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.

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

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

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

Vic’s character has a great arc.

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

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

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

Now, NOS4A2 may be a scary book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

charlie-manx-2

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!

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Sleepless in Derry: My Review of Insomnia

Heroes.

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We all have them.  Every single one of us. And if you don’t, you are either lying, or you don’t have blood in your veins and are fueled by ice water instead.

For me, my favorite kind of hero is someone who is not perfect.  Someone with flaws.  Someone with warts.  Someone who may question his/her actions, and who possibly even regrets some of those actions.

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In other words, someone who is human, and not necessarily endowed with any supernatural or other special abilities.

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The best kind of heroes are ones who we can relate too.  After all, life is hardly ever black and white.  Rather, life is gray, and an infinite number of shades at that.  In other words, sometimes what’s right and what’s wrong is not clear-cut.  Often, decisions are made, and second-guessed for many, many years after the fact, even when the consequences have long passed.

Of course, I had many heroes growing up.  And I have a few now.  Batman was one of the early ones.  And then I met Aragorn.  Currently, Oliver Queen is my “show boo,” as Jax Teller is dead to me and Raylan Givens has ridden off into the sunset.

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All are good men.  And all struggle with decisions they have made, even if they believed the decision was for the greater good.  The very definition of a hero in other words.

However, none of these guys come close to my number one childhood hero.  He was a man who often had a lot at thrown at him, but he always stepped up to the plate.  He tried to do what he believed was right, and make the world a little bit better of a place when he could.  He was a human with no special abilities, other than the ability to make me feel loved and protected at all times.

In other words, I am talking about my grandfather.  I was lucky enough to have one set of living grandparents throughout most of my childhood.  My grandparents lived two hours away from us, so I spent a lot of time there as a child.  Most of my best childhood memories involve my grandparents in some fashion.  My grandfather taught me how to fish.  He supported my love of astronomy by getting me a telescope when I was thirteen.  In fact, he supported every one of my obsessions, even though he did not necessarily understand all of them.  One of the few people who loved me unconditionally was my grandfather, and I will never forget that.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away nearly 14 years ago.  So all I am left with is memories, and a few faded photographs.  And being able to talk to my grandfather one last time is something that I would seriously consider sacrificing at least one limb for.

But, at least I have my memories.  And my photographs.

And Stephen King.

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

Yes, don’t forget which blog you are reading!

So, along with writing books I can’t put down, making great characters (who tend to get killed off more times than I care to count) and just generally being awesome, Stephen King is also able to bring my grandfather to life?  Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, yes.  It actually does make sense, and sense goes by the name of Ralph Roberts.

In case you are completely confused at this point, I am talking about King’s book Insomnia, and the primary character in that book, Ralph Roberts.

Ralph Roberts is a bad ass.  He fights supernatural beings and hardly breaks a sweat.  He also stands up to men who beat their wives, choosing to fight for what is right, rather than ignore the serious issue of domestic abuse, which seems to be the socially acceptable thing to do.  Ralph is also a loving, caring man, willing to (literally) risk his life to save the lives of other.

In other words, in Ralph Roberts I have found my grandfather’s literary Twinner, if you will.

The fact that Ralph Roberts is a man nearing 70 who ought to be one step away from the old folks’ home (well, according to our society, at any rate) is merely a minor technicality.

King often writes about the disenfranchised.  And the elderly are just that:  they are forgotten.  Or ignored.  Or even abused and taken advantage of.  To paraphrase a quote from of the characters in Insomnia, growing old is not a job for sissies.

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Insomnia has long been a favorite King work of mine.  Since I am one of the disenfranchised (nerds usually are), I enjoy reading about my own kind, and seeing them kick some major ass.  And Insomnia gives me that in spades:  the disenfranchised kicking some major ass.

And it is the next best thing to spending time with my grandfather.  If I can’t hang out with my grandfather, at least I can visit with his literary Twinner.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of Insomnia.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins by introducing us to an elderly man named Ralph Roberts, who lives in Derry, Maine, with his wife Carolyn.  Ralph has just found out that Carolyn has an inoperable brain tumor and has only months to live.  Ralph is saddened by this, and takes to taking long walks around Derry in order to take his mind off of Carolyn’s health issues.

On one of these walks, Ralph encounters his neighbor, Ed Deepneau, who is involved in a minor car accident.  However, Ed is not acting like himself, and becomes extremely aggressive towards the other driver.  To compound things, a friend of Ralph’s, Dorrance Marstellar, also arrives at the scene and begins making cryptic statements.  Ed becomes convinced that the other driver is hiding the bodies of dead babies beneath the tarp in his truck.

Despite the chaos, Ralph is able to calm his neighbor down, and the other driver tells him that he is transporting fertilizer, not dead infants.  Ed and the other driver decide to work it out among themselves, and Ralph returns home.  When Ralph returns home, he nearly forgets about the incident, as Carolyn has suffered a seizure and is rushed to the hospital.  Once again, Ralph is reminded that Carolyn does not have much time left, and wishes that things were different.

Several months later, Carolyn passes away.  Shortly after the death of his wife, Ralph begins to suffer from insomnia.  However, the kind of insomnia that Ralph suffers from is a bit unusual, in that he suffers from “premature waking”, rather than being a slow sleeper,  In other words, Ralph awakens a bit earlier each day.  At first he dismisses this as a consequence of growing older, but soon his problem becomes so severe that he grows more and more worried.

Ralph tries several home remedies for his insomnia, but none seem to work.  He makes an appointment with his doctor, Dr. Litchfield, but cancels the appointment, as he does not trust Litchfield, as Litchfield misdiagnosed Carolyn’s brain tumors as migraine headaches.  Ralph also notices that Derry has become polarized over a woman named Susan Day, a well-known writer and women’s right activist.  Susan Day is someone who believes that women should have the right to be able have an abortion if necessary, among other things.  Many in Derry are opposed to her politics, but several people are also petitioning her to come speak in Derry.

One afternoon, after yet another sleepless night, Ralph makes a trip to the grocery store.  While he is there, he is greeted by the sight of Helen Deepneau, the wife of his neighbor Ed Deepneau.  Helen Deepneau has been badly beaten by Ed, and has staggered into the grocery store with her infant daughter, Natalie.  Ralph’s tenant Bill McGovern is also at the store, and helps Ralph with Helen.  Ralph quickly decides to call the police, even though Helen begs him not to do so.  Helen tells Bill and Ralph that Ed beat her because she signed a petition requesting that Susan Day speak in Derry.  Ralph becomes angry over Ed’s treatment of Helen, and decides to confront Ed.

When Ralph confronts Ed, he realizes that his friend is now mad.  Ed makes biblical references, and speaks of a being he calls the Crimson King.  Ralph’s confrontation with Ed, however, is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who arrest Ed on charges of domestic abuse.  Ralph speaks to John Leydecker, one of the arresting officers, and learns that Ed will probably be out on bail that night, but in order to be granted bail, Ed will have to agree not to contact Helen.

That night, Ralph tries to relax but is unable to do so.  He attempts to contact Helen at the hospital, but learns that she has banned herself from receiving any visitors.  However, Ralph receives a call from Helen later that night, who thanks him for his intervention.  Helen also tells Ralph that she and Natalie will be staying in a halfway house for victims of domestic abuse, and tells Ralph that she will be in touch.

The months go by, and Ralph continues to experience the insomnia.  He continues to awaken earlier each day, and becomes frustrated.  Ralph tries several home remedies, to no avail.  Ralph also receives a letter from Helen.  Helen tells Ralph in her letter that she is OK, but will be out of touch for a little while as she adjusts to her new life.  Helen also tells Ralph that she plans on divorcing Ed, as he is not the man she though she knew.

One day, Ralph receives news from his tenant Bill McGovern and Lois Chasse (a friend who lives on the same street), that Ed has been arrested.  Ralph promises to watch the afternoon news with them, but makes a detour to the neighborhood pharmacy.  There, he meets a pharmacist named Joe Wyzer. who also suffers from insomnia.  Ralph agrees to meet Joe for a cup of coffee to discuss the insomnia and possible solutions for it.

Ralph and Joe meet for coffee, and discuss Ralph’s problems.  Joe tells Ralph not to worry too much, as he is still basically healthy.  However, while speaking with Joe, Ralph notices that he can see “auras” emanating from the people around him, including Joe.  This worries Ralph, but he tries to dismiss as a trick of his mind, possibly due to the insomnia.  Before Ralph leaves. Joe gives him a card with a name and number for an acupuncturist and makes Ralph an appointment for the near feature.  Joe also gives Ralph his own phone number and tells Ralph to call him if he feels that he needs help.

Later on, Ralph meets Bill and Lois at Lois’ house to watch the afternoon news.  They confirm that Ed has been arrested, and Ralph becomes worried.  Ed has been the frontman for a pro-life group that is protesting the possible future presence of activist Susan Day in Derry.  He tells Lois and Bill about the incident with Ed the previous summer, and they encourage him to relay this information to Officer Leydecker.  Ralph does just that, but is still worried, as he thinks Ed has gone insane.

That night, Ralph receives a threatening phone call from Ed.  Ralph is frightened, but holds his own, and tells Ed that he will not be threatened by him. Ed terminates the call, as Ralph’s reaction was not expected.

The weeks continue to pass by.  Ralph still suffers from insomnia, but looks forward to the appointment with the acupuncturist.  He also receives a letter from Helen, telling him that she has found employment and will be in touch with him again soon.

After he receives the letter from Helen, Ralph wanders to a nearby park and chats with Bill.  As he is talking to Bill, Ralph notices that he can pick up the thoughts of nearby people.  In particular, he notices a little boy named Patrick, who is accompanied by his mother.  Ralph is able to pick up, from the mother’s thoughts, that she and Patrick are trying to avoid Patrick’s father, who has been drinking and can be abusive when drunk.  At that point, Ralph almost tells  Bill about the auras he sees, but thinks the better of it, as he decides he cannot trust Bill with that information.

One morning, Ralph receives a surprise visit from Helen and baby Natalie.  Helen’s friend Gretchen is also in attendance.  While he is speaking to Gretchen and Helen, Ralph realizes that he still see the auras, and that Natalie can also see them.  The three discuss how dangerous Ed has become, especially with his growing involvement in a pro-life group that continues to protest the presence of Susan Day in Derry.  Before she leaves, Helen gives Ralph a can of mace, telling him to use it to protect himself if necessary.

A few days later, Ralph returns home from an errand to find Dorrance Marstellar waiting for him at his doorstep.  Dorrance again speaks cryptically to Ralph, telling him to cancel his appointment with the acupuncturist, and also gives Ralph a book of poetry.  Ralph becomes irritated, wondering why he should cancel an appointment that was so difficult to schedule in the first place.  Ralph also notices that the front door is open, and thinks that Bill has been careless about locking the door again.

The next day, Ralph visits the library to further research insomnia.  However, his research is interrupted when a man named Charlie Pickering attacks him with a knife.  Ralph recognizes Pickering as an associate of Ed Deepneau’s and a pro-life activist.  Ralph is able to counter the attack with the can of mace which somehow happens to have been in his coat pocket.

After he is attacked, Ralph speaks to Officer Leydecker.  Ralph is shaken, but recounts the events to Leydecker.  Leydecker drives Ralph home, and tells him that Ed Deepneau probably will not be implicated in the attack, even though he likely orchestrated it.

When Ralph returns home, he realizes that Dorrance was the one who walked into his apartment, and placed the can of mace in his coat pocket.  Ralph wonders what is going on that is so important, and cancels his appointment with the acupuncturist.

That night, Ralph has strange dreams involving his wife Carolyn, who issues him cryptic warnings.  When Ralph awakens, he happens to glance out the window and sees a very strange sight:  two men, who look like small, bald doctors, are headed into the house of May Locher, another one of Ralph’s neighbors.  Ralph also notices that the men have unusual auras, and that they also have scissors.  Thinking that his neighbor is being robbed, Ralph calls the police but does not identify himself.  When the authorities arrive, it becomes clear that Ms. Locher has actually passed away, and her remains are removed from the house.

