The First Cookie: My Review of Carrie

There is just something about a new year.

I know that the calendar is simply a human construct, and really pretty meaningless, maybe even random, if you really think about it.

But I still love the concept of a new year.

It reminds me of when I buy new art supplies, for example.  I know that I have bought most of this stuff before, and I am just recharging my already ample supply (luckily, my husband is understanding, although he would not agree that it’s not hoarding if it’s art supplies.)

But still, every time I hoard buy new art supplies, I get that feeling of new possibilities.  No limits.  And I can start anew.

And that is how I feel about 2017.

Especially after the horror movie otherwise known as 2016, that will probably be struck from the history books.

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

Seriously, those school kids in the future will likely have some gap in their books (or whatever will pass for books in 2297) that covers 2015, 2017, 2018 and so forth.

But yet there will be a gap, in that 2016 will be skipped over.  And I am sure that the parents (or robot nannies) of the future will have fun trying to explain that one.

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In other words, 2016 was pretty scary.  I mean, who wrote 2016…Stephen King or somebody?

Oh, speaking of which…

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In case you forgot which blog you were reading…

Yes, we are starting out 2017 with a review of a Stephen King book…who knew?!

And for this month’s review, we are going back in time…

All the way back to the beginning, in fact.

Now, I know that King started off his writing career at a fairly young age, and spent years trying to get his work published.

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In other words, I am sure there are lots of early works by The Master somewhere out there, for our reading pleasure.

But, for the purposes of this humble lil ole blog, we are going to focus on The Master’s first published book (and also the first of his books to be turned into a movie, which is still a classic.)

So, we are going to be reading and dissecting the novel Carrie.

The book with the infamous shower scene.

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The book that makes you want to get a T-shirt that says “I survived my high school prom and all I got was this bloody T-shirt!”

(See what I did there?)

Carrie was the first published book by Stephen King.

It set the precedent for horror and also for book-to-screen adaptations.

It’s iconic.

Even non-King fans (gasp) can probably recite lines from the movie, and probably even know that is based on a Stephen King book.

Carrie is a huge part of popular culture.  And there is a reason for that:  it discusses themes that everyone can relate to, including puberty, bullying, parental abuse and a few others.

So, strap in, Constant Constant Reader, and get ready for the wild ride otherwise known as Carrie!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an account of stones mysteriously falling from the sky, in the proximity of a house that a woman named Margaret White lives in, along with her toddler daughter Carrietta White.  No one is ever able to explain why the stones fell from the sky, although people do not seem to be surprised that such an odd phenomena would occur in the vicinity of that particular house.

The story then jumps forward several years.  Carrie White is now a teenager attending Ewen High School in Chamberlain, Maine.  Carrie does not fit in at her high school and is bullied mercilessly by her peers.

The bullying reaches a peak one morning, when Carrie begins her first menstrual period at the age of nearly 17.  Carrie does not understand what is happening to her and thinks that she is bleeding to death in the showers of the gym at her school.

Almost at once, the other girls begin to torment Carrie, throwing tampons and menstrual pads at her, demanding that she “plug it up.”  Susan Snell, who generally does not bully other students, participates in tormenting Carrie, although Sue realizes that Carrie may not actually understand what is happening to her and that Carrie may also be genuinely terrified.

We then learn the story of Carrie’s birth.  Her mother, Margaret White, was in denial that she was pregnant, as her religion proclaims that any sexual intercourse is a sin.  Margaret gives birth to Carrie at home, with no medical assistance.  Margaret was alone, because Carrie’s father had passed away several months earlier.

Ms. Dejardin, Carrie’s physical education teacher, puts a stop to the attack.  She does not punish Sue and the other girls right away, but dismisses them so that she can help Carrie.

Ms. Desjardin then escorts Carrie to the principal’s office.  She tries to explain menstruation to Carrie, but Carrie is too upset to listen.  The principal, Mr. Morton, then dismisses Carrie for the day, after Ms. Desjardin gives him an explanation of what happened.  Ms. Desjardin also states that she will punish those responsible for the incident, and Mr. Morton allows the punishment to be her own.

Carrie walks home from school, upset about the treatment she has endured from her classmates over the years.  Carrie is also aware that she is different because she has the ability to move objects with her mind.  This was demonstrated earlier when she forced a light bulb to explode and an ash tray to fall off Mr. Morton’s desk.  Carrie is able to knock a child off his bicycle when he torments her as she as walking home, and realizes that she may be able to control this gift, with practice.

