A Box Full of Surprises: My Review of Gwendy’s Button Box

So, we are almost halfway through 2017.

And what a hell of a year it has been.;.

Well, the above is part of it, although this has really been a hell that has been a long time in the making…

But let me get back to the topic:  Hell!

And the good kind of hell.

Not talking about the kind that involves Cenobites, either!  I am not sure that I have the stamina to take that kind of hell!

No, I am talking about…

Wait for it…

Stephen King!

I mean, duh, right?  Is there any other kind of hell to talk about in this blog?

So yes, it is a hell of a year to be a Stephen King fan.

The television series The Mist will premiere soon.

The miniseries based on the novel Mr. Mercedes will also premiere this summer.

In August, our favorite gunslinger will finally come to life!

And September will see my childhood nightmare  a certain famous (or is it infamous) homicidal clown will star in his own movie, along with the gang of bad ass kids tasked to fight this clown.

We even get a second season of the show Stranger Things on October 31st (well played Duffer brothers, well played.)  I mean, it’s Stranger Things, which is a bonus King story, amirite?

In other words, we are in the era of Stephen King 2.0.

Is it 1987, or 2017?

I mean, the hair may be smaller, but that is about the only way I can tell the difference (well, the home decor is less tacky, maybe) between the two.

Once again, King is ubiquitous.  But then again, he is The Master, and that is what Masters do, when they aren’t doing other Master-y stuff, like getting blocked on Twitter by leaders of the free world who turn orange from the overdose on covfefe.  Or eating chocolate candy at an alarming rate.

(Wait, scratch that last part.  I put a little TMI about myself in this blog again, dammit!)

But anyway, it is the era of Stephen King 2.0.  And of course this nerdy blogger could not be happier!

Because, movies and TV shows!  And merchandise!

And oh, right…books!

We still have those coming out!  Books!

Like the latest King book, aka Gwendy’s Button Box.

But this is no ordinary King book (as if his books were ordinary anyway!)

This book is actually a collaboration between The Master and…

Another Master?

I think so!

Richard Chizmar teamed with King to write this novel…a gruesome twosome!

Seriously, a double threat much?

And this is one collaboration that is hellishly awesome, and one of my favorite short works in King’s extensive library.

So, without further ado, let us get down to business, so we can review and dissect Gwendy’s Button Box.

And, as always:

 

Continue reading

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Shit Weasels and Seeing the Line: My Review of Dreamcatcher

My name is Leah and I have a confession to make.

No, not the nerd thing…you knew that!

Here goes nothing…

Gulp, I confess that…

I can’t stay away from Derry, Maine!

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Yes, I know that particular town has its issues, and that I probably cannot fix those issues, even though it is my nature to try and fix things.

Yes, the presence of a certain homicidal clown is constantly felt, despite the fact that there were brave folks who tried to put that clown to bed (or is it Hell?)

I know that Derry attracts its share of…well…the unusual (and that’s putting it mildly.)

But still, I can’t stay away.  I guess I just fall for bad…um…towns (not sure if fictional towns have a gender, so roll with me.)

Yes, I am talking about a fictional town in a Stephen King book…

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

I know, a Stephen King!  Just humor me and pretend you are at least a little surprised, eh?

And obviously, The Master has a fetish for evil towns…

I mean, he keeps coming back to Derry, right?  So that means its only sorta bad, right?

Well, as my aunt used to say:  Leopards don’t change their spots!

The homicidal clown may have been sent to whatever Hell (or other ungodly realm) from whence It came, but that doesn’t mean that Derry is on the straight and narrow now.

Nope, not at all!

Luckily, Uncle Stevie realized that there were many more stories to tell about Derry, so he decided to tell them (duh.)

And the novel Dreamcatcher is one of those stories.

NYX

NYX

Dreamcatcher is an interesting mashup, so to speak.

On the one hand, it is a story about childhood and the friends we make as children (similar to It.)

On the other hand, it is also a science fiction novel, with elements of horror.  Shit weasels, anyone?

So, with that being said, let’s take a trip back to Derry…

Hopefully, you see the line…

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction of four men:  Henry, Pete, Jonesy and Beaver.  The four men have been friends since childhood, and are still friends in the present day.  However, it is clear that the men are not ordinary, as all four seem to possess telepathic powers, which they usually use to accomplish every day tasks, such as finding lost car keys.  A fifth friend by the name of Douglas is mentioned, but it seems that the men have fallen out of touch with Douglas.  Once a year, all four friends gather at a cabin in the woods they call Hole in the Wall, where they go hunting and reminisce about their childhood.

One spring, Jonesy is hit by a car while crossing the street.  The accident is almost fatal, but Jonesy is able to to make enough of a recovery by winter, and is still able to take his annual vacation with his friends.

The trip to Hole in the Wall starts off ordinarily enough, but things quickly become strange.  One morning, Pete and Henry head to the grocery store to pick up supplies, while Beaver also heads out on an errand.  Jonesy is left alone at the cabin, where he almost shoots what he first thinks to be a deer.  However, Jonesy quickly discovers that his target is not a deer, but a man named Rick McCarthy.  It turns out that Rick became lost in the woods, and has found his way to Hole in the Wall.  Jonesy takes the stranger in, offering him food and shelter.

Jonesy then finds out that Rick is no ordinary lost traveler.  Rick appears to have traveled 50 miles in the course of what he believes to be one day, and Jonesy later finds out that Rick thinks that the date is the date three days prior.  Rick is also missing several teeth, and does not appear to notice that he is missing these teeth.  Additionally, Rick appears to be extremely flatulent, and his burps and farts have an unusual smell.

Beaver returns, and Jonesy offers Rick the spare bedroom so he can get some rest.  After Rick retires, Jonesy and Beaver discuss what to do about their guest, and agree that they need to get help for him, and quickly.

In the meantime, Henry and Pete are driving back to the cabin from the grocery store.  We learn that Henry has been suffering depression, and is considering suicide.  The men also discuss some rumors heard at the grocery store, which include stories about missing hunters and bright lights in the sky.  However, the talk is interrupted when Henry swerves to avoid hitting a woman standing in the middle of the road, which causes the vehicle to crash, due to the serious weather conditions.

Pete and Henry survive the accident, although Pete is seriously injured and his leg is likely broken.  Pete and Henry try to speak to the woman they narrowly missed hitting, but the woman appears to be almost comatose, although she does inquire about someone named Rick.  And like Rick, she also suffers from extreme flatulence accompanied by an unusual odor.

As Henry attempts to help the woman, he and Pete see strange lights in the sky.  The woman becomes hysterical, crying “they’re back.”  Finally, Henry is able to call her down, and the three head off to find some sort of shelter from the impending blizzard.  However, the woman collapses, and Henry is forced to carry her to shelter.  While they are walking to shelter, Pete and Henry begin to discuss a fifth childhood friend, whom they refer to as “Duddits.”  Duddits was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, and the men have been thinking a lot about Duddits recently, for some reason.

Back at the cabin, Jonesy and Beaver play cards and wait for Henry and Pete to return.  Their game is interrupted when Beaver steps outside, and notices what appears to be a large group of forest animals in mass exodus from the forest, along with strange lights.  Things become stranger when they return to the cabin, and notice that Rick is no longer in bed.  They also notice blood on the way to the bathroom, and discover that Rick is in the bathroom and in distress.

Outside, there are helicopters in the sky.  Beaver tries to signal for help, but is told that the area is under quarantine, and that the situation will be resolved in 24-48 hours.

Henry attempts to walk back to Hole in the Wall to seek help.  He leaves Pete with the woman they found on the side of the road.  They believe the woman’s name to be Becky, although they are not entirely sure of that fact.  Even though Pete is responsible for watching Becky, he decides to head back to the vehicle to retrieve the beer he purchased earlier.  Both men begin to recall they day they met their friend Douglas Cavill, or Duddits, many years ago.

One day, when all four boys were in junior high, they walk home together from school.  There is nothing unusual about the day, and the boys talk about the usual things that junior high boys talk about.  However, their talk is interrupted when they hear the heartbreaking sounds of someone crying.

The boys find the source of the crying:  a young man who is obviously mentally handicapped and being bullied by some of the students who attend the local high school.  One of the bullies is Richie Grenedeau, who had played quarterback for the high school football team, but was allegedly removed from the position due to injury.  The boys become angered by the bullying, and resolve to stand up for the young man.

Pete, Jonesy, Henry and Beaver take a stand against Richie Grenedeau and his friends, and the bullies back off.  The four boys learn the name of the young man they rescued from the bullying:  Douglas Cavill, who is nicknamed Duddits.  Duddits is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome and attends a nearby special school.  The boys return Duddits to his home and parents, and a friendship is begun.  Nearly every day, for the remainder of their school years, the boys accompany Duddits on his walk to and from school, to protect him from the bullies.  They also spend time with Duddits, and include him in their activities whenever possible.  However, Pete, Jonesy, Henry and Beaver grow up, and become distanced from Duddits, who remains a perpetual child.

The story flashes back to the present.  Jonesy and Beaver break down the door to the bathroom, and discover that McCarthy has fallen into the bathtub.  McCarthy is now dead, with a large hole in his backside.  There also appears to be something living in the toilet that has exited McCarthy.  Beaver immediately sits down on the toilet to trap the creature, and Jonesy goes to look for tape in an attempt to contain the creature.

Beaver drops his toothpicks that he has the habit of chewing, especially when stressed.  He reaches down to grab them, and this proves to be a fatal mistake.  The creature escapes from the toilet, and immediately attacks Beaver.

Jonesy returns to the house and finds Beaver battling a creature resembling a parasite.  Beaver loses the battle when the creature attacks and kills him.  Jonesy tries to flee, but sees a creature that resembles an alien from a science fiction TV show standing in bathroom, along with the creature that killed Beaver.  Jonesy is then possessed by the alien-like creature, and is unable to escape.

In the meantime, Beaver’s surviving friends receive a telepathic signal that Beaver is now dead.  These friends include Duddits, who is still living with his mother in Derry, Maine, the boys’ childhood home.  Duddits is also terminally ill with leukemia, and is distressed to find out that his friend is now dead.

The story switches to the point of view of two military men, Owen Underhill and Abraham Kurtz.  Underhill and Kurtz’s unit has been dispatched to Maine to deal with the alien invasion.  We learn that “the grays” are telepathic, and transmit a sort of fungus, that when inhaled by humans, also makes humans telepathic, at least temporarily.  Underhill, Kurtz and the rest of the unit do battle with the aliens, even though the aliens claim to surrender.

Henry finally makes it back to Hole in the Wall.  There, he discovers the body of his friend Beaver, along with the parasite-like creature that killed Beaver.  Henry is forced to battle the creature, which is still alive, and sets fire to the cabin to destroy the creature, along with the eggs it has laid.  While he is there, Henry somehow deduces that Pete is now dead (due to a battle with a similar creature) and that something has also happened to Jonesy.

After destroying the cabin, Henry heads back to the site of the vehicle accident.  There, he discovers the body of the woman who he almost hit earlier.  The woman also appears to have been attacked by the creature.  Henry notices that she is covered by a reddish gold fungus, but that the fungus appears to be dying.

Henry decides to attempt to walk back to civilization.  As he is walking, he again begins to think of his friend Duddits.  However, as he attempts to reach civilization, Henry is accosted by the soldiers that have been dispatched to handle the crisis in Maine.

We learn that the body of Jonesy has been possessed by one of the aliens, whom Jonesy thinks of as Mr. Gray.  Jonesy experiences a series of long flashbacks, which include the accident he suffered earlier that year, along with the time he spent in the hospital.  Jonesy is able to recover some memories:  he remembers that he thought that he saw Duddits that day, and that is why he was not paying attention when he crossed the street, along with the fact that he nearly died in the ambulance.  Somehow, Jonesy’s accident relates to why the alien creature is able to take over his body.  Mr. Gray is able to kidnap Pete, and force Pete to help him in his mission.

Henry arrives at the base that the military has set up.  Kurtz is in charge of the operation, but appears to be mentally unstable. Kurtz tells Underhill of the cover story he will spin in regards to the alien invasion, but really intends to kill all the civilians being held captive at the compound, along with Underhill.

Jonesy, whose body has been stolen by Mr. Gray, steals a vehicle from an unsuspecting driver.  Mr. Gray forces the driver to stab himself in the eye, even though he has already hijacked the man’s vehicle.  Jonesy attempts to hide all of his memories of Derry and Duddits from Mr. Gray, as he suspects that the alien has a dangerous plan involving Derry.

Jonesy also recalls another incident from his childhood.  Shortly after meeting Duddits, Jonesy and the rest of his friends make their first trip to Hole in the Wall, where they accompany Beaver’s father on a hunting expedition.  One night, all four boys have the same disturbing dream:  they dream that Richie Grenedeau has died in a car accident, and that they were responsible for the death.  When the boys awaken, they try to convince themselves it was just a dream, but they are not successful. The boys place a telephone call to Duddits, who is also distressed because he experienced the same dream, which has actually come true.  Even then, Jonesy and his friends realize that Duddits has somehow gifted them with the powers of telepathy.

Henry is able to pull Underhill aside, and tells Underhill that Kurtz has something sinister in mind, and begs Underhill to help him and the other civilians.  Henry explains to Underhill that the aliens have passed on an organism known as “byrus”, and that there are different strains of the byrus.  The worst strain is the one that afflicted McCarthy and his friend Becky, which is the case of symbiosis gone wrong.  However, most strains of byrus are harmless, although they do result in the carrier experiencing low-grade telepathy.  Henry tells Underhill that he is different, due to his childhood experiences, but that Jonesy is the most different of all four of them, and that is what poses a potential threat.  Finally, Underhill agrees to help Henry, so that that Jonesy may be rescued from whatever has taken over his body.

Jonesy continues to struggle for control over his body from Mr. Gray.  Finally, he comes to a sort of compromise with Mr. Gray and agrees to help him.  Jonesy realizes that Mr. Gray has stolen another truck which contains a passenger:  a dog infected with the byrus.

Back in Derry, Duddits has also sensed the death of his friend Pete, which upsets him.  However, the next morning, Duddits’ mother Roberta finds him dressed, and demanding his old lunchbox, as if he is awaiting the arrival of his friends, as he had in the days of his childhood.

Henry and Underhill use their telepathic powers to awaken the other civilians, who are asleep in a barn that is part of a makeshift military base.  They warn the other civilians of what Kurtz intends to do, and the civilians rebel against Kurtz and his soldiers.  Some are killed, but some are able to escape.  Henry and Underhill also escape, and head to Derry to meet up with Duddits, who can help them rescue Jonesy.

Underhill and Henry continue on their journey to Derry, stealing a vehicle from some young men.  Henry recalls another incidence from his childhood, when he and his friends were able to find a missing girl, with the help of Duddits.  Henry realizes that Duddits’ is a dreamcatcher of sorts, due to his telepathic abilities.

Henry then receives a telepathic communication from Jonesy.  Jonesy is frightened, and warns Henry that Mr. Gray has something dangerous planned.  Henry further realizes that Jonesy’s brain is different due to his accident and near death experience, which has allowed Mr. Gray to take over his body.  Mr. Gray continues to behave erratically, murdering a state trooper.

Kurtz has discovered that Underhill is AWOL, and begins to look for him.  Kurtz contacts Underhill on the radio to attempt to persuade him to abandon his mission with Henry, but Underhill refuses.

With the help of Duddits, Jonesy is able to trick Mr. Gray into consuming raw bacon, which makes him ill, buying more time for Henry, Underhill and Duddits.  Mr. Gray continues his journey to Boston, where he plans on unleashing the byrus into the water supply, by using the infected dog as a vessel.