The next morning, Ralph gives his formal statement to Officer Leydecker over the incident involving Charlie Pickering.  Ralph also confirms that May Locher did indeed pass away, and begins to question his sanity.

Ralph decides that he will try to tell his friend Bill McGovern about his experiences, and decides to take a walk in his neighborhood before doing so.  When he takes his walk, he sees the auras again, and is dazzled by the beauty of it all.  However, Ralph also sees an unpleasant sight:  another bald doctor.  This one appears more sinister than the other two and frightens Ralph.  Ralph also realizes that the creature has Bill’s missing Panama hat.  Before Ralph can act, the auras and the mysterious creature vanish.  After his walk, Ralph tells Bill about his experiences.  Bill  is dismissive and tells Ralph to see his doctor.  This angers Ralph, and he argues with Bill.  Ralph leaves after arguing with Bill, and walks to the park in the neighborhood where the senior citizens gather.

At the park, Ralph speaks to some of his friends.  People are arguing over the upcoming appearance of Susan Day.  Ralph also finds out that another friend of his is in the hospital, and may succumb to cancer.  Ralph deduces that Ed Deepneau may be taking lessons on flying an airplane, and decides to head to the police station to relay this news to Officer Leydecker.

On his way to the police station, Ralph notices that the neighborhood stray dog, known as Rosalie, is behaving strangely.  Immediately, Ralph connects this with his recent bizarre experiences, and decides to see if he can make the auras appear at will.  Ralph is successful, and is able to see the auras, along with the third, sinister bald doctor.  The creature is calling to Rosalie, but Ralph calls the dog to him instead.  Ralph then confronts the creature and fights it, and it becomes angered, but runs off, threatening Ralph before it disappears.

However, before Ralph can make his way to the police station, he is distracted by the site of Lois Chasse, who is sitting on a park bench and is visibly upset.  In fact, Lois is crying.  Ralph speaks to Lois, in order to comfort her and find out why she is upset.

When he speaks to Lois, Ralph finds out that she has also been suffering from insomnia, and has spoken to her doctor, Dr. Litchfield about it.  However, Dr. Litchfield violated his doctor-patient privilege and told Lois’ son and daughter-in-law about her problems.  That morning, Lois received a visit from her son and daughter-in-law, who tried to convince her to give up her autonomy and move into a nursing home.  The pair of diamond earrings that Lois’ son gave her has also gone missing, lending more credence to the theory that Lois has developed dementia.

Ralph is able to determine a few things after he speaks to Lois.  The first is that he has fallen in love with Lois.  The second is that Lois is also able to see the auras, just like he can.  The third is that Lois’ daughter-in-law has stolen her earrings, in an effort to make Lois look like senile old woman who needs to be in a nursing home.

The conversation is interrupted by the appearance of the creature that Ralph saw earlier, along with Rosalie, the neighborhood stray dog.  This time, Ralph is  also able to make Lois see it, along with the auras.  Ralph and Lois try to fight the creature, but it attacks Rosalie.  However, it does not hurt Rosalie, at least physically.  Instead, the creature snips Rosalie’s “balloon string”, or the lifeline that leads to her aura.  The color of Rosalie’s aura changes to black, and Ralph is able to intuit that Rosalie will probably die soon.

Lois invites Ralph to her house for lunch, so that they can talk about what has been happening to them.  Before he leaves with Lois, Ralph realizes that the creature they saw earlier also has Lois’ diamond earrings, along with Bill’s hat, and becomes frightened.  However, Ralph chooses to keep this information to himself for the time being.

Ralph then tells Lois everything that has happened to him, starting with his encounter with Ed two summers ago.  Lois believes every word, but is not sure what any of it means.  Ralph is also not sure what any of it means, and again becomes frightened, as it seems forces that he does not comprehend are at work.  Ralph and Lois then agree to meet up later that night, and Lois leaves town for a few hours for her weekly card game with her friends.

When Ralph returns home, he finds a note from Bill apologizing for his earlier actions.  He also receives a call from Officer Leydecker.  Leydecker tells Ralph that Charlie Pickering has somehow bonded out of jail, and that Ed Deepneau was the one who bonded him out.

That afternoon, Ralph awaits Lois.  He see the auras, and realizes that he has been “stealing” energy from other’s people’s auras, which explains why people think that he looks younger.  Ralph worries that he has been hurting people by doing this.

When Lois returns from her card game, she tells Ralph that she was able to use her friends’ auras to win the card game.  Lois is also “stealing” from other peoples’ auras, as she also appears younger.

Ralph and Lois’ conversation is interrupted by a car crash.  When Ralph looks outside, he sees that the neighborhood stray dog, Rosalie, has been fatally hit by a car driven by his pharmacist, Joe Wyzer.  The creature that cut Rosalie’s life force appears to torment Lois and Ralph, and also steals Joe’s comb.  Ralph realizes that he must get that comb back, along with Lois’ earrings.

Ralph also realizes that he needs to pay a visit to his friend Jimmy at Derry Home Hospital, and heads to the hospital with Lois.  A woman at the front desk tries to Ralph a hard time about visiting his friend, but he is able to use his new-found telepathic powers to convince her to allow him to visit his friend.

After they enter the intensive care ward where Ralph’s friend is residing, Ralph and Lois are then able to travel to a different level of reality.  They are able to see those around them, but those people cannot see them.  One of the people they see happens to be Bill, whose aura is now completely black.  Lois becomes distressed, but Ralph realizes that nothing can be done for Bill, who will likely die soon.

Ralph and Lois enter Ralph’s friend’s Jimmy’s hospital room, and meet the two “bald doctors” that Ralph had previously see outside May Locher’s house.  The entities state that they have no name, but tell Ralph and Lois to refer to them as “Clotho” and “Lachesis”, after the Fates in Greek mythology.  The two entities also tell him that the third entity that Ralph had previously encountered can be referred to as “Atropos.”

As he speaks to these entities, Ralph becomes more and more angered, due to the chaos that their interference has caused in his life.  However, Cloth and Lachesis tell him that his anger is not justified.  Ralph and Lois watch as the two entities sever the “balloon string”, or life force of Jimmy, who passes on to the afterlife.  After Jimmy passes away, his room begins to fill up with people, and Clotho and Lachesis bid Ralph and Lois to come with them, as there is much to be discussed.

Clotho and Lachesis explain to Ralph and Lois that they are agents of the Purpose, while Atropos is an agent of the Random.  Clotho and Lachesis sever the life forces of people who have been selected to die at a specific time, while Atropos is responsible for those whose time of death is not specific (such as victims of car crashes, fires, etc).  The two entities also inform Ralph and Lois that Bill has now passed away.  This angers Ralph, as he sees the entities’ interference as being responsible for Bill’s death.  He believes that by angering Atropos, Clotho and Lachesis have caused Atropos to target Bill.  Ralph then threatens to walk out on the two entities, as he feels that he has been manipulated.

However, Lois convinces Ralph to hear Clotho and Lachesis out.  Ralph and Lois learn that Atropos has severed the life force of Ed Deepneau.  Ed Deepneau was unmarked:  in other words, Ed served neither the Random or the Purpose, and the fact that Ed has lived so long after his life force was severed means that he is important in some way.  Ed Deepneau is planning to kill the 2000+ people, and only Ralph and Lois have the power to stop them.  Ralph also learns that his and Lois’ auras were altered, which resulted in the insomnia and new found powers, and that his preordained destiny has been changed.

After they return to their own reality, Ralph and Lois set about the task of attempting to prevent Ed Deepneau from committing mass murder.  First, they find out the location of the women’s shelter, using their new found telepathic powers, so that they may speak to Helen Deepneau and her friend Gretchen Tillbury.  Ralph also realizes that the scarf worn by Ed Deepneau contains the Japanese symbol for “kamikaze” or “suicide pilot,” and becomes frightened again.

Ralph and Lois make a brief stop to eat, and then head to the women’s shelter.  When they arrive, they see a large black cloud, or “death bag” surrounding the shelter, and realize that the people there are in danger.  The suspicion is confirmed when they hear Officer Leydecker shouting at Charlie Pickering to surrender, as Pickering has set fire to the shelter and killed several people.  Ralph and Lois use their powers to enter the shelter and lead the women who are trapped there to safety.  Helen Deepneau and her daughter Natalie are among the women trapped in the shelter.  The little boy, Patrick, who Ralph saw at the park a few months prior, is also among the people trapped in the shelter, along with his mother.  Ralph also uses his powers to render Charlie Pickering into a human vegetable, as Lois begs Ralph not to kill Pickering.  Ralph tries to convince Helen to stop the rally at the civic center that night, but she will hear none of it.

As Ralph and Lois leave the shelter, they encounter Doris Marstellar.  Doris leads them to a vehicle, which happens to be driven by Joe Wyzer, who Dorrance has apparently recruited to help him.  Joe drives Ralph and Lois to the civic center, where he drops them off.  Dorrance tells Ralph and Lois that they are involved in something a lot bigger than themselves, and that higher forces are watching them, marking their progress.

At the civic center, a large crowd of women, along with members of the media, is beginning to gather.  However, the “death bag” still surrounds the area, reminding Ralph and Lois what will happen if their mission fails.  Ralph uses his powers to find the trail of Atropos while Lois distracts the people around them.  After he finds the trail of Atropos, Ralph and Lois head to his lair.

Finally, Ralph and Lois find Atropos’ lair, which happens to be the trunk of a dead oak tree.  They descend into the creature’s lair, and immediately notice the large collection of odds and ends that Atropos has accumulated over the years.  One of them is Joe Wyzer’s comb, which Ralph immediately pockets.    However, he still cannot find Lois’ earrings.  As Ralph and Lois make their way through the lair of Atropos, they notice that he has accumulated a large pile of cash, which provides the explanation as to how Ed Deepneau has obtained his money.  They also notice a large “death bag”, or pulsating black cloud.  This cloud contains more items, but these items belong to people who are still living.  One of the items is Helen Deepneau’s sneaker, which Lois ties to her wrist before moving on.

Ralph is also able to slice open the “death bag.”  When he does so, he also finds Ed Deepneau’s wedding ring, and notices that when he removes it, another “copy” of the ring appears in its place.  However, there is only one “real” ring, and Ralph and Lois take that as well.

On the way out of the lair, Ralph and Lois have a confrontation with Atropos, who is not pleased that they have taken Ed’s ring.  Both Ralph and Lois also notice that the creature is wearing Lois’ earrings.  Ralph battles the creature, and is able to take Ed’s ring, along with extracting a promise from Atropos that he will leave Ralph and Lois alone and not interfere in their quest to stop Ed Deepneau from committing mass murder.  However, Atropos shows Ralph a vision of something happening to someone he cares about in the future, which causes great concern for Ralph.

After Ralph and Lois return to their own level of reality, Ralph summons Clotho and Lachesis.  Ralph confronts these two entities, as he feels that they have not been truthful with them.  This assumption turns out to be correct, and Ralph extracts the true nature of his and Lois’ quest from Clotho and Lachesis:  they actually must save a little boy, who will grow up to do something very important.  The little boy is Patrick Danville, and is actually the same little boy Ralph saw at the park and in the basement of the burning women’s shelter.  However, Ralph refuses to help Clotho and Lachesis, unless they will spare the life of someone else who is also important to Ralph.  After some arguing, Clotho and Lachesis finally agree to the deal, and a cut is made on Ralph’s arm.

While Ralph is making the deal with Clotho and Lachesis, Lois is visited by an entity that she describes as “the green man.”  The entity returns Lois’ earrings to her, and Lois gives those to Ralph.  Ralph then prepares to continue on his mission to stop Ed Deepeneau.