We then read the account of the incident from Carrie’s childhood when the stones fell from the sky.  The incident is told from the perspective of Carrie’s former neighbor, who is being interviewed for a publication.

Carrie arrives home that morning, and finds the sanitary napkins her mother has hidden in the house.  She is no longer frightened, as she realized that menstruation is a normal part of growing up, although she is embarrassed, as she previously thought that sanitary napkins were used to remove lipstick.  Carrie also desires to break free of her mother’s constricting religious beliefs, and to fit in with her peers.

However, Carrie is also angry, and breaks a mirror in an expression of her anger.

The story then switches to the perspective of Sue Snell.  Sue is dating a boy named Tommy Ross, who is the most popular boy in school.  The two have recently become lovers, and Sue begins to contemplate a future with Tommy and realizes that she has fallen in love with him.  That night, when the two are on a date, Sue confesses what happened that morning in the shower to Tommy, as she is upset with herself.  Tommy listens to Sue and suggests that Sue apologize to Carrie for her part in the incident.  However, Sue is unable to come up with a solution to her problem, and still feels badly for what happened.

That evening, Carrie faces the wrath of her mother, Margaret.  Margaret believes that her daughter has sinned because she is now menstruating, and forces Carrie into a small closet to pray for forgiveness.  Margaret also strikes her daughter.  However, Carrie pushes back, threatening to make the stones come again if Margaret does not stop the abuse.

The next week, Ms. Desjardin confronts the students responsible for the attack on Carrie.  Sue Snell is among these students, and accepts responsibility for her part in the incident.  However, Chris Hargensen, one of the other responsible students and a school bully, refuses to accept the punishment, and tries to convince Sue and the others to walk out in protest of Ms. Desjardin and her punishment.  Sue refuses, and Chris’ refusal results in a suspension and refusal of her prom tickets.

Chris’ father also refuses to accept his daughter’s punishment and attempts to bully the school administrators into reversing the punishment so that Chris can attend prom.  The administration, however, stands up to him, and he backs down after he learns what his daughter did to Carrie.

Sue is also forced into a confrontation with Chris, as Chris is angry that Sue did not stand with her in protest of Ms. Desjardin’s punishment.  However, Sue tells Chris that she accepts responsibility for her actions.  Chris counters, telling Sue that she is a hypocrite and only accepting the punishment so that her prom ticket will not be refused.  Sue realizes her hypocrisy, and wonders how to counter it.

Sue continues to feel remorse for her responsibility on the attack on Carrie, and finally has an idea of how to atone.  Sue convinces Tommy Ross, her boyfriend, to ask Carrie to the prom.  Sue is convinced that if Carrie attends prom, she may finally be able to fit in with her peers.  Tommy is reluctant, but finally agrees to Sue’s request.  After he agrees, he tells Sue that he loves her.

Tommy approaches Carrie one day between classes, and invites her to the prom.  Carrie is skeptical, but is finally convinced and agrees to attend the prom with Tommy.  After speaking with Carrie, Tommy realizes that she is far from repulsive.

Carrie decides to use her talent for sewing to make her own prom dress.  Carrie also develops her other talent, known as telekinesis, and is able to move larger objects using her mind.  She informs Margaret that Tommy has invited her to prom and that she has accepted the invitation.  Margaret is furious and attempts to forbid Carrie from attending.  Carrie fights back, using her newfound powers, and wins the battle.  Carrie emphasizes her desire to fit in with her peers, much to the shock of Margaret.

Word spreads that Sue will not be attending prom and that Tommy will instead be taking Carrie to the prom.  It also becomes evident that Chris Hargensen is planning something, although no one is sure what she is planning.

Billy Nolan, Chris’ boyfriend, breaks into a farm one night.  Billy and his friends kill a couple of pigs, and drain the bodies of blood, taking buckets of blood with him when he leaves the farm.

Carrie sews her dress and begins to get ready to attend her senior prom.  Margaret again fights with her, attempting to persuade Carrie not to attend, but once again, Carrie uses her powers to stand up to her mother.  Carrie also tells her mother that she loves her after the confrontation.

Tommy arrives to pick up Carrie, who is extremely nervous, and has even considered not attending the prom.  However, Carrie is pleasantly surprised even from the beginning of the evening, as her classmates and her date treat her with respect.  The girls are impressed with her dress, and surprised by her talent for sewing.  Carrie is further surprised to learn that she and Tommy have been nominated for Prom King and Queen.

