19 Dark Tower Moments

Well, howdy, folks!

Or more appropriately, hile, folken!

In other words, life gets…

Well, lifey sometimes, I suppose.

And what’s a nerd to do when life hands her its lifey-est?

Well, if you said grab the best fantasy series ever, written by The Master and delve back into for the whatever-eth time, you would be…

I’ll take correct, for $19, Alex!

As if both er all of my readers need to be reminded as to what blog they are reading…

So yeah, you bet your fur (or should that be your billy-bumblers pelt) that when you need an escape, The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is just the ticket!

(Of course, hot chocolate sprinkled with nutmeg would make a great accompaniment, wink, wink…)

Now, I have already reviewed all of the books in the series when I did my literary keg stand a few years ago.

But, I love writing about this series so much!

And there is so much to unpack.  I don’t think anyone could ever write too much about The Dark Tower series.

EVAH.

So here I am,ready, at your disposal, ready to provide you with…

More written content about the series, ya perv!

Anyway, I have come up with a list of moments in the series.

Wait for it…

Nineteen moments!

(Nineteen moments.  See what I did there?)

*Casually pats self on the back for being able to make it approximately three blog minutes without bringing up the number 19*

So yes, another list!  My INTJ attempts to inconspicuously wipe the drool from her face…mmmm, lists…

No particular order on this list, although don’t hold me to that statement (it’s still early, only 7 or so blog minutes.)

These moments are varied, and are pulled from all the books in the series.

Some are funny.

Some are head scratchers.

More than a few are tragic (we all know that reading almost anything written by The Master is a form of self-punishment.  But oh so worth it.)

But all of these moments were selected because they stand out, for whatever reason.

So, let’s quit beating on Sheemie’s mule, and get to it.

Time to count down nineteen of the most memorable moments of The Dark Tower series!

Oh, and before I forget:

Continue reading

Live Nerdiness!

Come and check out your favorite nerd, live on the podcast known as Dark Tower Radio, where I palaver with a fellow nerd on King, horror, book, Dark Tower and all kinds of good stuff!

And yeah, I may sound even more nerdy live than on here…who knew???

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/dark-tower-radio/e/48987589?autoplay=true

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

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

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

 

Yes, it’s that season again…

No, not Halloween.  Something far more frightening…

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

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

Like books.

Like books that are horror stories.

Like books that are horror stories written by…

Simpsons SK

I’ll take Stephen King for $19, Alex!

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

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

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

That will calm me right down, I think.

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

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

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

Um, yeah…

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

Doctor Sleep.  The book with so much beauty.

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

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

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

Cleaner 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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

phantasm-2-8

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

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

felicity-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The-hunger-games-katniss-rue-death-flowers

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

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

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

elephant in the room 1

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

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

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

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

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

And, in all seriousness, what did we expect?

shining-family-pic

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

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

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

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

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And what did we expect to happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny did grow up to become an alcoholic.

Danny also became someone with anger issues.

So that’s the yes part.

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

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

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

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

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

However, Danny succeeds where his father had failed.

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

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

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

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

Stephen King

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

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

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


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

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

batman and robin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Don’t Forget Your Napkin: My Review of The Eyes of The Dragon

Once upon a time, there was man known as Uncle Stevie.

Uncle Stevie liked to tell scary stories.

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There were bad guys in Uncle Stevie’s stories.  Lots of bad guys.

In fact, he once told a story about a clown that killed children.

He told a story about a town that was invaded by vampires.

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He even told a story about a haunted hotel that tried to do bad things to a little boy with special talents.

But Uncle Stevie was not a bad man.  No, not at all.

In fact, Uncle Stevie had children of his own.  But those children could not read his stories, because they were children, after all.  Uncle Stevie did not know what to do.  He couldn’t scare his own children, but he wanted to write something they would like and not be scared of.  Uncle Stevie thought for a long time.

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One day, Uncle Stevie got an idea.  He decided to write a fairy tale of sorts, and dedicate it his daughter, Naomi.  Excited, Uncle Stevie got to work right away and wrote his new story.  It took him a long time, but he finally finished writing the story.

Uncle Stevie decided to call this new story The Eyes of the Dragon.  And his children were happy, since he finally wrote a story that they could read, and they liked it.

The story was actually sort of a fairy tale, although it was kind of long for a fairy tale.

But it read like a good fairy tale:  there were kings and queens.  And princes.  And even an evil sorcerer.  And the story took place in a magical land, far, far away.

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Although it was fairy tale, you could still tell that this story was written by Uncle Stevie.  There were some parts that were kind of scary, but not as scary.  And people did some bad things in the story, but never got punished like they would in a regular fairy tale.

In other words, The Eyes of the Dragon was a fairy tale, but you could tell it was written by the guy who writes scary stories.

And like Uncle Stevie’s other books, The Eyes of the Dragon would suck you right in to the land of princes and evil sorcerers, if you weren’t careful.  So kids liked it, and so did the grown-ups.

This nerdy grown-up decided she wanted to feel like a kid again.  So she read The Eyes of the Dragon this month.  Once again, she was captivated.  And enchanted.

Just like reading any other book written by Uncle Stevie.

So, here is her recap and review of The Eyes of the Dragon.  As always, watch out for the fierce beasts known as Spoilers!

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book introduces us to man named Roland.  Roland is the king of a land called Delain.  Roland is not hated in Delain, although he is not loved either.  Most people think that Roland is a competent king, and have no strong feelings towards him, one way or the other.

Roland is not a very bright man, and relies on the advice given to man by a man known as Flagg.  Flagg is Roland’s trusted adviser, and is also a man familiar with magic and its various uses.  There are many who do not quite trust Flagg, but no one dares to cross his path, as most people actually fear him.

At nearly 50 years old, Roland is still single, and this must be remedied, so that he can bear a son who will take over his royal duties one day.  Flagg introduces Roland to many women, and eventually, a woman named Sasha marries Roland.  Sasha is only 17 when she marries Roland, and is inexperienced in the ways of men.

Roland is also inexperienced in the ways of women, and has trouble bedding Sasha.  However, she becomes pregnant with the couple’s first child, Peter.  Peter is handsome and well liked, and takes after his mother.  Peter’s favorite toy is a dollhouse that was a gift to his mother.  The dollhouse is intricate and even has working parts, such as a small stove that heats up.  Peter spends hours playing with this dollhouse, making up fantastical stories to go along with it.  Peter also shows leadership skills at an early age, as he is able to exert his influence over people.  One day, Peter is able to prevent the unnecessary death of a horse.  Naturally, Flagg notices this and becomes uneasy.

Queen Sasha is well loved by the people of Delain, and is able to influence Roland when he makes certain decisions.  She also insists upon making sure that Peter is taught manners and etiquette.  Specifically, she makes sure that Peter uses his napkin, no matter the circumstances.  This is a lifelong habit that becomes ingrained in Peter.

Eventually, Sasha becomes pregnant with the couple’s second child, Thomas.  Flagg distrusts Sasha, and plots to kill her.  He is successful in accomplishing this when Thomas is born, as he convinces Sasha’s midwife to sever a vital artery, so that Sasha dies from blood loss.

As Peter grows older, Flagg distrusts him more and more.  He realizes that if Peter were to become King, Flagg may be vanquished from Delain.  After much thought, Flagg decides to kill King Roland and pin the death on Peter, so that Thomas will become King.  Thomas lives in the shadow of his brother, as he is not handsome and smart like Peter, but is more like his father.  Since Thomas is feeling neglected, this makes it easy for Flagg to exert his influence over Thomas.

One autumn night, Flagg poisons a glass of wine and gives it to King Roland, who drinks the wine, not suspecting that anything is amiss.  While this is happening, Thomas is spying on his father by peeking through the head of Niner, a dragon slain by his father on a hunting expedition.  Thomas feels that something is amiss, but does not say anything.

Flagg plants evidence in Peter’s room that will be found after his father’s death.  Roland does not show any signs of illness for a few days, but dies a sudden, painful death.

Shortly after the death of Roland, preparations are made for the coronation of Peter as king of Delain.  However, the preparations are halted after Dennis, the royal butler, finds the evidence planted by Flagg in Peter’s room.  Peter is then tried and convicted for the murder of his father, and Thomas is crowned king of Delain.

Thomas is reluctant, but accepts his new title, but feels guilty for his complacence in his father’s death and the false accusations against his brother.  In the meantime, Peter is imprisoned in a tower known as Needle.  His cell is several stories off the ground.

Within a week of his imprisonment, Peter makes two demands:  that his mother’s old dollhouse be brought to him, and that he receive a napkin with every meal.  Peter sends a message to Anders Penya, the Judge General of Delain, with this demand.  With the help of Ben Stadd, Peter’s best friend, Anders is able to grant these requests.

Ben Staad stands by Peter in claims of innocence, and refuses to to believe that his friend could have committed such as act.  Even Anders Penya, who had questioned Peter in regards to the murders, begins to have his doubts in regards to Peter’s guilt.

The dollhouse is finally delivered to Peter, and he begins receiving his napkins at each meal.  Peter then removes a few threads from each napkin, and begins to weave a rope using the miniature loom in the dollhouse.  It is painstaking work, but Peter is patient, and spends the next five years making this rope so that he may escape his prison.  Peter also finds an old locket and letter one day, and realizes that Flagg has been spreading  his evil throughout the kingdom of Delain for several centuries.