Eventually, Mr. Gray abandons the vehicle he is driving, and attempts to use the dog to contaminate the water supply in Boston.  However, with the help of Duddits and Henry, Mr. Gray is defeated, and Jonesy is in possession of his body again.  Duddits pays dearly for his efforts, dying shortly afterwards.  Before he dies, Duddits tells Henry that he loves him.

In the meantime, Underhill shoots the weasel-like creature that emerges from the dog, killing it.  Underhill is then shot by Kurtz, who has caught up to Henry and his friends.  Henry then defeats the Kurtz and the remaining soldiers, rescuing Jonesy from certain death.

Several months later, Henry is visiting Jonesy at Jonesy’s summer cottage.  Both men have recovered from their ordeal, physically at least.  Duddits’ mother grieves the loss of her son but has moved on with her life.  The men muse about their experience, even though they feel lucky to have survived it, along with wondering when the planet will again be visited by extraterrestrial beings.


My Thoughts

Ok, let me get one thing out of my system…

Actually, I probably don’t want to get this one one thing out of my system, since that means certain death, along with the WORST FLATULENCE EVER!

byrus

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am referring to the shit weasels.

(In case you can’t tell, I had to work the “shit weasels” into the title of this review.  It just wouldn’t be right other wise.  You’re welcome!)

Shit weasels.  How much more eloquent can you get?  Where on Earth (or is it in Hell?) does The Master come with up with this stuff?

King has said that he is not too proud to go for the gross out.  And we are reminded this in Dreamcatcher.  Again and again, we are reminded.

While I am not that much of a fan of the gross-out in the horror story, it does have its place.  Mostly, the gross out is funny.  And Dreamcatcher is also a book with a lot of funny.

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And the shit weasels are just one of the funny things in Dreamcatcher.  I know that King was on LOTS of drugs when he wrote this one (more on that later), so often I wonder if one of the side effects of those drugs were “Caution:  taking this and writing a novel about aliens will likely make the user write about farts, burps and other bodily functions not discussed in polite society?”

Speaking of funny, let’s talk about the Beave for a moment…

Beaver isn’t described as being particularly attractive, at least in the physical sense.  But when I evaluate my book boyfriends, I try not to be so superficial, you know?  Otherwise, I might miss out on a really great romance!

Beaver 1

Yes, Beaver is the man in this book.  He is killed off pretty quickly, but still manages to make quite the impression.

First off, Beaver is funny.  Any book boyfriend of mine must have a sense of humor.  That is a prerequisite for all of my literary relationships, no exceptions.

And Beaver does have quite the sense of humor.  And he’s not afraid to sprinkle a copious  a fair amount of profanity to get his point across.  “Kiss my bender.”  “Fuck me Freddy.”  “Fuck-a-row.”  “Fuck-a-ree.”  All Beaver-isms.  And I unabashedly use them as part of my vocabulary.  After all, there is nothing like a good swear fest, Beaver style, after a frustrating day at work.  Or sitting in traffic.  Or standing in line at a crowded restaurant.  Or sitting.  Or standing…well, you get the point!

But perhaps, most importantly, Beaver has a good heart.  There was truly a beautiful soul behind the glasses and the potty mouth that would make a drunk sailor blush.  He stood up for someone who was helpless and being bullied.  And he comforted that someone by singing him a lullaby…swoon!

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I think that’s when Beaver had my heart: after he rescued Duddits (with the help of his friends) and sung to him.  And “fit neek” (fixed Duddie’s sneaker, in case your Duddits-to-English dictionary is not working.)

My only complaint about Beaver is that he left so fast…damn you, errant toothpicks and shit weasels that can’t stay in the toilet like a good shit weasel!

I also loved the not so subtle jab at Dubbya, aka Okefenokee.  The description of Okefenokee and his actions after the alien invasion of Maine was eerily similar to what happened right after 9/11.  I know that this book was written before the 9/11 tragedy, but The Master’s description of The Leader (well, the leader at time, anyway) was so close to what happened after 9/11, it made me wonder if all those painkillers had perhaps given him some kind of clairvoyance…hey, anything is possible, right?

As stated before, Dreamcatcher was the first book that King wrote after his vehicle accident.

And it shows…

Not that this a bad thing.  Dreamcatcher is still an enjoyable book.  But, it gets a bit un-wieldly in spots.  It’s almost as if the painkillers took over in those spots.  And the painkillers do not have an eighth of the talent possessed by The Master!

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.

I did think that this book dragged at parts, especially in the “present day” setting.  And the ending was a bit anti-climactic.  Really, the best the alien could come up with was to use a dog to contaminate the water supply?  And that alien seems like he kind of sucked at being an alien, since Jonesy and Henry were able to defeat it so quickly, practically with their eyes closed…

However, this book was saved by the good parts.  One of these parts was the flashbacks to the boys’ childhood.

I loved the description of the friendship between the four (later to be five boys).  The way King described, I felt like I was right there, in the thick of it.  Even the mundane details, like how the boys get out of school one fateful afternoon, and are eager to catch a glimpse of *a kitty cat*, aka female nether regions.  That made me laugh, and it brought me back to my own childhood, when things seemed to be so much simpler.

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Speaking of nostalgia, part of Dreamcatcher is set in Derry.

Yes, that would be the same Derry that boasts a homicidal clown as a tourist attraction.  The same Derry where a bad ass man named Ralph Roberts saved the universe single handed-ly, but did not even receive a lousy t-shirt.  That Derry!

I loved how King was able to work in elements of his books set in Derry (It, mainly) but was still able to tell an entirely new story.

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Dreamcatcher and It are similar tales, at least on the surface:  both deal with friendship, small towns and bullying.  However, that is about all the two books have in common.  In one, the friendship is formed because an outside force uses the children (and later the adults) to defeat an evil monster.  In the other, the friends are drawn together first, because they have common interests and so forth, and then later used to defeat evil (Richie Grenedeau as children, alien invaders as adults.)  In Dreamcatcher, the friendship really is lifelong, unlike in It, where the friendship is so brief and only serves the purpose of defeating Pennywise the Clown.

In Dreamcatcher, the threat of Pennywise the Clown never really seems to be far away. Henry and his friends may not have had the misfortune of being children during one of the “cycles”, but Pennywise and the town of Derry were a constant presence in this book.  I loved the references to the missing children in Derry, and how it was a bigger problem in Derry than most other places.  I also loved Jonesy’s recollection of the big storm in 1985.  As any King fan knows, that was the year that the Losers Club laid waste to Pennywise (maybe.)  It was such a funny feeling to get the perspective of someone who was not involved in that battle, but was still a part of Derry.

Oh, and “Pennywise Lives.”  Did anyone else shudder when Jonesy found that graffiti, or was that just me?  Someone in Derry has a sick sense of humor!  Or there is the alternative:  Pennywise really does live!  Both of these are pretty scary, actually.

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And before I wrap this review up, let’s give someone his due…

Yes, that someone would be Duddits.  And I cannot give enough accolades to poor Duddits.

There was so much to love about Duddits in this book.

First of all, there was Duddits himself.  I have a friend who refer’s to those with Down’s Syndrome as beautiful souls, and she could not be more right in that statement.  Like Henry, Jonesy, Pete and Beaver, I felt that all was right in the world when Duddits showed up on the page.  How could anyone not be happy when he/she was in the presence of Duddits?  Just reading about Duddits made my day much better.

It is no secret that King writes about man’s inhumanity to man.  Books such as It, Under the Dome, Hearts in Atlantis and even the Dark Tower series are filled with examples of this.

Rennie

So, the uninitiated may be surprised to learn that King is equally adept at writing about the opposite: his characters can also treat each other wonderfully, and go above and beyond in the name love and friendship.

Duddits and his friendship with Henry, Beaver, Jonesy and Pete is a prime example of King’s ability to write about the good that some are capable of.

Very early on in the book, we get a glimpse of a good deed:  four adolescent boys do an extremely brave thing and stand up to the neighborhood bully on behalf of someone who appears to be much weaker.  This is not something we would think of most adolescents as capable of, not even Henry and his friends.  After all, before the encounter with Richie Grenedeau, Henry and his friends are focused on viewing certain parts of the female anatomy, not confronting a bully who turns out to be a coward.  But just like that, the tone of the story changes, and I knew that these guys were something special.

And I was right:  all five were something special.  The boys continue their friendship with Duddits.  In junior high and high school, all that matters to most is fitting in and peer acceptance.  However, the friendship with Duddits transcends those barriers, and enriches the life of Duddits, who experiences something he was previously lacking in his life:  acceptance.  Henry, Beaver, Pete and Jonesy all have their lives enriched by the friendship with Duddits as well, referring to Duddits as their “finest hour.”  Their friendship with Duddits is the glue that holds them together even into adulthood, when most childhood friendships slowly fade away.

Even in adulthood, Duddits is still…well, Duddits.  The others grew up and moved on, but Duddits remained a child.  However, Henry is able to pick up right where he left off, so to speak, and the old bond is renewed.  In fact, Duddits is overjoyed to reunite with Henry and have one last adventure with him, while Henry is overcome with guilt for not staying in touch.  But that doesn’t matter to Duddits, as Duddits does not think in those terms and seems to be incapable of anger or resentment.

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Duddits is truly the hero of the book.  He makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to help his friends one last time.  He saves the lives of his friends Jonesy and Henry, along with (potentially) the lives of thousands of others.  And there is no resentment or anger.  Only love.  After all, that is what drives a hero:  love.


So that’s it for Dreamcatcher.  Join me next month as we take a trip next door…well, maybe not literally next door, but to a world nearby on The Tower when I review and dissect The Eyes of the Dragon!

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

batman and robin


Connections

Like all of King’s books, Dreamcatcher is set squarely in the King universe.  Here are some of the connections I noticed:

-The most obvious connection is the fact that Dreamcatcher is set in the town of Derry.  Derry is central to several King novels, including It, Bag of Bones, 11/22/63 and Insomnia.

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-Jonesy finds graffiti on a statue stating “Pennywise lives.”  Pennywise the Clown was the monster faced by the Losers Club in the novel It, and was supposedly defeated in 1985.

derry connection

-The storm of 1985 is mentioned.  This storm took place when the Losers Club faced the monster It in final battle.

Pennywise 19

-Jonesey’s mind trick to escape Mr. Gray after Mr. Gray takes over his body is somewhat similar to Susannah’s method of dealing with the entity Mia in The Song of Susannah.

Song of Susannah 1

-Duddits possesses PSI abilities.  Several novels and short stories deal with this topic and contain characters who possess these abilities, including Carrie, Low Men in Yellow Coats (of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Everything’s Eventual (part of a collection of the same name), Firestarter and the Dark Tower series.

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-A sign is seen for the town of Jerusalem’s Lot.  This is the location for the novel ‘Salem’s Lot.

Salem's lot 2

Shawshank State Prison is mentioned.  This is the main setting for the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which is part of the collection Different Seasons.

Red and Andy

-Duddits is somewhat similar to the characters Tom Cullen (The Stand) and Sheemie (Wizard and Glass), in that he suffers from a mental “handicap” but also possesses extraordinary abilities.

Nick

Dreamcatcher is not the only novel featuring extraterrestrial visitors.  Tommyknockers and Under the Dome also deal with this topic.

tommyknockers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up With Travelin’ Jack: My Review of Black House

Throughout our lives, we meet people.

This seems to be especially true in childhood.  After all, we go to school.  And we play sports, go to camp, etc.  And live in a neighborhood, surrounded by other people, many of whom are families with children.

It’s easy to meet other people when you are a child.  In fact, you meet people, and they come in and out of your life.  Sometimes, it’s the ones who are in your life for the shortest amount of time who have the most impact.  I met so many people at all those nerdy summer camp programs that I attended who were the greatest, but I only had the privilege to know them for all of two weeks, at the most.  Those two weeks seemed like a lifetime to me, but a lifetime that flew by too quickly.

Sometimes, I think about those people I met in childhood, especially the ones who I only knew for such a short period of time.  And I wonder what happened to them, and what kind of adults they turned out to be.  Hopefully, the awesome children turned out to be even more awesome adults.  I would like to believe that, any way.

One of my favorite characters from any Stephen King novel (yeah, you knew where this was going, don’t act surprised) is Jack Sawyer.

wolf and jack

I first met Jack Sawyer when I read The Talisman.  And I loved him.  He was the coolest, even at the tender age of 12.  And was more bad ass than people three times his age.  I would want Jack in my corner any day of the week.

However, like the cool people I met at summer camp, Jack exited my life too quickly.  And I wondered what had become of him.  What kind of person had he grown up to be?  Hopefully, he was even more awesome.

Well, The Master and his cohort, Peter Straub, grew curious about Jack as well.  And they decided to answer this question with a follow up to The Talisman:  Black House.

black house 3

Now, Black House may be a follow up to The Talisman, but make no mistake about it, it is so much more than a “sequel” (really, the word sequel has four letters in it, I am sure) to The Talisman.

Black House adds to the story of Jack Sawyer and to the mythos of that awesome place known as “The Territories,” although it brings up A LOT more questions than it answers (more on that later.)

Not surprisingly, Black House is also connected to The Dark Tower series, as do most of King’s books.  But, like Insomnia, Black House could almost be considered to be another Dark Tower book, without the words “Dark Tower” anywhere in the title or description of the book.

Plus, Black House is just plain scary!  Some of the things that happen in Black House are just entirely too plausible, and no one does “real life” horror better than Sai King, in my opinion.

So sit down, put your seat belts on, and join me, as I light out for The Territories once again, as I recap and review Black House.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a town by the name of French Landing, Wisconsin.  We realize very quickly that something out of the ordinary has been occurring in French Landing, as three children have been murdered by a serial killer calling himself The Fisherman.  The residents of French Landing are frightened, and the police department is coming under scrutiny, as the murders are unsolved.

We are then introduced to several characters.  The first is an old man named Charles “Burny” Burnside.  Burnside is a resident of a facility named Maxton Eldercare, as he supposedly suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, although Burnside sometimes seems to experience extended bouts of lucidity.  Burnside is a ward of the state, as he claims to have no surviving family and no memory of his past.  Maxton Eldercare is run by a man named Chipper Maxton.  Chipper is a corrupt man, stealing from the residents of the facility, including Burnside.

Dale Gilbertson is another character we are introduced to.  Dale is the Chief of Police in French Landing, and is being heavily scrutinized due to the unsolved murders committed by The Fisherman.  Dale understands that he is out of his depth, and has requested help from a friend of his, Jack Sawyer.  Jack first met Dale four years prior, when he collaborated with Jack to solve a series of unsolved murders in California, which turned out to have a connection to French Landing.  Jack has refused to help, much to Dale’s frustration, as Jack is now retired from police work.

We are also introduced to Fred Marshall, father to Tyler Marshall and husband to Judy Marshall.  Tyler is a seemingly ordinary child, enjoying his summer vacation.  Judy, however, is not ordinary, as she slowly seems to be losing her grip on reality.  Fred is concerned, but pushes aside his worry for his wife, as he does not think that her problems are that serious.

Finally, we are introduced to Jack Sawyer.  When Jack collaborated with his friend Dale, he fell in love with French Landing, and later purchased a home that had once been owned by Dale’s family.  Eventually, Jack moved into the home, but spends most of his time in isolation, despite Dale’s attempts to get to know his friend better.

The book also introduces us to a man named Henry Leyden.  Henry works as a DJ with multiple on-air personas.  Henry is the uncle to Dale Gilbert and a friend of Jack Sawyer.  Henry is also blind, but his other senses are acute, to compensate for the blindness.

Lately, strange things have been happening to Jack.  A robin’s egg mysteriously appears in his refrigerator, and he also sees robin feathers around his house.  Jack begins to question his grip on reality, especially when he tries to call his mother, who has been dead for several years.