Ralph is able to teleport himself to the plane that Ed Deepneau is flying.  However, as he is trying to stop Ed Deepneau, Ralph sees someone that he thinks to be his deceased mother.  But this is not his mother and is actually the entity known as the Crimson King, and the entity forces Ralph to come to his “court,” where he warns Ralph about his “meddling.”  Ralph surprises the Crimson King by stabbing him with Lois’ earrings, and is able to defeat the entity.

Ralph then drops back down to his own level of reality, and distracts Ed Deepneau.  Ralph is able to divert the plane away from the civic center.  Susan Day is decapitated, and several others are killed, but not as many are killed due to Ralph’s actions.  The life of Patrick Danville is also saved, and the Universe breathes a sigh of relief.  Lois reels Ralph into the same level of reality as Clotho and Lachesis, and his life is also saved.

Clotho and Lachesis bid Ralph and Lois goodbye.  Ralph again reminds them of their promise, and the two entities reluctantly agree.

The insomnia is no longer an issue for Ralph and Lois after their adventure, and their lives return to normal.  They get married, and move into Lois’ house, and their lives are more or less happy.  The memories of the incident also begin to fade, and Ralph and Lois no longer remember just what it was that they did, even though they know it was important.

Helen and Natalie Deepneau also lead happy lives after the incident at the civic center.  Helen receives a windfall from Ed’s life insurance policy, and buys a house in Ralph and Lois’ neighborhood.  Ralph and Lois spend much time with Natalie and Helen, and Natalie becomes a grandchild of sorts to them.  Ralph and Lois also adopt a dog, who they name Rosalie.

For the next several years, Ralph and Lois are relatively happy.  However, the insomnia returns to Ralph, and he begins to see the auras again.  Ralph also remembers the promise that he made, and understands that his days are now numbered.

One day, Ralph decides he wants to go for a walk.  However, he knows that something is about to happen to Natalie Deepneau, and that he will die saving her.  Ralph finally confesses what is happening to Lois, and she becomes upset and tries to stop him.  However, Ralph will have none of that, and Lois gives in, and accompanies Ralph on his final journey.

Ralph and Lois then encounter Natalie in front of Ed and Helen’s old house, along with their dog Rosalie.  Ralph’s abilities have returned and he also sees Atropos, who is trying to distract Rosalie to get Natalie’s attention.  This works, and Rosalie runs out into the street.  Natalie runs after the dog and is caught in the path of an oncoming vehicle.  Ralph then throws himself between Natalie and the vehicle, taking the hit that was intended for Natalie, saving her life.

The accident proves fatal for Ralph, and he passes away, with Lois at his side.  Before he makes his final journey, he sees Clotho and Lachesis and his memories of them are awakened.  Clotho and Lachesis also provide some comfort to Lois, as she watches her husband pass on.


 

My Thoughts

Move over, Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris 1

There is another bad ass in town, and his name is Ralph Roberts.

Chuck Norris may not need to turn on the shower because he makes the shower head cry, but Ralph Roberts battled the Crimson King.  And won.

So Ralph wins, as I have yet to hear of Chuck Norris kicking the ass of the Crimson King.  Although I am sure that battle would be epic…swoon…

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However, as epic as Ralph’s confrontation with the King of Big Bads in all of literature (or at least in the Stephen King universe) was, I think my personal favorite Ralph Roberts moment was when he confronted…wait for it…Ed Deepneau!

Yes, the confrontations with Atropos and the Crimson King were awesome.  Ass kickingly awesome, as a matter of fact.  But I will always remember my man Ralph Roberts for his confrontation with the milquetoast man down the street.

Although Ed Deepneau was not really a milquetoast, as we Constant Readers know.  Far from it, in fact.

But let’s get right down to it:  Ed may have had his life force cut “prematurely” and been under the influence of Atropos and The Crimson King.  And yes, Ed could not have controlled a lot of what happened.  But “a lot of” does not mean “all of.”  As Clotho and Lachesis reminded us, Ralph and Lois had choices.  And so did Ed.

And one of those choices that Ed made was to beat his wife, probably even while she was pregnant.  Somehow, I don’t think that the Crimson King or Atropos had much to do with those choices.

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Ralph also made a choice:  he made the choice to confront Ed, and call him out for beating Helen an inch within her life.  Everyone else had the “deer in headlights” look, but the 70 year man who was only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night became the decisive one.  In fact, the 70 year man who was only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night became the knight in shining armor that day.

And I love Ralph for that.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, I often felt invisible, along with ashamed and broken.  I looked for my knight for a long time, but he never came.  That is proof that we need more of Ralph Roberts in the world:  people who are not afraid to do what is right, despite what the rest of society may think.  People who care about what happens to the little people.  The fall of the sparrow, in other words.

There are so many things about Ralph that are swoon-worthy.  In fact, Ralph Roberts is now one of my “book boos.”

A seventy year old man makes me swoon.  There, I said it.  And I am not ashamed.

In fact, I am proud to call Ralph one of my “book boos.”  Not only did the man save the world (or all of the worlds in all of the universes), he sacrificed his own life, so that Natalie could live, and so that Natalie’s mother would not have to deal with what would have been the extremely painful loss of her only child.  And any man who has those kind of thoughts is a man worthy of being called my “book boo.”

There is the ending to Insomnia.  It gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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With most other writers and most books, it would have ended when Ralph and Lois saved the lives of all those people at the civic center.  The easy thing to do would have been to would be to let Ralph and Lois walk into the sunset, have their “happily ever after.”  And that still would have made for an all-right book.

But we are not reading something by most other writers.  We are reading something written by The Master.  And this ending proves why he has earned the right to be called “The Master.”

In reality, there are hardly any “happily ever afters.”  Instead, tragedy can strike, and sometimes out of nowhere.  Good people are taken from us much too soon, and sometimes, trade-offs have to be made.

One of King’s strengths as a writer is that he is able to juxtapose the realistic with the fantastic.  He does this by creating characters, places and situations that we can all identify with.  Even in a novel like Insomnia, which is actually a dark fantasy.

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And this book is taken to the next level by the description of the last few years of Ralph’s life.  We get to experience the joy and love that Ralph experiences, and we are lulled into a sense of security, and expect a happy ending.

But life is hardly ever fair, and tragedy is always just around the corner.  Many of King’s works, such as Bag of Bones, The Shining and Duma Key, remind of us this.  Insomnia is no different, driving home the point that everything, even an innocent child’s life, comes at a price.  And that price must always be paid, no matter how much that payment hurts.

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Another thing I love about Insomnia is the fact that King gave us another Dark Tower novel.  Now, it may not have Dark Tower anywhere in the title, but that is just a minor technicality, right?

In other words, I consider Insomnia to be the ninth Dark Tower novel that King always wanted to write, even before he was finished with the Dark Tower series.

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Funny how a series can be that awesome, where it inspires its ninth book, when only four of the eight books of the actual series were published at the time.  But such is the scope of the series like this one.  King has said that the Dark Tower series is all encompassing, and Insomnia is a perfect example of that.

I have read this book many times, but every time I read the part about Patrick Danville drawing a picture Roland and telling his mother that Roland is a king too, I shiver.  Literal goose flesh breaks out on my arms.  Roland turning in his blankets under the “alien constellations”.  There is just something about that is mind-blowing to me.  Two old people who should have been ready for the old folks home (at least according to our society) are busy kicking ass, and that ass kicking had a direct effect on Roland Deschain, another ass kicker who Chuck Norris bows down to (or should, anyway.)  Actually, mind blowing does not do that feeling I get justice, so universe blowing, perhaps?

The Crimson King is the ultimate Big Bad in the Stephen King universe, and is ultimately responsible for all of the bad things that occur there (after all, even Randall Flagg has to answer to someone.)  He is mentioned in several works, such as Black House and The Dark Tower series, and ultimately shows up in the last book to do battle with Roland the gunslinger.

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I did enjoy the Crimson King’s appearance in the Dark Tower series, but I think that my favorite representation of the Crimson King is the representation in Insomnia.

The Crimson King is an evil being.  We saw a bit of this in the Dark Tower series, but he also seemed to be a stupid being, which diminished the evil part.  However, in Insomnia, the Crimson King was vicious and evil.  The way he tried to trick Ralph, by pretending to be Ralph’s dead mother…shudder.  And speaking of shudder:  that memory of the catfish that attacked Ralph when he was child and the egg sac that thing contained…eek!  Insomnia is not what I consider to be a scary story by any means (I categorize it as fantasy or maybe even dark fantasy) but that memory reminded me that I was in fact reading something written by the modern day Boogeyman.  And King comes by that title honestly.  Who else could horrify me in a story that is a modern day Lord of the Rings?  The Master, that’s who!


Well, that’s it for Insomnia.  Join me next month as I review the case of life imitating art?  Or is it art imitating life?  In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting The Dead Zone!

And speaking of the apple not falling far from the tree…

That’s right, Joe Hill, aka The Master 2.0, will also have a book coming out next month…woohoo!  So next month will be busy, as I will be reviewing The Fireman as well!

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

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Connections

As always, all of King’s works are inter-connected.  And much of the fun (at least for me) in reading a King book lies in finding those connections.  Insomnia does not disappoint in that regard.  Here are some of the connections I found:

Insomnia takes place in the town of Derry, Maine.  Derry is the setting for several other King works, including It, Dreamcatcher and Bag of Bones.

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-Mike Hanlon is a minor character in Insomnia.  Mike is one of the members of The Losers Club, a group who banded together as children and later reunited as adults to defeat Pennywise the Clown, in the novel It.

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-Ralph makes reference to the flood that occurred in 1986.  Of course, this was when the Losers Club faced Pennywise the Clown in the novel It for the second time, defeating the monster for the final time.

-Ralph Roberts also makes an appearance in the book Bag of Bones, where he briefly speaks to Mike Noonan.

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-Patrick Danville is a major player in the final Dark Tower book, where he helps Roland defeat the Crimson King.

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-Dorrance Marstellar is referenced by Jamie Morton in the novel Revival.

-Susan Day is mentioned in the book Rose Madder.

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-“Ka” (loosely defined to mean destiny) is mentioned several times in Insomnia.  Ka is also a phrase commonly used in the Dark Tower series.

-Patrick Danville is a talented artist, much like Edgar Freemantle in the book Duma Key.

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-Atropos was in possession of a sneaker owned by Gage Creed.  Gage Creed was the son of Louis Creed, both characters from the novel Pet Sematary.

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Kisses in the Dark: My Review of Summer Thunder

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For some reason, I just love books, short stories, movies, television show, you name it, that make me cry.  And the uglier the cry, the better.  And don’t ask me why this is the case, although my monthly Netflix subscription fee that allowed me to binge-watch Sons of Anarchy over several weeks could be argued (well, actually it is) to be much cheaper than a therapist’s hourly bill.

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And along with Kurt Sutter, Stephen King has been one of my therapists over the years.  He is probably the doc I have spent the most time with…

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Divorce got you down?  Uncle Stevie to the rescue!  Job sucks?  Uncle Stevie has the best cure for that!  You just need to shut out the world for a bit and ignore all other living beings?  You guessed, Stephen King has a cure for that!

And his short story, Summer Thunder, part of the collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, provides exactly the kind of cathartic release I needed (I didn’t know I needed it actually, but who am I to question The Master):  it is short and sweet, but still packs a power punch.  In other words, the ugly cry you have been looking for is right here in this story.

 


Synopsis

Summer Thunder centers around a man named Robinson, who is a survivor in a post-nuclear war.  Robinson has lost his wife and only child to the nuclear disaster, and has only a stray dog named Gandalf for company.  Robinson rescued Gandalf sometime after the great disaster, and caring for another living creature has given him something to live for, even though he knows that he will eventually die from radiation sickness, like the rest of the population.

Periodically, Robinson and his dog visit a man named Howard Timlin, the only man who chose to stay in lakeside cottage that he lives in.  The rest of inhabitants fled for Canada, and are presumably dead or will die soon from radiation sickness.  Robinson notices that animals in the surrounding woods are dying off, likely victims of the radiation.