In the meantime, Thomas attempts to rule over Delain as king.  However, he is a very unpopular king, as he has raised taxes on the kingdom, due to advice from Flagg, whom he has become dependent on.  Thomas is very unhappy and moody, due to the fact that he is not ready for the responsibilities as king, and the guilt over his father’s death.

One night, Thomas sleep-walks to his secret hiding spot, and re-enacts the night of his father’s death in his sleep.  This is witnessed by Dennis, Thomas’ royal butler.  Dennis is badly frightened by what he sees, and begins to question King Roland’s death.

A few days later, Dennis pays a visit to Anders Peyna, and tells his tale.  Peyna becomes distressed, realizing that he has falsely imprisoned Peter, the true king of Delain.

The next morning, Peyna sends Dennis back to Delain, advising him to be careful.  Peyna then heads north to the camp of the exiles, where many have fled to escape the situation in Delain.  Peyna plans to seek the help of Ben Staad, Peter’s old friend.  The Staad family are among those who have fled Delain.

Since Dennis is able to read and write, Peyna tells him to send a note to Peter in secret.  Dennis writes the note, and hides it among the napkins, in the hope that the note will reach Peter.

Peyna also speaks to Ben Staad, and sends Ben back to the kingdom of Delain to help Peter.  Ben is accompanied by a woman named Naomi Reechul, who drives a sled pulled by Husky dogs.  With Naomi’s help, Ben reaches the former home of Peyna.  In order to track down Dennis, Naomi has Frisky, one of her dogs, track Dennis’ scent, in the hopes that they may find him.

In the meantime, Peter has finished weaving his rope and plans his escape from Needle.  However, he has second thoughts when he receives Dennis’ letter, which states that Peyna does not believe Peter is guilty of murder and was in fact wrongfully imprisoned.

Peter re-thinks his plans to escape the next night, and uses his blood to write a note to Dennis.  He bundles it in a napkin, in the hopes that Dennis will find it.

Dennis lurks outside The Needle and catches a glance of Peter.  He also finds the note, and decides that he will do anything to help Peter.

Ben and Naomi are able to track down Dennis, with the help of Frisky.  The three then exchange stories, and make plans to rescue Peter.

That night, Flagg finally realizes that Peter means to escape, and begins to head up the stairs of Needle, to Peter’s cell.  Peter hears Flagg coming, and using his rope, begins to make his escape.

As he is making his escape, Peter’s rope breaks.  However, his fall is cushioned by a pile of napkins, which were loaded into a cart by Ben, Naomi and Dennis.  Peter falls, but survives, much to the anger of Flagg.

Flagg then chases Peter and his friends to the former chambers of King Roland.  Flagg says that he will kill Peter.  Peter then confronts Flagg with the knowledge of the murder of his father, along with Flagg’s past evil deeds.

Thomas then appears, with his father’s bow and arrow.  Flagg believes Thomas to be the ghost of Roland, which makes him forget about his plans to murder Peter.  This allows Thomas to shoot Flagg with his father’s bow and arrow.  The arrow then hits Flagg in the eye.  After he is hit by the arrow, Flagg vanishes, leaving only his clothes behind.

After the confrontation with Flagg, Peter is acquitted of his father’s murder.  Peter invites Thomas to stay in Delain, but Thomas declines.  Instead, Thomas says that he will spend his life tracking down Flagg, so that he may avenge his father and brother.  Dennis offers to accompany Thomas, and Thomas gratefully accepts the offer.

Thomas leaves Delain, and it is not known if he ever returns, although he did have many strange adventures.  Peter continues to rule in Delain as king, and Ben and Naomi eventually get married.


My Thoughts

Well, I did say that I wanted a break from the scary stuff.

In other words, I needed a break from watching Indianapolis Colts football!

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Haha, just joking!  Even though the Colts are frightening to watch at the moment, I will still be loyal to them!

But seriously, The Eyes of the Dragon though…

The Eyes of the Dragon is a fairy tale.  And it is a fairy tale written by the King of Horror.

And…wait for it…

It is actually a good fairy tale written by The Master!  Who knew?

Stephen King

Ok, it’s confession time…I hope all both  of the readers of this blog have some tolerance and don’t judge me…

For many years, I put off reading this book.  There was something that just did not sit right with me, in regards to this book.

In my little mind, Sai King was not supposed to write fantasy children’s stories (although this one does have some adult themes, more about that later.)  He was supposed to write about the scary hotels, rabid St. Bernards, possessed vehicles, cursed burial grounds and all those other things that have kept me up at night over the years.

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In other words, there was no room for princes, evil wizards and faraway kingdoms.  Absolutely not allowed!

Well, as one might say in another faraway land created by King, “I cry your pardon.”

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I finally read The Eyes of the Dragon a couple of years ago.  And I enjoyed it then.

And when I re-read it this year, I was again reminded of what I had missed out on, due to my obstinate nature.

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While The Eyes of the Dragon is not in my top 10 (too many others overshadow it), I still consider it to be one of King’s underrated gems.

And it even has tie-ins to some of my favorites, like The Dark Tower series.  And The Stand, which is one of my books of all time, period.

The Eyes of the Dragon could be considered to be a children’s tale.  And in many ways, it is. My parents read me fairy tales when I was child, and I was constantly reminded of those when I was reading this book.

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There is land that is far, far away, aka the kingdom of Delain.  King never specifies just where Delain is, but it is not on any map that exists in this world.

There are kings, queens and princesses.  King Roland, Queen Sasha and Prince Peter are almost “textbook” fairy tale characters if you will.  They are well loved by the people they rule over, and strive to the right thing.

And there is an evil wizard.  Flagg fits the bill of evil wizard perfectly:  he is a scheming, evil and ultimately prideful creature who does his best to wreak havoc wherever he goes (again, more about Flagg later.)

However, like almost all of King’s books, there is more than meets the eye (pun not intended) in The Eyes of the Dragon.

First of all, there is King Roland.  Now, I am not calling King Roland necessarily a bad guy, because he does try to do what is right.

However, King Roland is DEFINITELY not a bright man.  And time and time again, his actions remind of that fact.  Usually, it is the bad guys in fairy tales that are bumbling buffoons, not the good kings who want to do what is right.  But Roland is an exception in this book, and this actually makes the book more interesting, and adds a little depth to the story.

Then there is the character of Thomas, aka Thomas the Tax Bringer, whom I actually find to be one of King’s most fascinating characters.

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On the one hand, Thomas appears to be a bad dude.  When the narrator described how Thomas killed a dog because….well, just because, I immediately felt the need to go home and hug my dogs (luckily, they are the tolerant sort and don’t mind random hugs, unlike my cats, who revel in blood sport.)

But, on the other hand, I would agree with the narrator:  Thomas is not a bad boy.  Repeat:  Thomas is not a bad boy.

Now, Thomas may have done some pretty bad things.  Killing that dog, for instance.  And watching Flagg murder his father and not saying a word about that to anyone.

However, some of Thomas’ actions are understandable.

Thomas was basically screwed from the moment he came into existence.  When he was born, his mother died.  Even though that was not his fault, Thomas (and possibly others) blamed his birth on the death of his mother.  So he had to carry that guilt.

Then there is the fact that Thomas is the brother of Peter.  Growing up, it was my brother who had friends and was the musician.  I was just the awkward nerd that no one else noticed.  So of course, this created resentment with me, just as Thomas resented his brother, even though he did love Peter, as I love my brother.  Being in someone’s shadow and never being noticed for your accomplishments (and Thomas was actually a good archer) is difficult, and can be pretty depressing.  Thomas only wanted the approval of his father, and not getting it made him understandably upset.

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So, while some of Thomas’ actions were deplorable, at least they were understandable, given the context.  I don’t think that Thomas was an inherently evil character.  In fact, there is only one inherently evil character in this book.  We will talk about him in a bit.

One thing I love about The Eyes of the Dragon is that it is a fairy tale.  It tells of fantastical lands, kings and queens, magic, evil wizards and all that good stuff.

I also love that The Eyes of the Dragon is a Stephen King book.

So, Captain Obvious strikes again, right?

Well, let me explain a bit.

What I mean is that I love fantasy and fairy tales.  When I was a child, my parents had to constantly read to me from various books of fairy tales and fantasy stories, as they were my favorite.  We read Peter Pan.  We read the non- Disney version of Pinocchio (seriously, my parents wonder where my horror obsession comes from.  Read that one sometime.  It is far more disturbing than most “horror” stories.)

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So, I feel at home when I read those types of stories.  They are my bread butter, you might say.  George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Madeleine L’Engle are just a few of my favorite authors.  The land of fantasy is my home.

But, despite the fact that The Eyes of the Dragon appears to be a fairy tale, it was written by the King of Horror.  And throughout the book, we are constantly reminded of that fact.

For one, The Eyes of the Dragon has some gruesome deaths.  Gruesome deaths are Sai King’s bread and butter, after all.  The death of Queen Sasha definitely counts as gruesome, as a mid-wife used a knife to cut a vital organ so that Sasha would bleed to death.  Not only is this gruesome, this is also one of the most tragic deaths I have ever come across in any book.

Speaking of gruesome, there is the death of King Roland.  Roland is poisoned, but not with just any poison.  No, only “Dragonsand” would do for Roland.  This was a poison that burned someone from the inside out…shudder.

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Most fairy tales end on “happily ever after.”  The evil is defeated, and justice is somehow served.  However, this is not the case in regards to The Eyes of the Dragon.

For one, Flagg is not defeated.  Sure, he exits the kingdom of Delain, but he still alive!  And read to make mischief wherever he can.  Seriously, I wonder if he found the world of The Stand because he got evicted from Delain?  Seems legit, right?