One morning, Jack picks Henry up from work.  While driving and listening to one of Henry’s CD’s, they see a group of boys.  One of the boys makes an obscene gesture to Henry and Jack, expressing his feelings on the music.  Another young boy seems to approve of the music.  Henry also tries to persuade Jack to assist Dale with the investigation of the child murders, but again, Jack declines, reminding Henry that he is retired.  Henry also says that he has experienced some odd occurrences lately:  he thinks that he has heard his deceased wife walking around the house.  Jack drops Henry off at his home, and dismisses the occurrences as a manifestation of Henry’s grief.

Later that day, Tyler Marshall is riding his bike with his friends.  He falls behind his friends, who abandon him.  Just outside the Maxton Eldercare Facility, Tyler encounters a talking crow that calls itself “Gorg.”  Tyler is entranced by the bird, and moves closer to it.  This allows Charles Burnside, who has momentarily regained his senses, to abduct Tyler.  Tyler’s friends notice that he is lost and that his bicycle has been abandoned, but decide not to say anything, as they fear they will be implicated in his abduction.

In the meantime, Judy Marshall, Tyler’s mother, continues to lose her grip on reality.  Judy then receives a mysterious package at her door.  When she opens the package, she finds a note stating that her son’s kidney has been eaten, along with human organs of some kind.  Judy becomes hysterical, and a neighbor calls her husband Fred at work.

Fred returns home, and finds that Judy has seemingly gone mad, destroying Tyler’s bedroom on her rampage.  Fred is finally able to calm Judy down, and begins to worry that Tyler is indeed missing, as Judy has said.  The local police also find Tyler’s bicycle, and Dale Gilbert worries that The Fisherman has claimed another victim.

Fred awakens from an afternoon nap to find his wife choking on scraps of paper.  Fred is able to rescue Judy from choking, but Tyler still has not returned home.  This prompts Fred to call the police, and find out that Tyler’s bike was found abandoned in front of the nursing home.

That afternoon, Henry Leyden does a DJ gig at Maxton Eldercare Facility.  He takes notice of Charles Burnside, who behaves unpleasantly, and seems to babble some nonsensical words.

That evening, Henry persuades Jack to speak to Fred in regards to the Fisherman’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Tyler.  Jack and reluctantly agrees to assist in the investigation, and to also speak to Judy, who has been institutionalized.  Jack also questions Tyler’s friends, and finds out that they abandoned Tyler and noticed that he had left his bicycle by the nursing home, but did not actually witness the abduction.  One of Tyler’s friends also tells Jack that he saw black crow feathers by the nursing home.

Jack also has a strange dream that night.  In the dream, he encounters Speedy Parker, someone he knew as a child.  Speedy commands Jack to assist in the investigation, as an entity called The Crimson King has kidnapped Tyler, because Tyler is a Breaker, with the ability to help The Crimson King commit a terrible deed.

The following morning, Jack awakens and finds a mysterious package on his front porch.  The package contains a sneaker, which also contains the severed foot of a child.  Jack realizes that this is probably from one of the victims of The Fisherman.  This causes Jack to remember an incidence from his childhood that he had tried to forget.

Jack then “flips” to another world, one he knows as The Territories, from his childhood.  This world is a fantastical version of ours, and Jack’s memories continue to awaken.  While in this alternate world, Jack discover’s Tyler’s baseball cap, and realizes that Tyler is probably still alive, and that The Fisherman wanted Jack to find the cap.

When he returns to his own world, Jack finds a note on the mysterious package, advising him to try a place called Ed’s Eats and Dogs.  Jack calls Henry and tells him about the package and the note, and Henry agrees to take Jack to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, which was a food stand that is now closed.

The French Landing Police Department also receives a call from someone identifying himself as The Fisherman that morning.  The caller instructs the police to also go to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, and Dale Gilbertson and his officers proceed to do just that.

Jack receives a call on his cell phone from Dale, and learns that Dale is also headed to the abandoned food stand.  They meet at the food stand, and Jack shows Dale the package sent to him by The Fisherman, and Dale tells Jack about the phone call from The Fisherman.

In the meantime, the officer who received the call from The Fisherman tells his wife, who tells her friends about the call.  Soon, several people in town find out about the call.  One of these people is Beezer St. Pierre.  Beezer is part of a motorcycle club in town known as The Thunder Five, and is also the father to Amy St. Pierre, one of the victims of The Fisherman.  Soon, Beezer and his friends Mouse, Doc, Sonny and Kaiser Bill also head to the abandoned eatery.

Wendell Green, a reporter for the local newspaper, also heads to the eatery, in the hopes that he will find his next story.

At the investigation scene, chaos erupt, mostly due to Wendell Green’s attempt to distract Jack and the police.  Beezer and his friends assist Jack and the police in dispersing the crowd, but the state police also arrive at the scene, and tell Dale that he can no longer work the Fisherman case.

That afternoon, Jack and Fred visit Judy in the mental hospital.  Jack is struck by how beautiful Judy is.  Judy also knows of the alternate reality Jack calls The Territories, and says that she is able to communicate with a woman who lives in that reality.  Judy also tells Jack that The Fisherman has stashed Tyler in that reality, and that Tyler is in grave danger, but still alive, and that Jack is the only one who can rescue him.  On the way home, Jack shows Fred the baseball cap that he found in The Territories, and confirms that it belongs to Tyler.  Jack also promises to do whatever he can to rescue Tyler.

That night, an ominous fog covers the town of French Landing.  Charles Burnside escapes the Maxton Eldercare Facility, and sneaks into the boarding house next door.  He breaks into the room of a man named George Potter, and plants several pictures of the Fisherman’s victims in the closet.  The pictures are discovered by another resident of the boarding house, and a call is placed to the local police.

Jack, Dale, Wendell and Beezer all find out about the pictures in George Potter’s room, and all head to the police station.  Dale places Potter under arrest, and books him in a holding cell.

In the meantime, the mysterious crow visits Tansy Freeneau, the mother to Irma Freeneau, one of the victims of The Fisherman.  The crow somehow can speak, and tells Tansy about George Potter’s arrest.  Tansy rounds up a group of locals from a bar, and all head to the police station.

When Jack arrives at the police station, he receives a call from Speedy, someone he knew as a child.  Speedy tells Jack that an angry mob is headed to the police station, and that Jack needs to meet him in the men’s bathroom.

Shortly after the angry mob arrives, Jack steps out into the parking lot.  He is holding a bouquet of flowers and allows Tansy to smell the flowers.  The smell of the flowers calms Tansy, along with most of the crowd.  Jack calls for someone to take Tansy home, and the crowd dissipates.

Jack questions George Potter, and determines that George is not guilty.  George states that he was a contractor many years ago, and engaged in some shady dealings.  One of the people George engaged in deals with was someone named Carl, who now happens to be living in French Landing.  George thinks that the man now goes by the name Charles Burnside, and that the man had a house built in French Landing many years ago.  George does not know where the house is located, but tells Jack of many strange things that happened while the house was being built, such as the workers being injured and even losing their shadows.  Jack determines that this man is most certainly The Fisherman, but is unable to obtain any more information from either George or Dale Gilbertson.

The next morning, Jack checks on Tansy Freeneau, who appears to succumbing to madness, even though the flowers from The Territories that Jack had given her the night before seem to have a calming effect on her. Jack finds out from Tansy that she received a visit from Gorg, and Tansy tells Jack that Gorg is actually a raven from another world. Jack then goes to a local bar called The Sand Bar, where he had promised to meet Beezer and the rest of The Thunder Five.  While Jack is waiting for Beezer and his friends, he notices that the movie playing on the television is one that had starred his deceased mother.

When the bikers arrive at the bar, Jack asks them if they know anything about a mysterious house in French Landing.  One of the bikers, Mouse, recognizes the house, and tells Jack that it even has a name:  Black House.  Mouse also tells Jack and his friends that he and a girlfriend, Nancy, were actually in the vicinity of the house a few years prior, having accidentally discovered it on a bike ride.  Right away, Mouse realized that something was not right, and managed to escape with Nancy.  Mouse survived the experience, but Nancy was not so lucky.  Soon after, Nancy becomes extremely ill and tragically dies from her illness.  Jack warns Beezer to not get too close to the house, but to check it out, and that they will meet up again later.

Beezer and the rest of the bikers set off that afternoon to find Black House.  Finally, they are able to find it, and right away, things begin to go wrong.  They notice a change in the air, which seems to become poisonous.  They also encounter a creature that appears to be a dog, but attacks the bikers.  All of the men suffer from headaches and vomiting, and experience unpleasant memories from their past.   They are finally able to escape the dog and Black House, but Mouse is bitten by the dog, and Doc (Beezer’s right hand man) notices that the wound is severe and unlike an ordinary dog bite.

In the meantime, Jack heads to the mental hospital to visit Judy Marshall.  Jack realizes that Judy’s counterpart in The Territories, her Twinner, has been trying to communicate with her, and her Twinner’s attempts have become more urgent, due to the situation with The Fisherman.  Jack also suspects that The Fisherman has a Territories Twinner, and that creature is probably holding Tyler Marshall hostage.  Jack also finds out that The Fisherman has sent a tape of himself tormenting Judy to Judy at the hospital, which has caused Judy to regress to her previous state.

When he arrives at the hospital, Jack encounters Wendell Green, who has tracked him down.  Wendell tries to sabotage Jack’s attempts to visit Judy, but Judy’s doctor agrees to allow Jack to see Judy, for a short time.

Jack speaks to Judy, and she tells him that he must travel to The Territories to save Tyler.  Jack does just that, arriving at The Territories once again.  When he arrives in the other world, Jack finds himself in the company of Judy’s Territories Twinner:  a woman named Sophie.  Almost instantly, Jack falls in love with Sophie.

Wendell Green has also traveled to The Territories with Jack, as he was spying on Jack and Judy at the mental hospital.  Wendell is shell-shocked, and unable to comprehend just what has happened to him.

Shortly after his arrive to The Territories, Jack encounters an old friend:  Parkus, the man who is responsible for law and order in The Territories.  Parkus is the Twinner to Jack’s friend Speedy.  Parkus tells Jack that Tyler is still alive and Jack may be able to still rescue him, but that there are much bigger issues at hand.  Parkus then tells Jack and Sophie that the entity known as the Crimson King has gathered a group of children with psionic abilities that he calls Breakers.  The Breakers have been assembled to help destroy The Dark Tower, which is the nexus of all existence. Parkus tells Jack that The Fisherman does not have a Territories Twinner.  Rather, The Fisherman is possessed by a being from another world, which allows him to commit his horrific acts.  The being is a creature known as Mr. Munshun, or sometimes Mr. Monday.  Mr. Munshun allows Charles Burnside to murder all of the children he wants, but if the children possess psionic abilities, they are to be turned over to Mr. Munshun and The Crimson King at once.  Tyler is special, as he has the ability to become the most power of all Breakers.

Parkus tells Jack that he must find out the exact identity of The Fisherman, so that he can get to Mr. Munshun and rescue Tyler Marshall, as well as foil the plans of the Crimson King.  However, Jack still does not know just who The Fisherman is in his world.  Parkus also tells Jack that he will need to use Black House to enter the world of Mr. Munshun, as Mr. Munshun does not reside in The Territories.

Jack then travels back to his own world, taking Wendell Green with him.  Jack heads out of the hospital and receives a panicked call from Beezer.  Beezer tells Jack that Mouse is dying, and that Jack needs to come quickly.

When Jack arrives at Beezer’s house, he sees something horrific happening to Mouse.  Mouse is literally being eaten alive by the poison he received when the dog creature bit him at Black House.  Mouse is mostly delirious, but he tells Jack to meet Beezer and the others at noon the next day, so that they can head to Black House to rescue Tyler and defeat Mr. Munshun.  Mouse also gives Jack a spell of sorts:  the word “d’yamba.”  Mouse tells Jack that he will need this word in the near future.  Shortly after imparting this information, Mouse passes away.

In the meantime, Henry Leyden is at his home, listening to the tape of The Fisherman’s voice.  Henry also believes that he can smell the perfume of his late wife, and thinks he is losing his mind.  However, Henry recognizes the voice of Charles Burnside from the tape, as he also heard Burnside’s voice from his gig at the nursing home.  Henry also realizes that Burnside is in his house and using the scent of his wife’s perfume to trick Henry.

Henry attempts to defend himself against Burnside, but is stabbed by Burnside with a pair of garden shears.  Henry realizes that he will bleed to death, so he makes a recording for Jack, revealing the identity of The Fisherman, and the fact that The Fisherman lives in the nursing home.  Shortly after finishing the recording, Henry signs off, saying goodbye to Jack, and dies.

Jack heads home after paying respect to Mouse.  Amazingly, Jack is surrounded by a swarm of bees.  The bees appear to offer comfort and do not sting Jack.  Jack then decides that he will open to Henry, and tell Henry the story of his past journey to The Territories when he was a child.

Jack arrives at Henry’s house and realizes almost right away that something is amiss.  He discovers Henry’s body and hears Henry’s last recording that identifies The Fisherman.  Shocked and saddened, Jack calls the local police, and then travels to The Territories once again, seeking comfort.

Charles Burnside returns to the nursing home.  He has been injured in the confrontation with Henry, but still alive.  Burnside is confronted by one of the nurses on duty in regards to his whereabouts.  He uses the garden shears to kill her, and makes an attempt to escape back to Black House.  However, he is also confronted by Chipper Maxton, who has learned of his true identity.  Burnside also kills Maxton with the gardening shears, and returns to Black House, with the assistance of the entity known as Mr. Munshun.

After Burnside arrives at Black House, he arouses Tyler Marshall from a dream, and takes Tyler into another world.  He places a sort of “hat” on Tyler that dulls Tyler’s thinking, and tells Tyler that he is taking him to the Crimson King, who has a job waiting for Tyler.

The next day, Jack meets Dale, Doc and Beezer at The Sand Bar.  He is able to summon the cloud of bees again, much to the astonishment of his friends.  Jack utters the word “d’yamba” over a bottle of honey, and has his friends dab a bit of the honey underneath their noses, in the hopes that the belief in the honey will protect them from the ill effects of Black House.

In the meantime, Burnside and Tyler arrive at their final destination, where they see many children with special talents being forced to perform the work of the Crimson King.  Burnside attempts to shackle Tyler, but Tyler strikes back and disembowels Burnside, which kills the old man.

Before Jack and his friends leave for Black House, they encounter Fred Marshall outside of the bar.  Fred has received a package addressed to Tyler, from George Rathbun (one of the radio personalities of the deceased Henry Leyden) containing a bat signed by a Milwaukee Brewers player.  All of the men then sense that Tyler has killed Burnside, which offers them hope that their mission may succeed.

When Jack and his friend arrive at Black House, they encounter the swarm of bees that surrounded Jack earlier.  Jack sees the crow, Gorg, and shoots him. Once inside the house, they encounter some frightening illusions, as the house tries to keep them from tracking down Tyler Marshall.

While Jack and his friends are searching for Tyler, Tyler manages to free himself from the shackles by obtaining the key.  However, once he frees himself, he is then captured by the being Mr. Mushun.

However, as Munshun attempts to take Tyler to the Crimson King, he encounters Jack and his friends, who are ready to fight.  Jack attacks Munshun with the bat sent to Tyler’s father, and is finally able to kill the evil creature.

Jack tells Tyler that he must rescue the other children before he can return to his family.  Tyler argues that he cannot, and Jack argues otherwise.  The cap that Burnside had placed on Tyler’s head then falls off, and the full extent of Tyler’s powers are unleashed.  Tyler then uses those powers to destroy the machines that have imprisoned the other children, and the other children are freed as well.

