American Gods: Episode 3 Recap and Review

So, Sunday finally came.

I had been waiting all week.

Finally, it was time to plunk myself in front of the altar, er television.

And worship…

Well, actually no.

Still a bit early for that particular Sunday service, as much I want to watch my Colts again.

Luckily, I have something else to worship in the meantime.

That’s right, I am talking about the divine new show on Starz network, aka American Gods.

After all, NFL season is only for 6 months of the year, and between February and August, the only offering we get is the draft.

So I need something to tide me over.

Luckily, American Gods allows me to continue worshiping at the altar, even though it is not football season.

And once again, this week’s episode provided plenty of reasons to worship at the altar on a Sunday afternoon.

Almost made me forget about the NFL season being still so far away.  Almost.

So join me, as I review and dissect episode 3, titled Head Full of Snow.

And, as always:

 

 

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Welcome to the Inscape: My Review of NOS4A2

Lately, confusion seems to be rampant in our world.

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

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

kellyanne-1

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

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

killer klowns 3 - Copy

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

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

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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

Joe Hill 2

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

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

 


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, writing-wise that is.

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

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

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

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First of all, the obvious connection.

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

Rose the Hat

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

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

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

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

black house 1

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

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

gunslinger

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

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

Trashy 1

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

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

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

One thing about NOS4A2…it is one scary book!

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

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

Christmasland 1

No, I am not.

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

After all, who isn’t familiar with Dracula?

Dracula 1

Or Kurt Barlow from ‘Salem’s Lot?

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

'Salem's Lot 2

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

He’s old, but not centuries old.

His victims are usually kids.

Charlie Manx 1

He drives a bad ass vehicle.

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

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

phantasm 2

But, back to Manx.

He may not drink blood, like Barlow and Dracula.

But he is still a vampire, nonetheless.

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

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

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

Who said that newer necessarily means inferior?

Manx can hold his own!

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

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

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

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

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

horns 3

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

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

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

Vic’s character has a great arc.

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

nos4a2-5

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

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

Now, NOS4A2 may be a scary book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gollum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, that is successful.

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


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

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

Joe Hill 1

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

Christine 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Simpsons SK

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.

'Salem's Lot 4

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.

Cleaner 3

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.

Church grumpy cat

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.

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84

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

Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 1 Recap and Review

After months of anticipation and excitement, it finally happened.

I turned on my television last night, and there they were!

My Avengers came back!

No, not those Avengers, although I am looking to spending some quality time with them soon, especially my man Iron Man.

No, I am talking about my literary Avengers!

In other words, I watched the first episode of the third season of Penny Dreadful, aka my adult sundae bar, aka my literary Avengers last night.

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

And, I felt a sense of homecoming.  Some may say that familiarity breeds contempt.  And sometimes this is true.

But familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing.  And the episode I watched last night proved this in spades, as much of the characters and ideas have been seen before.  But, this is Penny Dreadful, and there is always a twist.  In other words, the sundae bar had new flavors.  And new flavors are not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, they provide a welcome addition to what has already established itself.  I am always looking for additions.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the first episode of the third season of Penny Dreadful, which is titled The Day Tennyson Died.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode opens to a depressed Vanessa Ives.  Vanessa is now living in squalor in what was once a beautiful mansion.  Vanessa has stopped caring about her appearance, and also appears to spend most of her time alone.  Mr. Lyle knocks on her door, and forces his way inside.  Lyle notices the squalor and Vanessa’s appearance, and gives her a referral to a psychologist.

Ethan has returned to the States, and is being escorted by Inspector Rusk to face justice for the crimes he is accused of committing.  Ethan and Rusk are traveling by train.  The train is held up by would-be robbers, and chaos ensues.  Several people are shot and killed, but Ethan and Rusk survive the attack. Hecate is also a passenger on the train, and she also survives the attack. It is then revealed that the would-be robbers are actually bounty hunters, who have been sent by Ethan’s father to capture his wayward son.

Malcolm has buried Sembene in Africa, which no longer holds any allure for him, and he is eager to leave the continent and return home.  On his way out of a bar, he is nearly mugged, but saved by a man named Kaetenay. Kaetenay tells Malcolm that he must not die before he serves his intended purpose, and that there will be a confrontation with the forces of darkness.   Kaetenay also tells Malcolm that Ethan is in trouble, and needs his help.

Caliban has become stranded on a ship that is frozen in place somewhere in the Arctic.  His fellow passengers have become desperate, and are thinking of resorting to cannibalism to survive.  One of the fellow passengers is an infant who is dying.  Caliban sings to the child, and has memories of an unidentified man comforting a child in a similar manner.  Caliban then kills the child, viewing the act as one of mercy.  Caliban then exits the ship, and begins his journey via foot.