There is also Thomas.  I did say that Thomas was not a bad guy.  But he was also complicit in the murder of his father and imprisonment of his brother.  However, Thomas never faces any consequences for his actions, and basically leaves the kingdom in shame, although he leaves under the guise of doing something noble, aka tracking down Flagg so that Flagg can answer for his actions (wish I could find out how that worked out, actually.)

In other words, Thomas did not get a happy ending.  The only one who really got a happy ending was Peter, and maybe his friend Ben.  And Peter probably spent years trying to clean up the mess made by Flagg and his brother, so I am really not sure how happy his ending really was.

Ok, I saved the best for last.

Or is it the worst for last?  Maybe best of the worst for last?

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am talking about that bad guy that we all love to hate…

Can I get a round of loud booing for…

None other than Randall Flagg himself!

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Now, Randall Flagg is ubiquitous in the Stephen King universe.

He shows up, in one way or another, in so many different books.  And he seems to be the equivalent of the cockroach in the King universe:  he just won’t go away!

Or perhaps the equivalent of Von Miller:  a one man (or maybe one demon) wrecking crew who is impossible to game plan for.  Instead of see “Miller, V,” we have see Flagg, R.

Flagg is perhaps most associated with the novel The Stand.  A world has been ravaged by the super flu and trying to rebuild itself.  Of course, with no help from Flagg, R.

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The Stephen King cockroach also makes several appearances in the Dark Tower series (both the books and the comics.)  In fact, he is part of the best opening line in history:  The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

(Again, see Flagg, R.)

And he is also a character in The Eyes of the Dragon.

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Out of all the different flavors of Flagg (kind of gross if you think of it that way, actually), I think that his character in The Eyes of the Dragon is my favorite flavor.  Not that I don’t think he’s great in all the other books, but there is just something about him in The Eyes of the Dragon that makes my heart go pitter-patter…

For one thing, he is pretty creative in this particular book.  I mean, a poison called Dragonsand?  Talk about a different, painful kind of death on the person you inflict it on!

He also has the old school, evil wizard feel to him in The Eyes of the Dragon.

He is crafty, cunning and enjoys evil for the sake of…well…evil.  There is no other way to put it.   We, as readers, tend to like to assign motivations to characters, to give them a reason for their actions.

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Well, there is no reason for Flagg’s actions in The Eyes of Dragon.  He is a bad guy who enjoys being a bad guy.  He does evil things because he likes it.  He only feels remorse when his plans fail and he is unable to unleash chaos  like he wants to.  He garners no sympathy from the reader.  In fact, the reader roots for him to die, and is disappointed when he doesn’t (one of the perks of being an evil wizard includes the ability to perpetually exist and stir up trouble everywhere, even breaking the inter-dimensional barrier.)

So it’s refreshing, actually.

Almost as refreshing as glass of wine that includes that extra touch of Dragonsand…


So, that’s it for The Eyes of the Dragon!

Join me next month as we return to the “real world…”

In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting an oldie but goodie, otherwise known as The Shining.

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

batman and robin


Connections

Although it takes place in the “faraway” land of Delain, there are indications that The Eyes of the Dragon is indeed a part of the Stephen King universe.  Here are some of the connections that I found:

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-The most obvious connection to King’s other books is the character of Randall Flagg.  Flagg appears in several other King works, including The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Wastelands, The Wind Through the Keyhole and even in the title story of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  Flagg apparently possesses the ability to travel to other worlds, and can perhaps even travel through time.

Mother Abigail

In The Drawing of the Three, Roland speaks of an encounter with Thomas and Dennis, while they are on a quest to find Flagg.  It is not known if Thomas and Dennis are ever able to confront Flagg and force him to answer for his crimes against Delain.  In fact, it is doubtful if their quest was ever successful, and it is more likely that this quest eventually results in the deaths of both Thomas and Dennis.

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-King Roland shares a first name with with Roland Deschain, the main character in King’s Dark Tower series.  However, this is all the two share, as Roland Deschain is clever and skilled, unlike his Delain counterpart.

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-Peter’s time in The Needle can be said to be similar to Andy Dufresne’s imprisonment in Shawshank State Prison in the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (part of the collection Different Seasons), as Andy was also imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.  Like Peter, Andy Dufresne also spent years devising and ingenious escape plan, under the noses of his captors.

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-Randall Flagg owns a two-headed parrot.  Parkus, the man responsible for law and order in the Territories in the novels Black House and The Talisman, also owns a similar creature.  It is unknown if these creatures are one in the same, or merely just similar.

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-Mention is made of Rhea of the Coos.  Rhea is a major character in the novel Wizard and Glass, as well as The Dark Tower comics.

rhea of the coos

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.

humpty dumpty 1

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.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

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.

Ted Brautigan 1

-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.

Eyes of the Dragon 1

-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.

Dinky

-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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Penny Dreadful: Season 3 Finale Recap and Review

For once, I am at a loss for words.

And no, I don’t exaggerate.

I am literally speechless.

Last night, I watched what I thought was simply the season finale to Penny Dreadful, which is one of my favorite television shows.  And that is saying something, since I don’t care about most television shows.  I read books.  I hold things to a very high standard.

In other words, it takes a lot to impress me.  A lot.

And Penny Dreadful impressed me.  It impressed me, and did so much more.

I fell in love.

I fell in love with the characters.  I could see a bit of myself in every one one of them.  Even the ones who were not “human.”

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I fell in love with the dialog.  This is one of the most quotable shows I have ever watched.

I fell in love with the setting.  This show has gorgeous visuals, there is no other way to put it.

I fell in love with the story lines.  Some of the story lines were better than others, but I loved them all.

And I may have taken this show for granted.

Not that I expected a long run, but I thought we would get more seasons.  If a show is this good, we get more seasons, right?

Well, no.  Last night, I watched the finale to season 3.  Turns out this is also the series finale.

In other words, I said goodbye last night.  And it was gut-wrenching.

I had an ugly cry.

My nose got stuffed up.

My eyes turned red and bloodshot.

My makeup ran all over my face.

In other words, it was beautiful.

Gut-wrenching still, but beautiful and cathartic.

ugly cry

Endings usually are.

So, without any further ado, I bring you my recap and review of the series finale of Penny Dreadful.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Dr. Seward finds her receptionist, Renfield, in her office listening to her sessions with Vanessa.  Renfield exhibits odd behavior and attacks Dr. Seward.  Dr. Seward realizes that she is dealing with a supernatural creature, and is able to fight him and capture him.

Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive in London and immediately notice that things have gone awry in London.  They are told that the air has become poisonous, killing thousands of people.  They hurry back to Malcolm’s mansion, concerned about Vanessa.

Once Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive at Malcolm’s mansion, they are almost immediately accosted by vampires.  Malcolm is bitten, but saved by the arrival of Catriona, who cauterizes his wound.  Dr. Seward also arrives, and tells the group that she has captured Renfield, who can help them find Vanessa.

Caliban dines with his family, and they discuss moving away from London,  Caliban’s son Jack expresses a desire to return to the beach when he is well.  However, Jack becomes overtaken by his consumption, and Caliban helps him to bed.

Ethan leaves the mansion to find Victor, as he feels that Malcolm needs a doctor.  A mysterious boy is awaiting him at Victor’s apartment, and promises to lead to him  to Victor.

Dorian returns to his mansion, and demands that the women who have gathered there on behalf of Lily leave.  Most leave, but Justine stays, and challenges Dorian’s authority, stating she will not return to her old life and that she would rather be killed by Dorian.  Dorian obliges her, snapping Justine’s neck.

Victor holds Lily captive in Henry’s lab in Bedlam.  He tells Lily that the serum will make her better, but Lily disagrees.  She then proceeds to tell Victor the story of Sarah, her daughter who died in infancy.  Lily was forced to prostitute herself so that she and her daughter could survive.  One night, Lily was badly beaten by one her of customers.  By the time she arrives home, Sarah has died from the cold, and Lily is heartbroken.  Victor has a change of heart, and lets Lily go.

The mysterious boy leads Ethan right to Dracula, and Dracula unleashes his creatures upon Ethan.  Ethan fights back, but turns into a werewolf because it is the full moon.  He is joined by another werewolf, who turns out to be Kaetenay.  Both wolves fight off the creatures, and transform to their human selves.  Ethan realizes that it is Kaetenay who cursed him and is angered.  Kaetenay tells Ethan that he cursed him in order to help save the world, and that Ethan has the ability to help Vanessa, despite his curse.

Victor tells Henry that he has allowed Lily to go free.  Henry chides Victor for this, telling Victor that his work in science will amount to nothing.  Henry then tells Victor that his father has died, leaving his estate to Henry.  Henry demands that Victor address him by his proper name:  Lord Hyde.

Dr. Seward leads Malcolm and Catriona to Bedlam, where she has locked Renfield in a cell.  They also meet up with Victor, Ethan and Kaetenay.  Dr. Seward hypnotizes Renfield, and deduces where Dracula is holding Vanessa captive.

That night, Caliban awakens in the middle night and checks on his son.  He discovers that his son has passed away from consumption in his sleep.  Marjorie and Caliban make plans for his burial, and Marjorie demands that Caliban ask Victor to resurrect their son.  Caliban refuses to do so, stating that he will not curse his son to eternal life.  Marjorie then tells Caliban that if he does not resurrect their son that he can leave their home.

Malcolm, Kaetenay, Ethan, Catriona and Victor hunt down Dracula.  They are again accosted by vampires, but fight back using various weapons, such as guns and stakes.  Ethan escapes the creatures and finds Vanessa in a room lighted by candles.