Jack, Tyler, Dale, Beezer and Doc then return to their world, along with the rest of the children freed by Tyler.  Black House has now lost its magic and is an ordinary house.  The dog that had attacked Mouse is also destroyed.

Some weeks later, Jack, Doc, Beezer and Dale prepare to attend a ceremony so they can be recognized for their bravery by the town of French Landing.  They have concocted a cover story that leaves out the visit to the other world, and implicates Henry Leyden as the one who identified The Fisherman and led Jack and his friends to him.  The government is also dealing with the other children who were rescued, and the origins of most of these children remain a mystery.  Black House has also been destroyed, thanks to the efforts of Beezer and Jack.

Jack and his friends enter the stage and face the crowd, which begins to wildly applaud.  In that crowd is Jack’s old friend, Speedy Parker.  However, a woman named Wanda Kinderling is also part of the crowd.  Wanda is the wife of the man who Jack helped Dale imprison for murder several years ago.  Wanda is angry, as she believes her husband was wrongfully imprisoned.  Tragically, Wanda acts on that anger, shooting Jack.  Speedy is unable to stop her, and Wanda shoots Jack in the chest and throat.  After she shoots Jack, Wanda is almost immediately attacked by Doc.

Speedy then grabs Jack and carries him in his arms to The Territories.  He tells Sophie that Jack will survive his injuries, thanks to his encounter with The Talisman as a child, but that Jack must remain in The Territories, as a return to his own world will likely kill him.  Jack continues to remain in a coma for several days.

Several days later, Jack awakens, with Sophie by his side, who welcomes him to his new life in The Territories.


My Thoughts

And there are so many of them, in regards to Black House.  But I will try to condense myself (hey, don’t laugh too hard, now.)

First of all, the men.  There are some fine men in this book…and I am not even talking about the main character, Jack Sawyer (although be prepared for more in depth discussion of him in a bit.  Don’t worry, I have not forgotten.  Far from it, in fact.)

There is a little something for everyone, in terms of men in this book.

First of all, Henry Leyden.  He is blind, but anyone who has sex with Henry is not having pity sex with him…no sir (or m’am, if you please.)

He’s a DJ, and he knows his music.  Check.

Despite the fact that he is blind, Henry has an incredible sense of style.  Just thinking about the suits that he was described as wearing…whoa!  What is it about well-dressed guys that makes you want to tear those same clothes off?

And Henry has the x-factor too.  Just something about his friendship with Jack sent shivers down my spine.  Henry never pressured Jack to take down those walls, but chiseled away patiently.  And that made my heart melt.

ugly cry

My heart also broke wide open, when Henry died.  I have read this book a few times, but each time I find myself, hoping against hope, that things will be different this time.  Of course, they never are.  And my heart breaks wide open yet again.

Beezer St. Pierre.

Opie 2

Yes, I know that guy is not Beezer.  But I don’t think I am that far off, am I?

Anyone who lives in a place known as “Nailhouse Row” (can you get any cooler than that?) is already hot by association.

And let’s just admint:  Beezer is a bad ass.  A fucking bad ass, as a matter of fact.  In fact, he wouldn’t be that out of place in a certain club known as SAMCRO.  Not out of place at all, as a matter of fact.

Beezer is also smart.  Smart is always hot.  The fact that he was reading William Blake…swoon!  And that his house was overflowing with books?  Woo, I am feeling a little flushed right now…

I could also feel empathy for Beezer, given what happened to his daughter.  I never pitied him, like I pitied Tansy Freeneau.  But I could emphasize with him, as his daughter was brutalized by The Fisherman.  And I could understand why Beezer and his friends felt the need to police the police, so to speak.  Poor man was going through an unimaginable pain, it’s a wonder that he didn’t break down doors at the police station.

And we have Jack Sawyer.

As all both  of my faithful readers know, I have book boyfriends.  Like Aragorn.  And Jon Snow.  I am such as sucker for fictional men that I can never, ever have an actual relationship with (don’t worry, my marriage is open in regards to this…heehee!)

morgan sloat

One of my favorite book boyfriends is Jack Sawyer.  It feels weird saying that, since he was 12 when I first met, and I was in my twenties, but it’s ok, I am reading Black House and Jacky is all growed up!

I think the reason why I love Jack so much is because I identify with him.  King writes about people who don’t quite fit in and who often live on the fringes of society, and are maybe even marginalized by everyone else.  I am pretty isolated (even though I do have a few good friends and an understanding husband), I live on the fringe (although that is my choice and I spent my life being marginalized.  I was the odd kid, and childhood and adolescence were a social disaster for me.  And until recently, adulthood was a social disaster for me.

At the beginning of the book, Jack is a lonely man.  Jack probably does not realize this, but the reader certainly does.  Jack is unmarried (criminal!) and has retired from the police force at the impossibly young age of 31.  Jack has no surviving family members. and no close friends.  When people do try to reach out to Jack (like Dale), the walls go up, and Jack pushes people away.

However, Jack slowly emerges from his shell as the book progresses.  And it is quite a beautiful thing to watch.  Jack had been living in a sort of fog and has not been truly engaged with anyone or anything.  It takes a series of gruesome child murders, along a ghost from Jack’s childhood in order for that fog to lift. But it’s worth the wait, because Jack Sawyer reminds me of a rose:  it may be a little shy to open up and finally bloom, but when the flower does bloom, it is beautiful beyond words.

Rose

I consider Black House to be one of King’s most frightening books ever written.  Normally, when people think of scary Stephen  King books, works such as The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, It and Pet Sematary come to mind.  When you mention a scary Stephen King book, the one co-written by Peter Straub that is the follow up to the epic fantasy otherwise known as The  Talisman that could almost be considered another Dark Tower book does not come to mind.  However, it should, since Black House is an extremely creepy read, and should be recognized as such.

First of all, the book deals with child murders.  King is known for writing about “real-life horrors,” and unfortunately, children being killed fall into that category.  In fact, the events in Black House are tragically plausible: children go missing and are murdered on an almost daily basis in this country.  I have stated in the past that Charles Burnside is one of King’s worst human (or is it best) monsters, and I stand by that statement.  Burnside was based on Albert Fish, who (at least to me) was one of the worst real-life monsters that has ever existed throughout history.  Anyone who can do what Fish (and Burnside) did to children…well, Hell would be too good for that person, actually.  I would hope that there was some place even worse than Hell for someone like that, where he would be made to suffer just as his victims did.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

Often, King books, there is what I call “buried treasure,” or something that really does not have much to do with the story being told, but is something that just takes the story from good to fucking epic (the history of Derry in It being a great example, among countless others.)  In Black House, it is the bit about borders, and how borders seem invite bad things in.  I loved the story told by Sonny about Harko, Illinois, and the border town of Harko, where one of his friends murdered the other with no provocation and ended up in the mental asylum…it had a kind of EC Horror Comics feel to it…I loved it!

Black House also has a scary non-human bad guy:  Mr. Munshun.

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Or is it Humpty Dumpty on a bad day?  Dammit, I knew Humpty wasn’t who he seemed to be!  And I always had an uneasy feeling about him, anyway…I can see why they knocked him off that wall!

The descriptions of Munshun are just so unsettling (I think King also compared him to Humpty Dumpty.)  The teeth, the orange hair, how Tyler Marshall could fee his presence when he was shackled.  My heart raced as Tyler struggled to beat the clock, and I jumped up and down when Munshun was finally disposed of.  Pennywise, Randall Flagg, Kurt Barlow are all frightening, but Munshun has also earned his spot on the list of Stephen King monsters…he needs to be in the discussion a lot more!

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There is also Black House itself.  A house that literally eats people?  And has a hell hound for a watch dog?  To boot, the bite of that “dog” is much, much worse than its bite.  The description of what happened to Mouse (seriously, vomit that comes alive…I can’t even) is just seriously…well…disgusting…even for the likes of writers like King and Straub.  Did they have a sleepover where they spent the night trying to see who could gross the other out, and then decide to include those details in Black House?  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Stephen King

As I have stated before, Black House is also a bit frustrating.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but still.

I found the ending to be very open-ended.  Jack is shot, and transported back to The Territories.  Speedy then hints about the business with The Tower (goosebumps) not being finished yet.  Ooooh, a sequel!

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A sequel that we have been waiting about 15 years for.  King and Straub have both stated that there should be a third book, but we have yet to see it.  I have faith that we will one day, but even I am not THAT patient.  C’mon, don’t tease me like this, Uncle Stevie!

I just have to know what happens to my friend Jack Sawyer.  Did he somehow help Roland and his friends in their quest (again)?  Or is it some other adventure, where Jack meets even more interesting folks in The Territories?  What of Jack and Sophie?  I know that Sophie stated she was barren, but I would so love a Jack Junior!

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Such questions…such torture…

But hopefully, we end the torture soon, and The Master graces us with the answers to those questions!


Well, that’s it for Black House.  Join me next month for an out of this world experience, as we review and dissect Dreamcatcher!

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

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Connections

Like all King books, Black House is a part of the Stephen King Universe, and is particularly connected to the world of the Dark Tower series.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The most obvious connection is to The Talisman, as Black House is a follow up novel to The Talisman.  Several characters from The Talisman are referenced, including Lily Sawyer, Morgan Sloat, Wolf and Sunlight Gardner.

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Black House could also be considered another Dark Tower novel, as part of the book takes places in the same world inhabited by Roland Deschain and his friends.  Roland Deschain is specifically mentioned, along with the fact that Roland is training Eddie, Susannah and Jake to be gunslingers.  The Crimson King, who is also a character in the series, is  referenced as well.

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Ted Brautigan is mentioned in Black House.  Ted Brautigan is a character in the novella Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis, and is also a character who appears in the final Dark Tower novel.

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-Black House and the town of French Landing are mentioned by Randall Flagg in the final Dark Tower novel.

-The house named Rose Red is mentioned.  Rose Red is the haunted house featured in the movie of the same name.

-Parkus owns a two-headed parrot.  This is similar to a parrot owned by Randall Flagg in the book The Eyes of the Dragon.

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-Blaine the Monorail, along with Patricia the Monorail, are referenced in Black House.  Blaine the Monorail is a character in The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass.

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-The phrase “Light out for the Territories” is used.  This phrase is also used in several other King novels, including The Talisman, The Wastelands and Lisey’s Story.

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-Mention is made of Legion.  Legion is also referenced in It, The Gunslinger and The Stand.

Black House features people with psionic abilities, or Breakers.  People with these gifts are featured in several King stories, including Everything’s Eventual, The Wolves of the Calla, The Shining, Dr. Sleep, The Song of Susannah and Carrie.

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-The being known as the Crimson King is referenced several times in Black House.  The Crimson King is also the antagonist in the novel Insomnia.

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Kisses in the Dark: My Review of Batman and Robin Have an Altercation

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When most people hear the name Stephen King, the first thing they think of is (well, besides “that clown scared me shitless”) is long.

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As in long books, you pervert!  What else would you be thinking of???

But yes, Stephen King is known for writing some long books.  The first book of his that I read was It, which clocks in at almost 1100 pages.  The Stand is over 1100 pages.  11/22/63 is somewhere around 800 pages.  His most recent full length novel, Revival, was only a little over 400 pages.  For King, that is light reading.

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However, King is one of the greats.  And like one of the greats, he is versatile.  In other words, he does not have to write a 1000+ page novel (although I appreciate those as much as the next Constant Reader) to be great.  He can write shorter books, like Carrie and Dolores Claiborne, and still tell a fantastic story.

And The Master can condense himself even further.  King has a large collection of short stories, from N, to The Reaper’s Image, to The Little Sisters of Eluria, to Popsy, that are simply gems.  And there are countless more to choose from, even if horror does not strike your fancy (1922 and Big Driver immediately come to mind).

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And King’s latest collection of short stories, titled Bazaar of Bad Dreams, does not disappoint.  There is a little something for everybody, and even the pickiest shopper will probably walk away satisfied.

With that being said, I have chosen to review the stories in the collection that have jumped out at me, for whatever reason.  So all both  of my readers will be able to indulge in their voyeuristic tendencies, and will be treated to multiple close-ups of those kisses in the dark.

I am reviewing in no particular order, just reviewing what may strike me at the moment.  And Batman and Robin Have an Altercation struck me in a few places, so sit back and get ready to analyze one of those kisses up close.

 

 


Synopsis

Batman and Robin Have an Altercation centers around Dougie Sanderson, and his elderly father, known as Pop.  Pop is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and lives in nursing home.  Dougie is one of his main caretakers, and tries to spend as much quality time with his father as possible.

Every Sunday, Dougie takes his father to lunch at Applebee’s.  Pop pretends to study the menu, even though he can no longer read, but always orders the same thing for lunch.  Some days are better than others in terms of Pop’s memory, as he is given to confusing Dougie with his brother Reggie, who was killed by an errant driver 40 years ago.  Pop has also become somewhat of a kleptomaniac, stealing items such as knives and other eating utensils when he thinks that no one is looking.

On one of their outings, Pop recalls a time in Dougie’s childhood when he and Dougie dressed up as Batman and Robin, respectively, and Pop took Dougie trick-or-treating.  Both father and son recall the memory as a happy one, even though Pop’s costume was makeshift.  Pop also reveals that he was unfaithful to his wife that night, reminding Dougie of the double-edged sword that is Alzheimer’s Disease:  the memory becomes unreliable, but can still be relied upon to remember what may best be forgotten.

Dougie and his father leave the restaurant, and Dougie drives his father back to his nursing home.  On the way back to the nursing home, Dougie is involved in a car accident.  A driver attempts to change lanes, but carelessly hits Dougie instead.  The driver tells Dougie that he is uninsured and his vehicle is not registered, and tries to convince Dougie to not call the authorities or his insurance company.  Dougie refuses, and the driver attacks him, beating Dougie badly.

Dougie sees blood and fears that it is his blood.  However, it is the blood of the other driver (referred to as Tat Man).  Dougie sees his father standing over the other driver, and realizes that his father has come to his defense and stabbed Tat Man.  He also realizes that his father had distracted him earlier at the restaurant, having him look at the birds outside, while Pop stole a steak knife.  Pop almost immediately forgets where he is and who the other driver was, and demands to go back home and take his nap, leaving Dougie to deal with the authorities who have finally arrived.


 

My Thoughts

So, whoa…

Um, thanks for the throat punch, Uncle Stevie?  For once in my life (and mark your calendars, this is rare indeed), I am having trouble finding the words to express my feelings on this story…

Stephen King

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, sometimes a good story can hit you in just the right place!

First of all, Batman.  Batman is the alpha and the omega…I mean, he’s the goddamn Batman!

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Yeah, I am a fan of Batman, if that wasn’t obvious.  And I love that this story referred to Batman.  I mean, Stephen King and Batman.  Kind of like peanut butter and jelly.  Or bacon and Kool Aide (sorry, private joke between me and some other crazy Stephen King nerds).

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But, as much as I like Batman (and if you don’t like Batman, we are not friends!), the inclusion of Batman in this story was not responsible for the throat punch.  Like almost everything else The Master has ever written, this story was…unexpected…I think that’s the word I want.

Dougie’s father is an Alzheimer’s patient in this story.  My beloved grandmother is also an Alzheimer’s patient.  She has been suffering from the disease for nearly 4 years now.

King often writes about “human horrors”, such as domestic violence, child abuse, addiction and even unemployment.  And all of those are definitely horrors, and give his stories that touch of realism that makes them believable.