Dr. Victor Frankenstein requests a meeting with an old friend and colleague, Dr. Jekyll.  Victor discusses his discoveries with Dr. Jekyll, and confesses that he wishes to destroy Lilly, as he fears that she has become an evil creature incapable of any good.  Dr. Jekyll attempts to talk Victor out of murder, and speculates that they can possibly bring Lilly over to the side of the good.  Victor reluctantly agrees to try this, but says he will destroy Lilly if this experiment fails.

Vanessa meets with Dr. Seward, the shrink recommended by Lyle, and receives a huge surprise because Dr. Seward bears more than a passing resemblance to Joan the Cut-Wife.  In fact, Dr. Seward tells Vanessa that she is descended from the Claytons, and may actually be a relative of Joan’s.  Vanessa commits to the therapy, and Dr. Seward advises her to do something for herself that she has never done before, and report on the experience in their next session.

To fulfill her commitment to Dr. Seward, Vanessa visits the London Natural History Museum, and makes the acquaintance of Dr. Alexander Sweet, who confesses that, like Vanessa, he also loves broken creatures, as he feels that someone needs to care for them too.  On her way home, Vanessa encounters a strange boy who demands money for a cause related to Alfred Lord Tennyson, who has recently passed away.  Vanessa obliges the young man, and we also see another young man take away the money donated by Vanessa.

Upon returning to her home, Vanessa proceeds to clean the mansion and bring back its former glory.  She also writes a letter to Malcolm, confessing that all has not been well, and that she is suffering from a depression which threatens to take over her life.

At the end of the episode, the secretary who works in Dr. Seward’s office steals the money Vanessa left for services and heads to the questionable part of town, and pays for a prostitute.  However, the man is captured by the same creatures encountered by Vanessa earlier.  The creatures bring the man to their Master, who introduces himself as Dracula.  Dracula then forces the young man to do his bidding, as he has business with Vanessa.  The young man’s name is revealed to be Renfield.


My Thoughts

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:

ermahgerd 1

So much love, and this is only the season premiere.  So the bar has been set,  The bar has been set really high.  But don’t worry actors, producers, writers, etc…you guys got this, I know you do!

After watching this episode, I foresee a lot major reveals (maybe.)  And I have been wanting some reveals, so hopefully this prediction comes true.

For instance, there is my wolf, er man, Ethan.  Finally, we may get an Ethan origin story!  The show has spent two full seasons teasing us about the wolf and Ethan’s past, but we still don’t know the story of how he turned into a wolf, why he is on the run from his family and just exactly why he defected to England.  What did Ethan do in the States that made him a wanted man, even before the incident on the last episode of the first season?  Was he born a werewolf, or was he cursed by someone or something (and this may have tie-ins to something Native American, given that mysterious man who has been spying on Malcolm)?

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And just exactly what is going on with Ethan’s father?  Does he have something to do with that fact that Ethan is a werewolf?  And why has he gone to all the trouble to send bounty hunters after his son, who was in the custody of law enforcement officials anyway?

Yes, tons of questions, I know.  But legitimate ones, and I hope that the show has decided to answer at least some of them this season.

And it looks like that my literary Avengers have finally found their Hulk…

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No, not that Hulk!

I am talking about the introduction of the character of Dr. Jekyll.

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Although he claimed he no longer “hulks out” (my translation for his quaint, turn of the century speak in regards to his “rages”), I don’t buy this.  Nope, not at all.

In other words, I am sure that Mr. Hyde will make an appearance.  He did seem rather possessive of that beautiful monster, Victor.  So will that bring out Mr. Hyde?  Maybe.  Or will he fall for Lilly too?  Since he is probably a glutton for punishment, too, I can buy this, and things could get ugly pretty quickly between him and Victor (I love how the show casually implied that these two were at least roommates in the past, with possibly something more between them.  What a way to bring together two classic characters).  So Hyde would make an appearance.  And I can’t wait to see how the show and the actor interprets Hyde.  I am sure the interpretation will be a bit off the wall, but somehow make perfect sense.

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As always, Vanessa.  Yes, I know, I may be the president and founding member of Club I Obsess over Eva Green and Therefore Vanessa Ives Too, but I can’t help it.  My girl Eva Green is just a freaking genius!

I loved how, in this episode, there were so many faces of Vanessa.

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We started off with feral Vanessa, who needed a kindly reminder from Mr. Douche er Lyle to pick up her hairbrush.

Then we had funny Vanessa.  That interaction between The Cut-Wife  Dr. Seward and Vanessa was just priceless…I loved it!

Somehow, Eva Green managed to make hand-scrubbing floors a classy act…who does that???

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

The scene in the natural history museum was also a good one.  Dr. Sweet?  I am figuring he is either a vampire in disguise or possibly a future victim of a vampire, given his name and his personality.  I just don’t think anyone by the name of Sweet is NOT destined for something terrible in the Dreadful Universe.

Oh, and speaking of vampires…

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Yes, *that* vampire!

