the darkly comedic really well is Kim Coates, who played the character Tig on the show Sons of Anarchy. Somehow the idea of Tig er Mr. Coates donning an animal head and doing really horrible things is not as far fetched as it sounds.  I believe that he would be a viable choice to play one of these characters.

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Another actor who has a definite dark side is Wentworth Miller, as evidenced by his role as Leonard Snart (if that doesn’t sound evil, I don’t know what does) on the TV show The Flash.  Miller has shown that he is capable of being cruel and vindictive, which is perfect for a character such as Pimli o’Prentiss.  This is another “can’t miss” casting  choice.

The Flash -- "Going Rogue" -- Image FLA104B_0108b -- Pictured: Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

While we are on the subject of creeps, let’s talk about Rick Springfield.  Yes, the guy who sang Jessie’s Girl.  And the guy who sang Jessie’s Girl also happens to play an incredibly creepy psychiatrist on the TV show True Detective.  This would translate very well to a character such as Richard Sayer, or Dr. Scowthers.  Springfield would have these roles in the bag, in other words.

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The Music

Now, I would like to talk about an aspect of the upcoming Dark Tower movies that I think is very important, but one that I have not seen get a lot of press.

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That’s right, the music for the movies.  While I have seen more casting threads on certain unnamed social media outlets than I care to count, I have not seen too many threads discussing any music for the movies.  And this is a grave oversight, as the music is one of the most important parts to any movie, but especially so for the Dark Tower movies!

Obviously, there are references to several songs in these books.  In fact, some of the music referenced in the books really gives the series its charm…

Johnny Cash 1

Somehow, Johnny Cash is fitting…wasn’t he nicknamed something, possibly something referencing clothing of a dark color?

All kidding aside, Johnny Cash’s version of the song Hurt would fit perfectly in the series.  The song is already quoted at the beginning of the last book in the series, and attributed to its original creator.  This is fine by me, I love both versions.  However, Cash’s version just fits in so well with the series…perhaps it is the version of the song that belongs to Roland’s level of the Tower.

Rose

And luckily, there is a wealth of material to chose from if we want to include any other songs by Cash.  Ghost Riders in the Sky would fit in very well with the theme of the Dark Tower.  Out Among the Stars is another song that brings visions of Mid-World to my mind.  I could go on and on, so I hope that the producers and directors choose to pay homage to this level of the Tower’s Man in Black.

As a certain great sage and eminent junkie so wisely reminded us:  Johnny Cash is everything.

Roland and Flagg

Paint it Black is another song referenced in the the books (in The Wastelands, to be specific).  Not including it in the movies would be criminal, and I will leave it at that.  And hopefully the producers and directors collectively remember the faces of their fathers, and agree with me on that statement.

Another band that I feel that fits in well with the Dark Tower series is Imagine Dragons.  Many of their songs (especially this one) has a post apocalyptic feel.  Roland’s world is post apocalyptic, so a marriage between Imagine Dragons and the Dark Tower series could end up being a match made in heaven (or possibly hell, depending on how you look at it).

Leonard Cohen is another one who can do darkness well (notice a theme here?).  Perhaps the producers could use existing songs (Hallelujah is a song that is a pretty good description of what Roland’s obsession with the Tower has done to him), or perhaps Cohen could grace us with some new songs, just for the movies.  Either way, this may be another match made in hell  heaven.

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One thing to keep in mind is that the members of our favorite ka-tet were drawn from different time periods.  So any music used in the series should reflect this.  Susannah was a sort of hippie from the 1960’s, so it would be nice to pay homage to that with some well placed Bob Dylan songs, or perhaps some Phil Ochs songs.  Jake was drawn from the 1970’s, so perhaps some Rolling Stones, or maybe some soul music along the lines the lines of James Brown.  And of course, there is my heartbeat Eddie Dean, who is drawn from 1987.  So perhaps some well placed Aerosmith?  Maybe Madonna?  Run DMC anyone?  Of course, music from the time period is not a necessity for these movies, but it would be nice to add a touch of authenticity, and would also allow the audience to make an emotional connection with these characters.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

 


Well folks, that’s it for this week’s speculation and pipe dreams.  For that it is exactly what this is:  speculation and pipe dreams.  Could some of them come true?  Well, anything is possible.  Could some of these ideas never see the light of day?  Again, its all possible!  Or could the folks behind the movie come up with some even crazier ideas that are so crazy that they just might work?  Well, that wouldn’t be the first time something as happened, nor would it be the last.  And of course, this blog will be your go to place for dissection and discussion (pretty please, I love readers!)  But until then…

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Love can be a killer: My review of Wizard and Glass

Who doesn’t remember the first time he/she fell in love?  While I am happily married now and would not trade that for the world, nothing can compare to my first.  I was 19 and maybe a bit of a late bloomer.  I also spent most of high school being invisible to the guys.

late_bloomer

Then came college.  I think my parents had been gone for all of 15 minutes or so when I started dating.  Or something like that.