Well, now we can add Alzheimer’s disease to that list.  Seeing my grandmother suffer from the disease is truly one of the most horrific things I have endured.  She calls out for my grandfather, who died over 13 years ago, and we have to tell her that he is on his way.  Of course, she cannot remember our names any more.  She wants to go home, even though her home was sold last year, and she does not understand why she lives in a nursing home, and not the home where I spent so much of my childhood.  Horrific, indeed.

But one of the biggest throat punches in regards to Alzheimer’s Disease is that the person who suffers from it will emerge and convince you that he/she is his/her “old self.”  This has happened with my grandmother on more than one occasion:  she will remember names, places, dates and hold a conversation with us that is not one-sided.  And this happened with Dougie’s father as well:  Pops remembered the Halloween he dressed up as Batman with his son, and took him trick-or-treating.  And Pops put on that Batman costume once again, when Dougie was under attack from the enraged motorist and literally fighting for his life.  And it was beautiful:  Batman was there when needed, and he defeated the bad guy, just like how he was supposed to.  We don’t always get rescued by heroes.  People let us down, and they are not there when needed.  But this was Batman, and he did the job admirably.

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But, unlike some super heroes, Batman is human.  He is fallible.  And even he can’t beat all the bad guys, all of the time.  Like the rest of us, Batman must eventually come back to earth.  But even as he falls, he is still the glorious hero, the caped crusader who looks out for the little guy.  After all, he is the goddamn Batman.

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A Blood Curdling Look at Small Town Life: My Review of ‘Salem’s Lot

Ah, autumn…

Is there anything better/

What’s not to love about my favorite season?

The temperatures are finally cooling down…

(The fact that I live in South Carolina and am still wearing capris and a tank top while typing this is completely irrelevant.  I originally hail from the Barony of Indiana…and…well…you can take the girl out of Indiana, and I think we all know the rest…)

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And the food too.  I can finally make soups and drink hot mulled apple cider without looking ridiculous…yum.

(But no pumpkin spice.  I am already pretty white, and ingesting anything with pumpkin in it…well, I just might be washed out!  Plus pumpkin spice is just plain nasty anyway.)

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And Halloween is almost upon us!

Not that horror really needs a season…Michael Myers, Jack Skellington and Pennywise the Clown are welcome (in my head at least) any time of year!

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As are Stephen King and his various creations! And not just in my head, either! Heck, if The Master wanted to visit me at my humble abode, who I am to turn him down?  (Hey, an obsessed fan can dream, can’t she?)

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So yes, we are back to Stephen King.  A total surprise on the blog, I know.

But, again.  It’s fall.  It’s the season for monsters.  And serial killers.  And scary clowns.

And let’s not forget one of the baddest Big Bads of them all…

Yes, the vampire!  Those blood sucking, nasty evil creatures!

And for the record, real vampires don’t sparkle!  That’s right folks, you heard it on this little blog first!

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No, I am talking about the ones that are bad ass motherfuckers!  The ones you DON’T want to run into in a dark alley!  The ones who may still be sexy in a creepy way, but who will still murder and/or enslave you in a heartbeat!

And vampires have permeated our culture.  They are everywhere, from the world of Anne Rice, to the Twilight trilogy (shudder) and have even made appearances as characters in professional wrestling.

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So much love for the vampires.

But none of these guys would likely be here and would be discussed in this little old blog if it wasn’t for The Master

No, I am not talking about their creator, whoever (or whatever) he/she may be.

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No, I am talking about the novel ‘Salem’s Lot.  Written by The Master.

Yes, Stephen King is responsible for the birth of the “modern” vampire.  In essence, he is the “father” of the modern vampire.

Before ‘Salem’s Lot, you had Bram Stoker and Dracula.  Which were (and still are) awesome.  But even King himself said that Dracula probably wouldn’t make it in modern day New York City.  Would probably get mowed over by a cab or something, and that would be the end.

So King, being The Master, did what a good Master does:  he improvised.  He moved Dracula to small town USA.  And it was brilliant:  the result was the masterpiece we call ‘Salem’s Lot.  With (my imaginary) subtitle:  Dracula discovers 20th century small town life.

And it’s a bloody good book…it doesn’t suck (see what I did there.)

And here it goes:  here is my attempt to recap and review this masterpiece…

So buckle up, all both  of you, and let’s take a journey to that unfortunate hamlet known as Jerusalem’s Lot!


 

Synopsis

The book begins with the introduction of an unnamed man and unnamed adolescent boy.  We are told that the boy and man are not in fact, father and son, even though many people make that mistake.  The man and boy appear to be on the run from something, and end up traveling the country, but they eventually settle in a village in Mexico.  The man buys an American newspaper, and is looking for information on a town in Maine called ‘Salem’s Lot.  He then reads an article stating that the town has become a ghost town, and that several people from the town are inexplicably missing. The man tries to speak to the boy about ‘Salem’s Lot, but the boy clams up. The boy, who has become fluent in Spanish, then seeks out a Catholic priest to make a confession.  With the help of an interpreter, the boy makes his confession.  The priest and the interpreter later speak to the man, confirming the veracity of the story.  The priest tells the man that it is one of the strangest stories he has ever heard in his lifetime.

The story then switches over to the perspective of a man named Ben Mears.  Ben is a writer who has moved back to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot (‘Salem’s Lot for short) so that he may gain inspiration for his next book.  Ben meets woman in park named Susan Norton, who happens to be reading one of his books.  Ben immediately notices that Susan is reading his book, and also immediately notices how attractive Susan is.  Ben takes Susan out for an ice cream soda, where the two reminisce about their childhood in ‘Salem’s Lot.  Ben asks Susan out on a date, and she accepts.  Ben and Susan’s chemistry becomes more apparent on their date, and Susan invites him to her house the next evening, so that he may meet her parents.  Ben also talks some more about his childhood, and tells Susan that he attempted to rent the old Marsten House, the local “haunted” house.  Ben tells Susan about an experience he had as a boy in the Marsten House:  he accepted a dare to enter the Marsten House and steal a “souvenir.”  Ben stole that souvenir, but also encountered what he believed to be the ghost of Hubie Marsten, the house’s previous owner who had killed his wife and committed suicide.  Ben believes that he has seen Hubie Marsten right before his death, and his description is gruesome.  When Susan asks him why he did not rent the house, Ben informs her that the house has been sold and is not available to rent.

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The book begins to introduces some other characters.  These include:  Mike Ryerson, a grave digger who finds the body of a dog who has been crucified; Mark Petrie, a pre-teen boy whose family has just moved into town and who has a confrontation with the school bully; Matthew Burke, an English teacher at the local high school; and Larry Crockett, a real estate agent who sells the Marsten House to a man named Richard Straker, in a questionable deal where Crockett also promises Straker that he will keep all of their dealings a secret from the rest of the town.

The next evening, Ben has dinner with Susan and her parents.  Susan’s dad approves of Ben, while Susan’s mother does not.  That same evening, two local boys named Danny and Ralphie Glick leave their parents house to visit Mark Petrie, the new kid in town.  On the way to Mark’s house, the boys sense an unknown presence in the woods.  Hours later, Danny returns to parents’ house, minus his brother Ralphie.  Danny is unable to tell his parents and the local authorities what happened, and seems to be dazed.  Danny later collapses at home, and is rushed to the hospital to be treated for an unknown ailment.  A dark presence is said to be prowling the local cemetary, and appears to be carrying the body of a child.  Two men who were hired to help Larry Crockett move some packages for Richard Straker see what appears to be the body of a child when moving those packages.

Ben continues to spend time with Susan.  He discusses his research on the Marsten House with her, telling her that Hubie Marsten likely murdered children while he was alive.  Ben is worried because the house is occupied again, and a child has disappeared.

Ben heads to the local bar one night for a beer.  He meets Matt Burke at the bar, and the two become fast friends.  Matt asks Ben to speak to one of his classes, and Ben happily obliges.

Danny Glick suddenly passes away and the causes are unclear.  His funeral is officiated by Father Donald Callahan, a Catholic priest who is an alcoholic.  The entire town, including Ben and Susan, is shocked by the death.

Mike Ryerson is tasked with burying Danny Glick, and feels that something odd is happening when he tries to bury the boy.  Mike begins to feel ill and not himself almost immediately.  Mike encounters Matt at the local bar.  Matt becomes considered for his former student, and invites him to spend the night at his house.  However, Matt hears some odd noises in the middle of the night, and checks on Mike.  It appears that Mike had died in his sleep.  Matt becomes upset and calls Ben, who immediately comes over to help Matt.  Matt also requests that Ben bring him a rosary or a cross.  Ben then suggests that Matt call the police, along with a doctor.  The local police come to Matt’s house, along with one of the local doctors, Jimmy Cody, who is also one of Matt’s former students.  Dr. Cody confirms that Mike has died, and the police ask Matt and Ben the routine questions.  The authorities also notice that the window is open and the screen door is missing.  Matt realizes that something odd is going on, and tells Ben that he believes Mike was attacked by a vampire.  Ben is skeptical, but is also afraid to not believe what Matt is telling him, as he believes Matt to be a credible source.

Susan argues with her mother over Ben, and tells her parents that she plans to move out.  Susan’s mother becomes upset, and insinuates that Ben may be involved in the recent disappearance of Ralphie Glick.  Susan mother also tells her that Ben was involved in a motorcylcle accident that resulted in the death of his wife.  According to the research by the local authorities, Ben was was cleared of any wrongdoing, although Susan’s mother is still suspicious.  However, Susan receives a troubling phone call:  her ex boyfriend, Floyd Tibbits has attacked Ben, putting him in the hospital with a concussion and several other injuries.

Susan visits Ben in the hospital, and Ben gives her some information about what is going on in the town and what happened at Matt’s house.  Susan then visits Matt, who fills her in on the rest of the story.  Susan is also skeptical, but does not quite disbelieve Matt.  Matt then hears an odd noise in the guest bedroom, and goes upstairs to investigate, holding his cross, while Susan stands guard.  Matt then encounters a creature who resembles the supposedly deceased Mike Ryerson.  The creature tells Matt that “he will sleep like the dead.”  Matt brandishes his cross and the creature vanishes.  Matt then suffers a massive heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.

We also learn that Marjorie Glick, Ralphie and Danny Glick’s mother, has passed away.  Before she dies, Marjorie tells her husband that her deceased son is visiting her in her dreams.  Marjorie also appears to be feeling unwell, but her husband chalks that up to grief, and believes that her dreams are also the result of grief.

Floyd Tibbits has also passed away in his jail cell.  Floyd’s demeanor was noted to be very odd by the local authorities, as he was avoiding sunlight and sleeping throughout the day before he passed away.

Ben, Susan, Matt and Dr. Cody meet in the hospital.  Ben and Matt tell the story of what is going on in the town to the doctor, and also tell the doctor that they believe the town is being attacked by vampires.  Susan is still skeptical, but Dr. Cody has a more open mind.  Dr. Cody also tells the group that several bodies of the recently deceased have disappeared, including the body of Mike Ryerson.  Dr. Cody volunteers to exhume the body of Danny Glick and perform an autopsy, to see if there is anything out of the ordinary.  Matt has begun his research on vampire mythology, and tells Ben and Susan to keep crosses on them at all times.

In the meantime, Mark Petrie also has an encounter with a creature that appears to be Danny Glick.  Mark remembers that vampires must be invited, and refuses to succumb to the creature.  Mark is also able to fend off the creature with a plastic cross that is part of his monster toy set.

The next night, Ben (who has been discharged from the hospital) and Dr. Cody sit with the body of Marjorie Glick, to test Matt and Ben’s vampire theory.  The theory is confirmed when the body of Marjorie Glick comes to life and attacks Jimmy Cody.  Ben is able to fend off the creature with a cross, but the body disappears, and Ben and Dr. Cody must come up with a cover story for the local authorities.

Susan pays a visit to the Marsten house, and meets Mark there.  Both desire to confront Straker and Barlow in regards to the odd events that have occurred in the town.  But both Susan and Mark are captured by Straker, who intends to turn them into vampires.  However, Mark is able to escape and kills Straker, who is actually Barlow’s human familiar.  Susan is not so lucky and becomes one of the Undead.

Father Callahan visits Matt, and the two discuss a way to rid the town of the vampire infestation.  The infestation is becoming quite bad, as many people in the town begin to exhibit unusual symptoms and behavior.

Mark meets with Ben, Matt and Dr. Cody, and informs Ben that Susan is now a vampire.  The group makes a plan to try to attack Barlow, as Barlow is the master vampire.  Father Callahan, Ben and Dr. Cody head to the Marsten House to seek out Barlow and kill Susan.  They do not find Barlow there, but do find a taunting letter from him.  The group also finds Susan.  Ben reluctantly drives a stake through Susan’s heart, so that she may achieve her final peace.  Father Callahan also blesses the house to rid it of evil.

The next day, Father Callahan accompanies Mark Petrie to speak with Mark’s parents, to make them aware of what is going on in the town.  Mark’s parents are skeptical, but are attacked and killed by Barlow, who has crept into the house.  Mark flees, and Father Callahan attempts to face Barlow on his own.  However, the priest’s faith falters, and he is unsuccessful in his attempt to defeat Barlow.  Barlow forces Callahan to drink from his blood, rendering Callahan unclean.  Father Callahan attempts to go back to his church, but is unable to enter, as he has partaken the blood from Barlow, and also burns his hand on the door of the church.  Father Callahan is disgraced, and flees town on a Greyhound bus.

Mark makes his way back to Ben and tells Matt, Ben and Dr. Cody what happened to his parents.  The men make plans to attempt to destroy the vampires, but do not know where Barlow’s new lair is.

Dr. Cody and Mark meet at the boardinghouse Ben is staying in, so that they make as many wooden stakes as possible to attempt to destroy the vampires.  Jimmy realizes that Barlow’s new lair is actually the boardinghouse and warns Mark, but Jimmy is killed by a booby-trap placed in the cellar by Barlow, who is seemingly one step ahead of Ben and his remaining friends.

Mark flees back to Ben and tells him what happened to Dr. Cody.  Ben attempts to contact Matt, but is told by the hospital that Matt has died of a massive heart attack.  Ben tells Mark that they must try to destroy Kurt Barlow if the town has any chance of survival.

Mark and Ben then make their way back to the boardinghouse, and find the body of Kurt Barlow, along with several others from the town who have been transformed into vampires.  Ben is able to kill Kurt Barlow with a stake through the heart, but several of his vampire offspring remain in the town, and most of the other inhabitants of the town are either turned into vampires or are killed.  A few, such as Ben and Mark, are able to flee town.  Ben and Mark eventually end up in Mexico, where Mark confesses the story to a Catholic priest.  Mark and Ben then decide to return to town to finish the job.

Mark and Ben return to ‘Salem’s Lot almost a year after the horrible events.  They set fire to the town, but it is unknown if the fire is successful in destroying the vampires.  Mark and Ben leave town again, their business in ‘Salem’s Lot finished.

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My Thoughts

So.  Many.  Thoughts.  Such.  A.  Long. Blog.  Post.

‘Salem’s Lot is a book about vampires.  And it is a great book about vampires…

But there are couple of other things that we need to talk about, in order to have an intelligent discussion about this book.

Surprise, there is more to ‘Salem’s Lot than the vampires!  I know, more to a Stephen King book than meets the eye…who knew???

A part of that “more than meets the eye” is the Marsten House.  King has written about haunted houses, haunted hotels and even haunted towns (Derry is a prime example of that) in other books, but ‘Salem’s Lot was his second book published under his name.  So it’s possible that ‘Salem’s Lot and the Marsten House was simply a “warm-up” for him, for later books like The Shining or even Black House

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But man, does he do the haunted house aspect of ‘Salem’s Lot well.