Finally, we have at least a voice for something else the show has been teasing us with for the past two seasons:  we heard Dracula speak!  So we have a voice for the icon now, even if we don’t have a face.  But still, that voice sent chills up my spine when I first heard it.  And now, anticipation is in the air…

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Oh, and speaking of chills down my spine…

The end of the episode.  You would have thought I was watching a Colts football game where Andrew Luck made a miraculous play and took a substantial lead away from some crazy team in Detroit, from the way I reacted (true story, by the way.)

(I also told my husband that if we ever get another cat, its name must be Renfield.  Really, he was laughing with me, not at me!)

As I stated before, there is something to be said about the familiar.  We are all familiar with the character of Renfield.  In fact, I remember reading Dracula in college, and finding that bit about Renfield somewhat amusing, but more than a little bit disturbing.  The guy lives in an asylum (predecessor to Arkham, I am sure), suffers from “delusions” and eats insects.  But he’s sensitive too, as all he wants is a kitty…go figure!

In other words, this is another classic character who will get an updated interpretation, courtesy of this show.  What kind of role will he play, and what will he fate be?  Definitely some interesting questions, and I am looking forward to the answers.  Again, the anticipation is in the air!

in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode -). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302

in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode -). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302


Well, that’s it for The Day Tennyson Died.  Join me next week for my review and dissection of episode 2, titled Predators Far And Near.

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

batman and robin

 

 

 

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.

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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).

redrum

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!

batman and robin


 

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.

Castle Rock 1

-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.

South Park wolf

-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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We Still Make New Year’s Resolutions, Calvin!

So today is the last day of 2015…

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Tomorrow, we wake up to a brand new year.  And to a brand new start, as some may believe.

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And a boon to gym owners, as well.

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But you will not catch me in a gym.  Nor am I dieting, I like baking and cooking too much, and it would be a crime not to reap the pleasures, right?  I would like more money, but so far, that bitchy pi has not revealed my winning lotto ticket…slacker!

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Nor am I like the Indianapolis Colts.  In other words, I don’t need to do any housecleaning after 2015.

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

In fact, like last year, I am kind of like this guy when it comes to New Year’s resolutions:

Calvin and Hobbes

Like Calvin, I think I am pretty swell, say thank ya!  The rest of the world needs to make a New Year’s resolution, not me!

But, I am going to make a resolution any way.  So maybe I am not so perfect…

Since last year’s resolution went so smashingly well, I am making a resolution for 2016.

In 2015, I re-read the entire Dark Tower series.  This included The Wind Through the Keyhole.  I read The Gunslinger, which I have a history of skipping…it was the revised version, even.

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And since I enjoyed my journey through Mid-World with ole, long, tall and ugly so much, I decided to make another resolution involving The Master (it is this blog, don’t act surprised).

SK give me what I won

So, without further ado…

My 2016 New Year’s resolution is…

drum-roll-please

To read at least one Stephen King book a month.  And since The Master has blessed us (and hopefully continues to do so for a long, long time) with so many books, I have a lot to choose from.

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I may take a trip to the sewers of Derry with The Losers Club…at my own risk, of course.

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Or meet up with a notorious HI-TONED SON OF A BITCH, although I hear he has an aversion to certain kinds of birds…

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Or maybe do a bit of shopping…I hear the owner negotiates!

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But hopefully, no car trouble on my journey…

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I can reunite with old friends, like Travelin’ Jack!

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Even though I have read many of King’s books many, many times, there is still a thrill in the re-read.  I feel like I’ve come home, and everything is just as I have left it.  I know where the TV is (although the remote is still a pesky little bitch and insists on hiding from me).  My key fits in the lock even after all this time, and the door opens up for me, even after all these years.  I can wander into the kitchen for a midnight snack, and not feel like an interloper.  Indeed, reading a Stephen King brings a literary kind of cozy, much like curling up on the couch with a warm blanket and furry friend.

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So, one Stephen King book per month for 2016.  Actually, let’s change that to at least one.  After all, why should I limit myself?  Yeah, I shouldn’t limit myself, not at all!  Nobody should, especially when there is a plethora of books to read and review!  Yay for New Year’s Resolutions, Calvin!

RoaldDahl

So, this is the last post of 2015…sniff…wait a minute, 2016 is mere hours away, hope you aren’t too heartbroken by my absence!  Happy New Year’s to both  all my readers, and may 2016 be an adventure for you as well!

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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…

drum-roll-please


Pet Sematary

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

pet sematary book 1

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

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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

Letter to Sir Reggie Wayne

Dear Reggie Wayne,

This is a letter to you.  I know you wrote one to us.  And it was lovely, although that part didn’t surprise, since you have been a class act since day 1.

But really, Sir Wayne, we need to be writing the letter to you.  The city of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Colts fans everywhere are indebted to you.