Ethan tries to persuade Vanessa to escape with him, telling her that he will protect her from the dark forces that seek to possess her soul.  Vanessa tells him that this is impossible and the she wants her suffering to end.  Together, they recite the Lord’s Prayer, and Ethan shoots Vanessa with his gun, ending her life.  Before she dies, Vanessa tells Ethan she sees God, and He is waiting for her.

After Vanessa dies, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, and Dracula flees.

Lily returns to Dorian’s mansion, where she finds the body of Justine.  She tells Dorian that she cannot be with him any more, and leaves.  Dorian is skeptical, and predicts that she will return to him.

Caliban buries his son at sea, against the wishes the wishes of Marjorie.  He returns to living his life in the shadows.

A funeral is held for Vanessa.  Malcolm says that he will not return to Africa, as he will stay in London to properly grieve Vanessa and the rest of his family.  Ethan states he will also remain in London, as he considers Malcolm his only family now.

The episode ends with Caliban visiting Vanessa’s grave, reciting a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend.


My Thoughts

So many thoughts…such as long blog post.

And I don’t really care about the length.  After all, this is my last post in regards to this show, so I may as well make it count, right?

This post will probably wind up being a bit emo, so let’s talk about some of the lighter moments in the finale, as there were a few.  After all, you can’t have a series finale be all about the feelsies, right?

I loved the action scenes in this episode.  In fact, I think they were my favorite part of the episode.  I can be a sucker for moments that don’t require mountains of tissue.

One of the best action scenes was the Werewolf Bowl.

That’s right.  Game of Thrones got its Bastard Bowl.  Therefore, Penny Dreadful gets its Werewolf Bowl!

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Ethan was kicking ass on his own, but then he is joined by the “gray wolf.”  Who is none other than Kaetenay!  How about that?

And it turns out that Kaetenay was actually responsible for Ethan’s curse, and that he had a good reason for putting that curse on Ethan…who knew?

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I also loved the gun fight that took place between the Scoobies and Dracula’s groupies.  Malcolm and Victor were bad ass, but in my mind, they did not hold a candle to Miss O’-Nine-Tails, aka Catriona.

On a side note:  did anyone else think of Danny Glick when they saw that kid vampire, or was that just me?

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That’s right, I misjudged Miss O’-Nine-Tails.  Turns out that she was not on the side of evil, but on the Scoobies’ side the entire time.  And a valiant fighter.

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She swung from rafters, for Pete’s sake.  And cauterized Malcolm’s wound without a second thought.

In other words, she was a total fucking bad ass.  The only bad thing I can say about her now is that she was only in a handful of episodes…sniff…

In fact, Buffy herself would have been proud…a turn of the century Slayer?  Hey, I can dream, right?

Oh, and let’s not forget Renfield.

Renfield munching on a frog and tendering his resignation to Dr. Seward…priceless!

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As always, the visuals for this show did not fail to impress me.

In particular, I was struck by the scenes of Ethan walking down the street, with the Japanese lanterns in the background.  The contrast between the colors was beautiful, and made things look that much more eerie.

One thing is for sure:  the visuals on this show have spoiled, and pretty much everything I watch will be held up to the standard that Penny Dreadful has set.

I would also like to talk about character arcs for a moment.

For instance, the ones I find fascinating are Dorian’s, and Caliban’s (we will talk more about Vanessa later.)

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On the surface, these two may not have very much in common.  But that’s on the surface.

Both are immortal.  Both have lived in the shadows, so to speak.

In fact, when the show started, Dorian and Caliban lived in the shadows.  And neither cared very much about the lives of others, although often, they would use other humans as a means to an end.

However, one character took a different path from the other, and became a better person for it.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

That’s right, Caliban is the one who experienced growth.  In fact, out of all the characters, Caliban may have been the character who experienced the most growth.

Slowly, throughout the series, Caliban found his humanity, through the memories of his family, and his relationship with Vanessa.  The same cannot be said of Dorian, however.

Caliban has learned from his experiences.  For example, he chooses not to resurrect his son, even though it costs him his relationship with his wife.  Dorian does not learn from his experiences, however.  When  he grows tired of Lily, he discards, along with Justine and all the other women who had a been a part of Lily’s army.

And while both Dorian and Caliban may continue to live in the shadows, only one has seen the light.  And that would be Caliban.

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Ok, time to talk about the feelsies…

And there were so many of them, in what turned out to be the series finale for a spectacular show.

Finally, we got a little more information on Lily, when she told the story of what happened to her daughter.  Did anyone else feel the oxygen getting sucked out of the room, or is my imagination just that vivid?

The story of Lily’s daughter was tragic.  It also brought up an interesting point:  our memories, both good and bad, make us who we are.  And to rob someone of his/her memories, as Victor intended to do, would be a cruel act.  Myself, I have plenty of bad memories, as I am a domestic abuse survivor.  But if I were robbed of those memories, I would not be me.  Like Lily, being a shell of myself, and not having those memories, some of which are painful, but essential to my being, would be the cruelest punishment of them all.

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Then there was Caliban.  Which made me cry more, the death of Vanessa, or the sight of Caliban burying his son at sea?

I don’t know, but the two are pretty close.

I thought a bit of Pet Sematary, which I read earlier this year, when watching this episode.

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Caliban was kind of the anti-Louis Creed.  He resisted temptation, and gave his son a proper send off, so that his son would not be damned for all eternity.  And boy, was this painful to watch.  I heard a splintering noise and figured that was the sound of my heart breaking wide open.

Before I conclude this post, let’s talk a bit about Vanessa and her arc.

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Now, I wasn’t happy that Vanessa died.  In fact, I was anything but.  I hated it!

I hate this ending, but I also feel that this was the only ending.  While this ending sucked, it was definitely the right ending.

Some may vehemently disagree with me on the ending, along with the fact that John Logan did not let us know that this was the last season of the show.

However, I agree with Malcolm:  Vanessa never would have found happiness, had she lived.  She was doomed for all eternity, and would have been fleeing from the darkness all of her life.  Not even Ethan would have been able to protect from those forced that sought her soul.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_301_5002

So Ethan performed the ultimate act of love:  he shot her and ended her suffering.  However, he used his powers as Lupus Dei to bring her back to her God, so that she found peace before her death, and (hopefully) salvation in the afterlife.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_1688

And I agree with John Logan that this was really Vanessa’s show.  Vanessa touched the lives of many, including Ethan, Malcolm, Caliban and even Dorian.  So without Vanessa, there is no show.

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Announcing the end of the series would have been a spoiler of sorts, as any intelligent person (probably) would have deduced the death of Vanessa.  And where would the fun have been in that?  Personally, I enjoyed this season.  Knowing that it was the last season would have put a damper on my fun, although I still would have watched it.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

And what better way to end the series, than to have Caliban recite a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend?

Vanessa touched the lives of everyone she met, but I believe that she had the greatest effect on Caliban.  When she was a patient in the Banning Clinic, he was the orderly tasked with caring for her.  However, it could be argued that she helped him much more than he helped her, as she brought out his humanity even then, making him the best man he could be.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3197

And even after he became an un-dead Creature, Caliban’s relationship with Vanessa still made him a better man.  It inspired him to reunite with his family, even though that ultimately proved painful, with the death of his son and the loss of his relationship with his wife.  However, these losses served to bring Caliban back from the dead, so to speak, and proved that he was not in fact the monster everyone saw on the outside, but someone more human than almost everyone else on the show.

Nothing is more beautiful than a man who recognizes what true humanity is, and strives to make sure that everyone is afforded it, no matter the cost to himself.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


Well, that’s it. That’s it for Penny Dreadful.

We have been so lucky to have been blessed with such a wonderful show.  The acting, the visuals, the dialog, the writing…all of it was superb, and I would not change a thing, as this show has been simply perfect.

So, I am tearing up a little, but I bid the series goodbye, and am thankful to have had the privilege to watch it, and spend so many hours writing about it and discussing it.

The series may have been cancelled, but it will live on in my heart forever.

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Burnin’ For You: My Review of The Fireman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

Well, let me just say this much:

Joe Hill, you are on fire!

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s talk about those…

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

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

Nick

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

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

And the homage went way beyond even The Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to talk about Harper Willowes, our main character.

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

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

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And now we have Harper Willowes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially about the ending, but more on that later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I admit it, I grew complacent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

 

Dead is Definitely Better: My Review of Pet Sematary

Well, I just finished A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series.

So now, we wait.  And wait and wait.  And wait some more for books six and seven, at least, according to history, as our beloved GRRM is not exactly the quickest when it comes to publishing books.  However, I love this series so much, so I forgive the bumbling writer of what will probably be one of the most epic fantasy series of all time.

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In fact, I think of it as karma:  I discovered The Dark Tower series after all the books had been published, so I was able to read them at my leisure.  So now the universe has paid me back by forcing me to wait on Game of Thrones.  It’s all good though, I am sure I can find something else to occupy my time before my return to Westoros

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Well, good thing we have The Master!  Really, are you even surprised any more?

Simpsons SK

So, in order to relax while waiting for book six in A Song of Fire and Ice (yes, I may fight windmills while I am waiting for that, actually), I decided to pick up another Stephen King book.  In other words, I have time to kill (see what I did there).

I casually thought about what relaxing book of King’s to read.  I mean, there are quite a few to choose from.

So, I chose Pet Sematary.

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

I mean, that’s a relaxing read, right?  It will give me some pleasant dreams, right?  It’s good family fun, right?