Yes, I fell in love.  It was glorious.  My body began to behave in ways I never knew that it could.  Let’s just say I became a woman rather quickly.  And I started actually living for another human being and began to build hopes and dreams around him.  And I let someone see the side of me that was previously only for behind closed doors.  Previously, the line “I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch” was one that applied to me.  But I started being able to feel, and boy did I touch too!

Sadly (or maybe correctly) it was not meant to be.  And the heartbreak was excruciating.  This was definitely not something advertised when I fell in love!  And even to this day, that breakup still hurts me a little bit, even though I consider myself a (mostly) happy, well adjusted adult in a great relationship.  But the lessons (and the scars) from that first experience of falling in love still remain, and will probably remain for a long, long time.

heartbreak

As I have stated in my previous entries, it turns out that Roland Deschain is actually human and has feelings…who knew?  Do cold-blooded killing machines fall in love and experience heartbreak?  Do they experience intense sexual desire for another person that is born out of genuine attraction, as opposed to a simple need for release?  It turns out that they do.  Or at least the one we call Roland Deschain does.  And the story of his first love, from the initial meeting to the torrid affair to the truly sad ending makes my experience of falling in love and breaking up for the first time seem like a ride on the kiddie roller coaster.

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So strap in, and get ready for the ride of your life, as I review The Dark Tower IV:  Wizard and Glass.

 

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Synopsis

Wizard and Glass begins where the cliffhanger in The Wastelands left off:  Roland and his friends are aboard Blaine the Mono, a sentient train that has also gone insane.  Roland has challenged Blaine to a riddling contest, as Blaine loves riddles.  If Roland and his friends lose the contest, Blaine will commit suicide and take the ka tet with him.  If Roland and his friends win the contest, Blaine will spare their lives.  It is revealed that Blaine is cruel and loves to hurt other living creatures.

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Each member of the tet takes a turn at asking Blaine a riddle.  Blaine easily answers all of them.  Eventually, Jake, Eddie and Susannah run out of riddles and Roland takes over, as riddling contests were something Roland participated in as a child.  However, even Roland is unable to stump Blaine, and the tet becomes more sure of the death that awaits them, with each passing mile.

During the riddling contest, Eddie becomes lost in thought.  And to the surprise of his friends, especially Roland, it is Eddie who figures out how to stump Blaine: jokes.  Blaine’s programming cannot handle jokes (which are still a form of riddle).  Eddie begins to tell Blaine jokes, and Blaine is unable to answer these kinds of “riddles.”  Eventually, the jokes cause Blaine’s systems to short circuit, leading to his “death.”  The tet steps off the train to continue on in their journey.

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Much to the surprise of Eddie, Jake and Susannah, Roland and his friends encounter a world that is eerily similar to “the real world” once they step off of Blaine the Mono.  There are signs indicating that the tet has entered Topeka, KS, which does not “exist” in Mid-World.  Roland and his friends also find vehicles and newspapers, both of which are not found in Mid-World.  However, this world differs from the world of Eddie, Jake and Susannah in one very important way:  99.99 % of the population has been killed off by the “super flu“, making it more similar in its nature to Mid-World, as it also has appears to have “moved on.”  Roland informs the rest of the tet that they have entered a “thinny“, a sort of gateway between worlds that has formed due to the deterioration of reality.  Roland also begins to remember the thinny he encountered in his childhood, and realizes that he must tell the tale to his friends, and soon.

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Roland and his friends come to a stop and set up camp.  Roland then begins to tell the tale of his childhood, and his first love, Susan Delgado.

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We learn that Roland was the youngest to ever best his teacher, Cort, and earn the title of gunslinger.  However, Roland has made an enemy in Marten Broadcloak after he wins his guns, as Marten committed acts of adultery with Roland’s mother Gabrielle, in the hopes of angering Roland into taking an early test of his manhood.  Marten hoped that Roland would fail the test, and be sent West as punishment.  Roland was indeed angered, but Marten’s plans went awry when Roland became the youngest ever (age 14) to pass the test and earn his guns.  Roland’s father Steven becomes concerned for his son’s safety, and sends Roland and his friends Alain and Cuthbert to Meijis, under assumed names, in an attempt to protect them all from Marten’s evil schemes.

cuthbert and alain

Roland and his friends arrive in Meijis under the guise that they will be taking an inventory of everything in Hambry, including horses.  Roland almost immediately notices that the number of horses in Hambry is extraordinarily high for a town of its size.  Roland also almost immediately notices a young girl by the name of Susan Delgado, who is very beautiful.  And the attraction between Roland and Susan is mutual even upon their first meeting.  However, Susan hints to Roland that she is promised to another, and Roland does not pursue her.  We also learn that Susan is promised in marriage to Mayor Hart Thorin by her greedy aunt, Cordelia Delgado.