Reggie Wayne,  Charles Woodson

People talk about the Colts, and often Peyton Manning comes to mind.  And that’s understandable, as he brought the franchise to another level, with his outstanding play.  He even brought Indianapolis its first (and only) Super Bowl ring.

Or perhaps they think of Andrew Luck.  You know, that young quarterback about to start his fourth year in the NFL.  For some reason, people think he’s pretty good.  Some think that even more rings will be brought to Indianapolis with Andrew Luck under center.  And they are probably right.

Myself, I have so many Indianapolis Colts whom I love, all for different reasons.  So its hard to pick a favorite.  I try to be like how my parents say they are…I don’t pick favorites (yeah, right).

Peyton-Manning

But you, Sir Reggie Wayne, will always stand out to me.  People often say that Colts fans are spoiled, as we have gone from having excellent play from Peyton Manning to having excellent play from Andrew Luck.  Two gunslingers, in other words.

But there is one important part in those two eras that needs to be addressed.  And that part would be you.

You played among the greats, such as Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.  And Sir Wayne, you would need to be included in that list of greats.  Many others played a vital role, but Peyton Manning could not have done it without you.  You were a favorite target in the Peyton era in Indianapolis for a reason.  You made ridiculous catches.  Oftentimes, you were airborne, or you caught that ball with one hand.  You gave us some truly spectacular plays.

Linus

And then there is the Luck era.  The Colts were not supposed to be good after almost the entire organization underwent a massive rebuild in 2012.  Almost was the key word, as you and a couple of other players from the Peyton era stayed on. No one expected much from you and your teammates that year.  Winning four games would have been an accomplishment.  But, again, the Colts proved their doubters wrong.  Part of that (well, a big part of that) was due to the spectacular play of your teammate, Andrew Luck.  But again, Andrew could not have done it without you.  Once again, you made those ridiculous catches.  Sometimes, you were airborne.  Andrew Luck needed a security blanket that first year, and you made one heck of a security blanket for him, with your spectacular play to boot.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

You have been invaluable to the organization and to the city of Indianapolis.  You have taken young players such as TY Hilton under your wing, and helped mold them into outstanding players and outstanding citizens (although I don’t think that last part was terribly difficult).

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And again, your play during the time you were an Indianapolis Colt…I just can’t say enough about the spectacular plays you made!  I still get shivers down my spine when I think of that game winning drive your teammate, Andrew Luck, put together to win in the last few minutes of the game again Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers in 2012 (the fact that my husband is a Packers fan has absolutely nothing to do with my memories of this game.  Nothing at all).  That is just one of the moments that stands out to me.  And who could forget that 53 yard touchdown you caught from Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLI, which was instrumental in bringing Indianapolis its first (and so far, only) Super Bowl Championship?

Reggie Wayne, your number was chanted for a reason.  Number 87 has become associated with excellence.  Excellence both on and off the field.  There is no other way to put it.

Sir, you may no longer be a Colt.  Perhaps you will retire.  Or maybe another team will snap you up.  Whatever the case may be, the city of Indianapolis and the Colts organization will always be the winners, as they were privileged to have not only a great football player, but also a magnificent human being in their midst for so many years.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.  It was a privilege to not only have you as a player on my favorite football team, but also as a citizen of Indianapolis for so many years.  And I can’t thank you enough for that honor.

Sincerely,

Your grateful, humble fans.

San Diego Chargers v Indianapolis Colts

 

And the journey begins: My review of The Gunslinger

So, I made a New Year’s resolution a few weeks ago.  I am not a big fan of those, but I figured this one was possibly one I could stick to.  And I am sticking to it, as I just finished reading The Gunslinger (book one of the Dark Tower series), earlier this week.  And I don’t think I have ever been this excited about a New Year’s resolution.

Calvin and Hobbes

My only complaint was that I didn’t get started a little earlier.  However, the NFL season has basically come to a close.  Now that my poor, beleaguered Indianapolis Colts are watching the Superbowl from their couches (like 99.9% of the population), I suddenly have lots of free time, kind of like how Snoop Dogg had lots of free time when he announced he was giving up a certain, er, past time several years ago.

And if I can’t watch Andrew Luck show the world how to be a gunslinger on my television set, I can read about a gunslinger.  Namely, Roland Deschain.  Look up anti hero in the dictionary, and you will find Roland’s picture.  Or at least you should.  He is everything an anti hero should be, and more.  He was an anti hero even before the term is thrown around like it is today.  Jax Teller and Tony Soprano have nothing on this guy, I say.

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis ColtsRoland 1

So let us begin the journey into what may be one of the most epic sagas in literature of all time.

Synopsis

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

Every tale begins somewhere, and that is where The Gunslinger begins.  An un-named man, referred to as a gunslinger, is chasing another man (who can only be the antagonist of the book) across a desert.  We have no idea why the gunslinger is pursuing the man in black.  Neither character has a name.  We also don’t know where this chase is occurring.  But if any line can hook us in, it is this line.  Still one of the best lines in any book.  Maybe the best line ever.