While Carrie is attending the prom, her mother Margaret comes to the decision to kill her daughter when she comes home later that night.  Margaret has noticed Carrie’s talent for moving objects with her mind from the time when Carrie was baby, and believes that Carrie’s gift is a sin.  Margaret contemplated sacrificing her daughter many years ago, but did not.  This time, however, she is determined to carry out her plan.

Chris and Billy also carry out their plans to play a prank on Carrie that evening.  They sneak into the high school, where Billy has hidden buckets of the pig’s blood in the rafter.  They plan to dump the blood on Carrie if she is crowned Prom Queen.

Carrie and Tommy are then nominated as Prom Queen and King.  They are crowned onstage.  However, when Carrie and Tommy enter the stage to accept their nominations, Chris pulls the strings, and Tommy and Carrie are doused with the pig’s blood.  One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head, and he is rendered unconscious.  The impact is so severe that Tommy dies in less than an hour.

The audience is first shocked, and then begins to laugh at Carrie, who is also in shock.  Carrie escapes from the gymnasium, but uses her powers to unleash the sprinkler system.  This causes an electrical fire, and students and teachers frantically attempt to escape from the school, which is now engulfed in flames.

Carrie wanders the town, in a state of madness.  She begins to cause more destruction, using her powers to wreak havoc in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.

Eventually, while the town of Chamberlain burns to the ground, Carrie returns to her home.  She is met by her mother, Margaret, who is armed with a butcher knife.  Margaret then stabs Carrie, believing that she is committing an act mercy in ending her daughter’s life.

However, Carrie is not killed by her mother, as she envisions her mother’s heart coming to a stop.  Margaret then dies after her heart comes to a complete stop.

Word of what has happened in Chamberlain reaches Billy and Chris, and they head back into town.  However, they also run into Carrie, who takes revenge on them by using her powers to overturn their vehicle.  Carrie is hit by the vehicle, and Billy and Chris are killed almost instantly.

Sue Snell is wandering the streets of Chamberlain.  She appears to have some sort of telepathic connection with Carrie and knows that Carrie has killed her mother.  She also realizes that Tommy and most of her friends have been killed.

Finally, Sue finds Carrie and realizes that Carrie dying.  She still shares a telepathic bond with Carrie, although the bond is weakening because Carrie is dying.  Carrie is convinced that Sue tricked her and is responsible for the events that occurred that night.  However, Carrie probes Sue’s mind, and realizes that Sue bore no ill will towards her and only wanted to help her.

Carrie traps Sue in her mind as she is dying, so Sue also experiences Carrie’s death.  Finally, Sue escapes Carrie’s clutches, and realizes that she has gotten her menstrual period, which had been a week late.

At least 409 people have died due to the destruction of the high school and the surrounding town.  An autopsy of Carrie White has revealed unusual formations in her brain, and the governor appoints a committee to study the tragedy.

Sue Snell survives the devastation and writes a book about the events.

The town of Chamberlain effectively becomes a ghost town, as people begin to leave.  More bodies are discovered, and the funeral business becomes the most active business in Chamberlain.

Some years into the future, a woman writes a letter to her sister.  The letter describes an incident with the woman’s infant daughter, who apparently has the ability to move objects with her mind.  However, the woman does not fear her daughter, but reveres her instead, believing that the little girl will accomplish great things in the future.


My Thoughts

Well, you know what they say…

Big things come in small packages.

Yes, this cliche may be overused, but I cannot think of a better description of the book Carrie.

It may not be a big book, but it packs a big wallop.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  King has compared it to a cookie baked by a 6 year old:  you can tell it’s a cookie, and it has some nice flavorings, but that cookie is misshapen, burnt on the bottom, etc.

Well, that cookie is some mighty fine eating, and an appetizer for great things to come!

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There are so many great things about this little book that it is hard to know where to start our discussion.

First of all, all Carrie has some great villains.  And no, the title character is not one of them, although we will discuss her in a bit as well.

No, the villains in this story are Carrie’s mother and her classmates, which mainly include Chris Hargensen.

As I have stated before, one of King’s major strengths as a writer is his ability to write about “real life.”

Making the statement that King writes horror is a severe underestimation of King’s work, almost like making the statement that Aaron Rodgers plays football.

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In other words, there is so much more to King (as there is to Aaron Rodgers, as the Dallas Cowboys found out this weekend.)