On Robinson’s visits to Timlin, Timlin would pull at Gandalf’s fur, and marvel that the dog did not seem to be affected by radiation sickness.  Robinson and Timlin also talk about a motorcycle that is still in Timlin’s possession, that he was supposed to give up the next summer, on his 50th birthday.

Finally, on one of his visits, Timlin notices that Gandalf is beginning to lose his fur.  Robinson denies that his dog is ill, although he has to carry Gandalf back to his house.  However, Gandalf’s symptoms worsen, and it is clear that he is a victim of radiation sickness.

Robinson drives into the nearby town of Bennington to pick up a battery for his motorcycle.  Robinson then visits his neighbor Timlin, who has become very ill with radiation sickness.  He tells Robinson that he plans to end his own life so that he does not have to experience the pain of radiation sickness, and gives Robinson a hypodermic needle so that he may end Gandalf’s life humanely.  Robinson also realizes that he himself is beginning to suffer from radiation sickness.

After Robinson returns home, he struggles with the decision to euthanize Gandalf, but follows through in the end, so that his friend will not suffer.  Robinson hears a gunshot in the distance, and knows that Timlin has ended his life as well.  When he awakens the next day, Robinson notices more symptoms of radiation poisoning on himself.

The next day turns out to be a beautiful one.  Robinson gears up his motorcycle for his final ride and remembers better times before the nuclear holocaust.  Robinson shakes his fist at the sky, in a moment of final exultation, and travels to a sign marked Dead Man’s curve at a deadly speed.  He is able to just hit fifth gear on his bike before he perishes.


 

My Thoughts

Whew…

Three days later and this story is still stuck with me.  And that is a sign of some good writing right there!

This story really got to me, so let me try to talk about why it did.

First of all, the subject matter.

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I am not a child of the 1950’s like my parents.  My parents (and probably King, as well) grew up in the shadow of the Cold War.  My parents recall the drills, and the propaganda films that they were subjected too as children.  I, myself, grew up at the tail end of that era, and was a mere child when the United States boycotted the Olympics.

So, as you can imagine, I heard a lot about nuclear war as a child.  It was the subject of more than a few popular movies, and it seemed that almost every YA book I read as a kid dealt with the subject in some manner (Judy Blume in particular stands out, and there was also the book Z for Zachariah, which frightened me more than anything Stephen King ever wrote).

As you can imagine, I had (and still have) a horrified fascination with the subject.  In fact, when reading about the symptoms of radiation poisoning in this story, my stomach did a little flip-flop (gee, thanks, Uncle Stevie) and I felt compelled to make sure that I didn’t have any funny rashes on my person…and here I was thinking that only Web MD, and not The Master, was responsible for hypochondria!

And yes, Gandalf

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No, not that Gandalf.  I am talking about the dog in the story…

Yeah…

Remember that ugly cry that I didn’t know I needed?  Well, the story of Gandalf life with Robinson, and his death gave me that, and then some.

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I really had hope, at the beginning at any rate, that Gandalf would make it.  But then his fur fell out.  And the tears fell out of my eyes.

And Robinson having to do that final act of compassion for his friend…don’t even get me started.  I had to do a final act of compassion on my friend, Igloo, earlier this year.  Like Robinson, I knew it was right thing.  I knew it was the best thing.  And I was glad that she was no longer suffering, as Gandalf was suffering.

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But it hurt.  Did it ever hurt.  I knew that it would, don’t get me wrong.  But you can know something in an academic sense.  That does not prepare you for the actual experience.  Like Robinson, I was unprepared.  And like, Robinson, I felt my life was being ripped from me, and that I was truly alone now.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sons of Anarchy.

Yes, Sons of Anarchy.  It is a well known secret that Kurt Sutter and Stephen King are fans of one another, and it shows in this story.  I loved it.

Some would say to go out with a bang.  Pull out all the stops.  And all that.  Robinson certainly did pull out all the stops, just like my hero, Jax Teller.  I can’t say that I blamed him…after all, like Jax, what did he have to lose?

Sometimes, the finale can be a bit sad.  But it can also be glorious.  It can be beautiful, as there is often beauty in pain.  And if it absolutely must end, then it should end gloriously, so that we forget the pain of it ending, at least momentarily.

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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:

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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.

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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?

pennywise

Enter Pennywise the Clown!

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

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

small towns 1

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

It 3


 

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

drum-roll-please


Pet Sematary

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

pet sematary book 1

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

Pet Sematary 2

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

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

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

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

pet semetary 1

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

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

kinopoisk.ru


 

Ghosts are scary…

Vampires are scary…

Haunted hotels are scary…

Heck, Indianapolis Colts football is scary!

But what is the scariest thing of all?

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

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

Happy reading!

RoaldDahl

Man Crush Monday 5/18/15

Good morning, and thanks to all both of you for tuning in to read my little old blog…aw shucks, I feel so warm and fuzzy now!

aw shucks

And yes, its Monday again…yay (not really)!

Trust me, I would much rather be home hanging out with my crew,..

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We were watching Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring this weekend.  So, I would much rather be doing that than working…alas, someone needs to be put dog and cat food on the table!

And to my old man who tried to tell me Lord of the Rings is overrated (*gasp*), all I can say is, like my favorite bastard, you know nothing!

Jon Snow

However, I do know something…and that something is…wait for it…Man Crush Monday time, in the very nerdy style that is this blog!

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Oh, The Lord of the Rings.  I loved the books and I loved the movies.  And I decided that I needed to once again pay Middle Earth a visit, and drag my poor bastard along this time.  What’s the fun in visiting Middle Earth if I can’t force it on the uninitiated, right?

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And, I fell in love again…

Don’t worry, this is another book boyfriend.  And I have an open marriage when it comes to book boyfriends, thankfully.

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Yes, Aragorn.  He was swoon-worthy in the books, and Viggo Mortensen made him even more swoon-worthy in the movies. If it wasn’t for Arwen…oh boy, is all I can say.

Aragorn 1

Again, there is something about the quiet leadership of a man like Aragorn.  At times he seems reluctant, almost unwilling even, but he pulls through in the end, and does whatever he needs to do to keep everyone safe.

Aragorn 2

And (surprise, surprise) the master himself is also a big fan of Lord of the Rings, although I’m not sure if he counts Aragorn among his book boyfriends (but hey, no judgement if he does, that would be cool, actually).

Stephen King

 

Stephen King has often stated that the series has been a huge influence on his work, and counts Tolkien’s books as some of his favorite books.

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In fact, King has also stated that he dreamed of writing his equivalent to The Lord of the Rings.  The series had inspired him that much.

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And King did write his equivalent to The Lord of the Rings, when his book The Stand was written and published.  The setting may have been contemporary (‘Murrica!) and the book may not have contained hobbits, but the underlying themes were strikingly similar to the ones appearing in Tolkien’s work:  friendship. environmental issues, casualties of war, self-sacrifice and so forth.  The Stand even came with a scary, evil wizard to rival good old Saruman!

Sarunam 1

And of course, heroes.  Like Tolkien’s saga, The Stand contained its share of heroes.  And all of these heroes are human.  And some are more human than others, as they openly question the roles that they have been thrust into, oftentimes against their will.  But like Aragorn, in the end King’s heroes also rise to the occasion, and will do whatever it takes to protect their hobbits  charges against those who would do them wrong.

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As stated before, King’s heroes tend to be human, and many are fallible.  In other words, Stephen King heroes are kind of like stars:  they really are just like us!

Which brings me to the subject of this week’s Man Crush Monday!

Ladies, meet my favorite Stephen King Everyman…Nick Andros!

Nick Andros 1

Well, Nick is almost an Everyman.  Other than the fact that he is deaf.  And mute.  And somehow still learned to read and write, despite the fact that he was an orphan almost everyone had given up on and no one believed would amount to much, on account of poor Nick being unable to communicate with the outside world.  And did I mention he rescues stray cats from trees and helps little old ladies cross the street?

Well, maybe that last part is a bit of hyperbole.  Nick is not an Everyman, he is just too awesome to be a mere man.  So go ahead and feast your eyes on Nick Andros!


 

Name:  Nick Andros

Profession:  Worked odd jobs and was obtaining his GED until the apocalypse interfered with those plans.

Family: See section on being orphaned.  Was mentored by someone named Rudy.  See section on learning to read and write.

Friends:  Mother Abagail.  Reminds him that a certain deity believes in him, even if Nick does not reciprocate.

Mother Abigail

Ralph Brentner.  Some friends can just help a person break down walls and open up communication.

Tom Cullen.  M O O N that spells some friendships can even transcend death.

Nick and Tom 1

Enemies:  Aragorn had them, and Nick also has them.

Julie Lawry.  M O O N, that spells traitorous bitch.

Harold Lauder.  Some people will just blow up everything, including houses that incredibly awesome folks just happen to be hanging out at.

Harold Lauder

Randall Flagg.  See section on evil wizards, who are probably everyone’s enemy anyway.

Flagg 2

 

Special note:  Keeping plenty of paper and pencils on hand will score points with Nick.  See section on “handicap.”

 


So here there it is, ladies…I give you Nick Andros!  There is just something about the strong, silent type, isn’t there?  And did I say Nick is compassionate, and will not tolerate any kind of bullying, even from pretty girls?  M O O N, that spells guy who looks out for the underdog, since he has been there before!  And anyone who is willing to take up the fight for the little people, whether they be humans or hobbits, is crush worthy in my book!

Nick Andros 2

So that’s it for this week’s edition of Man Crush Monday.  Tune in next week, when we will swoon some more over literary characters that we will never have a chance with!

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Since Everyone is Entitled to my Opinion

So it happened again.

It sure did.

About two weeks ago, the internet broke.  Yep, it broke.  AGAIN.  Really, the internet can be fragile sometimes.  Although luckily, I think it responds to duck tape.  And maybe even Krazy Glue.

Urusla

Usually, anything that breaks the internet is not something I care much about.  I’m just not that much into Miley Cyrus and her twerking.  Or Kim K butt pics.  Or what color that dress really is…its just ugly, period!

ugly dress

But this time, I cared.  It may be one the few rare times during the long period I have graced this planet with my existence (37 years in June, actually) but I found myself actually caring about what broke the internet.  And I may have actually contributed to the breakage, although I think my contribution amounted to no more than a virtual greenstick fracture.

greenstick fracture

As we all know, I am obsessed with Stephen King.  I have read nearly all of his books.  In particular, I am obsessed with The Dark Tower series.

Yes, obsessed.  And I mean OBSESSED as opposed to obsessed.  I am a member of multiple Facebook fan pages for Stephen King and The Dark Tower series.  I am even an admin for two of these pages (could we really get any nerdier?  Wait, that is a rhetorical question, not a challenge!)  I have made so many new friends through these pages, and even had the opportunity to interview Mr. King’s right hand lady of The Dark Tower series.  I constantly draw and create other forms of artwork inspired by The Dark Tower series.

Robin-Furth 2

Oh, and I created this blog, which has a few entries on King and his works.

So, its safe to say I am a Constant Reader or CR for short (which I will call myself from now on, since that sounds a little nicer than COFG, which stands for Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).

So, I am passionate about The Dark Tower series.  Very few works have touched me in the manner that this series has, and it will remain my favorite fantasy series of all time.  It is powerful, and simply inspiring.

Roland 1

And like all other fans, I can’t get enough.  I read the comics inspired by the series.  And I read books about the series, such as The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete  Concordance (both volumes!) written by Bev Vincent and Robin Furth, respectively.  And any time a new King books is released, I have my hands on it and my nose buried in it, looking for any connection, no matter how remote, to what King has called his magnum opus.

Bev Vincent 1

But there is one thing I have not had the pleasure (?) of being able to do.  Batman fans have had it.  The Lord of the Rings fans have had it too.  Even Twilight (*shudder*) fans have had it.