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We learn that the gunslinger is a man named Roland, and he is on a quest, traveling a landscape that is similar to what we would find in a Clint Eastwood movie, or perhaps a Sergio Leone movie.  Roland starts the journey alone, but he soon finds himself in the company of a man named Brown.  Brown also owns a talking parrot.  Brown offers Roland food, water and a temporary place to rest.  We then learn, through a flashback, more of Roland’s journey.  More specifically, we learn of Roland’s time in a town by the name of Tull.  Roland had stopped in Tull for food and water.  Roland also enjoyed the company of a woman named Allie.  However, a preacher named Sylvia Pittson has a powerful hold over some of the people in Tull.  It turns out that the gunslinger’s nemesis, the man in black, has been using Sylvia Pittson and a drug addict named Nort to turn the town against Roland.  And he is successful, as the entire town turn, even Roland’s lover Allie, does indeed turn against the gunslinger.  Roland is then forced to kill every single inhabitant of the town of Tull.  No one is safe, including Allie, Sylvia Pittson, Sheb the piano player or even the children of Tull.  Roland then moves on from Tull to continue in his quest, seemingly undeterred.

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Roland also eventually abandons the company of Brown and continues to travel across the desert landscape on the heels of the man in black.  However, he comes across a roadblock in an abandoned way station.  Roland discovers a boy, about 11 years old, named Jake.  Curiously, Jake possesses memories of television sets and automobiles, items not found in Roland’s world.  Jake also states he was pushed in front of a moving vehicle and thinks that he died, but woke up in Roland’s world for some reason.  Roland continues on his quest with Jake in tow.  Roland saves Jake from an encounter with a succubus, but succumbs to the succubus in exchange for information regarding his future.  He also shares tales of his boyhood with Jake, which include the hanging of the traitor cook Hax witnessed by Roland and his friend Cuthbert and Roland’s early test of manhood in which he obtains the right to call himself a gunslinger.  Jake begins to grow wary of his new friend, as he senses Roland will stop at nothing in quest to seek the man in black.

Jake Chambers

Roland and Jake eventually make their way into a tunnel below the mountains, and use an ancient mine cart to speed their journey along.  They are attacked by what Roland calls “Slow Mutants”, or horribly deformed creatures which are implied to be the product of a nuclear war.  Roland and Jake also find the man in black but are placed in a situation where Jake ends up dangling from the tracks.  Roland is faced with the choice of sacrificing Jake and continuing his quest or rescuing Jake and losing the man in black.  Roland then opts to sacrifice Jake for his quest, letting him fall to the abyss and die a second time.  Jake is not surprised about the choice and falls silently to his death.

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Roland then catches up with the man and holds what he calls a “palaver” with his nemesis.  The man in black reveals himself to be Marten Broadcloak, the man who attempted to trick Roland into an early test of manhood, so that Roland would be sent West and out of Marten’s way, leaving Marten to his own evil devices.  Marten was unsuccessful, as Roland became a gunslinger at the unheard of age of 14.  Marten then deals Roland cards from a deck of tarot cards.  The first is “The Sailor.”  The second is “The Prisoner”.  The third is “The Lady of Shadows.”  Lastly, Marten deals Roland the card that simply says “Death”, implying that Roland will be able to cheat death many times over.  He also informs Roland that he will be sent companions to aid him on his quest, but that he will need to embark on a journey to seek out these companions.  Marten also tries to entice Roland to give up on his quest and gives Roland a view of the multiverse, to show Roland his insignificance and also to attempt to intimidate Roland.  Roland refuses to give up is quest, and is placed into a deep slumber by Marten.

man in black

When Roland wakes up, 10 years have passed and the man in black has disappeared, leaving  only a skeleton.  Roland is alone at the edge of the Western Sea, contemplating the next leg of his journey.

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My Thoughts

First of all, let me confess something (I hope I am among friends for this one).  I read the Gunslinger about 10 years ago and HATED it.  I almost gave up on the entire Dark Tower series (gasp) because I just did not care for it.  I thought it was boring and even confusing in parts.  Luckily, I pushed myself to go to the next books, and the rest is history.  However, in my re-reads of the series (and there have been several), I always skipped to The Drawing of the Three and ignored The Gunslinger.  I know, bad me.  Very bad me.

breaking bad

But I am glad I took my New Year’s resolution to heart and started with The Gunslinger.  I read the revised edition this time around, which may have helped.  But I think I was just immature 10 years ago and was unable to appreciate this book, which is one of King’s best.  Its even one of his overall best, ranking up there with The Stand, It, etc.  I will still admit its a bit of a difficult book to read, with the flashbacks and disturbing moments, such as Jake’s death, but it is worth it.