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King writes horror stories, but when you strip away the horror, his stories are about people.

And one of the things that people do is not be nice to each other.

You know, like sheltering your kid her whole life, locking her up in a prayer closet when she does normal kid things and oh, not telling her about the “birds and the bees?”

Margaret White is one of King’s best human villains.

When one says the name Stephen King to most people, they may think of Pennywise the Clown, a girl who can start fires or maybe of the title character of the book we are discussing, who “lost” it and destroyed her high school.

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Most people are not going to think of religious fanaticism and how dangerous that fanaticism can be be to an impressionable teenager who only wants what most teenager want, i.e. to fit in with her peers somehow, and to not be the butt of EVER SINGLE horrible practical joke every bully somewhere has dreamed up.

What is great (or is it horrible?) about the character of Margaret White is that she is so plausible.

Margaret White exists in this world today.

Any time I read an article about some kid dying because the parents refused medical treatment for religious reasons, or some adult that escaped a household run by religious fanatics who insisted on homeschooling their children and not allowing their children to date before marriage, I think of Margaret White.

Granted, the outcome in Carrie may be a bit extreme, as most kids don’t kill their abusive parents and many are able to flee those conditions and eventually make better lives for themselves.

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But Margaret White still exists.  And she is dangerous, as most people do not recognize the actions of the Margaret Whites in our world for what they are:  child abuse.

Child abuse does not always mean that a parent hits his/her and leaves bruises (although Margaret was guilty of this, and this is still tragically all too common.)

Instead, child abuse can be more insidious, as when the parent controls all actions of the child, and does not allow opposing viewpoints in the child’s life.

Child abuse can also consist of a parent forcing their viewpoints on their child, and punishing the child for daring to have an opposing viewpoint (the prayer closet in action.)

The book Carrie also has another villain, besides Margaret White.

Or should I say, a set of villains?

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In case I am not being clear, I am referring to Chris Hargensen, along with the other sickening half of the dynamic duo…

Yes, Chris is some sort of demented Batman, and that would make Billy some kind of creepy, greasy Robin, I suppose.

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When I read about the bullying experienced by Carrie, and the actions (and lack of actions) by her classmates, I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a child.

This would be the book Blubber, by Judy Blume.

Judy Blume is similar to King, in that she writes “real life.”

In fact, most of my sex education was derived from her books (talking to you, Forever, and Are You There God?  Its Me, Margaret.)

Along with educating me about my anatomy, Ms. Blume also discussed bullying at length in almost all of her books.

However, Blubber was a book devoted to the subject of bullying.

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In this book, children gang up on a particular classmate, bullying her ostensibly due to her weight (the title is the cruel nickname they have come up with for this child, in fact), although the real reasons may be a little deeper.

However, Blubber is not told from the perspective of the bully.  Nor is it told from the perspective of the victim.

Rather, it is told from the perspective of a bystander, Jill.  Throughout the book, we watch Jill evolve, from a fellow bully to a victim to finally someone who becomes enlightened and a more compassionate person.

When I was reading Carrie, I was struck by the similarity between Chris Hargensen and the bullies in the book Blubber, along with the similarity between Sue Snell and the Jill character in Blubber.

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Like the bully in Blubber, Chris is charismatic.  At the beginning, Chris able to get others to do her bidding.

This includes her not very bright, but very cruel boyfriend, Billy Nolan.

In fact, unlike Chris, Billy does not care very much about Carrie White.  He just wants to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on someone, for the thrill of it.  Interestingly, Billy also seems to be the only one who understands that criminal charges would be brought against him and Chris if they were caught.

However, throughout the novel, Chris’ “friends” begin to turn away from her.

One of these friends is Sue.  Much like the Jill character in Blubber, Sue goes along with the crowd at first.

She wants to be accepted and does not want to “rock the boat.”

However, much like Jill in the book Blubber, Sue begins to evolve.

She does not want to miss her prom, but realizes the effect that the bullying has had on Carrie White.

As the events of the story unfold, Sue begins to evolve.

She realizes that there is more to life than high school, her friends and even Tommy, her boyfriend.

Sue is able to put herself into the shoes of Carrie, and realizes what a horrible time that Carrie has had throughout her life.

This prompts her to “loan” Tommy to Carrie for an evening, so that Carrie may have a few hours of happiness.

And when things go horribly wrong, Sue begins to feel a sense of responsibility.

Sue also reminds us that Carrie was a person, with real thoughts and feelings.