GoT meme

Yes, that’s right.  The Dark Tower has never been made into a movie.  Not even an animated one (we will talk more about that later, as a matter of fact).  So many King books have been adapted into films (with varying degrees of success).  But not The Dark Tower.  This short film is the closest thing we have is this adaptation, which is actually a pleasure to watch and totally worth the few minutes of your time that it will take.  But, again, that is closest thing we had for a screen adaptation of The Dark Tower series.

Until now.

Sony Pictures has announced that it has acquired the rights to The Dark Tower series, aka Stephen King’s magnum opus, which spans eight full length books so far, along with a couple of related short stories.

Cue the loud crashes and squealing right about here.  That would be the sound of the internet breaking.

And the reactions have been interesting, to say the least.  Many are excited.  For years, fans have been strung along with the promise of a movie, but that promise has never been delivered.  The last bit of news we received on a potential Dark Tower movie was in July of 2011, when it was announce that Universal Pictures had scrapped the plans for the movie, although director Ron Howard assured fans that he was still attached and this movie would be made one day.

DT 2

And of course, the naysayers.  Saying it can’t be done, despite the success of franchises such as The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings.  However, my personal favorite is the fan who says that no Dark Tower movie should ever, EVER be made, as that will ruin the books!  Apparently, I am clueless, because a bad movie adaptation (Running Man and Lawnmower Man, we are talking about you, cough, cough) somehow changes the source material, making all of us unable to ever read said source material ever again, because, well, film adaptations are just magical like that and have the ability to somehow magically re-write books, DAMMIT!

book vs movie 1

 

So, everyone has an opinion.  Including me.  And now I have this blog that I created just for the express purpose of having super nerdy discussions, so let’s have one in regards to this controversial topic that has caused so many heated discussions in internet land, perhaps being responsible for many a virtual earthquake (or perhaps a Beam-quake, in this case).

Roland 2


Can this even be done?  Can such a complex story be translated on to the screen, and make a good movie?  More importantly, should it even be done?  After all, we will always have the books!

One of my favorite fantasy series as a child (before I was lured into the world of Roland Deschain and his friends) was The Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with The Hobbit.  I read these books many times, and watched the animated version of The Hobbit more than a few times.  And I pined for live action movies, figuring they would never happen in my lifetime.

Then I hit my 20’s.  I picked up some magazine one day, and lo behold, saw an article stating that all three books in said trilogy would be movies.  Live action movies.  So I marked my calendar.  I was so excited.  And I was right to be excited.  All three movies lived up to my expectations.  I especially enjoyed Lord of the RingsThe Two Towers…I mean, Ents!  Ents fighting!  It was bad ass!  One of the most iconic scenes in the books had been given justice.  And I sighed in nerdy ecstasy…

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers5

My point is that The Dark Tower is not the only complex fantasy series in existence.  And complex fantasy series (see above paragraph) can successfully be made into good or even great motion pictures.  Our technology has advanced even more since the release of The Lord of the Rings movies, and anyone who makes movies can do astounding things in regards to special effects.  And the stigma of movies being too long (longer than 100 minutes) is slowly starting to fade…just look at the success of The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay Part I, which clocks in at well over two hours.  If it is done well (and I believe a director like Ron Howard is perfectly capable of this), people don’t care about the length, and will not be intimidated at the thought of sitting in a theater for over two hours.  Some movies are just that good.

DT movie 3

And let me reiterate:  to me, nothing will ever top a book.  If I am given the choice, I will almost always choose the book (see the paragraph above the cute kitty meme).  But I still want a Dark Tower movie.  Think of it like this:  I may like steak, and it will always be my favorite, but there is no reason why I can’t have fish or seafood for dinner some nights.  After all, I can’t just subsist on steak, and I need some variety in my diet.  In other words, I need movies every now and then, along with books.  And I want to see my favorite characters come alive, and have them move me onscreen like they do on the page.  I want to see the fantastical landscapes I have been imagining in my head all these years.  I want to see what special effects can do to a story.

Most importantly, I want to be able to share the experience of The Dark Tower.  My husband is awesome and wonderful and the best husband in the world, but he is not a reader.  I have been talking about this series from almost day one (this statement should bring any single person new hope.  If a nerd like me can find someone, there really is someone out there for everyone).  But he watches movies.  And many others are the same way.  So if this movie can turn more people on the awesomeness otherwise known as The Dark Tower series, then I fully support it.  The fact that a Dark Tower movie may make my conversations at parties more relevant and less boring is just an added bonus.


 

Who should be cast?  The only person who can play Roland is Clint Eastwood!  Even King himself has said this!

First of all, much respect to Clint Eastwood.  If I wore a hat, I would take it off to the man.  He deserves every single accolade that he has received.  The man is an icon, pure and simple.

Clint Eastwood 1

But, he is in his 70’s.  He may be an icon, but he is still an old icon.  And King did base the character of Roland and the entire setting of the series off of characters played by Eastwood, and also off of the spaghetti westerns he grew up watching as a child.  However, this does not mean that Eastwood should play Roland.  Plenty of actors would be able to bring the grittiness that is needed to pull off a character like our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

cuthbert and alain

Likes Timothy Olyphant.  I could readily envision him as a cold blooded man who will do whatever it takes to reach his tower.  The fact that Olyphant already plays a cowboy (or a cowboy-like character) on a popular TV series is just an added bonus.

Timothy-Olyphant-Justified_300

Or Hugh Jackman.  Jackman has proven acting chops, and also seems to be able to bring that grittiness needed for Roland.  And he is also pretty easy on the eyes.  Speaking of eyes, I am aware that Roland’s are blue and neither one of the actors I have mentioned so far have blue eyes.  However, that is why contact lenses were invented.

hugh-jackman

Ok, I am done talking about Roland.  I love Roland to death, but I also love a lot of the characters that many would be considered “minor” in the series, although they all play a huge role.  So I happen to think the casting of these characters is almost as important as Roland.

Nort

Like Nort.  Nort is the best undead junkie in literature, and I would love to see him cast properly, and for someone to really put his heart and soul into this character and bring him to life on the big screen.

Someone like Kurt Sutter, possibly.  Nort is a creepy, frightening guy, and Kurt Sutter has proven experience in the creepy and frightening department via his character Otto on Sons of Anarchy.  So it is no stretch (at least for me) to imagine Sutter cast as an undead junkie.

Otto

 

Jack Mort aka The Pusher is another iconic, although relatively minor, character in this series.  And I hope that he is cast properly.  My pick for Jack Mort is Tom Arnold.  Again, I am basing this on a performance from the show Sons of Anarchy (yeah, I’m a little obsessed, I admit it).  Arnold’s character Georgie Caruso was sleazy, conniving and even pyscho at times, which makes him perfect for the role of Jack Mort, another sleazy, conniving psychopath.

Sons of Anarchy 2x02 Small Tears

And now, let’s talk again about main characters.  More specifically, the role of Susannah Dean (along with Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes, for that matter).  Susannah is a main character and plays a huge role in the series.  And she is a woman who is also African-American.  The tides are slowly turning, but the roles for women, let alone women of color, are still limited.  This is especially true in the fantasy and sci fi genre.  I love that King chose to make this character a woman of color, and it is VERY important to  me that she be cast properly.  Hollywood has a chance to help someone shatter some more glass ceilings and break some more ground.  Lupita Nyong’o is my choice for Susannah.  Her acting chops are proven, and I believe she could pull the role of Susannah, who is an extremely complex character (she suffers from mental illness and was also involved in the civil rights movement in 1960’s New York).  She is also beautiful and charismatic.  Perfect, in other words.

LupitaSusannah 1


 

What about Oy?  And Jake?  Won’t he age out?  And the flashbacks?  How can we possibly handle those?

CGI.  There, I said it…shudder.  While I believe that CGI is overused much of the time (Jupiter Ascending…cough, cough…ahem), I think it is the perfect answer for the question on how to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  And likely the only way to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  We may still need to cast a voice actor for Oy (he is a talking critter, after all) but CGI will actually provide most of the solutions and create a convincing character.

Oy 1

If you have made it this in reading this post, then congrats.  Also see the paragraph above the awesome Game of Thrones meme.  More specifically, the line about animation.

That’s right, animation.  I believe that animation could be a viable medium for bringing The Dark Tower series to life.

breaking bad

 

Ok, clean up the coffee or other beverage of your favorite choice that you may have spit all over your keyboard after reading the above paragraph, and let’s talk about why animation is in fact a viable to choice to bring Stephen King’s magnum opus to life.

Animation actually solves a couple of problems.  First of all, Jake Chambers is 11 years old when the series starts, and it seems he remains 11 years old for the remainder of the series.  The movies (as we all know there will need to be multiple movies in order for this to work) will probably take at least a couple of years to  film, even if they are filmed simultaneously in the same manner as The Lord of the Rings.  This presents a problem, as most 11 year old children grow and change rapidly (damn pesky puberty).  So it is possible that the actor who plays Jake could age out of the role.  However, if the series is animated, that problem is solved.  Animation would allow Jake to remain 11 throughout the story, keeping that particular part of the story intact.

Jake Chambers

The Dark Tower series also contains a ton of flashbacks.  Wizard and Glass is one long flashback.  Much of The Gunslinger also consists of flashbacks.  While flashbacks are awesome in books, they can be problematic in live action movies.  However, flashbacks can actually blend in very well in animated movies.  Animation may even be the preferred method of medium to tell certain back stories (such as Roland’s time in Meijis) or to possibly even bring to life the Dark Tower comics.  After all, bringing more Dark Tower related material into existence cannot possibly be a bad thing.

Roland and tet 1


My opinion.  There you have it.  Whether you wanted it or not, I have brought it to you via this blog post.  And please, keep in mind that opinions are like assholes:  we all have them.  And I am entitled to mine, just like everyone else (to theirs as well as mine).  And I am greatly looking forward to see what, if any, of my ramblings on this post come to fruition over the next several months or years.  I am hopeful that this endeavor will be successful, but to quote many a wise person before me:  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more news and posts regarding this endeavor.

time_will_tell

 

 

Top 10 non-horror Stephen King books

So let me paraphrase a conversation I had on Facebook recently.  COFG is me (Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).  FOAF is the friend of a friend with whom I had this rather interesting conversation.

FOAF:  I don’t like Stephen King, his books are too scary!

FOAF:  I love The Shawshank Redemption, that is one of my favorite movies!

FG_Three_Kings-Fourth_Wall

COFG:  Stephen King wrote the story The Shawshank Redemption is based on.  Contrary to popular belief, the man known for shit weasels and scary clowns is an excellent writer.

FOAF: (Silence on her end.  Obviously, her mind was blown.  Does not compute.  Programming must be re-adjusted).

breaking bad

Well, like I said, it was paraphrased.  Although you would be surprised how many people need to re-adjust their programming when they learn that scary dude wrote a story that was turned into a movie that received Oscar nods.,.gasp!  Oh, the horror (pun intended).

Stephen King

Which leads me to this blog post.

Yes, Stephen King writes scary stories.  Who hasn’t had a nightmare (or five) about an evil clown who emerges from the sewers and kills kids?  Who doesn’t scream when watching a movie like Pet Sematary, which is also probably the scariest book in existence on this planet?

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And all of the above is correct.  Stephen King can scare you to where you just might need a change of pants.  And oh boy, is he good at it!

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But…wait for it…Stephen King is also a great writer.  And I am completely leaving anything about horror off that last sentence.

Yes, Stephen King can write scary stories.  But he writes good stories.  Great stories, actually.  Really, really great stories, as a matter of fact.

And no, they are not scary stories.  Even in his “scary” stories, King is able to include universal themes.  For example, the theme of family is huge in The Shining.  And bullying is also a huge theme in stories such as Dreamcatcher and It.