HThorin

 

King also introduces us to a group of men called The Big Coffin Hunters.  This group includes a man named Eldred Jonas, who appears to have once been a gunslinger.  These men appear to act as bodyguards of sorts for Mayor Hart Thorin.  Roland and his friends become almost immediately suspicious of them, and Eldred and his friends return the favor.

eldred_jonas

We are also introduced to a woman known as Rhea of the Coos.  She is known in Hambry as the local witch woman, and is described as a crone.  Eldred and his friends entrust with the guardianship of a mysterious pink crystal ball that they refer to as “Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.”

Maerlyn's rainbow

 

It does not take long for Jonas and his friends to clash with Roland and his friends.  Cuthbert comes to the defense of a mentally disabled man named Sheemie one night at a bar, and draws the ire of Eldred Jonas.  The altercation is broken up by local law enforcement, but both sides quickly become suspicious of each other’s true natures.

sheemie

Roland and Susan try their hardest to stay away from each other so that Susan may fulfill her contract to Hart Thorin, but the mutual attraction is too powerful, and they begin a torrid affair.  They attempt to keep the affair a secret, but Roland’s friends quickly realize that their leader has become lovestruck, and begin to question his decisions, as they fear that danger is coming to Meijis.  And they are right to fear danger, as it is revealed that Eldred Jonas and his friends are secretly working for someone named The Good Man, who is anything but good and intends to destroy the Affiliation and the way of life in Roland’s world.  Rhea of the Coos also discovers the affair between Roland and Susan, via Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.  Cordelia, Susan’s aunt, becomes suspicious of Roland and her niece, and passes these suspicions on to Eldred Jonas.  Jonas uses this information in an attempt to begin the demise of Roland and his friends.

Cordelia

Roland, Alain and Cuthbert soon come to blows over Roland’s behavior and what Cuthbert feels to be poor decision making on Roland’s part.  However, the three also come to realize that Susan is part of their ka tet, and that she will be involved in whatever plans that are made to take on Jonas and the others working against the Affiliation.  Roland, Susan, Alain and Cuthbert meet, and agree to set fire to the oil patches in Hambry on Reaping Day, as that is when Jonas has planned his attack.  The four know it will be risky, but are willing to take on the challenge.  Roland also promises Susan that he will help her escape from Hambry, along with Sheemie, as they will be considered fugitives if the attempt is successful.

In the meantime, Jonas schemes with the mayor’s sister, Coral Hart.  Mayor Hart is then murdered by Jonas and his friends, and the murder is pinned on Roland and his friends.  Roland, Alain and Cuthbert are then arrested by Sheriff Avery, and are thrown in the Hambry jail, so that Jonas and the Good Man may continue with their plans.

John_Farson

 

Susan is able to free Roland, Cuthbert and Alain from jail, with the help of Sheemie.  The two reunite with Roland and his friends, so that they may carry out their plans to set fire to the oil patches and stop Jonas and the Good Man.

Roland leaves Susan alone with Sheemie in a hut outside of town, and he, Cuthbert and Alain begin to set fire to the oil patches, which causes quite a few explosions.  However, Susan is discovered by Jonas, who was in turn aided by Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.  Susan is arrested for treason and taken back into town to face her punishment.

Roland and his friends are successful, and are able to defeat Jonas and most of his men.  The encampment set up by the Good Man and his cohort, George Latigo, is burned to the ground by Roland, Alain and Cuthbert.  Roland also captures Maerlyn’s Grapefruit from Jonas, and experiences visions while trapped within the glass.  Roland realizes that the Dark Tower itself has become corrupted, and that he must embark on a quest to save the Tower.

dark tower

 

However, Susan Delgado is not so lucky.  Susan is burned alive for treason by a mob led by her Aunt Cordelia.  Roland witnesses this in Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, but is powerless to help Susan.  Susan’s last words before her death are those expressing her love for Roland.

Susan Delgado

Roland, Cuthbert and Alain then head back to Gilead, leaving the destruction of Meijis behind them.  Roland is still under the influence of Maerlyn’s Grapefruit even as he and his friends leave Meijis, and has become a changed man, in more ways than one.