Ok, you got me.  I really need to stop abusing the sarcasm font.  Seriously…

I deliberately chose Pet Sematary.  If memory serves, this is the one King book I have only read once, and there are very good reasons for that.

I first read this book when I was about 13 years old.  Shortly after, my parents made me stay in this really weird place…I think it’s called Arkham Asylum?  And I met some really funny folks there and they became my lifelong friends!

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In other words, Pet Sematary scared me into a change of pants.  I couldn’t sleep with lights off for at least a couple of nights.  Being alone in the house sucked.  And I felt the need to hug my cats really, really tight, claws and teeth be damned.  I may have been turned off from horror and had to resort to watching Disney flicks after this book, as a matter of fact.

Of course, I decided to re-read it, nearly 25 years later.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, horror is about confronting fears, to an extent.  In fact, King has written about that, in more than a few books.

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So if a group of plucky kids can travel down to the sewers and confront their fears, why can’t nearly 38 year old me re-read a book that terrified her at age 13?

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Therefore, I convinced myself to read Pet Sematary.  Don’t worry, I have the Blue Heeler Protection Agency at my service, so I will be safe at all times…screw you, Wendigo!

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Anyway, here goes nothing, aka my recap and review of Pet Sematary.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The story begins with the introduction of the Creed family:  Louis Creed, who is a doctor; his wife Rachel; his five year old daughter Ellie and his infant son Gage.  The Creeds have relocated to Ludlow, Maine from Chicago, and have also brought their pet cat Church along.  The Louis and his family meet  their new neighbor, Jud Crandall, shortly after their arrival at their new home, and become fast friends with Jud and his wife Norma.

Louis and his family quickly settle into their new life in Ludlow.  Louis begins his new job at the nearby university.  Ellie starts kindergarten.  Gage slowly settles into his new routine, and Rachel also becomes friends with Jud and Norma.

One afternoon, not long after Ellie’s first day of school, Jud Crandall stops by the house and invites Louis and his family to take a walk with him.  Jud takes the Creed family for a walk on their property that is about a mile long, and shows them something that is called the “Pet Sematary.”  This is actually a graveyard for family pets, many of which were victims of the busy nearby highway.  Louis and Ellie find the site to be a curiosity, although Rachel is disturbed by it.

The next morning, Ellie becomes upset over the idea of the Pet Sematary, as she realizes that her cat, Church, will not live forever.  Louis tries to calm her and explain death to her, but Rachel becomes extremely upset over the conversation, as her sister Zelda died when Rachel was a child.  Rachel becomes so angry that she forces Louis to promise tonever bring up the subject of death again with their daughter.  Louis becomes troubled, thinking that there may be much more to the story of Zelda’s death than Rachel has told him.

The next day, the university that employs Louis is back in full session, so the real work begins for Louis.  And Louis is put to work right away, as one of his first patients is a young man who is the victim of a car accident.  The young man’s name is Victor Pascow, and Louis quickly realizes that his patient will die.  Before the young man passes away, he mentions the “Pet Sematary”, and tells Louis that is not the real cemetery.  However, before Louis can ask any more questions, Pascow passes away from his wounds.  Louis dismisses the young man’s words as a trick played on him by his ears, and proceeds to do his job as a physician.

That night, Louis encounters Victor Pascow in what he believes to be a vivid dream.  Louis follows the being claiming to be Victor Pascow to the Pet Sematary.  The being then warns Louis not to go beyond the Pet Sematary, no matter how tempted he becomes, and that the destruction of himself and all that he loves is very near.  The next morning, Louis finds pine needles on his bedroom floor.  Louis dismisses the incident as an extremely vivid dream accompanied by an episode of sleepwalking, and continues with his day.

The weeks pass by, and the memory of the incident with Victor Pascow begins to fade.  On Halloween, Louis takes Ellie out trick-or-treating and stops by Jud’s house.  While he is there, Jud’s wife Norma has a heart attack.  Louis is able to administer treatment to her, and Norma survives the incident and makes a nearly complete recovery.

For Thanksgiving, Ellie, Rachel and Gage fly back to Chicago, while Louis remains in Maine.  While his family is gone, Church the cat is run over by a vehicle on the busy road.  Louis is upset and wonders how he will break the news to Ellie, who is very attached to Church.  However, Jud tells Louis that he may be able to help him, and insists on burying Church that night.

Jud leads Louis to the Pet Semetary, and Louis believes that he will bury Church there.  However, there is a burial ground beyond the Pet Semetary, and this is where Louis buries his daughter’s cat.  Jud tells Louis that his burial ground is a Micmac burial ground and that it may contain magical properties.  Louis is skeptical, but buries Church there anyway, and returns home shortly after, still wondering how he will break the news to Ellie.

The next day, Louis gets the surprise of his life when Church returns to his house.  Initially, Louis thinks that he perhaps made a mistake in thinking that Church was dead the night before, and was perhaps just unconscious.  However, the cat seems to have changed, and Louis cannot get rid of the feeling that something just is not right.

That night, Jud tells Louis the story of how he buried his dog, Spot, in the same burial grounds.  Like Church, Spot is resurrected, but is not quite the same.  Jud tells Louis that he was relieved when his dog died a few years later, as his personality had changed, and always smelled like dirt.  Jud also tells Louis that this could be a good lesson for Ellie, to help teach her that death is not such a bad thing.

Rachel returns home with Ellie and Gage, and Louis is glad to see his family again.  However, Ellie notices that something is different about Church.  She says that he stinks and no longer allows the cat to sleep with her.  Other than that, life continues on its normal course for the Creed family.

That winter, Norma Crandall passes away in her sleep.  The Creed family and Jud are extremely saddened by this.  Over Rachel’s objections, Ellie attends the funeral with Louis, and this becomes a rite of passage of sorts.  Rachel finally tells Louis about the death of her sister, Zelda, who passed away from spinal meningitis when she was ten years old.  Rachel was left alone in the house to care for Zelda before she passed away, and the experience was extremely traumatic.  Rachel has spent her life feeling guilt in regards to Zelda’s death, and Louis tries to convince that she finally needs to let go of the guilt and move on with her life.

Tragedy strikes that spring.  Gage is struck by a truck on the busy highway near the family’s home, and is killed almost instantly.  The entire family, including Louis, succumbs to a state of shock and grief.  Rachel’s parents blame Louis for Gage’s death, and Louis gets into a fistfight with his father-in-law at Gage’s funeral.  Louis is in so much pain that he is unable to offer much comfort to either his wife or daughter.

Jud speaks to Louis, as he is afraid that Louis is considering burying Gage’s body in the Micmac burial ground, in the hopes of bringing his son back to life.  Jud tells of a young man who was killed in WWII and buried in the burial grounds by his grieving father.  The young man was resurrected, but did not come back as his former self.  The young man’s personality became vicious, and he only wanted to speak of the nasty secrets kept by Jud and a fewer other townspeople.  Jud theorizes that the man was possessed by the spirit of the Wendigo.  The young man is killed again by his father, who also commits suicide.  Jud and the other townspeople who convinced the young man’s father to end the experiment had their lives spared, but Jud feels that coming into contact with the Wendigo has cursed him, and possibly caused the death of Gage Creed and the pain that the Creed family is now suffering.  Louis promises Jud that he will not bury Gage in the burial ground, but the thought never strays far from his mind.

Despite his promise to Jud, Louis decides to carry out his and attempt to bring Gage back to life.  He sends Rachel and Ellie back to Chicago with Rachel’s parents, promising them that he will join them in a few days.  However, both Rachel and Ellie sense that something is not right with Louis, and Ellie begins to have disturbing dreams in regards to the Micmac burial ground, her father and her brother.  The ghost of Victor Pascow also speaks to Ellie in her dreams, telling her that he can warn her of the danger, but that he cannot interfere.  After hearing of her daughter’s dreams, Rachel attempts to call Louis but receives no answer.  This prompts Rachel to call Jud and ask him to check on Louis.

Jud complies with Rachel’s request and checks on Louis.  However, he finds no sign of Louis in the family home, and fears that Louis intends to attempt to resurrect Gage via the Micmac burial ground.  Jud also fears that the curse of the Wendigo is upon him and the Creed family.

Louis steals the corpse of Gage from the graveyard, intending to carry his plan through.  In the meantime, Rachel rushes back to Maine from Chicago, in the hopes of stopping Louis from doing something potentially dangerous.  Rachel speaks to Jud via the telephone, and Jud promises to tell her the whole story the next day.

Louis buries his son in the Micmac burial ground, and returns to his house to wait for Gage, in the hopes of making his family whole again.  Meanwhile, Rachel frantically tries to return to Maine, but it seems as if someone or something is trying to prevent her return.

Jud is awakened early in the morning by a noise in his house.  It turns out that Church the cat and Gage have paid him a visit.  However, Gage is no longer a little boy, and begins to torment Jud with speculations of his wife’s infidelity.  Jud realizes that he has been tricked, but it is too late, and he is murdered by Gage with a scapel.

Rachel is finally able to drive back to Maine, and heads directly to Jud’s house.  She also encounters Gage and Church, and is attacked by Gage.

The next morning, Louis receives a call from his father-in-law with the news that Ellie has been hospitalized due to hysteria. Ellie has also been having prophetic dreams in regards to her family. Louis’ father-in-law tries to persuade Louis and Rachel to come back to Chicago, and Louis promises that they will attempt to return that night.