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And in his “non-scary” stories, King often writes about frightening situations.  For example, domestic abuse is prevalent in stories such as Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne.  Domestic violence is a situation that many people can identify with, and characters such as Norman Daniels are terrifying because they are so plausible.

To sum it up, King is a great writer.  However, he is somewhat stigmatized, because of the “horror” label.  And no one is more aware of it than the master himself, as he has been typecast for nearly 40 years.  However, this has not stopped him from churning out some amazing novels that cannot be categorized as horror.  And anyone who takes the time to read these works is in for a treat.  As these works are simply great writing, with the ability to grip the reader, and keep him/her trapped in the pages of the book until the last word.  And that is exactly what a good writer should do:  make the reader not want to put down that book.

So, without further ado, here are my top “non-horror” Stephen King books, for the the non-horror fans in our lives.

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10)  Lisey’s Story

Marriage is something that everyone is familiar with (especially me, since I’m on my second trip to the rodeo).  And almost everyone agrees that when you marry someone, you don’t really know them, even if the marriage lasts a good number of years.  Even when you live with someone day in and day out, there is still a secret side (or maybe more than one secret side) of that person.  And sometimes the secrets are harmless (like my book boyfriends I spend hours obsessing over).  Or sometimes the secrets are not so harmless.

Yes, those not so harmless secrets.  You know, when your spouse has the ability to travel to another dimension, and then heal himself but has to be careful not to attract the attention of a creature he calls “the Long Boy” since that creature is hungry for yummy things called human beings.

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That kind of secret does suck, and it is actually what the title character from Lisey’s Story encounters.  Upon the death of her husband Scott Landon, who was an accomplished writer during his lifetime, Lisey Landon begins to learn (or rather, have her memory jogged) as to what kind of man her husband really was.  And she also has an adventure in the alternate dimension mentioned above (complete with an encounter or two with a scary monster), so that she can set her life and memory of her husband right.  Yes, there is a monster or two (although the human monster is one of the scariest), but this book deals more with marriage and what we may keep from our spouses (harmless or not).  The book also deals with the still somewhat taboo subject of mental illness, which is a prevalent theme in this society, and manages to treat this sensitive subject with compassion.  Lisey’s Story may have a couple of monsters, but the themes are themes that resonate with everyone, and the book makes an enjoyable read for almost anyone.

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9)  Dolores Claiborne

So let’s talk about human monsters again.

“Lupus est homo homini.”  Man is a wolf to man.  In other words, let’s talk about man’s inhumanity to man.  Or technically, with this entry, man (and society’s) horrible treatment of women.

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Dolores Claiborne is disturbing.  Yet there are no monsters, at least of the supernatural variety.  The monsters in this one are all human.

The title character marries a man, thinking she will get to live happily ever after.  However, her life becomes anything but happy.  Dolores’ husband Joe begins to abuse her not long after he and Dolores marry.  Dolores takes matters into her own hands, as local law enforcement is proven to be useless (and is shown to be just that throughout the rest of the book).  Dolores does not endure any more abuse by Joe, but what follows is much, much worse.  Joe begins to turns his attentions on their daughter Selena, and begins sexually abusing Selena.  Again, local law enforcement (and society, for that matter), show their true colors, as no one is one the side of Dolores and her children.  Feeling desperate, Dolores seeks out advice from her employer, and decides that “an accident can be a woman’s best friend.”  She pushes Joe down a well, and convinces local authorities that is is an accident.  She is believed, but the incident comes back to haunt her upon the death of her employer, Vera.  The book is a recounting of what led Dolores to her actions, and of the terrible gender inequality that existed (and still exists in our society today) in 1960’s Maine island communities.

When I started reading Dolores Claiborne, I wondered why she did it.  About a third of the way through the book, I wondered why she didn’t do away with Joe much sooner than she did.  And I rooted for her.  I rooted for her to be able to take some control of her life, as no one, including her husband or even our society, was willing to let her have any control of anything in life, including the well-being of her children.  And Dolores was able to take a stand, and came out the winner.  And I like it when the good guys  girls win.

Dolores C

8)  Rose Madder

Human monsters.  Yes, more human monsters.  In case you didn’t notice, this is a huge theme in this blog post and in King’s works.  In the book Rose Madder, once again, the biggest monster is completely human, and is someone you are supposed to trust.

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Norman Daniels is a cop.  And he is a very good good cop.  However, Norman is also a corrupt cop who has literally gotten away with murder.  Oh, and he beats his wife.  Real peach of a guy, huh?

Fortunately, Norma’s wife Rosie does not think her husband is a peach.  She endures terrible abuse from him for nearly 14 years.  King’s description of the abuse is quite graphic (Norman even sodomizes his wife with a tennis racket).  Rosie finally finds the courage to leave her husband, catch a Greyhound bus and start over in another city nearly 800 miles away from her home.  Rosie is helped along the way by the kindness of strangers and receives much needed support from a local women’s shelter.  She even meets and falls in love with a new man, and finds an interesting painting to hang in her new apartment.  However, Rosie’s past catches up with her, as Norman leaves behind a trail of bodies in his attempt to track down his estranged wife.  The new painting literally provides a means of escape for Rosie, as it leads her into another world (along with Norman) and Norman is finally given his just desserts.

norman daniels

It is true that there is a supernatural element to Rose Madder.  However, most of the book takes place in a setting that almost everyone is familiar with (suburban America) and the characters (abusive men and abused women) are also sadly familiar.  Norman Daniels is a corrupt cop and an abusive husband.  He is one of the most believable characters ever written by King.  Watch your local or even national news, and a Norman Daniels is bound to surface.

The fact that Rose Madder partially takes place in the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger is just an added bonus to a fantastic story.

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7)  Hearts in Atlantis

The horrors of war are also something we are all familiar with, including Stephen King.  King brilliantly addresses this topic in his collections of novellas titled Hearts in Atlantis.  Although King made many allusions in prior works to his feelings on the Viet Nam War, he addresses the subject head on in the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  The result is an insightful analysis on the experience of coming in age during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

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Hearts in Atlantis consists of two novellas and three short stories.  The first of these is titled Low Men in Yellow Coats, and is the only story that really contains any hint of the supernatural.  While the Viet Nam War is not directly referenced in this work, the protagonist Bobby Garfield learns a lesson about taking a stand against evil when his friend and elderly neighbor is pursued by sinister creatures that are clearly not of this world.  Bobby’s actions and stances on this will color his life for years to come, and serve as foreshadowing as to how some of his peers will take a stance against the conflict in Viet Nam.  The title story tells of a college student who nearly flunks out of college due to excessive amounts of time spent playing a card game.  However, the stakes of failure are very high, as anyone who fails out of college at the beginning of the Viet Nam War risks being sent overseas to fight a war in a country that most can barely pronounce or spell.  While struggling with his studies, Pete also struggles (in much the same manner as Bobby Garfield) with his stance on what is happening overseas.  Like Bobby, Pete also makes a stance that will forever change his life.  Blind Willie and Why We’re in Vietnam take place some years after the Viet Nam War is over, and are told from the prospective of those who served during that time.  The collection ends with the short story Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, where we meet an adult Bobby Garfield who finally receives some closure in regards to the events during his childhood that have troubled him for so many years.

While many younger readers may find some of the stories in Hearts in Atlantis a bit dated, the themes (war, bullying, tolerance and taking a stance) are themes that anyone of any age should identify with, making the stories ones that will always be relevant and therefore timeless.

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6)  Different Seasons

As I stated before, Stephen King has struggled with typecasting.  However, the publication of the book Different Seasons put at least some of those criticisms to rest.  Different Seasons consists of three novellas, and the last work could be probably be considered a short story.  All four stories contain themes that we all familiar with:  injustice, bullying, parents’ relationships with their children, people who are not who they seem to be, etc.  In other words, they are stories of the human condition.

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The first story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, tells the story of a man who is wrongfully imprisoned for killing him wife, and his struggles inside a system that seeks to keep him oppressed.  The story is told from the perspective of another prisoner, and reminds the reader time and time again that we must never give up hope. The second story, Apt Pupil, tells of a former Nazi war criminal who moves to suburban America and lives under an assumed name.  The man develops an unhealthy relationship with the boy next door, and his past comes back to haunt him and change his young neighbor in a way that is not for the better.  The third story, The Body, is the tale of four childhood friends and the last adventure that they have together before adulthood conspires to lead them on different paths.  The final story, The Breathing Method, tells of a young mother who gives birth out of wedlock in turn of the century America, and just how far she will go to deliver her baby safely, even when society and another unfortunate turn of events try to tell her otherwise.

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Humanity can be scary sometimes.  Oftentimes, humans, whether they are a former Nazi war criminal, a corrupt prison warden or even the innocent boy next door, are the scariest creatures on this planet.  But sometimes humans can be wonderful as well, and make marks on our lives that we will never forget.  Different Seasons does a wonderful job illustrating both sides of humanity and is just a fascinating study into what makes our species tick.

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5)  Eyes of the Dragon

When you think of kid friendly writers, Stephen King does not usually come to mind.  And rightfully so, as much of King’s work would be deemed “inappropriate” at best, and maybe “will traumatize one for life” at worst (as we can all see how reading King at age 12 made me the well-adjusted adult I am today…ha).  However, the book Eyes of the Dragon could be probably be an exception to that statement (if we leave out the parts about flaccid penises…yikes, awkward much?)

It said that King wanted to write a book that his daughter Naomi would want be allowed  to read.  So he wrote Eyes of the Dragon.  In many ways, Eyes of the Dragon is similar to the fairy tales that we all grew reading (or maybe our parents read them to us).  There are princes in a faraway kingdom.  The princes become orphaned and one becomes wrongfully imprisoned, but pulls off a daring escape plan using his mother’s childhood dollhouse, of all things.  And there is even an evil wizard thrown in the mix.  However, Eyes of the Dragon also has a decidedly darker tone than some of the fairy tales that I grew up with.  The protagonist does escape, but his captor never faces punishment.  And it could also be argued that the younger brother of the protagonist, who was also responsible for the imprisonment of his older brother, has not really become any wiser for all the troubles he has been through.

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Even though it is dark (this is a Stephen King book after all), Eyes of the Dragon is an unusual but fun departure from King’s normal work into a peculiar type of dark fantasy.  And like the fairy tales I remember from my youth, it does teach a few lessons that anyone of any age could stand to hear.

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4)  The Dead Zone

Its an age old question:  do we have the ability to see the future, and possible try to change it?  More importantly, should we have that ability?  This is a question that is explored in depth in the book The Dead Zone.

The Dead Zone is actually a scary book.  But again, there are no monsters, except for a couple of the human ones.  The Dead Zone is also a tragic book.  The protagonist, Johnny Smith (how can a name be more Every Man than Johnny Smith?) falls into a coma after a horrible car accident.  Johnny stays in the coma for nearly five years.  In the meantime, his world moves on without him.  This includes the woman he loves, who marries another.  Johnny wakes up from his coma, and discovers that he has the somewhat limited ability to see future events.  Sometimes this is a good thing, as it saves people’s lives and helps catch serial killers.  However, more often than not, Johnny’s unwanted gift brings unintended consequences and isolates him from his fellow man.  When Johnny discovers that a popular politician will one day become president and start World War III, he embarks on a quixotic quest to try and stop the man.  Again, Johnny finds himself isolated from his few remaining friends and family members.  Johnny is ultimately successful in his quest to stop the politician, but the success comes at a huge personal cost for Johnny and his loved ones.

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In The Dead Zone, King once again embarks upon a study in the human condition.  The ultimate result is tragedy, but the book is one of his most thought provoking reads of all time.

3)  Insomnia

It may be odd to think of horror and fantasy (in the style of Lord of the Rings) as being two sides of the same coin, but oftentimes these two categories blur, and it can get hard to distinguish one from the other.  The book Insomnia definitely falls into the category of dark fantasy and has therefore earned its place on this list.