The story then returns to the present.  Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy continue on The Path of the Beam but encounter a strange sight:  there is an image of what appears to be the castle in the Emerald City of Oz.  Roland and his friends then head into the castle and are given red shoes of various styles to fit their personalities.  Even Oy is given red booties.

wizard of oz 1

The tet then encounters some familiar faces in the “castle”:  Andrew Quick and Randall Flagg.  Andrew Quick is shot in the head and easily dispatched.  However, Randall Flagg is not so easily disposed.  Maerlyn’s Grapefruit makes another appearance, and this time traps Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy.

Eddie and the others are then subjected to one last vision of Roland’s past.  They learn that Roland committed one of the worst sins: matricide.  Rhea of the Coos followed Roland back to Gilead, and was able to trick him into (accidentally) murdering his mother, as she was seeking forgiveness from her son for her indiscretions with Marten Broadcloak.  This is something that Roland had been keeping secret from his new friends, but is brought to light by Flagg in an attempt to break up the tet and convince them to abandon their quest.  However, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy refuse to give and swear their loyalty to Roland.  The castle then disappears, and the tet wakes up about 30 miles away from their previous location.

The book ends with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy again pointed on the Path of the Beam, continuing their quest to seek the Dark Tower.

the dark tower cover_0

 


 

My Thoughts

So many thoughts on Wizard and Glass.  In fact, maybe too many thoughts.  But I will try to keep it brief (ha!).

Before I go into the love story, Roland’s past, etc, let me give some credit where credit is due.  And that credit needs to go to my main man, Eddie Dean.  After all, he saved the day.  When things looked bleak, Eddie was able reach deep down inside himself, gather up his reserves and…tell a few silly jokes!  But those silly jokes are what save the day, as they destroy Blaine and save the ka tet from certain death at the hands of an insane mono.  Roland was right to want kiss Eddie’s feet (not really, but I did get that feeling), as Eddie was the only member of the tet to come up with a solution.  And for that, Eddie deserves much commendation.

Eddie 1

 

In the previous books (The Drawing of the Three and The Wastelands), I discussed the fact that Roland the cold blooded killing machine seemed to be developing a bit of a personality (his love for Jake and his vulnerability being two great examples of this).  But Wizard and Glass will always be the book where we see major growth in Roland.  The story of his childhood in Meijis provides a lot of that growth.  But don’t discount Roland’s interactions with his companions, who have really become his peers at this point in the journey.  Roland shows even more vulnerability, especially when telling the tale of Susan Delgado and when the circumstances of his mother’s death are revealed.  Roland’s reaction and apologies to Eddie when Eddie rescues the tet from certain death on Blaine the Mono are also evidence of his humanity, and demonstrate how his new friends have humbled him.  All of this serves to emotionally invest the reader as well in Roland’s quest.  His quest not only becomes the quest of Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy, but also becomes the quest of the reader as well.

I hate love stories.  Romance sucks.  Chic flicks suck (except for The Heat, Miss Congeniality, and Legally Blonde).  Did I mention that I HATE romance?

In case you can’t tell from the above paragraph, the best part of Wizard and Glass was the romance between Roland and Susan.  No, really!  Romance when its in a Stephen King book is not like other romances…its a a cool romance!

Seriously, the romance between Roland and Susan is one of my favorite parts of this book.  And that includes almost everything about their relationship.  I loved how they met and were almost instantly attracted to each other, but still tried to stay away from each other, even as the tension kept building.  And boy, does that tension build!

roland and susan 2

But Roland and Susan are unable to stay away from each other, and finally the tension snaps.  And that snap has to be one of the hottest, sexiest snaps in anything I have ever read, far better than certain, other popular romances Fifty Shades of Grey, you have nothing on the master.  Not only is the relationship between Roland and Susan incredibly sweet (the image of the hardened gunslinger kissing away his love’s tears always gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.), it is also incredibly erotic and passionate.  Roland is not only capable of kissing away Susan’s tears, he is also capable (almost in the same breath) of kissing her on the lips until her lips bled.  And he is able to illicit sexual feelings in Susan almost from the moment they met (I loved the image of Susan “taking care of herself”, so to speak.  Its rare that female sexuality is addressed in literature, especially in a book that is supposed to be a mix of fantasy, horror and western).  Really, does any mortal man  jackass Christian Grey sure doesn’t  have anything on Roland the gunslinger?  Whew, time for me to take a cold shower!

cold shower

I mentioned that I loved almost everything about about the romance in Wizard and Glass.  But what I didn’t love was the demise of Susan Delgado.  I just can’t imagine being burned alive by a mob.  And that mob included her own aunt.  And Roland could do nothing about it, except watch in the same manner people watch car wrecks because they can’t look away.  But the part that got to me the most was Susan declaring her love for Roland as she is being burned alive.  When I first read that part in the book, I was introduced to the concept of the “ugly cry.”  Only people with ice water running through their veins could not be affected by the death of Susan Delgado.

ugly cry

Wizard and Glass is also rife with bad guys.  Eldred Jonas, George Latigo and Blaine the Mono are a few.  But lets pay homage to a baddie that does not get nearly enough press.