I think my favorite part of The Gunslinger was the element of surrealism that is present throughout the book.  Of course, this book has to be considered a western, first and foremost.  But the presence of creatures known as “Slow Mutants” and the glimpses of “the real world”, such as Citgo gas stations reminded me that the science fiction element cannot be ignored.  And the post apocalyptic imagery, combined with the western feel and the science element, just added to the surrealism.  At times, I felt like I was seeing a Salvadore Dali painting of a Sergio Leone film (I don’t think it  can get more surreal than that).

Dali painting 1

Stephen King has drawn controversy in some circles with the revision of The Gunslinger, but it is pretty clear that this was the right move.  The revisions clear up some confusion and enhance the story overall.  In particular, Allie chanting “19” in the presence of the undead Nort was one of my favorites.  Given the significance of the number 19 throughout the entire TV series, it made sense why the man in black was able to turn Tull against Roland so easily and why Roland had to dispatch the entire town the way he did (although that will still be one of the most disturbing scenes in any book that I have ever read).

Another favorite part of mine in regards to this book are the flashback scenes.  The flashback to Roland’s time in Tull was shiver worthy.  He dispatched an entire town…an entire town!  He even killed off the kids and the woman who was his lover!  Even Sheb, whom he supposedly knew from another time and another place.  And it looked like he had no problem killing everyone in an entire town, even the children.  That scene really made me question Roland’s humanity, even though he did have good reasons for his actions.  I also loved the flashback to the hanging of Hax the cook that Roland witnessed as a child, and his test of manhood when he obtains the right to call himself gunslinger at the age of 14.  This test stood out for me in particular, because Roland used his hawk David as a weapon.  Yes, he used a living bird as a weapon to battle his teacher Cort, so that he could obtain his guns…hawks are not everyday weapons.  However, David becomes a tool for Roland and serves his purpose.  David  can perhaps be considered the first casualty in Roland’s quest.  The death of David also serves as a foreshadowing for Jake’s fate.  The flashback scenes also give us some insight into Roland’s character, making him into something more than a human killing machine.

Roland and David

Roland’s interaction with “the man in black” (aka Randall Flagg aka Marten Broadcloak aka many other names) was also an interesting point to the book.  Normally, Randall Flagg is a character that works on the sidelines and tends to stay in the shadows.  In other words, he is present, but tends not to be an active player.  Flagg often gets others to do his dirty work for him.  Eyes of the Dragon and The Stand offer many examples of this.  This tendency is also present in The Gunslinger, as Flagg attempts to turn the town of Tull against Roland.  However, Roland also directly confronts the man in black and survives.  In fact, Roland even talks to the man in black and refuses to give up his quest.  And still survives.  This makes Roland quite the rarity in the King universe, as very few encounter Randall Flagg and live to tell the tale.

Roland and Flagg

 

Like Calvin, I think I am pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.  I don’t need to make New Year’s resolutions…not really.  But even us awesome people transgress every now and then, and really should actually make a New Year’s resolution so we can become even more awesome.  For example, pledging to read the entire Dark Tower series, starting with The Gunslinger and finding out what you missed in the prior reading is a pretty good place to start!

Stay tuned for my next review…of the The Drawing of the Three…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

Connections

Obviously, The Gunslinger is the first in a series of eight books and is connected to the other 7 books, so I will not even discuss that aspect.  However, I found some interesting parallels between The Gunslinger and some other works by King, so here are the connections I found:

-Randall Flagg aka the man in black aka Marten Broadcloak is the most obvious connection.  This is a villain who appears in several books, most notably The Stand, Eyes of the Dragon and possibly Hearts in Atlantis.  He is the very definition of an uber villain in King’s universe.

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84

-“Legion” is also mentioned.  In The Stand, Tom Cullen refers to Flagg as Legion.  Legion is also an anagram of the surname of Andre Linoge in Storm of the Century.  King reminds again that Flagg is definitely a supernatural being.

-Sylvia Pittson is just one of a long list of King characters overtaken by religious mania.  This list would include Mrs. Carmody (The Mist) and Margaret White (Carrie).  In most King works, religious mania does not bode well for the leader or the followers, and the fate of Sylvia Pittson and the town of Tull is no different.

Margaret White

-“The Interloper” is mentioned in The Gunslinger.  The Interloper is implied to be the Devil or the Anti Christ.  This was a term used to describe Flagg in The Stand.  Margaret White also made reference to The Interloper in Carrie.

-King also begins in building his universe in The Gunslinger, as he implies that Roland’s world is a post apocalyptic version of the “real world.”  Mentions are made of items such as gas pumps, which are items readily recognizable in our world.  Jake also appears to be from the “real world”, as he speaks of automobiles and television sets.  There are also references to some kind of nuclear war, as creatures suffering the effects of radiation poisoning are mentioned multiple times.  King has made some firm connections, setting up for the action in future Dark Tower books and other works.