Yes, ‘Salem’s Lot is also a haunted house book.  It may actually be a haunted house book almost as much as it is a vampire book.  The Marsten House is another character, just like Ben and his friends, and plays a huge role in the book.  Not only does it provide a creepy setting (the head vampire bunks there, natch), it allows the reader to get to know Ben.  That house was a huge part of Ben’s childhood, and seeing it through Ben’s (borderline obsessive) adult eyes is fascinating.  The house has probably colored much of Ben life, such as his choice of a career, and his decision to return to town after so many years.  The house may have even played a role in Ben’s decision to become a writer, because it made him aware of the mysteries of the universe and so forth.

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Plus, that house is just plain creepy!  It’s on unhallowed ground because its namesake committed suicide on it?  Shudder!  And it was the site for so many evil acts (Hubie sacrificing children and then killing himself and his wife).  I think King could fill a book with that house’s story…maybe someday he will do just that, if we are lucky!

Speaking of characters that are not people per se…

‘Salem’s Lot.  Yes, the town itself.  I am also going to count the town as a character…

No, I have not lost my mind (you can’t lose what you never had, so I am told).

All kidding aside, the town is a character as well.  We are given so much information about the town and the people that live there.  The gossipy old lady Mabel Worts.  The boy on the farm who wants to drop out of school.  The proprietor of the drugstore who looks up women’s skirts.  The town bully.  An alcoholic priest who listens to everyone’s sins, including the lady who beats her baby.  A wife who cheats on her husband with the telephone company guy.  I could go on and on…

I grew up in a small town.  I have since moved on to bigger and better, and sometimes I look back upon my childhood with a certain amount of nostalgia…

small towns 1

Until I read a Stephen King book (since so many of them are centered around small towns).  And the king of horror (see what I did there) gives me a reality check.  Yes, small towns can be charming.  But like almost anything else (well, except for Furbies…I don’t see any good in those fuckers), they have their dark side.  ‘Salem’s Lot is a reminder of that.  It is quaint.  We can’t argue that.  But it is ugly too.  Men beat their wives with no recourse.  Bullies rule the schoolyard with iron fists.  There are residents who are just tragic, such as the Weasel Craigs, good men who drink their pain away and become shadows of their former selves.  So I become objective about my childhood once again, and see all sides of the pancake.

Salem's lot 2

Stephen King writes the small town really well.  ‘Salem’s Lot was  the first one (Derry, Castle Rock and Harlow are just a few more later examples) and will probably not be the last.  Again, the man knows how to realistically depict a small town, weaving together a tapestry where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So.  Vampires…

sparkely vampire 3

Whew, finally getting to them…

I know no other way to put, so I will come out and say it…

These vampires are scary as fuck.  There is no other way around it.

I hold a special place in my heart for Dracula (don’t want to run into him in a dark alley).  And the vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (good old William the Bloody, although I don’t care for his poetry too much).  And let’s not forget Louis and Lestat.

Spike

But these vampires…

Vampires are scary enough.  Maybe the scariest of the Big Bads.

But again, these vampires!

sparkly vampire 1

The notion of a child (Danny Glick) turning into one of the Undead is just horrible.  Profane even.  But awesome too.  If you are going to scare someone into a change pants, combine the sacred (a child) with the profane (a vampire).  And watch the pants come a’flying off!

salem's lot 3

And Kurt Barlow himself (Straker is not a picnic either).  He is scary because he is a vamp (duh) but also because he reminds us again and again, that he is not human (well, duh).  The booby trap that he sets for poor Dr. Cody is something that Ted Bundy would have been proud of, it is that ingeniously evil.  And he kills Mark’s parents by bashing their heads together right in front of Mark…I just have no words.  And none of these acts are supernatural.  They are just good old fashioned (in)human fuckery.  Simply brutal, because they have a touch of realism and could happen to any one of us.

Hell, the creature is so evil that his teeth are still alive even after he is killed.  His teeth bit Ben…ewww!  Can’t get much more evil than that, folks!

'Salem's Lot 2

 

 


 

Well, what a trip that’s been!  Do they make t-shirts for this?  Maybe one that says “I survived my trip to ‘Salem’s Lot, but all I got was this lousy bite mark on my neck!”  Too soon. you say?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, it is fall now.  And almost Halloween.  And ‘Salem’s Lot will also have a special place in my heart (near the jugular, actually), no matter what time of year it is.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

Connections

‘Salem’s Lot is a very early King work, but there are quite a few connections to his other books, and it is an important part of the King universe.  Here are the connections I found:

-Donald Callahan is the most obvious connection to King’s other works, mainly The Dark Tower series.  Callahan’s back story is told in book five of The Dark Tower series, The Wolves of the Calla.  Callahan becomes an integral member of Roland’s ka-tet, and plays a huge role in Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower in books six and seven of the series, The Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower, respectively.

Father Callahan

-In the novel Pet Sematary, Rachel Creed passes by a sign that gives directions to the town of ‘Salem’s Lot, and thinks to herself that it is not a very pleasant place to live.

pet semetary 1

-As stated before, ‘Salem’s Lot was King’s first foray into the concept of a haunted house.  However, it is not his last.  The Marsten House seems to be similar to a few other houses and buildings in King novels, which include the house on Neibolt Street (It), Black House (book of the same name), Rose Red (movie of the same name), the house on Dutch Hill (The Wastelands), and even the Overlook Hotel (The Shining).  It is possible that these structures are all Twinners to each other, as they share some similar traits.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

-The dog that is slaughtered in the beginning of the novel is similar to a dog encountered by Roland in the short story, The Little Sisters of Eluria, which is part of the collection Everything’s Eventual.  Both dogs have similar markings, which include a marking on the head that resembles a cross.

Sister Mary 1

-King has also written a prequel of sorts to ‘Salem’s Lot, a short story called Jerusalem’s Lot (Night Shift), along with a sequel of sorts, One for the Road (also part of the collection Night Shift).  Both of these stories provide some information in regards to the cursed town of ‘Salem’s Lot, but also raise many more questions that they answer.

the worm 1

 

 

The Beginning of the End: My Review of The Dark Tower

I seem to remember a saying…

One about all good things…

Q 2

Something happens to them, I hear…

Picard 3

On an unrelated note, do you ever feel like your life is on infinite repeat, and it seems like you are destined to keep repeating yourself, because you can never get it right?  And don’t you just hate that?

Well, I digress, it seems…

Time to get back on the subject:  our favorite ka-tet!

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

And reunions…boy, do I love reunions!

And did I tell you that bittersweet is one of my favorite flavors?  Obviously, or I wouldn’t read the Dark Tower series so many times, and hope against hope that things will be different this time (even though I know they won’t be).

And if insanity is the act of repeating the same act over and over again, and expecting different results…well then, I am a fucking loony, and proud of it, say thank ya!

So yes, I have now completed my fifth re-read of this series.  And still, the magic remains.  Still, I cry tears for all of those lost.  Still, I hope against hope, that things will be different, and I am still crushed when they are not.

But I think that this is why these books are magic:  they still invoke the same emotions in me, even after all of these years.  Obviously, only magical books can do that when you re-read them, right?

With that being said, here is my review of the last bit of magic, the final book in the series, simply titled The Dark Tower.

Dark Tower 2


 

Synopsis

The Dark Tower begins where Song of Susannah left off:  Susannah and Mia are in a restaurant known as The Dixie Pig and are preparing to give birth to Mia’s un-human baby.  Jake and Pere Callahan have arrived at the Dixie Pig and are desperately searching for Susannah in a futile attempt to rescue her.  Roland and Eddie are still stranded in 1977 Maine and attempting to return to Mid-World so that the quest may be continued.

Dixie pig 4

Mia begins to go into labor to deliver her baby, and Susannah plots to escape her prison so that she may be reunited with her friends.  Mia delivers her baby, who is named Mordred, relatively quickly.  Mia is overjoyed when the baby is born, but that is short-lived once the baby (who is clearly not human), changes into a spider and devours Mia.  Susannah is able to steal the gun of one of the Low Men who was present at the delivery of Mordred.  Susannah shoots and kills all of the Low Men present in the delivery room.  Susannah also shoots Mordred, but Mordred escapes, with only one spider leg shot off by Susannah.

mordred birth

Jake and Father Callahan make their way toward the delivery room, but are accosted by Low Men and vampires.  Jake receives a telepathic message from Roland and Eddie via Father Callahan ordering him to move on ahead.  Father Callahan stays behind and battles the vampires.  Realizing that he is outnumbered, Father Callahan commits suicide to avoid being transformed into a vampire, and therefore eternal damnation.

Callahan 1

 

Still stranded in 1977 Maine, Roland and Eddie agree that they must seek help, and that John Cullum would be the man for the job.  It turns out that Cullum has not left town, as Eddie is able to reach him by telephone.  Roland and Eddie meet with Cullum, and tell him their tale.  Cullum agrees to meet with Susannah’s godfather, Moses Carver, and Aaron Deepneau, so that they may form the Tet Corporation.   Roland gives Cullum Aunt Talitha’s cross, so that he may be able to identify himself to Carver and Deepenau.  The purpose of the Tet Corporation will be two-fold:  to protect Stephen King and to sabotage Sombra Corporation whenever possible. Roland and Eddie then make their way back to the woods in Lovell, and are teleported to Fedic where they attempt to reunite with Jake, Oy and Susannah.

Jake searches for Susannah, and discovers her in the Dixie Pig.  Jake encounters a mind trap which gives life to his fears.  However, Jake switches bodies with Oy, and is able to avoid this trap and defeat the Low Men.  Jake is then reunited with Susannah, and later Roland and Eddie.  The ka-tet determines that they must travel through one of the cross-dimensional doors located in Fedic, so that they may return to Mid-World and resume their quest.

Mordred, in the meantime, has been growing at a rapid rate, and spying on Roland and his friends while hiding in Fedic.  Mordred encounters Randall Flagg, who attempts to woo Mordred to his side.  Mordred sees through Flagg’s trickery, and immediately kills Flagg, later eating the body for nourishment.  Mordred is able to transform into a spider, but discovers he needs more nourishment that what he currently receives in order to accomplish this task.

man in black

Roland and his friends cross over to Thunderclap, and are then teleported to Devar-Toi, which is a compound occupied by Breakers, who are psychics recruited by the Crimson King.  The Crimson King and his Low Men use the Breakers to destroy the Beams that hold the Tower together.  The ka-tet meets a man named Ted Brautigan, along with Ted’s friend Dinky Earnshaw.  Ted and Dinky also have another friend named Stanley, who does not speak but is able to use his telepathic powers to communicate.  Stanley also possesses the ability to teleport, and was able to send Ted on a journey to another world.  We learn that Stanley is actually Roland’s old friend Sheemie Ruiz, who Roland met during his time in Meijis.

Sheemie 2

 

Roland and his friends then watch videotapes narrated by Ted Brautigan, and learn the story of how Ted became a Breaker, and of how Ted and his friends have turned against their duties and wish to destroy Devar-Toi and stop the destruction of the Beams.  Roland and his friends meet with Ted, Dinky and Sheemie yet again, and make plans for an attack on Devar-Toi.  Jake speaks with Roland, and experiences an uneasy feeling that Roland tells him is ka-shume, which usually signals a change in the dynamics of the ka-tet.  Roland also points out that Mordred has been following them, but asks Jake to keep this information from Eddie and Susannah.

Mordred 1

The next day, the gunslingers mount an attack on Devar-Toi.  They are aided by some hidden bombs that were placed in various parts of Devar-Toi during the previous night by a spy.  The gunslingers are successful in their attack and are able to free the Breakers and stop the destruction of the Beams.

Tet 1

However, the attack comes at huge cost for Roland and his friends.  Once the attack is over and Roland his ka-tet are performing some last minute inspections for any remaining threats, Eddie is shot by one of the remaining taheen, Pimli Prentiss.  Unable to avoid the attack, the bullet proves to be fatal to Eddie, who eventually expires later that day.  Susannah, Roland, Jake and Oy are left grieving for their friend.  Before he dies, Eddie warns Jake about something or something named “Dandelo.”  Eddie also names Roland his true father before he dies.

With the assistance of Sheemie, Roland, Jake and Oy travel to 1999 Maine to attempt to save the writer, Stephen King.  When they arrive, the day is June 19th and Jake knows that time is running short.  With the assistance of a woman they meet in a general store named Irene Tassenbaum, Roland and Jake are able to track down Stephen King, who is taking his daily afternoon walk.  A young man named Bryan Smith is also driving a van on the same road as King, and King will be fatally struck down by Smith’s van unless the gunslingers intervene.

Bryan Smith 1

 

Roland, Jake and Irene intervene just in time to save Stephen King.  However, this again comes at a cost for Roland, as Jake is hit by the van instead of King, and later succumbs to his injuries.  Before he dies, Jake instructs Irene to take Roland to New York City, so that he may meet with the members of the Tet Corporation and return to Mid-World.  Jake also gives instructions to Oy, although neither Irene nor Roland hears these instructions.  Roland then buries Jake in the surrounding woods, saying a prayer for him.  Irene  tells Roland she will come back and plant something where Jake is buried.  Roland tells her that a rose would be appropriate.

Jake and Oy

 

Roland and Irene then make their way to the Tet Corporation’s headquarters, located at 2 Hammarskjold Plaza.  The rose is also located at this address.  Roland meets Nancy Deepneau, who tells him that John Cullum and Aaron Deepneau have passed away, but Moses Carver is still alive.  Roland also speaks to Marian Carver, daughter of Moses Carver, and learns a bit about the dealings of the Tet Corporation.  Roland is given a copy of Stephen King’s book Insomnia, which Marian tells him may be important to his quest.  Marian also tells Roland that he must watch out for someone named Patrick Danville, who is also a character in the book Insomnia.  Before Roland departs, the members of the Tet Corporation also give him two more gifts: a gold watch which will keep time until Roland reaches the Tower, and Aunt Talitha’s cross.  Roland is touched and grateful for these gifts.

Roland bids good-bye to Irene, who thanks him for the adventure, as her life has been irrevocably changed by her time with the gunslinger.   Roland gives her the copy of Insomnia, stating that it feels “tricky” to him. Roland and Oy then travel through the door in the Dixie Pig and reunite with Susannah in Fedic.  Susannah tells him that Ted, Dinky and a few other Breakers have traveled to Calla Bryn Sturgis to pay penance for what was done to the villagers’ children, but that Sheemie has died from an untreated infection in his foot.  Roland, Susannah and Oy make plans to continue on their quest for the Dark Tower.

tower 8

 

Roland ,Susannah and Oy make their way out of the Dixie Pig and back to Mid-World.  On their way out, they find paintings that credit the mysterious Patrick Danville as the artist.  Roland and Susannah also encounter a monster that is probably born of the To-Dash darkness and barely escape from the clutches of the creature.

Le_Casse_Roi_Russe

Once Roland, Susannah and Oy make their way to Fedic so that they may continue on their quest for the Dark Tower, the journey becomes even more arduous.  The only one equipped to handle the cold temperatures is Oy, and Roland and Susannah spend many uncomfortable days and nights wishing for warmer clothing and worrying how long their food supplies will last.  Susannah also notices an unusual pimple that has formed next to her mouth.  Roland also tells Susannah that they must check on the castle of the Crimson King, which Roland believes to be abandoned, but still may contain traps to stop Roland from continuing his quest.