Louis then finds Church the cat, and kills the animal by giving it a shot of morphine.  Louis then goes to Jud’s house, where he finds the old man’s body.  Louis then discovers the body of Rachel, who has also been murdered by Gage.  Rachel’s corpse also appears to have been cannibalized.  Louis is then attacked by Gage, and is forced to administer him a fatal short of morphine.  After killing his son, Louis then burns down Jud’s house.

After burning down Jud’s house, Louis brings Rachel’s body to the Micmac burial ground.  He is convinced that he waited too long to bury Gage, and that was the reason why Gage turned evil.  Louis has convinced himself that by burying Rachel right away, things will be different, and buries her in the grounds.

That night, Louis is playing solitaire in his house.  His hair has gone completely white.  He hears a voice, and a cold hand falls on his shoulder.  The voice is full of dirt, and simply says, “Darling.”


 

My Thoughts

Let’s get one thing straight:

Pet Sematary is a good book.

And if you are crazy enough to be reading this blog and have gotten this far, you may be thinking:  Well, water is wet.  The sun does set in the west, right?  Why do we need to state the obvious, in other words?  Of course Pet Sematary is a good book…it was written by The Master, right?

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

Well, there is that.  However, I have talked about this book in an unflattering light at times, so I wanted to set the record straight:  this is a good book.  I may have taken 25 years to re-read this book, but it is an excellent book.

As stated earlier, I was scared into a change of pants the first time I read this book.  And this is still true:  I consider this to be King’s scariest book ever written (more on that in a bit).  However, when I re-read the book at the almost impossibly ancient age of 37 going on 38, my feelings were a bit…mixed…is the best word I can come up with.

If you are a member of the approximately 5,000 Stephen King fan pages that I am member of on social media, you will see Pet Sematary memes on a regular basis (yeah, I need to get out more, I know).  And they are funny.

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And joking around is ok.  Really, it is.  A bit of whistling in the dark is ok, especially when you are dealing with serious topics, and Pet Sematary has many of those.  In fact, Pet Sematary is overflowing with…feelsies…

Yes, the book with the “grumpy cat”, Zelda and the creepy guy who reminds us that “dead is better” is also filled with feelsies.  In fact, there are so many that King should have put up a caution sign, so his Constant Readers aren’t liable to trip on them.

For example, we have the story of Zelda (also the subject of more than a few social media memes).  And the subject of quite a few nightmares.

And the scene involving Zelda is scary, it really is.  But it is also tragic.  When I read this book this time around, however, I was more saddened than anything when I read that part.  Obviously, I was saddened for Rachel.  The description of what Rachel witnessed and how it affected her, even into adulthood, was just heartbreaking.  I was also saddened for Rachel’s parents.  Rachel’s parents may not have made the best decisions in handling care for their daughter, who was facing a horrible, painful death without the slightest shred of dignity, but I was still sad for them, as no parent should ever have to face that.  But most of all, I was sad for Zelda herself.  Zelda was not a monster.  She never was.  She was simply a child who received some extraordinarily bad luck in life, and whose life was cut off too soon.  Her illness transformed her into something else entirely:  something in constant pain and unrecognizable to the ones who loved her the most.  She was robbed of her childhood.  When she should have been playing with dolls, running around outside with her sister and doing whatever other things that kids do, she was a prisoner to her pain in a back bedroom, where she lived her last days and served as a living reminder to her family that life is never fair, and is perhaps the most unfair to those whose deserve such unfairness the least.

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We also have the Creed family.  As I have stated before, the only “bad guy” in Pet Sematary is the Wendigo (more on that later).  When I was younger, I do confess to thinking that Louis was not entirely a “good guy.”  I thought that he was weak and played a role in the events that transpired.  However, this re-read has caused me to re-think this, and I no longer believe that Louis was a weak man.

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In fact, I like Louis Creed.  I like his whole family, actually.  The Creed family reminds me a lot of my own family.  I even have brother who is younger by about the same number years as Gage was to Ellie.  Louis also reminds me of my own father:  he wants to keep his family happy and safe, and for his children to have the best life he can give them.

King spends a lot of time letting his reader get to know the Creed family.  I loved reading about the day to day life of the Creed family.  I loved the interaction between Ellie and Gage.  Again, it reminded me of growing up with a younger brother who could be a pest, but I still (secretly) loved to pieces any way, even if he drove me crazy most of the time.  I also loved the relationship between Louis and Rachel.  They took their duties a parents seriously (again, each wanting the best for their kids), but they also had a great partnership.  Louis and Rachel were lovers as well as parents and partners, and their chemistry jumped off the pages.  The description of the day-to-day life of the Creed family may have seemed mundane, but King managed to the turn the mundane into something extraordinary.

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Because King turns the mundane into the extraordinary, the events that transpire are that much more heartbreaking.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  King has the ability to create monsters, but his greatest strength is writing about everyday life.  Pet Sematary is a great example of this.  King lets us get to know the Creed family and maybe even fall in love with them a little.  Then, tragedy strikes.  The death of Gage splits the family apart, as any death will, especially of one so young.  And King gives us a cutting description of the split.  One of the scenes that struck me in particular was the fight that Louis had with his father-in-law at this son’s funeral, where the fight comes down to fists.  I actually had sympathy for both sides, since I could understand the feelings, especially Louis’, given his shaky relationship with his in-laws.  The fact that the family was fighting, instead of supporting each other, was just so tragic.  However, it was also unfortunately realistic, as people don’t always show their best faces in times of tragedy.

Time to talk about the Wendigo.

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In re-reading this book, I came to a realization of what a big role the Wendigo actually plays in the events that transpire in this story.  And I did not realize what a large role this entity plays in the fate of…well, pretty much everyone is what it boils down to.

As I said before, when I was younger, I blamed Louis for much of what happened.  My though was that he should have known better and been able to fight against the unnatural forces that ended up destroying him and his family.

However, I no longer feel that way.  I believe that Louis was actually just another pawn in a horrific game.  In fact, I believe that everyone was a pawn in that game, even Jud Crandall.

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The Wendigo clearly had its designs on Jud for a long, long time.  And this is not really Jud’s fault, he fought the Wendigo because he was forced to fight it, due to someone else burying a human in those burial grounds.  Jud was also just trying to help his friend Louis teach his daughter some lessons about death.  Jud had no idea just how far out of control events would spiral, when Louis performed an experiment that should not have been performed.  In fact, I believe the Wendigo used the Creed family to get to Jud, as revenge for being defeated all those years ago.

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When reading this book, I was struck by the apparent influence that the Wendigo had over the town of Ludlow.  For example, the driver of the truck which hit and killed Gage stated that he felt compelled to speed for no reason when passing through Ludlow.  I don’t think that this was just a coincidence, rather I think this is just one piece of evidence of how much control the Wendigo really has.  I may even be able to make that same argument in the case of Church the cat, who felt compelled to cross the street for no reason, resulting in his death and Louis finding out about the burial grounds, which was a secret that should have stayed a secret.  Early on, the Wendigo was working its horrible power for its own gain.

I love how King subtly works the the mythology of the Wendigo throughout this book, even right up to the very end of it.  Louis sees the Wendigo as he takes Rachel’s body to the burial grounds, but his co-worker Steve also sees the Wendigo and is touched by its evil.  I also noticed that Steve has noted the run of bad luck of the people around him that year.  This is just not in regards to what happened to the Creed family in recent months, but it also appears that other people around Louis have had a run of bad luck.  Additionally, Steve is nearly pulled into Louis’ madness, but is able to resist it.  Interestingly enough, Steve moves far away from Ludlow shortly after that encounter, and never returns again.

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So is the town of Ludlow, Maine controlled by the entity known as the Wendigo, in much the same way that Derry, Maine is controlled by Pennywise the Clown?  I actually think the answer may be a resounding “yes.”  The citizens of Ludlow are protective, in a way, of the burial grounds and the Wendigo, in much the same way that the citizens of Derry were protective of Pennywise the Clown.  Like Derry, the Wendigo is a part of Ludlow, and anyone who interferes (like Jud and Louis) will be forced to pay in the form of some unpleasant consequences.

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Well, that’s it for the dark journey known as Pet Sematary.  But it is a journey worth taking, as I gained much from this re-read.  Join me next month as we spend a few sleepless nights in Derry.  In other words, we will be reviewing and dissecting the book Insomnia next month.

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

batman and robin


Connections

Pet Sematary is set squarely in the middle of the Stephen King universe.  I did not find a of connections, but here are the few that I found:

-Rachel Creed passes by a sign for the town ‘Salem’s Lot and thinks that it is not a nice name for a town.  ‘Salem’s Lot, course, is the setting for the book of the same name, along with two other King short stories, One for the Road and Jerusalem’s Lot, both are which a part of the collection Night Shift.

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-The town of Derry is mentioned a few times. Derry is the setting for several King novels, including It, Insomnia and Bag of Bones.

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-Louis thinks of a medical case where a fetus consumes an un-formed twin.  This is the premise of the novel The Dark Half.

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Ghostly Love: My Review of Bag of Bones

As anyone who knows me will tell you:  I am not much of a “girly girl.”

In fact, I could almost be mistaken for “one of the guys”  (although hopefully this does not happen too often, due to certain “assets” that I possess).

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

I am rude and crude at times.  I love to watch football and scream copious of amounts of profanity  and cheer for my team.  I laugh at bodily functions.  I make dirty jokes.  After all, I can’t help that both penises and vaginas are still hilarious even after my nearly 38 years on Earth!

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Of course, the non-girly tendency extends to my taste in books, movies and television.  As a rule, I don’t “do” chic lit.  I prefer fantasy and horror, although I like to think my repertoire is vast.