Midworld

Fourteen things to love about 2014

Well, in with the new and out with the old, as the saying goes.  It is day 2 into the year of 2015.  Time to start afresh, as the they say.  We all have a clean slate, and its time to leave 2014 behind.

Except there were some pretty great things about 2014, lest we forget.  A new year is a great thing, but let’s not forget about the old year…it deserves some love too!

That being said, here is a list of 14 great things about 2014, in no particular order, so we avoid hurt feelings.

 

1)  The Indianapolis Colts

Ah, the Indianapolis Colts.  One moment they are the Island of Misfit Toys (especially on the offensive line) and seem to bumbling their way to a blowout loss.  The next moment they are the terror of the AFC, making a historic comeback to win the 2014 Wildcard game over the KS City Chiefs, after being down 25 points at the half and having something like a 3% chance of winning that game.  But Andrew Luck and the offense seem to say, 25 points, pish posh, now let’s go win the game.  And then they did win that game, in spectacular fashion.  The Colts have provided some entertainment in the regular season as well, putting up some Madden-like numbers in terms of points scored and touchdowns.  Even the defense got a shutout this year.  The Colts were awesome in 2014 and I am sure they will continue to be awesome in 2015.

island of misfit toys

2)  Gotham

Well, duh, Captain Obvious.  Its Batman.  And Batman will always be awesome.  Batman is always awesome.  Even the poorly acted and written Joel Schumacher versions are awesome, although maybe awesomely bad is a better word to describe those films.

But Gotham is actually a good show.  Gotham’s secret is that it is actually not so much about Batman or even the cast of Batman villains as it is about Jim Gordon.  We see what kind of man that Jim Gordon is, before Batman became involved.  We also get a fascinating look at Gotham, as the writers of the show really want to drive home that Gotham is a corrupt place, and always will be, even if they have a caped super hero to somewhat keep things in check.  And seeing young versions of the villains, such as Oswald Cobblepot (who has no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever.  In other words, I love him) and a younger Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) is actually pretty cool.  And the show is just getting started…I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings for Gotham.

gotham

3)  Andrew Luck

I know, I know.  I already mentioned the Indianapolis Colts above, so this is a bit redundant.  However, Andrew Luck really does deserve special mention for the year he had in 2014.  He started off the year leading the Colts to victory in a playoff game after being down 25 points at the half.  The Colts were then bounced out of the divisional game by New England, but Luck came back to have a spectacular 2014, putting up stellar numbers and breaking all kinds of records.  2014 would have been a miserable season without the likes of Luck for the Colts.

Plus, there is Luck’s particular brand of trash talking, that has convinced some that he may be a closet Canadian.  But, closet Canadian or not, Andrew Luck and the Colts are destined for an awesome 2015 and beyond.

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

4)  My marriage

Yes, I did not get married in 2014.  In fact, I celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary in 2014.  So why is this worth a mention?

Well, you are darn right its worth a mention!  Somehow, I have managed to find imprison an unsuspecting man someone who is willing to put up with my craziness.  Someone who can stand to be around me and actually likes being me.  Someone who thinks red headed female nerds with a temper are hot!  And no, he’s not medicated!  Not an escapee from a mental institution!  And funny.  And shares my love of all things Batman.  And he’s kind to old ladies when they are crossing the street…yeah, I could go on and on.

My husband has continued to show why I chose to spend the rest of my life with him throughout our 2014.  I am looking forward to a great 2015 (and beyond) with this awesome man!

garfield

5)  Duncan

So we did the unthinkable this year.  We brought home yet another critter to add to our two cat, two dog brood.  This creature is an Australian cattle dog puppy by the name of Duncan Edward McLaughlin but we just call him Duncan (that is, when he is good.  We will not talk about the other names).  Duncan was name after Man at Arms in the He Man cartoons from way back when.  Some may also reference the move Highlander of “there can be only one” fame.  Although I think an appropriate tagline is “thank god there is only one.”  Hey, don’t judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes that have been chewed on by an overly ambitious puppy.  But at least he’s cute, as the common refrain goes.

As a bonus, Duncan has a blog!  See, I told you blue heelers were smart…dumb dogs can’t type, silly!  Go check out his blog, he loves clicks as much as the next doggy blogger!

Duncan

6)  Arrow

Yes, I know.  I am late to the party, as Arrow has been out for three seasons.  But since I discovered it in 2014 so I get to include it on this list.

I stayed up watching this show until 3 AM a few weeks ago.  And let me tell you, it was a worthy binge watch, and I am itching to do some more binge watching.  The story line is compelling, and the acting is pretty good.  Each episode had me wanting more so that I stayed up later than any sane person should.  2015 will likely bring much more intrigue, especially when I catch up to season and am no longer late for the party.

arrow

7)  Stephen King

Ha, if you thought you would get this far in this post on this site without something about Stephen King…well, sorry about your damn luck!