CK 4

 

When Roland, Susannah and Oy finally reach Le Casse Roi Russe, or the Crimson King’s castle, they encounter three men who resemble Stephen King.  The creatures call themselves Feemalo, Fimalo and Fumalo (fee fi fo fum), and offer Roland and Susannah warm clothing and food.  The creature tries to convince Roland that he is an uffi, or shapeshifter.  However, Roland sees that this is a trick and refuses the offer.  The creatures try to attack Roland, Susannah and Oy as they leave, but Roland and Susannah shoot Feemalo and Fumolo.  Roland allows Fimalo to live, and finds out that he is actually a man named Rando Thoughtful.  Thoughtful has used a trick, or glammer, to try to convince Roland that he was a shape-shifter, but is really a dying old man.  Roland, Susannah and Oy leave the castle and continue on their quest.  Rando Thoughtful stays behind, but is later attacked and eaten by Mordred, who is still following Roland and Susannah, plotting his revenge.

Rando Thoughtful 1

Roland and Susannah’s luck begins to change once they leave the castle of the Crimson King and continue on their quest.  They are able to hunt deer, which provides them food and warm clothing.  They are also able to finally build a fire so that they can stay warm.  However, Susannah continues to worry about the pimple by her mouth, which has not gone away.

Roland, Susannah and Oy happen upon a house that appears to be inhabited when they draw closer to Empathica.  Their assumption proves correct, as the house is inhabited by an old man named Joe Collins and his geriatric horse, Lippy.  Collins offers them his hospitality, giving them a hot meal and shelter from the snow.  Collins also begins to tell them how he came to Mid-World, and about his former life as a comedian, even telling some of his old jokes.

Dandelo 1

While Susannah and Roland are being entertained by Collins and his stand-up comedy routine, Susannah herself begins to think that something is wrong.  Susannah then accidentally ruptures the pimple on her face and it begins to bleed.  Susannah retreats to the bathroom to clean up the wound, and finds a note from Stephen King, who is repaying Roland and Jake from saving his life.  Susannah deduces that Joe Collins and Dandelo are one in the same, and she and Roland dispose of Collins, stripping away his glammer.  Before he dies, Dandelo is revealed to be a creature with insectoid characteristics.

Dandelo 2

Roland and Susannah quickly discover that Dandelo had kept a prisoner in his hut, and that prisoner turns out to be none other than Patrick Danville, a young man is approximately 16 or 17 years old.  Susannah rescues Patrick from his prison in Dandelo’s basement, and learn of his captivity.  Susannah deduces that Dandelo was a creature who fed off from human emotions, and that Patrick was his main source of fuel, although Dandelo fed from others unfortunate enough to come across his dwelling.  Susannah also discovers that Dandelo must have tired of Patrick’s speech at some point, for he had removed the boy’s tongue.  Roland, Susannah, Patrick and Oy take shelter in Dandelo’s barn for a few days, so that Patrick can regain his strength. Roland comes across Lippy and puts the creature out of her misery. They also come across a robot that calls itself Stuttering Bill (due to a defect in its programming) that was Dandelo’s reluctant servant.  Roland suggests that the robot fix the stutter, and the robot happily obliges.  Bill then relates more of the story to Roland and Susannah, and assists them with obtaining provisions to last them the remainder of their journey.

Patrick Danville 1

Once Roland and his friends leave Dandelo’s cottage, Mordred makes an appearance.  Mordred eats the remains of the dead Lippy for nourishment, which will later prove to be a mistake.  Mordred is still bent on taking vengeance on all of Roland’s friends, but especially Roland himself.

In the final weeks of Roland’s quest for the Tower, Susannah begins to realize that her time in his world is drawing to an end.  Susannah becomes prone to bouts of uncontrollable weeping, and tries to hide this from Roland and the others.  She also begins to dream of Jake and Eddie and feels that they are trying to send her a message, but does not know what they are trying to tell her.  Suannah also sees a mysterious door in her dreams.  The pimple by her mouth continues to cause her pain.

Susannah comes to realizes that Patrick’s artistic talents have the ability to alter reality.  This is confirmed when Patrick draws a picture of her, and uses the eraser to remove the pimple by her mouth.  Once the pimple is removed by the eraser, it vanishes from Susannah’s face.  Susannah tells Patrick he must draw the Unfound Door that she sees in her dreams, and Patrick obliges.

unfound door 1

Susannah asks Oy and Jake if they wish to travel through the door with her, but both decline.  Roland tries to persuade Susannah to stay in Mid-World, but she declines.  Susannah bids Roland, Patrick and Oy goodbye, and travels through the door to the alternate reality she sees in her dreams.

In the meantime, Mordred is still following Roland, waiting to attack.  Mordred has also contracted food poisoning from consuming the remains of Lippy, and his strength has been diminished considerably.  However, Mordred is still determined to seek revenge on Roland.

Mordred closes in on Roland, Patrick and Oy one night as Roland takes rest and leaves Patrick on night watch.  Mordred attempts to attack Roland, but is stopped by Oy.  Oy puts up a brave fight, but loses his life at the hands of Mordred.  Roland dispatches Mordred with bullets from his gun.  Saddened, Roland thanks Oy for his sacrifice.  Oy speaks for the first time in weeks, saying Roland’s name, and then passes on.

Oy 1

Roland mourns Oy, but continues to make his way to the Tower with Patrick.  Once Roland and Patrick draw closer to the Can’-Ka No Rey (the field of roses that surrounds the Tower), they encounter the Crimson King, who has gone mad.  The Crimson King torments Roland and Patrick, throwing sneetches (weapons similar to hand grenades) at them.  Roland tells Patrick that he must draw the Crimson King, and then erase him out of existence.  Again, Patrick obliges, using crushed rose petals and Roland’s blood to achieve the red eyes that define the Crimson King.  Patrick then uses his eraser, erasing the Crimson King out of existence, although the eyes remain.  Roland then sends Patrick back to the robot Stuttering Bill, telling him to find a door that will take him back to a version of America, where he will be a famous artist.

Tower 6

Roland then makes his way to the Tower, calling out the names of all his friends and loved ones who have been sacrificed in the name of his quest.

We also learn that Susannah has traveled to an alternate reality through the door that Patrick drew for her, and has met a man named Eddie Toren, and his brother Jake Toren.  In other words, she has met the Twinners of Eddie and Jake, and found a world close enough to her own world, so that any differences will seem minor.  Eddie tells her that the name “Toren” means tower in German.  It is implied that the three of them, along with a version of Oy, live out the rest of their days in happiness.

Roland approaches the Tower and lays down his gun and Aunt Talitha’s cross.  The door opens, and Roland enters, climbing the stairs to the top of the Tower.  Each time Roland comes to a room, he relives certain events in his life, such as his test to become a gunslinger.

At last, Roland reaches the top of the Tower, and opens a door with his name on it.  Dismayed, he finds himself in the desert at the start of the story, chasing a man in black.  Roland realizes that he has repeated his quest so many times, only to never find redemption.  However, the memories begin to fade and Roland awakes, thinking that he has dreamed of the Tower yet again.  Roland resumes his quest, seeking the man in black, who may be able to lead him to the Tower.  But this time, he has the Horn of Eld in hand.  So there is hope, even for the likes of him.

Tower 11


 

The Dark Tower is a rainbow book.

Yes, a rainbow book.  By this I mean it can make me laugh and cry, and sometimes even shout, in both frustration and triumph.  They say if you laugh and cry in the same day, you are having a rainbow day.  So therefore, The Dark Tower book is a rainbow book.

And I know it may be hard to believe, but The Dark Tower contains plenty of humor (hence the laughter part).  One of my favorite parts is when Jake and Oy switch bodies, and Jake is reminded of a movie with dinosaurs that he saw as a child and was frightened of.  Tyranno-sorbets wrecks?  The Joker Cesar Romero coming to the rescue?  Just some very funny imagery, and the humor was much needed, given the seriousness of the book.

Maerlyn's rainbow

And speaking of seriousness…

Oh, the feelsies…

There are more feels in The Dark Tower than there were when I was in the back seat of my ex’s car…oh wait, never mind…unwanted imagery, stage right!

But seriously…

All.  The.  Feels.

The reunion of the tet, especially when Eddie and Susannah reunite.

Roland being reunited with Sheemie, and telling Sheemie that he was not to blame for Susan Delgado’s death, and also telling Sheemie what a hero he was.

The death of Pere Callahan, who committed suicide to avoid eternal damnation, and essentially sacrificing himself for Jake.

sparkly vampire 1

And the deaths…

I know you need rain in order to have a rainbow, but when it rains in The Dark Tower, it pours…

Jake death

Eddie Dean.  When he died on my first journey, I cried.  No, actually, I CRIED.  When you CRY, as opposed to crying, its not pretty.  No, you are a mess of snot and tears, both of which run into your mouth.  And its not quiet either…let the honking commence!  And hopefully, you like the colors red and purple, since your face will turn those colors…

Eddie 1

And it doesn’t get any better after that.  No, not at all.  Especially when Roland becomes determined to sacrifice himself in Jake’s place to save the wordslinger, but greedy old ka has other plans…

Roland 14

And Oy.  A true gunslinger, all he was missing was the guns (and opposable thumbs, for that matter).  Roland burying Oy, and thinking to himself that the grave was too small to contain the heart that Oy’s body held…

Oy 1

So yes, keep the tissues on hand.  Plenty of rainbows in this book, but the storms needed to produce them are massive…

ugly cry

Another favorite part of my book was…you guessed it..another reunion!  I speak of the reunion at the end of the book, when Susannah meets Eddie and Jake’s Twinners, and falls in love with Eddie all over again…

Yes, this is one of my favorite parts.  However, more than a few CR’s (Constant Readers, for the uninitiated), would beg to defer on this one…

I have heard people call Susannah a coward for exiting the quest and “abandoning” Roland…

Yes, a coward!

You know, the woman who was raped by a demon in the name of bringing Jake over to Mid-World, in a violent birth for the ages.

Jake and the oracle

The woman who had to bear the inhuman fruits of that rape, and who was forced to share her head with a demon who would stop at nothing to hear someone something  call her “mommy.”

Mordred 3

The woman who lost her husband.  And who then lost her spiritual son (Jake) not long afterwards…

But still, she stuck with Roland, although nearly everything she held dear had been sacrificed in the name of his Tower…

But Susannah, evidently, did not belong in Mid-World…ka had other plans for her.  And ka let her know this, in the way of any ugly pimple that no amount of Clearasil could ever take care of.

In other words, I believe that the ugly pimple was Susannah’s signal to leave Mid-World.  And when she couldn’t grasp that, she was sent dreams.  And then Patrick Danville, who finally drew her out of Mid-World, in much the same way she had been drawn in:  a magical door.

DT door 1

And Susannah did what any sane person would do:  she got out of dodge.  After all, when ka speaks to you that loudly, you listen.  Otherwise, the consequences are not pretty.

Susannah 2

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

The above line is (rightfully) considered one of the greatest opening lines in literature.  Ever.

Roland and Flagg

And its one of the most frustrating ending lines.  Ever.

Well, at least in some circles…

But those are circles I do not visit.

The ending to The Dark Tower is perfect.  There are no other words for it.

Well, heartbreaking possibly.  Baffling.  Shocking.  Sad.  And then you want to throw your book across the room.

That last part is a sentence, not a word.  But you get my drift.

This does not change anything, however.  The ending to The Dark Tower is still perfect.  It is perfect because it is the only ending.

It is perfect because it is right ending.

It is perfect because of its implications.

The implication that the journey never ends, that the journey will continue no matter what.

The implication that hell is repetition.

Tower 3

The implication that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Roland is a great example of this, although ka has other ideas and forces him to change.  Or else.

And there is the implication that there is always the possibility of redemption.  Roland has done some pretty awful (although pretty understandable things).  But if anyone should be damned for eternity, it would be Roland.  But maybe not.

Roland 10

This time, its different.  He remembered to pick up the horn, after all.  He never had before.  And nothing is so small that it can’t make a big difference.  So Roland is doomed to repeat his quest yet again…

But perhaps, he can get it right this time.  This time it will be different.  He has been given what he did not have before:  The Horn ofEld.

And little things can change everything.  So maybe this little thing is the catalyst, and Roland will finally find some peace.  He can finally rest, and will no longer be doomed.

Maybe.

Roland and horn 1


 

This New Year’s Day, I had made a New Year’s resolution, for the first time in about…oh…12 trillion years (kidding, kidding).

Normally, I don’t make those.  I am kind of like this guy, and I think I am pretty awesome…

Calvin and Hobbes

But making this New Year’s resolution is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

Because of this resolution, I have (yet again) taken the amazing journey otherwise known as the Dark Tower series.

I have become reacquainted with old friends, and have even made some new ones along the way.  I have found buried treasure that had been long forgotten, until now.  Often, I felt like I was coming home after a long journey, and was welcomed back with loving arms.  There is no better feeling than coming home after a long journey, and discovering everything is where you left it, but still feels new anyway.

And yes, there was heartbreak.  Part of me hoped things would be different this time, but deep down, I knew they wouldn’t be.  But I still hoped anyway…to paraphrase a certain King character:  hope is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies.

Red 1

Again, like Roland, I have learned lessons.  I have learned how power love and friendship are, and how hard it is to exist without them.  I have learned not to shed my humanity, no matter how lofty my goals may be.

And I have learned that there is always the possibility of redemption, no matter what.  Like Roland, I am not above it.  And like Roland, all of us can pick up our horn, and that no act is too simple to not have enormous ramifications somewhere down the road.  Sometimes, a small change is all it takes.

So, I bid Roland and his friends farewell.  But its not really a farewell, because I know that somewhere, the ka-tet and their quest still lives, both of which are good things, and good things never die.

mash 1

 

 


 

Connections

And just for the fun of it, here we go again with the connections:

-One of the most obvious connections in The Dark Tower is the one to Insomnia.  Not only is the book Insomnia mentioned and a copy given to Roland, Patrick Danville is also a character in the same book.  In the book Insomnia, Ralph Roberts must save the life of Patrick Danville, who will be important to someone, and that someone is probably Roland Deschain.  Patrick Danville is also from Derry, Maine, another center for unusual activity in the King universe.

Insomnia 4

Ted Brautigan is also another major connection in The Dark Tower.  Ted Brautigan is a character in the short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  In the story “Low Men in Yellow Coats”, Ted mentions gunslingers to Bobby when he has slipped into a trance-like state.

Ted Brautigan 1

-Dandelo appears to be a Twinner of sorts to Pennywise the Clown from the book It.  Both are shapeshifters, and both feed off of human emotions (fear in particular).  Again, Patrick Danville is from Derry, where the events in It take place.  It is possible that Dandelo was one of the offspring of Pennywise’s eggs and that the Losers Club did not destroy all of Pennywise’s offspring.

It 3

-In the book Dreamcatcher, graffiti saying “Pennywise lives” is discovered.  Dandelo may have been responsible for this graffiti, if he was indeed one of Pennywise’s offspring.

Pennywise 5

-Roland mentions the “doctor bugs” when Jake is fighting the vampires.  The “doctor bugs” are also mentioned in the short story “The Little Sisters of Eluria“, which is part of the collection Everything’s Eventual.

Everything's Eventual 1

Dinky Earnshaw is the main character in the title story in the collection Everything’s Eventual.  Dinky also knows someone by the name of Skipper Brautigan, who was a friend of Henry Dean.  This implies that Eddie and Dinky grew up in the same neighborhood, and may have actually met at some point before their encounter in Mid-World.

Dinky

-Susannah recalls getting her first menstrual period in gym class and having tampons thrown at her by the other girls.  This is exactly what happens to Carrie White in the book Carrie.

carrie-1

-Randall Flagg resurfaces again in The Dark Tower.  Flagg is a character in several other King works, including The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon and Hearts in Atlantis.