GoT meme

As for movies and TV, I generally consider them a waste unless at least one person is getting blown up.  Bonus for fiery car crash scenes.  And they have to be quotable, too.  More bonuses for clever usage of the word “fuck”, which happens to be among my favorite words, actually.

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But, there are always exceptions to the rule.  Every once in a while, I feel “girly” and decide that a good, ugly cry may be cathartic, after all.

ugly cry

And my soul is not completely black, I like to think that there is a little bit of color hidden in all that darkness.  In other words, I do enjoy romance, at least a little bit.

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So who do I turn to when I need a dose of chic lit?

You guessed it…The Master himself!  Again, this blog, you being surprised…I won’t even get into it any more!

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Yep, it turns out that old Uncle Stevie can write romance really well…is there anything The Master can’t do?  Well, maybe interpretive dance, but don’t feel bad, Sai King, I kind of suck at that myself, actually!

Many of King’s books actually contain some great romances.  These include Wizard and Glass, It, 11/22/63 and quite a few others.  As I have stated many times before, King is much more than just “America’s Boogeyman.”  He includes that element of reality in his stories that take them from good to unforgettable.  And romance is a part of everyone’s life.  After all, even cold-blooded killers can fall in love and get their hearts broken, just like the rest of us.

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The novel Bag of Bones is on the list of books written by King that do justice to romance.  On the one hand, it is “classic” chic lit.  We have a widower.  We have a single mom.  There is a cute kid.  And a mean old guy trying to ruin the lives of said single mom and cute kid, until the widower steps in and offers his help, falling in love with the single mom and cute kid in the process.  But on the other hand, it is classic King.  There are ghosts.  Lots and lots of ghosts.  Senseless deaths.  A mystery that needs to be unraveled soon, or someone (well, make that several someones) will be in grave danger.  The best of both worlds, in other words.

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So a spooky ghost story that also has some “feelsies”?  Well, it’s been awhile since I had any catharsis, so sign me up!  Time to take another journey into one of my favorite King novels, so buckle up for the ride!

As always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The story is told from the perspective of Mike Noonan, who is a moderately successful novelist living in the town of Derry, Maine.  The book begins in tragedy:  Mike’s wife Jo dies in a drugstore parking lot of a brain aneurysm. Even more tragically, Mike finds out that Jo was about seven weeks pregnant with the couple’s first child when she died.  Mike spends the next four years in a haze of grief, unable to write.  Any time Mike tries to write again, he becomes physically ill.  Mike also begins to dream of the couple’s summer home, Sara Laughs.  Even though he has not spent very much time in the home since the death of his wife, Mike decides that he will spend a few months in the home, with the hopes that the change in scenery will help him overcome the writer’s block that he is suffering.

Almost as soon as Mike arrives at his summer home, he senses a ghostly presence.  The ghostly presence indicates that it may or may not be his late wife, Jo.  Mike also makes the acquaintance of Mattie Devore, one of the residents of small town.  Mattie is a fan Mike’s work.  Mike rescues Mattie’s daughter Kyra, who has wandered onto the highway while Mike is driving.  This spells trouble for Mattie, as she is a widow engaged in a custody battle with her rich father-in-law, Max Devore.  Almost immediately, Mike receives a harassing phone call from Max Devore, and is summoned to appear in a court deposition in regards to custody of Kyra Devore.  Mike also meets Rogette Whitmore, Max Devore’s personal assistant, and George Footman, a local sheriff’s deputy who also works for Devore on the side.  It is clear that Mike has made an enemy of the old man, and he becomes angered at the old man’s  harassment of Mattie and Kyra Devore.

Mike also begins to realize that he is not alone in Sara Laughs.  He continues to sense a ghostly presence, and also realizes that his wife Jo had made a few visits to Sara Laughs before her death without Mike’s knowledge.  Jo was also seen in the company of an unknown male, and Mike begins to wonder if Jo had been having an affair.  Mike also begins to receive messages from someone or something in regards to Mattie and Kyra, begging him to help Maddie with her custody battle.  Mike then hires a lawyer named John Storrow to represent Mattie in her custody battle.  Mattie is grateful, and promises that she will do anything she can to repay Mike.  Mike also begins to fall in love with Mattie, and has a strange dream that includes Mattie, his late wife Jo, and Sarah Tidwell, a blues singer who inhabited the land now occupied by Mike back in the 1900’s.  Mike grows curious in regards to the history of his house, and begins to conduct his own research.

Shortly after arriving at his summer home, Mike is able to write again, and begins work on a new novel, hoping that the writer’s block is permanently gone.

Mike also receives a visit at his home from Max Devore and his assistant Rogette, and the visit is not a friendly one.  Mike is attacked by Rogette, and nearly drowns in Darkscore Lake.  However, he receives some help from the ghost of his wife Jo, and manages to survive the encounter.  Mike also receives a visit from Richard Osgood, another hired gun employed by Maxwell Devore.  Osgood serves Mike with a letter asking him to drop the custody case for Kyra Devore, and Devore will do the same.  The letter also taunts Mike in regards to his previous encounter with Devore and Rogette.  Mike speaks to Rogette on the phone, and tells her that he will fight back if either her or Max Devore tries to attack him again. Mike also receives a distressed phone call from Mattie, who has lost her job at the library due to the actions of Max Devore.

The next day, Mike receives a call from his caretaker, Bill Dean.  Bill tells him that Max Devore passed away the previous night, supposedly committing suicide by drowning himself in the bathtub.  Mike meets with Mattie and Kyra, and shares a kiss with Mattie.  Mattie plans a party to celebrate the fact that she no longer has to worry about the custody case, and invites Mike and the lawyers he hired.  Mattie also tells Mike that there have been some strange things going on in her house, namely magnetic letters that spell out messages and the names of people, including Mike’s deceased wife.  Mattie gives Mike one of the messages, but he is not sure what it means, other than the fact that it may pertain to one of his crossword puzzles.

That evening, Mike speaks to Jo’s brother, Frank.  Mike learns that Jo had been doing research on Sara Laughs, and had perhaps stumbled onto something in regards to the house and Mike’s family history.  Frank confesses that he met Jo at Dark Score Lake, and that Jo was not having an affair.  Frank also tells Mike that Jo stated that she would never return to Sara Laughs, and that she would tell Mike her secret when she was ready.

That night, Mike has what he believes to be a dream where he visits the Fryeburg Fair in the 1920’s.  Kyra Devore also joins him the dream, and the dream is extremely vivid, causing Mike to believe that he has actually traveled back in time.  Mike and Kyra see Sara Tidwell perform with her band, The Red Tops.  Sara is wearing a dress that belongs to Mattie, and clearly has evil designs directed towards Kyra.  Mike and Kyra also encounter people who appear to be the ancestors of some of the people in town, including one man named Jared Devore, who is likely related to Max Devore.  Mike is able to escape the past through a fun house, with the help of Kyra.  After Mike arrives safely at his house, he hears someone screaming, and thinks it to be the ghost of Jo.

Mike speaks to Mattie, and tells her that she may still be in danger, although Mattie is extremely happy because she got her job at the library back.  Mike talks to several of the people in town, and learns that several children who has names that sound similar (Carla, Kerry and even Kia, his unborn daughter), have died mysteriously over the years, and that this likely has something to do with Sarah Tidwell, her brother Reg and his son Kito.  In the process, Mike loses the services of his caretaker and housekeeper, who become upset when he begins asking questions.  Mattie’s lawyer, John Storrow, also speaks to Mike and informs that Mattie has inherited 80 million dollars from Max Devore.  The only catch is that she must remain in town for at least one year after his death.  Mike continues to sense a presence in his house.  He hears a child crying, and figures that must be Kito.  He also encounters the ghost of Sara Tidwell in his bed.  Mattie and Kyra also sense a supernatural presence in their home, and Kyra’s magnetic alphabet letters mysteriously vanish.

A crossword puzzle book finally provides Mike some more clues in regards to Sarah Tidwell and the history of the town.  When he looks in the phone book, Mike sees many names that are similar, especially in the families that have lived in town for some time.  Mike begins to fear that Kyra is in danger, as her name is is one of the similar ones.

Mike meets John Storrow at the airport, and he, John and the rest of the team that assisted on Mattie’s case meet at her house for a celebration.  However, the celebration comes to a tragic end, as it is interrupted by gunfire from George Kennedy, one of Max Devore’s hired hands.  John Storrow is wounded in the firefight, and Mattie is killed almost instantly.

Mike calls the authorities, and flees to Sara Laughs with Kyra, comforting her the best that he can.  However, Mike is nearly overcome by another force that almost compels him to drown Kyra in the bathtub.  Mike is then distracted by the ghost of his wife Jo.  He realizes that he has been inadvertently writing clues in the novel he was writing.  One of those clues indicates that Mike needs to looks under Jo’s old studio for two plaster owls.  Mike heads to the studio, unsure of what he will find.

When Mike arrives in the studio, he struggles with the ghost of Sara Tidwell.  With the help of Jo’s ghost, he finds the plaster owls.  Mike finds several newspaper clippings in regards to Sara Tidwell and her band, the Red Tops.  Mike also finds several newspaper articles showing the deaths of children, all of whom have similar names to Kyra’s, and has a vision of the father of his caretaker Bill drowning Bill’s twin sister Carla.  Mike realizes that the ancestors of the townspeople had done something horrible to Sarah Tidwell, and that he is also descended from one of those men.  Mike also vows to keep Kyra safe, and put the ghosts to rest once and for all.