Yes, Rhea of the Coos.  I am talking about you.  In the past, I envisioned you as this lady:

maga-magc3b2

Hey, don’t knock it, she even has a pink dress, and I understand that pink is a very special color for you!

Although some people may have this image in their minds:

beverly hillbillies irene

Rhea of the Coos is horrible.  And manipulative.  Evil.  I can’t think of any redeemable qualities.  None at all.  In other words, a perfect villain.  One of King’s most underrated villains, in this blogger’s humble opinion.  And when King describes her “relations” with her pet snake and pet cat (and they are mutants…gross much?), I shudder.  Even the image of Rhea herself is frightening, especially when King describes her appearance after the obsession with Maerlyn’s Grapefruit has taken over her life.  I love to be scared, and Rhea of the Coos fits that bill quite nicely!

rhea of the coos


 

Ah, young love.  There is nothing quite like it.  And nothing quite so painful when it ends, as Wizard and Glass reminds us all too well.  But its still fun to revisit that feeling, if only to be reminded that some experiences are more painful that others (Wizard and Glass also drives that point home).

Well, be prepared for an interlude…

No, not an interlude from this blog, silly!  I am going on vacation soon, but I will still be visiting the world of the Dark Tower, as my next book to read and review will be The Wind Through the Keyhole, where our favorite tet will be taking a break from their journey for more story time from Roland himself!

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

batman and robin

 


 

Connections

Here we go again.  Some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in Wizard and Glass:

-After Roland and friends  leave Blaine the Mono, they encounter a thinny that seems to lead into the “real world”.  However, this world has been decimated by the super flu.  This world is none other than the world of The Stand.  The tet also sees graffiti referencing The Walkin’ Dude and Mother Abigail, both of whom are the major characters in The Stand.

Mother Abigail

-The tet also encounters a deserted park in what is Kansas in the world of The Stand.  The park has a children’s ride that is actually a train eerily similar to the train in the book owned by Eddie, Susannah and Jake.  In the book Cell, the main characters also encounter a similar ride in what is also an abandoned theme park.  Roland remarks that the deterioration of The Tower is likely responsible for such maladies as the super flu.  In  Cell, the malady experienced by the world in that book was known as The Pulse, which caused anyone using a cell phone to turn into a zombie.  This is interesting, as it implies that Mid-World, the world in The Stand and the world in Cell may actually be very close neighbors on The Tower, as all three have “moved on” in similar fashion.

RaggedyMan

Wizard and Glass is the first book to discuss the concept of a “thinny” or a deterioration between worlds that allows people to travel between worlds.  This is a concept discussed in several other King novels and short stories.  King’s most notable work featuring a thinny is the novella The Mist, where a doorway between worlds (a thinny, in other words) is accidentally opened up in a secret military experiment, and allows monsters from another dimension to invade that world, killing off most of the population.

the-mist-mons__big

Henry Dean is mentioned to have a friend by the name of Skipper Brannigan.  Skipper Brannigan is also mentioned to be an enemy of Dinky Earnshaw in the short story Everything’s Eventual.  This implies that Henry, and therefore Eddie, grew up in the same neighborhood and time period as Dinky Earnshaw.

Dinky

 

-The name of the park where Roland and his friends encounter children’s ride is Gage Park.  Of course, Gage is the name of the unfortunate little boy in Pet Sematary.

Gage 1

 

-Roland uses the alias “Will Dearborn” during his time in Meijis.  There is a character by the name of Sandy Dearborn in the novel From a Buick 8.

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings

 

-Sylvia Pittson is mentioned in Wizard and Glass.  Sylvia Pittson was the mad preacher woman who helped turn the town of Tull against Roland in The Gunslinger, causing him to kill every single inhabitant of the town, including women and children.

tull 2

-Rhea of the Coos is also mentioned in the book Eyes of the Dragon.  This seems to confirm that the world in Eyes of the Dragon is the same world that Roland inhabits.

Eyes of the Dragon 1