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Insomnia follows the adventures of Ralph Roberts, a widower in his late 60’s.  Ralph has become inflicted with insomnia and is unable to sleep at night.  He then begins seeing some strange sights in his hometown of Derry, Maine. Ralph also discovers that his neighbor Lois has also become inflicted with insomnia and is seeing the same strange sights that he is.  The two discover that they are actually pawns in a game of sorts, and that the stakes are very, very high, and losing the game could spell disaster for not just them, but all of existence.  The story switches from fantasy (alternate dimensions) to reality throughout the book, and also gives the viewpoint of the world from senior citizens, who are often invisible at best, or treated as sub-humans at worst.  Ralph and Lois manage to save the day, but like many “saves” in a Stephen King book, it comes at a huge personal cost to Ralph and Lois some years later.  We also see Ralph and Lois fall in love during their ordeal, which is one of the most endearing love stories in any book, let alone a Stephen King book.

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Insomnia does a wonderful job playing up the darker aspects of the fantasy genre (The characters Atropos and The Crimson King are a great example of this) and also manages to treat the subject of aging in our youth obsessed society with sensitivity and even a little bit of humor.

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2)  The Talisman

Stephen King is often criticized for not being “literary” enough.  This may be because he sells so many books.  Or it may be the subject matter that he addresses in his books.  However, these critics fail to realize that Charles Dickens was a best-selling author in his lifetime.  Or that both Dickens and Mark Twain also took on social issues in their works, and that both authors’ works had some degree of darkness.  And both Twain and Dickens are taught in high schools and colleges across the world today.  Someday, Stephen King will be held in the same regard, and his work will be seen as “literature” and become part of standard college reading lists.  When that is the case, college professors would do well to include the next entry on this list:  The Talisman.

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Much like Insomnia, The Talisman can be categorized as dark fantasy.  It is the story of Jack Sawyer, who embarks on a trip across the United States in order to obtain a magical object referred to as The Talisman, in order to save his mother from dying of cancer.  Jack learns (or rather, has his memory jogged) that he has the ability to travel to an alternate reality that he calls The Territories.  Magic is commonplace in The Territories, but The Territories also come with their own dangers, as monsters and evil rulers are encountered at almost every turn.  Jack also has to deal with evil men who conspire against him in the “real” world, but has friends who guide him on his journey.  These friends include a werewolf and a wise old man named Speedy Parker, who is much more than what he seems.  In the true spirit of any fantasy/adventure story, Jack is ultimately successful in his quest, and is able to defeat his enemies and save his mother’s life.

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Much like the works of Twain, Dickens and even Robert Lewis Stevenson, The Talisman is a story of fantastical high adventure.  And much like the works of Charles Dickens and others, it explores controversial subjects, which include sexual and physical abuse of children, crime and punishment in our society and just how far someone will go to save the life of a loved one.  In other words, The Talisman may look like a children’s story, but like Speedy Parker, it is much more that what it seems.

And now, for our number entry on this list…

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I bring you…

1) 11/22/63

As stated before, Stephen King came of age during one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.  Not only did King attend college during the height of the Viet Nam War, he was also just entering adulthood upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Like most of his generation, this impacted King, and likely even affected his writing.  King alluded to this event many times (Wolves of the Calla and The Drawing of the Three contain a few references to Kennedy) but never addressed the subject head-on.  That is, until he wrote the number one entry on this list: 11/22/63.

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11/22/63 tells the story of Jake Epping, who lives in present day Maine.  Jake has an academic idea of John F. Kennedy, but has never really given the subject much thought.  However, Jake begins to give the subject much more thought when his friend Al reveals to him that there is a portal in the local diner owned by Al that allows one to travel back in time into 1958.  One can travel back and forth between time periods, and return to the present with only two minutes passing.  It is also revealed that traveling back to the present may “un-do” changes in the past.  Al persuades Jake to travel back in time and prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy and possible change history for the better.  Jake becomes convinced of this and travels back in time to do just that.  Jake takes up residence in 1958, and makes new friends.  He also falls in love with a woman named Sadie, and actually begins to re-think his quest.  He realizes that the past is stubborn and does not want to be changed, but still continues on his quest.  Jake is ultimately successful in preventing the assassination, but at the cost of Sadie’s life.  Jake travels back to 2011 but barely recognizes his present, as the prevention of the assassination has indeed led to drastic changes in history that are not for the better.  Jake travels back to the portal and re-enters the present, therefore restoring the timeline.  This also restores the life of Sadie.  Jake realizes his presence in the past can only lead to disaster, and chooses not to travel back in time and pursue Sadie.  The book ends with Jake encountering an elderly lady who can only be Sadie, and sharing one last dance with her.

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11/22/63 is an epic story.  The story is equal parts historical fiction and a suspense thriller.  It also contains one of the best cases of a “doomed love” affair, as the romance between Jake and Sadie so sadly demonstrates.  The book is rich in detail with what life was really like in late 1950’s America, as many perceive that to be a simpler time period.  However, there is an incident where Jake encounters a sign for the “colored” restroom, and follows the sign.  The sign leads a tangle of grass and brier patches, providing Jake (and the reader) with a reality check as to what life was really like during that time period.  King provides a fascinating character study of Lee Harvey Oswald, who, to most people, is just a historical figure.  However, King manages to make him a little more human and even somewhat sympathetic, even though his actions are still ultimately evil.  In short, 11/22/63 is complex and rich book, that deals with major events in history (JFK, Viet Nam War, etc), while providing a human perspective on what many (especially younger readers like myself) view in an academic manner.  11/22/63 truly makes history come alive and actually become relevant.

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King has stated that 11/22/63 was the book that he always wanted to write about Viet Nam, JFK, etc.  However, this is Stephen King.  He always has a trick up his sleeve.  And the trick in 11/22/63 is a great one:  Jake encounters none other than Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, shortly after the Losers Club’s first confrontation with Pennywise the Clown.  And King is correct:  11/22/63 is the book about JFK, Viet Nam, etc that needed to be written.  But the fact that he was able to incorporate the evil clown from a novel that has inspired so many nightmares in what many would consider to be a historical (not horror) novel  is just further testament to the true genius that is Stephen King.

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So there it is.  The top 10 non-horror novels written by Stephen King.  So for the non-horror fan in your life, maybe one (or five) of these would make a great stocking stuffer!  Or if you have not read these, self present giving is always allowed!  And the only scary thing about these is that maybe you will just get hooked and be unable to stop reading!  But sometimes being scared is a good thing…happy reading, all!

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Man Crush Monday for 3/23/15

 

Oh, Monday.  What a killjoy you are.  Almost as much as killjoy as rocks in my shoes after a trip to the beach.  Or the strawberry and vanilla parts in Neopolitan ice cream.  Or a roommate walking in and interrupting your hookup…sigh.

Man Crush Monday 1

But at least we have Man Crush Monday!  Man Crush Monday is kind of like Paris…we will always have it!

Casablanca

 

I am a sucker for knights in shining armor.  They make me melt, for some reason.  I may be a self-proclaimed feminist, but I still love the idea of a hero who is willing to risk everything for what matters to him.  The best of the good guys, in my book.

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Stephen King has the ability to write some really awesome bad guys (Eldred Jonas, Jim Rennie, etc).  But King also has the ability to write some memorable good guys.  And we are talking about good guys, not anti heroes who still do good (sorry, Roland!)

So meet the subject of this week’s Man Crush Monday:  Ralph Roberts from Insomnia!

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Ralph Roberts is the consummate knight in shining armor.  When I was growing up, my grandfather was my knight in shining armor.  It seemed he always knew what to do and what to say, even when things were difficult.  And he was willing to do anything for his family.  I know that he made sacrifices for my mom, my uncle and grandmother back in the day so that they all could have happy, healthy lives.  He also fought in World War II and risked his life for his country, even though it may have meant that he would either return in a body bag or return with severe injuries (thankfully, he returned healthy…otherwise, you might not be reading this blog!)  In other words, in the words of a certain famous singer, he walked on water.

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Ralph Roberts also walked on water.  To me, this guy could never do any wrong.  He was not a willing participant, at least at first, in the quest set up for him by whatever forces control our universe.  Like Frodo, Sam, Bilbo and the other hobbits, he just wanted to stay home and live out the last of his days in peace (when you are 68 years old, you have earned that right).  But fate had other plans for him.  And Ralph stepped up, and he did it admirably.  He saved the life of a certain young man who would later go to play his part in the quest of a well known anti hero.  He also saved the lives of a few hundred people from a madman while he was at it.  And rubbed elbows with Connie Chung, too.

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However, these accomplishments came at a major cost.  Ralph held up his end of the bargain, but also forced The Fates (Clotho and Lachesis) to uphold their end of the bargain.  Ralph was unwilling to work with the Fates until they promised him that the life of the daughter of his young neighbor would also be saved.  And this required Ralph to sacrifice himself when the time came.  And Ralph does exactly that.  In other words, the best of the good guys.  My grandfather would have admired him, in fact.

So without further ado, here is Ralph Roberts!


Name;  Ralph Roberts

Profession:  Retired, but was a traveling salesman.  His persuasion abilities come in handy when he really wants something, like to trade his life for the life of a child.

Relationship status:  Widowed from Caroline.  He later falls in love with and marries Lois Chasse, but Caroline’s voice is still a major influence, often guiding him through difficult decisions.

So it’s only a little bit complicated…

Known associates:  Obviously, Caroline Roberts, and later Lois Chasse.  He values the opinions of everyone, especially women.

Dorrance Marstellar.  Old Dor was almost a major influence on his quest as the voice of his deceased wife Caroline.  Short Timers can be a little dense, and Old Dor tries to be as understanding as possible when offering his somewhat cryptic guidance.

Helen Deepeneau.  Ralph rescued her from her abusive husband, and went up against the asshole when no one else would.  Later, he sacrificed himself so that the life of her daughter may be spared.  His actions against Ed Deepenau even earned him accolades from feminist groups…talk about a true knight!

Enemies:  The Knights of the Round Table had them, and Ralph Roberts definitely has them.  It comes with the the territory when you are a bad ass.

Crimson King.  Not a good enemy to have, especially when this enemy is (likely) immortal, all powerful and brags about his eons long influence in your hometown of Derry, Maine.

Ed Deepenau.  When you have no destiny, you are almost as formidable as the Crimson King (see above).  And when a certain dirty, bald doctor cuts your “balloon string” (essentially, your spiritual lifeline) off, then watch out!  This does not make you happy when your elderly neighbor interferes with your plans, whether those plans are to beat your wife senseless, or to blow up a civic center that is holding a pro choice rally (well placed irony is always the best).


So there you have it, ladies…Ralph Roberts!  One of the last of the true knights…he has even been compared to the famous Sir Lancelot!  Ralph Roberts is definitely a keeper…I can understand why someone may lose sleep over him!

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So enjoy this week’s Man Crush Monday, and tune in next week to swoon over more literary characters that you wish were real!

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Love (literally) Hurts: A review of Lisey’s Story

I remember reading a long time ago, that Mark Twain, when he was 16, made a statement that his father was the dumbest man alive.  But when he talked to his father when he was 20, it was amazing how much the old man had learned in four years.

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This is not to say I ever thought my parents were stupid.  In fact, they were smart when I was 16 and they are smart now as I am going on 37 (love you Mom and Dad, thanks for the Christmas hookup…hahaha).

Seriously, though.  I read the Stephen King book Lisey’s Story about 8 years ago.  I trashed it at the time.  I thought it was awful and that King should have indeed, stayed retired from writing (love you Mr. King, thanks for all the book hookups…hahaha).

Stephen King

However, I have been making it a point to re-read certain books (not just King either) that I either loved or hated many years ago, to see what perspective my almost 37 year old self would have.  Lisey’s Story was one book on my list.  And I am glad that I took the time to read this work again with fresh eyes.  My almost 37 year old self had a completely different view of things than silly, daft 28 year old me.  And now wants to give silly, daft 28 year old me a good smack on the head for not taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life, like craft beer and Lisey’s Story.