The ghosts of Sara Laughs then tell the story of what happened to Sara Tidwell.  Sara and her band the Red Tops had settled in Dark Score Lake and called it home.  Most of the townspeople had no objection to their presence, even though they were black and this was turn of the century Maine.  However, Jared Devore, an ancestor of Max Devore and a small group of his friends did object to the presence of black people in their town, especially a black woman with Sara’s personality.  One afternoon, Jared and his friends confront Sara as she is walking along the lake.  Sara laughs at Jared, and is gang raped for her actions and then murdered to keep her from talking to the authorities.  Sara’s son Kito also witnesses the rape and murder of his mother, and the men drown him to keep him from talking to the authorities.  Mike then destroys the remains of Sara Tidwell, putting her spirit to rest.

However, all is not well.  Mike finds out that Rogette Whitmore has tried to kidnap Kyra, and he must rescue Kyra.  With the help of the ghost of Mattie, Mike is able to do that, although Rogette is killed in the process.  Mike realizes that Rogette was not just Devore’s assistant but also his daughter and Kyra’s aunt.

The book ends with Mike telling the story to Jo’s brother Frank, when he and Kyra spend Christmas with Frank.  Mike has retired from writing, and it attempting to get custody of Kyra.  The process is slow, but the now recovered John Storrow tells Mike that the odds are likely in his favor.


My Thoughts

One of Stephen King’s strengths  is that he can write “real-life horror” extremely well.  He has demonstrated this in books like The Shining, It and Pet Sematary.  Sure, ghosts, vampires, zombies, etc are terrifying, but anything having to reality can be even more terrifying (i.e. domestic abuse, alcoholism, the death of a child and so forth).

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And King also does this really well with Bag of Bones.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some scary ghosts in this book, and I give them their due.  But the scariest parts to me had almost absolutely nothing to do with anything supernatural.

For instance, the part where Mike is chased into the lake by Rogette and Maxwell Devore…shudder!  If I had to pick a way to die, drowning would NOT get my vote, the idea just scares me to death (no pun intended).  King’s description of the torture that Mike goes through is just brutal, and definitely can make someone re-think the idea of swimming by his or herself.

Another brutal scene in the book is the one that details the rape and murder of Sara Tidwell.  When I first read the book, I always saw Sara Tidwell’s ghost as somewhat sympathetic, even before I read this scene.  But she got my full sympathy when I read this scene, no questions asked.  This is another brutal scene.  She is gang raped, in front of her son.  And then murdered, along with her son, so that they will both stay quiet.  The fact that the rape and murders are racially motivated makes them that much sadder.  The fact that no one was brought to justice because the victims were African American also makes it sad.  I do not excuse Sara Tidwell for killing generations of kids, and coming thisclose to killing another one, but who could blame her?  The kind of pain that she endured is just not something can be erased.  Covered up, perhaps, but again, that kind of pain does not stay buried, and is something that will be felt for a long, long time.

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Another thing I loved about Bag of Bones was…you guessed it…the portrayal of the small town!

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Yes, Sai King writes the small town extremely well, and Bag of Bones is just one example of that.  It was a fascinating look at how the town in question created the ghost, and just how far the locals will go to protect their own and attempt to keep that secret.  Small towns may appear to be idyllic, but they often hide an ugly side.  And it doesn’t take a lot for that ugly side to surface.  No one is safe from that ugly side, no matter who their parents, grandparents or great uncles are and no matter how strong their ties are to the town.

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As stated before, Bag of Bones is a great love story.  Actually, there is more than one love story in Bag of Bones.  The first one is Mike and Jo’s love story.  The amount of detail King puts into their relationship is tremendous.  I liked how I really got to know Mike and Jo as a couple, and all the little things about their marriage:  how they would celebrate with a glass of champagne after Mike finished writing a book, how it was always Jo who suggested that they visit Sara Laughs for a bit, how Mike ate the chocolate bunny Jo had bought before she died, feeling like that was his last connection to her, the code that they would speak (Bunter’s bell, heehee), and how easily one can almost take this for granted, and then have it taken away, for really no good reason.  Ok, excuse me while I go plant one on my awesome husband!

But I also loved the relationship between Mattie and Mike, even though it was brief and never consummated.  No what your views on parenthood are, there is something enduring and even sexy when a man can take care of a kid (or a dog or cat for that matter, they count as kids).  If I were in Mattie’s place, I would have been smitten too:  good with kids, easy on the eyes and smart.  You can’t ask for much more than that!

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Another thing I loved about this book was the tie-in to Herman Melville.  Now this is where King shows that he is much, much more than a writer of horror (although us Constant Readers knew that already).  One of the criticisms that I hear A LOT about King is that he is not literary enough, whatever that means (not sure how many books one has to sell to cross over from being “literary” to being the “literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries” though).  And to those people, I say this:  read Bag of Bones, fucker!

Bartleby the Scrivener is considered to be a literary classic.  And here we have Bag of Bones, written by the man who is considered by many to be the master of modern horror.  The book is a Gothic ghost story, set in a small Maine town, and deals with topics such as racism and rape, along with the trials of single parenthood.  You would not think that we can insert a literary classic into the fold and have it work.  But it does, and it fits in perfectly with the ghosts, the small town and all the serious topics that this book deals with.

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The theme of Bartelby is the premise that our jobs keep us “tethered” to this world, if you will.  And this is very true.  One of the first questions that people ask when they meet someone is usually in regards to employment.  We have “career day” when we are in school.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  is a question that children are asked all the time (for the record, I am still mentally about 12 years old and have not grown up and am somehow trapped in the body of someone who is almost 38. At this rate, I will have an answer to that question in another 38 years or so).  So work is a big part of most of our lives.

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And, as Mike mentions in the book, marriage is a book part of most of our lives too, especially for men.  Take away one or the other, and one starts to become “un-tethered.”  And I think this goes for both men and women:  I have endured both divorce and job loss (thankfully not at the same time), and there were times when I thought I might just drift away, into the wind, metaphorically speaking.

However, our hero, Mike Noonan, actually loses both.  First he loses his wife, Jo.  Then he is unable to write, so he loses his job.  Like his characters, and Bartleby, he essentially becomes “a bag of bones”, and begins to wonder why he exists and what his purpose is.  Like Bartleby, he nearly exits this world, becoming a ghost of sorts.  Ironically, it the ghosts that save Mike and give him sort of substance.  He can write again (although that is more of a trick of the ghosts).   He has a purpose, in helping Mattie and Kyra.  He may find love again with Mattie (although that hope is cruelly dashed).  And even at the end of the book, after enduring unspeakable tragedy, Mike realizes that he is more than “a bag of bones”, even though he is without his work and without a partner in life.  However, Kyra gives Mike’s life a purpose, and he can no longer write off his life because he “prefers not to.”  The responsibility for Kyra provides substance for Mike, and he can no longer exist as a ghost.

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Well, that’s it for Bag of Bones, aka chic lit from the master of modern horror.  Join me next month, as I review and dissect a book that has some personal meaning for me, and is just a great story:  Rose Madder. Oh, and we may take a detour and visit the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger while we are at it!

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

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Connections

Here we go again.  Just for fun, here are some of the connections that I found to King’s other work in Bag of Bones:

Bag of Bones partially takes place in the city of Derry, Maine.  Derry is the location for several other works of Stephen King, including It, Dreamcatcher and Insomnia.

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-Mikes encounters a man named Ralph Roberts.  Ralph Roberts is the main character in the book Insomnia.

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-Mike also mentions knowing someone by the name of Thad Beaumont.  Thad Beaumont is the main character in the book The Dark Half.  We also find out that Thad commits suicide not long after the events in The Dark Half.

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-Norris Ridgewick makes an appearance at the end of Bag of Bones.  Norris is a character in the book Needful Things.  Mike also inquires after Polly Chalmers and Alan Pangborn, who are also characters in Needful Things, and learns that they have moved to New Hampshire.

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-Kyra and Mike travel back in time to the Fryeburg Fair.  Roland sees a sign for the Fryeburg Fair in the final Dark Tower book.  Kyra and Mike could also be considered to have gone todash, which is a state of altered consciousness that allows one to travel through space and time, as experienced by Roland and his friends in the book The Wolves of the Calla.

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-In the final book of the Dark Tower series, the character of Stephen King owns a house called Cara Laughs.  This house may a Twinner to Sara Laughs, as strange things also happen at Cara Laughs.

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My Top 10 Scariest Stephen King Books

So, it’s that time of year again…

Yes, Halloween is drawing upon us…

The season for scary stuff!

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

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

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

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

Yes, a little therapy from The Master!

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

Yes, Stephen King is scary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and as always:

Homer spoiler


 

10)  Rose Madder

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

And woman.

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

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

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

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9)  From a Buick 8

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

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

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

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

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8)  Revival

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

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

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

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

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

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7) Desperation / The Regulators

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

Stephen-King-Sons-of-Anarchy

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

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

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6)  The Stand

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

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

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

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5)  Black House

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

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

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

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4)  ‘Salem’s Lot

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

But, wait…there’s more!

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

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

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

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

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

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3) The Shining

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

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

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

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2)  It

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

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

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

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Enter Pennywise the Clown!

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

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

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

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

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Pet Sematary

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

pet sematary book 1

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

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

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

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

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

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

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

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Ghosts are scary…

Vampires are scary…

Haunted hotels are scary…

Heck, Indianapolis Colts football is scary!

But what is the scariest thing of all?

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

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

Happy reading!

RoaldDahl