Eyes of the Dragon 1

-Randall Flagg recalls a town by the name of French Landing, located in Wisconsin.  Flagg also recalls the hats that are worn by the Breakers and Low Men are similar to the hats worn by Tyler Marshall.  French Landing is the town and Tyler Marshall is a character in the book Black House.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

-Sheemie’s ability to teleport, and his physical symptoms that he experiences afterwards, are similar to the character Vic’s ailments in the book NOS4A2, by Joe Hill.  Vic also possesses an ability to teleport, although her ability is not nearly as strong as Sheemie’s.

Charlie Manx 1

 

-Patrick Danville’s artistic ability is similar to Edgar Freemantle’s artistic ability in the book Duma Key.

duma key 4

The Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day: My Review of Song of Susannah

Bad days…

Yep, we have all had them.  I have had my share, despite my loving husband and the rest of my four-legged family  (although reading and writing about Stephen King always makes me feel better!)

Like I said, we all have them…even Batman!

joker and harley

And if Batman can have a bad day every now and then, our favorite ka-tet can also have a bad day too…like I said, no one is immune to bad days…no one!

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

And boy, did our ka-tet have a doozy of a day!  Roland and company were literally all over the place, and had to deal with quite a few pests, which included not only your run of the mill goons sent by the gangster who should already be dead because he was killed in the second book of the series, but also a crazy elemental who has a maternal instinct so strong that she is capable of murder or worse…

Nope, just does not sound like a good day for our heroes.  Not in the slightest.  But luckily, they are gunslingers!  And like Batman, gunslingers always know what to do, right?

Well, maybe.  Unlike Batman, our heroes don’t have cool toys to help them through a bad day.  But like Batman, they are smart and resourceful, so they may just pull through even the worst of days…

Well, let’s find out!  Here is my review of The Song of Susannah!

Mia 1


 

Synopsis

The Song of Susannah picks of where The Wolves of the Calla left off:  Susannah has gone missing, and the rest of the tet remains in Calla Bryn Sturgis.  Eddie is frantic, and wants to try to rescue his wife before it is too late.  Father Callahan is in shock, as he has found out that he is actually a character in a book called ‘Salem’s Lot, and may actually be the creation of a writer named Stephen King.

salem's lot

Roland and his friends request the assistance of the Manni, Calla Bryn Sturgis’ equivalent of mystics or holy men, in order to travel out of Mid-World to save Susannah, and to also help Calvin Tower, who is being harassed by gangsters to sell the vacant lot in New York City which contains a rose that is “the real world” equivalent of The Dark Tower.  Eddie and Roland are transported to 1977 Maine.  Father Callahan and Jake are also transported to New York, but arrive in the year 1999.  Oy was originally supposed to remain behind in Calla Bryn Sturgis, but someone (or something) else has other ideas, and Oy is transported with Jake and Father Callahan.

Rose

The story then switches over to the perspective of Susannah, who is now at least partially controlled by the being known as Mia.  Susannah and Mia has traveled to New York City, and it is the year of 1999.  Both women are bewildered, but Susannah uses a small scrimshaw turtle in her possession that hypnotizes people to get money from a man, who also gets her a hotel room.  Susannah finds out that Mia may have given away the location of Eddie and Roland to agents of the Crimson King, and becomes angry with Mia.  Susannah also discovers that she still has some control of her mind and body, and receives a message from Eddie to stall Mia from giving birth.  Susannah is able to do this using some visualization techniques, but knows this is only a temporary solution.

Susannah 1

Susannah also demands answers from Mia in regards to the baby that they are carrying.  Mia and Susannah travel to a construct created by Mia’s mind, and Mia explains that she made a deal with a man known as Walter.  Mia surrendered her own demonic immortality in exchange for the ability to bear a child.  However, Mia was unable to naturally conceive a child, as demons are sterile.  When Susannah was raped in the speaking ring while Jake crossed over from his world in Mid-World, she was actually impregnated, as this particular demon had also had intercourse with Roland in its female form (demon elementals are actually hermaphrodites) and had preserved Roland’s semen.  Walter then employed advanced technology to take the fetus from Susannah’s womb and had also mixed the semen of the Crimson King with Roland’s, and was then able to transfer the baby to Mia’s body, in much the same way someone would fax a document to another person.  This explained why Susannah experienced some symptoms of pregnancy while still menstruating.  Susannah is angered, but promises Mia she will still help her have the baby, which will not be human and may try to kill its mother(s).

In the meantime, Roland and Eddie are transported to 1977 Maine and almost immediately are forced into a gun battle at a general store with Enrico Balazar’s gangsters, who are also working for the Crimson King.  Two of the customers are shot, but Roland and Eddie are able to escape with the help of a crafty man named John Cullum.  Roland and Eddie are able to locate Calvin Tower, and realize that Tower has not kept his whereabouts secret.

Balazar 1

Eddie becomes angered by the actions of Calvin Tower, and confronts the man in his home as Roland and Aaron Deepenau watch.  Roland and Eddie then convince Tower that he must sell them the lot that houses for the road for $1, so that the rose may be protected from the Sombra Corporation and North Central Positronics, both of which are companies created specifically for the purpose of aiding the Crimson King in his quest to destroy the Tower.  Roland and Eddie inform Calvin that he is selling his lot to the Tet Corporation, which consists of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy.  Tower is resistant at first, but is eventually persuaded by Roland and Eddie to sell the lot.  It is revealed that one of Roland’s ancestors had a connection to Tower’s ancestors, and that Calvin’s family has been sworn to protect the Rose and the Tower.  Eddie also gives Tower some advice on future investments.  Eddie then inquires about a writer named Stephen King, and John Cullum confirms that he resides in the area.  Eddie convinces Roland that they must visit the writer, and Roland reluctantly agrees.

stephen-king-cover-ftr

Roland and Eddie then find the house of Stephen King with very little trouble.  Both men feel drawn to the place, and realize that they have encountered something special.  King faints upon meeting Roland, but does not recognize Eddie (as King has created Eddie yet).  Eddie and Roland learn that King is a conduit and his purpose is to tell their story.  Eddie and Roland also realize that King is in danger, and has been in the sights of the Crimson King for many years.  Eddie worries that King’s vices (mainly his drinking) may result in his demise.  King undergoes hypnosis under Roland, and Roland reminds him of his purpose in life:  to tell the story of the Tower. Roland and Eddie then leave King’s residence, hoping that King will live to tell their tale. King then awakens, and has forgotten about the visit.  King also becomes inspired to start the second book in the series:  The Drawing of the Three.

3 doors

Meanwhile, back in 1999 New York City, Susannah continues to attempt to delay Mia’s labor but this becomes increasingly difficult.  Susannah and Mia travel to a restaurant called The Dixie Pig, which is really a gathering spot for the Low Men, and also provides a portal back to Mid-World.  Susannah leaves behind a small, magical scrimshaw turtle figurine, in the hopes that the object will assist her friends in finding her later on.  Susannah and Mia are then transported to Fedic, a town located in Thunderclap, and Mia’s labor begins.

Dixie pig 1

Jake, Father Callahan and Oy have also been transported to 1999 New York City.  Jake discovers the scrimshaw turtle, which gives him that Susannah may still be alive. Jake and Father Callahan also track down Black 13, but nearly succumb to its sinister intentions.  However, Father Callahan is able to put the evil object “back to sleep.” Susannah has also left a telepathic message with a preacher, and Jake, Oy and Father Callahan are able to track Susannah and Mia to the Dixie Pig.  Jake and Father Callahan enter the restaurant with their weapons drawn and ready to kill.  Neither has any hope of surviving the encounter.

Jake and Oy 3

The book ends with the diary entries of Stephen King.  The diary spans from 1977 to 1999, and details King’s struggles with addiction, his writing and his many near-death experiences.  However, the diary is concluded with an article from a newspaper that states King was killed on June 19th, 1999, after he was struck by a mini van while taking an afternoon walk.

Black_13


 

 

My Thoughts

Whew, Song of Susannah

Not that “whew” is a bad thing, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when this book is mentioned.

Song of Susannah does have a different tone than any of the other books.  One of its biggest criticisms is that it feels “rushed”, as if the master himself needed to get this one out of the way to go on to bigger and better things…

And I get this criticism, I really do.  Song of Susannah is short, but it is almost like an over-packed suitcase that someone put too much in because he/she didn’t want to pay the airlines those pesky extra fees (really, I would know nothing about this).

But after I finished my read this go-around, I got to thinking (*insert danger right here, I know*).  And one of my thoughts was:  Is the rushed feeling something that King did on purpose?  Did he want us to feel rushed, when we read it, perhaps to set the mood for the last book in the series?  Did he want to create a sense of urgency, because things became urgent for our favorite ka-tet?  In other words, did he want to convey that “shit just got real?”

And the more time I spend thinking about it in this way, the more I think that I may be right.  The first three books could be almost meandering at times.  Sure, there was urgency in them (Eddie heroine addiction, saving Roland from Detta and Jake’s “birth” in Mid-World all come to mind), but the first three more have the feel of making love, where your lover takes his/her time, getting to know every inch of your body and is eager to find out what makes you tick, and just covers you with deep, slow kisses…

DT door 1

And if the first three are the literary equivalent of making love, Song of Susannah is the literary equivalent of a quickie.  Song of Susannah is urgent, and does not take the time to get to know you.  It will still kiss you, but the kisses are greedy and even a little rough at times.  Song of Susannah shoves you against the wall, grasping you with its rough hands, and will do its business with you, not caring that your clothes are not fully removed, or even that you are in the kitchen instead of the bedroom.  And this is perfectly fine, as you are eager to move forward, and the sense of urgency has been growing…

And there is nothing wrong with a quickie, literary or otherwise.  In fact, a quickie can have its charms, and Song of Susannah has many of those.

Susannah 1

One of the charms of Song of Susannah is the title character herself, Susannah Dean.  Previously, Susannah’s character had not been emphasized as much, with Roland, Eddie and Jake receiving most of the attention.  However, this changes in Song of Susannah, and Susannah’s thoughts and feelings are now front and center.  In particular, we get to see Susannah’s interaction with Mia, who has possessed her body and will stop at nothing to deliver her offspring, although there is the risk that the offspring may kill both of its “mothers”, along with its father.  The origin story that Mia provides to Susannah is fascinating, along with the explanation of how her offspring ties to Roland.  Susannah is still loyal to her ka-tet and desperately wishes to be reunited with them, especially her husband, Eddie, but also feels a pull of sympathy towards Mia, who she knows has bought the lies, hook, line and sinker,told by the Crimson King and his henchmen.  Through the eyes of Susannah, Mia becomes a somewhat sympathetic character, even though she is still not on the side of the “white” (Roland and company) and is one of “the bad guys.”

Castle Discordia

Even though the emphasis on Song of Susannah is on Susannah herself, a few other characters shine through.  One of these characters is Eddie Dean.  Previously, Eddie was a heroine addict.  Eddie became “clean” after his forced entrance into Mid-World, despite the fact that he fought Roland tooth and nail, and even tried to kill Roland, in an attempt to get back into “the real world.”  But Eddie then falls in love with Susannah, and stays with Roland in Mid-World to help Roland further his quest.  In Song of Susannah, Eddie’s love, Susannah, is taken away from him.  And then Eddie is taken away from Mid-World, and thrust back into the “real world,” giving him a chance to pick up his old habits again.  However, even though Eddie has had his rock taken away from (Susannah), he does not succumb to the temptation, and even behaves admirably, fighting in another gun battle with Roland and then helping to persuade Calvin to sell the vacant lot so that the rose (and therefore the Tower itself) can be protected.  Eddie easily could have lapsed back into his old ways, but behaves admirably instead.  In other words, he (again) proves himself to be a true gunslinger.

Eddie 1

Of course, no discussion on Song of Susannah would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room…

elephant in the room 1

Yes, its time to get meta.  Meta-fiction, that is.

Stephen King included himself as a character in the Dark Tower series.  This decision is controversial, to say the least.  Often, the reaction to this decision is something like this:

lion licking

The reaction is also varied:  some love it, some hate it.  And there is also the persistent rumor that one day King will rewrite the series, and not include himself as a character in it.

Stephen King

However, King meeting his own characters in Song of Susannah was one of my favorite parts of the book.

There, I said it.  And let me repeat myself:  KING MEETING HIS OWN CHARACTERS IN SONG OF SUSANNAH WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF THE BOOK.

See, I even used all caps, in case you didn’t hear me!

Oftentimes, as a artist, your creations can feel as if they are part of you.  And they can become real.  I dabble in painting, drawing and so forth, and when I am really working on a painting or drawing, I feel as if I am part of that piece of art.  In other words, part of me lives in my artwork, and continues to live in that artwork, even when it is “finished.”  A little piece of me goes into everything that I create.  In fact, you might even say that my artwork is “alive”, in some sense.

So imagine how Ser King must have felt.  King has been working on this series from the very beginning, and it has never been very far from him.  And like his characters in the book, he must have felt a sense of urgency to finish writing the series, due to some interesting letters from fans, and his own internal pressure.

Roland 12

And as the pressure mounted, the world of Roland and his friends likely became more vivid to King.  Maybe he began to dream about them.  Or perhaps he heard their voices, calling out to him to finally finish the tale.  Or maybe they paid him a visit…

Yes, maybe the characters paid him a visit.  Like I said, I feel that my artwork lives, in some way.  And I am sure that King feels the same way:  his artwork also lives.  And sometimes, art imitates life.  Or does life imitate art?  Either way, by including himself as a character, I believe that King was trying to drive home a point:  artists really do live in their own little world.  And that world can sometimes feel more “real” that the so-called “real world.”  And an artist’s creations are never far from him/her, and can cry out to the artist, begging to be “finished.”

Dark Tower 3


 

So that’s it for Song of Susannah.  Join me and our heroes on the last leg of this fantastic journey, as we review and dissect the final book:  The Dark Tower.  Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


 

Connections

Just for fun, here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in Song of Susannah.

-Eddie tells Roland that he sees a “death bag”, or black aura, surrounding Stephen King.  This brings to mind the black auras seen by Ralph Roberts in Insomnia, when he encountered people (or animals) who were near death.

atropos

 

-Roland thinks of Susannah’s proclivity to be able to “house” another personality, given the fact that Detta was another personality of Susannah’s for so long, and now Mia has also taken up residence in Susannah’s mind.  Another character in the King universe with this proclivity was Thad Beamount in The Dark Half.  Tad’s mind housed George Stark, who was eventually given life and was also able to cause trouble, in much the same manner as Mia.

Dark half 1

-When Roland speaks Calvin Tower in regards to his and Tower’s ancestors, the subject of dragons rears its head.  Roland states that one of his ancestors wanted to kill a certain dragon, but that dragon had already been killed.  This may be in reference to Niner, the dragon who was slain by King Roland in the book The Eyes of the Dragon.   Randall Flagg also made an appearance in this book, so this is another confirmation that Roland’s world and the world in The Eyes of the Dragon are likely the same world.

Eyes of the Dragon 1

-The Rose is said to have healing powers, and seems to be able to cure almost any ailment.  The Rose seems to be similar to the Talisman in the book of the same name.  In the book The Talisman, once Jack Sawyer found The Talisman, he was able to cure his mother and her Territories Twinner of the cancer that was killing both women.  It is possible that the Talisman may be another world’s manifestation of the Rose.  In other words, the two may be Twinners.

Talisman 2

 

-Again, Breakers are mentioned in Song of Susannah.  Breakers also play a role in a few other books and short stories, including Hearts in AtlantisEverything’s Eventual and Black House. Characters with PSI abilities are rampant in the King universe, and include Carrie White, Abra Stone, Dinky Earnshaw, Ted Brautigan and Danny Torrence, among others.

Dinky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

roland-and-susan-kiss

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

 

roller coaster 1

 


 

 

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.

Blaine 2

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.

Short-Circuit_13_03_25

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.

thinny 1

 

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.

Susan Delgado 6

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