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Synopsis

Lisey’s Story is a complex novel that defies categorization, like much of King’s work.  On one hand, it is a horror story.  It does have monsters and some scary imagery.  However, Lisey’s Story is a little more than a horror story.  In his typical fashion, King also deals with “real world” topics, such as child abuse, marriage and fans that love a little too much.  King is able to weave these topics into a story that also contains major elements of both horror and fantasy, and also make a good story with characters that we wind up emotionally invested in, along with settings that are both familiar and alien.

The book starts out with Lisey (Lisa) Landon attempting to sort and clean her late husband Scott’s study.  In life, Scott had been a wildly successful writer, credited with several best selling novels.  She also has to deal with some persistent admirers of his work, who want her to donate his unfinished work, as they are convinced that there is actually a book (or maybe two) buried in there, ready for posthumous publication, which would make someone rich.  We also learn that Scott was relatively young when he passed away, and that Lisey is still processing his death, as Scott has only passed away 26 months prior.  It is all ordinary and mundane…but not for long.

At the beginning of the book, we are also introduced to Lisey’s family.  Lisey is the youngest of four children, all of whom are girls.  King focuses on her relationship with all three siblings, but gives particular focus to Lisey’s sister Amanda.  Amanda suffers from mental illness and is almost considered a “black sheep” in her family.  We learn that Amanda is a “cutter”.  In other words, she is given to self mutilation.  She also appears to suffer from bouts of extreme depression.  Lisey is tasked with keeping watch over Amanda, as she and Scott became very rich due to the success of his novels and can afford the best care.  Lisey also seems to share a certain rapport with Amanda, and if often able to reach her when no one else can.

As the book progresses, we learn that Scott’s fans are an insistent bunch.  In particular, Lisey is harassed by a man calling himself “Zach McCool.”  As if that were not enough, Amanda experiences a severe decline in her mental health, becomes catatonic and needs to be hospitalized.  This is very stressful for Lisey, and causes her to recall her years of marriage to Scott, and some interesting experiences.

Lisey begins to recall her years of marriage to Scott.  We learn about how they met.  We learn about their struggles and successes.  We also learn that Scott was no ordinary man.  This is where the supernatural part of the story comes into play.  Scott (akin to many King characters), was possessed of extraordinary abilities.  One of them was his writing ability.  The other was his ability to transport himself to another world entirely.  Scott nicknamed this world “Boo’ya Moon.”

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We also learn that Scott suffered a horrendous childhood.  Mental illness was rampant in his family.  He grew up with a father who constantly abused Scott and his older brother Paul.  Scott sought refuge in his relationship with Paul, who sent him on what they called “bool hunts” or a kind of scavenger hunt that consisted of riddles.  Paul would then reward Scott with some small prize.  Scott also sought refuge in the world of Boo’ya Moon.  Scott used the world of Boo’ya Moon to escape (often with Paul) the horrible abuse brought on by his father.  Scott also used the powers of Boo’ya Moon to heal the injuries that he and Paul suffered at the hands of his father.  Scott’s childhood is somewhat bearable for a time, but only for so long.  When Paul is ten years old, he succumbs to the insanity that runs in Scott’s family.  Some sufferers become comatose and some sufferers turn into violent, non-human killing machines.  Unfortunately, Paul becomes one of the latter varieties.  He becomes a creature who does not recognize right from wrong, let alone his family members.  He is unable to speak but instead communicates in animal like sounds.  He also sets out to kill anything and anyone in his path.  Unfortunately, this includes Scott and his father.  The two attempt to restrain Paul and try to find a way to cure of the insanity.  Unfortunately, there is no cure.  Scott’s father euthanizes Paul in the same manner someone would euthanize a rabid dog that attacked a child.  Scott then transports himself and his brother to Boo’ya Moon, in the hopes that he can possibly cure his brother.  It turns out that he cannot, and Scott buries his brother in that other world.

Lisey notices that Scott is unusual even when they are dating.  Scott is able to heal himself very quickly from a self inflicted, very nasty cut on his hand.  Lisey notices that Scott appears to vanish, but chalks it up to a hallucination.  Scott then demonstrates that he is in fact able to vanish, when he takes Lisey to Boo’ya Moon with him, proving that his abilities and the place are real.  Lisey also learns that Scott has demons.  As in actual demons, in the form of an otherwordly creature Scott calls the “long boy” or the “piebald creature.”  This is the creature that would ultimately be responsible for Scott’s death.  However, Boo’ya Moon brings mostly good things to their marriage.  When Scott is shot by a deranged fan at a public speaking event, he is able to harness the powers of Boo’ya Moon and save himself from certain death.  He is able to use those powers many times, although he does pay the ultimate price in the end.

We also learn that Boo’ya Moon seems to be a refuge of sorts for mentally ill people who have fallen comatose.  Lisey learns this when Scott slips into catatonia about 8 years prior to his death.  She must use Scott’s abilities (which have transferred to her) to make the journey to Boo’ya Moon and bring Scott back.  She is successful, and Scott and Lisey enjoy a few more happy years together, and Lisey basically represses any memory of Boo’ya Moon and the strange incidents.

Lisey learns that Scott has basically left her a “bool hunt” upon his death.  Lisey must learn how to harness the powers of Boo’ya Moon on her own, as Amanda’s health depends on it.  And only the powers of Boo’ya Moon will rescue her from the rage what is turning out to be a very insistent, deranged fan.  With a little help from her dead husband, and a lot of strength that she did not know she possessed, Lisey is able to rescue her comatose sister and dispatch of her late husband’s deranged fan, although she literally inherits Scott’s “long boy.”  The book ends with a final trip to Boo’ya Moon, where Lisey discovers the prize at the end of the “bool hunt”:  her husband’s accounting of what happened to his deranged father.  Lisey reads Scott’s final words, and is able to put Scott to rest, along with the “long boy” (somewhat).  She able to final clean out his study and donate his last work to the appropriate people, and achieves peace in her life and also with her family.

My Thoughts

This time around, I felt there was a lot to love about Lisey’s Story.  One of my favorite parts of the story was the detailing of Scott and Lisey’s relationship.  King gives us intimate knowledge of Scott and Lisey’s marriage, which makes us become invested in the characters.  When Lisey “inherits” Scott’s demons (the “long boy”), I saw that as a metaphor for taking on the burdens of a loved one, in much the same manner as Sam taking the Ring from Frodo in Lord of the Rings and carrying the burden, so that Frodo may achieve some peace.  Lisey does take on many of Scott’s burdens (his demons, his troubled childhood, etc) but does so out of pure love for her husband.  This gives great insight into both characters, especially Lisey, showing that she is more than just Scott’s wife, but actually his gatekeeper.

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Stephen King often writes about mental illness.  Lisey’s Story is a great example of his ability to deal with mental illness in a compassionate way.  In particular, King does an excellent job of his depiction of Lisey’s sister Amanda.  Amanda does not start off as a sympathetic character.  She is seen as more of annoyance.  However, this quickly changes, as King shows us the relationship between Amanda and Lisey.  We slowly come to like Amanda on her own merits, as opposed to the fact that she is Lisey’s sister.  We come to see Amanda as a fiercely loyal protector of Lisey, willing to do anything to protect her sister.  Amanda also travels with Lisey to Boo’ya Moon, never doubting its existence and completely deferring to her sister so that both of their lives may be saved.  Amanda is never shown as strong despite her “deficiencies.”  Rather, her perceived deficiencies turn out to be assets.

While this was not a scary book, there were definitely elements of horror.  For example, Scott describes Boo’ya Moon in detail.  We are told that is a good place by day, but extremely dangerous at night.  We are also told to never eat any of the fruit of Boo’yah Moon once night falls.  Scott also describes the creatures that inhabit Boo’ya, calling them “laughers”.  We also learn about Scott’s accidental trip to Boo’ya Moon at night, and his description confirms it is indeed a horrible place when the moon rises.

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However, the most terrifying part of the novel to me was the “pie-bald creature” or “long boy.”  At first I was reminded of the Purple People Eater…

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But later I started thinking more in terms of Lovecraft and his horrifying creatures, and the closest I could come to seeing it in my mind’s eye was an image of a monstrous worm.  Regardless, King’s description of the monster was very scary.  We are told that the creature is also not necessarily limited to Boo’ya Moon, as Lisey begins to see it on reflective surfaces such as mirrors and drinking glasses, and begins to fear for her sanity and her life.  It is implied that the monster has Lisey’s “scent” in much the same way a bloodhound can find a scent from a piece of old clothing and is therefore in its “thoughts.”  Scott’s final bool hunt does bring some form of closure to this, but we are still left with the impression that Lisey’s trip to Boo’ya Moon and confrontation with this creature will have some disturbing long term consequences.

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All monsters aside, King again displays his ability to juxtapose supernatural elements with familiar, everyday problems.  As mentioned before, this book spends much time discussing mental illness, with its descriptions of Amanda, Scott’s father and Scott himself.  King also dives into the issue of child abuse and the failures of adults to do right by their children.  The descriptions of the abuse endured by Scott and his brother when they were children are horrifying, but also heart-breaking.  Scott’s account of the murder of his brother and later his father are also harrowing, leaving us sad for what he endured as a child.  As in his other works, King’s description of non-supernatural horrors add an element of realism to the story, reminding us that it is perfectly possible that there is a world not far from our own, where eating the fruit at night could kill us and that sometimes looking in mirrors is a task better not undertaken if we are smart.

Stephen King, its amazing how much you learned in eight years.  Thank you for making this book so much smarter.  And thank you for opening my eyes, yet again.

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Connections

As most Constant Readers know, all of Stephen’s King books are connected and are part of a much larger universe.  Lisey’s Story is no exception.  I have listed the connections I found below:

-Much of the story takes place in Castle Rock.  Cast Rock is the setting for many King novels, including Needful Things, The Dark Half and The Dead Zone.

-Andy Clutterbuck and Norris Ridgewick are mentioned multiple times in the book.  Ridgewick and Clutterbuck appear as characters in the novel Needful Things.

-The town of Derry is also mentioned.  Derry is the setting for It, Bag of Bones, Insomnia, and several other King works.

-The town of Harlow is another town mentioned in this book.  Harlow is the setting for The Body and part of the novel Revival.

-The phrase “Lit for the Territories” is used multiple times in the book.  The Territories is the world visited by Jack Sawyer in The Talisman and Black House.

-Scott Landon talks of “booming” or transporting to another world.  The ability to teleport to other worlds is similar to Sheemie’s ability in The Dark Tower series.

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-The effects of the insanity suffered by Scott and his family appear similar to the effects of the “secret electricity” discussed in Revival.

-The effects of The Pulse in Cell are also similar to the effects of the “secret electricity” and are similar to the insanity suffered by Scott’s family.  This makes for an interesting connection between Cell, Lisey’s Story and Revival.

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-The description of another world close to ours is similar to the description of the parallel world that is discussed in Revival.

-The “mother” creature in Revival is also somewhat similar to the “piebald creature” in Lisey’s Story.

-Scott describes “orbs of light” around the lake in Boo’ya Moon that are similar to balloons.  This immediately brings to mind the balloons in the book It.

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-A recurring theme in Lisey’s Story is the “bool.”  I understood that the bool was a riddle, kind of similar to a scavenger hunt.  Of course, readers of the Dark Tower series will remember that Blaine the Monorail, a character in that series, was very fond of riddles.

And if I may go deep into nerdy territory for a moment here (given the name of the blog, no one should be surprised at this).  I believe that the term “bool” may actually be derived from the term “Boolean logic.”  Boolean logic is a special kind of mathematics and has to do with logic.  Logic is very important in computer science and is used widely in many other areas.  Since Blaine was a sentient monorail created by computer programming, this is an extremely interesting parallel to the Dark Tower series, even if it is a bit indirect.

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