But, in all serious, we were lucky enough to see two separate books this year from the master.  Mr. Mercedes was published in June and Revival was published in November.  Both were great books, but Revival in particular is one that will stick with me for a long, long time.  I constantly thought of HP Lovecraft and his monsters while reading it.  I also loved the homage it played to Frankenstein.  And then there was the ending…its been a long time since I actually shivered when I put the book down and tossed and turned for such a long time.

So get to it, Mr. King!  We are expecting more awesomeness in 2015!

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8)  True Detective

Someone thought that it would be a good idea to get together Woody from Cheers and the creepy older dude of Dazed and Confused of “alright, alright” fame and have them do a TV shows.  And that same someone hit upon the idea of these two being cops trying to solve a series of gruesome murders which involved women and children.  Add in the complicated personal lives of these two characters, and we have True Detective.

The only bad thing I can say about True Detective is that it did not win enough awards…damn you, Breaking Bad and your series finale!  This was another binge watch, although not in nearly epic proportions as number 6.  The true (see what I did there) strength of this show, however, was its writing, even though the directing and acting were no slouch.  This is another show to watch in 2015, as season two will be taking a completely different, unrelated to the first season direction.

true detective

9)  The Dark Tower

If Andrew Luck gets his own post for 2014, then the Dark Tower series certainly deserves its own post.  The reason why (in all seriousness) The Dark Tower series is getting its own post is due to the great material Marvel keeps producing for the comic books.  This year we saw the release The Prisoner series aka biographical material on my main man, Eddie Dean.  Although not written by King himself, these comics are the next best thing.  They also offered a fascinating insight into the early life of Eddie Dean and provided a few more Easter eggs related to the King universe.

Who knows, maybe 2015 will be the year we finally get confirmation of a Dark Tower movie?  We can only hope.

dark tower

10)  Igloo

No, I did not add Igloo (my white Spitz mix) to the family in 2014.  Try 2000.  That’s right, she was born in 2000 so she is approximately 97 dog years or something like that.  She is an old gal, and I am thankful to have her around in 2014 and beyond.  Hopefully, I can be saying the same thing in 2015.

critters 1 007

11)  Constantine

#saveconstantine

Yeah, NBC…you better save Constantine!  Because if you don’t save Constantine, you are on the same level as someone who kicks puppies and steals candy from babies!  But really, I think this is my favorite show of 2014 not named Gotham.  The supernatural theme, the wonderful acting (especially by the man playing the title character), interesting plot lines and the witty dialogue make it a no-brainer.  I would be very, very sad if NBC did not step and save this show, as it has a lot to offer.

But there are some encouraging signs for the future of this show.  Will Constantine be saved?  Only time (and 2015) will tell.

Constantine - Season Pilot

12) My cooking and baking

Yeah, I am engaging in some shameless self promotion on this post.  But I am proud of all the cooking and baking I have done in 2014!  Although I will not be a contestant on Masterchef anytime soon (nor do I want to be), I am proud of how much I have grown in the kitchen.  I am getting experimental (basil infused homemade whipped cream, anyone?) and getting a good feel for what works and what doesn’t.  Plus I am just having fun…and I hope to continue to have fun in 2015.

strawberry shortcakesuperbowl cakechocolate cake

13)  My artwork

Again, more shameless self promotion.  Feel free to skip if you feel like it.  But again, I am proud of myself in this area…again, I have grown so much.  I have gotten more consistent and more inspired.  I have created more artwork than ever before.  I took up my woodburning again,after the tool had gone unused for too long.  I have even created my original artwork inspired by Stephen King and The Dark Tower series.  And I will not stop in 2015 either!

DT watercolorOywatercolor rose

14)  I started blogging!

I know, me, me and me.  But I have talked about writing for years and never really done anything with it.  Mainly because I have been afraid.  I was always on the fringe as a kid.  On the outside looking in.  The target of bullies.  Or if I was lucky, just invisible.  This is still the case in adulthood.  So I have been afraid to share any of my writing…what if they laugh at me?  What if I get pig’s blood dumped on me? Well, I know that last part won’t actually happen (at least I hope not).  But still, I’m insecure.  So I hold myself back.  Sometimes, I can barely live because I am insecure.

But then I started this blog.  And I don’t think people laughed! Or if they did laugh, it was due to my wit and humor!  I looked at the number of views and the comments on this blog (and via Facebook as well) and I felt like Michael Jordan (although much, much shorter.  And female, to boot)!  Now I just want to blog more.  And more.  I don’t want to stop.  And I even want to let Duncan share the spotlight.  Duncan is right, blogging is way more fun than squeaky toys!  And be prepared for a lot more of it in 2015!

 

Whew, here’s to the 14 awesome things in 2014…I hope no one (or no thing) feels slighted because he/she/it didn’t make it on the list…you are still awesome and I love you!  And here’s to at least 15 more awesome things about 2015…Happy belated New Year everyone!

Happy-New-Year-30