Carrie also seeks out Sue, as her life is ending, and realizes that Sue is not to blame for what happened.

In fact, it seems if Sue is able to offer Carrie one of the few bits of compassion that Carrie has ever received in her life, which eases Carrie’s suffering just a little as she dies.

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And last but not least, let’s talk about the title character herself, Carrie.

Now, I know that Carrie is not a terribly long book, and there is not a lot of room to get to know characters on an in-depth basis.

However, King does a good job with the character development in this book.  In fact, he does more than good, considering the length of the book.

In the past, people have indicated a dislike for Carrie as a person.  Or they simply pity her.  Even King has indicated that Carrie is not really a likable character.

However, I respectfully disagree with The Master on that (gasp.)

Maybe it’s because I was bullied as a child.  Or maybe it’s because I survived an abusive marriage.

But I find the character of Carrie White to be fascinating, and to me, she is one of King’s more interesting characters.

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Throughout much of the book, we see Carrie through the eyes of Carrie herself.  And the picture is not flattering, as it would appear that she is overweight and suffering from acne.

However, I was struck when I read the part where Tommy asks her to the prom, and notices that she was “far from repulsive” but this was “the first time he had really looked.”

So was Carrie just invisible when she was not being bullied?  I tend to believe this, because I spent most of my childhood being bullied and trying to remain invisible so I would not be bullied.  In fact, when my ex boyfriend told me that the guys at our college thought that I had the best legs on campus, I was struck speechless.  Really, I don’t think that I even knew that I had legs, much less legs that others may consider to be attractive.

But that’s how it is when you try to remain invisible:  you lose sight of yourself, and become invisible to even your own eyes, so you don’t see what others may marvel over.

Throughout the book, Carrie does begin to emerge from her shell.  And I began to like that girl on her own merits, much like Tommy Ross.

For starters, I thought Carrie to be a strong woman.

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She survived bullying and abuse (from both her peers and her mother) for years, and basically did not flinch.  In fact, she tried to take some of the bullying with good humor, even though she (understandably) lost her sense of humor pretty quickly.

To top it off, Carrie did not have a support system at home.  Most of us who are bullied have family and friends outside of school, so that we have something worth living for.  Carrie did not, although she had a mother who considered anything that may bring her daughter happiness to be a sin.

So anyone who can survive as long as Carrie did under those circumstances is somebody to be admired, not pitied.  And I like strong people, as well as admire them.  I like people who somehow find a way to push through it, even when the circumstances are not good.

“Hurt people hurt people.”

This is a quote from Laverne Cox, in regards to bullying and harassment.  And it applies so well to this book.

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Carrie was definitely one of the hurt people.

Her bullies could not even allow her a few moments of happiness, when she was invited to prom by the most popular boy in school and then crowned Prom Queen.  At that point, even some of her classmates, like Tommy, had begun to like Carrie on her own merits.

But then a horrible prank was played on her, and as they say, the rest was history.

And my question is:  why wouldn’t Carrie “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

In fact, why wouldn’t anyone “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

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Throughout the book, the scientific articles are focused on the telekinesis aspect.  Should something be done to prevent children from being born with this ability?  Can we isolate this gene that is responsible for “Typhoid Mary’s?”  Should we test children for “TK ability,” as we test them for tuberculosis?  And so forth.

But never once is the most important question asked:  What causes people to lash out, as Carrie did?

Personally, I was amazed that Carrie did not lash out sooner, due to the abuse that she endured.

Throughout the book, Carrie is not portrayed as someone prone to violence.

She may have fantasies in regards to revenge on her tormentors, but that would be perfectly normal, in my book.

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But constant bullying changes people.  I am living proof of that.  My childhood ought to be behind me, but it isn’t.

I spent my life being told I was not good enough.  So I married an abusive man, because I didn’t think I deserved any better.  In other words, I internalized that message.

I still have difficulty making friends.  Bullying causes major trust issues, so it is hard to open to people so that they can really get to know you.

So it is no wonder that Carrie used her powers to destroy her school and her town, along with killing her mother.

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She had nothing left to live for, as Tommy was killed by the falling buckets.  And no friends, as everyone laughed at her when she was hurt.  And her mother was the cause of this humiliation, as she failed to educate her daughter in regards to her own body.

So it seems to me that telekinesis is not the problem.

Rather, the problem is man’s inhumanity to man.

The telekinesis is a distraction.

We don’t need to worry about testing kids for TK or isolating any type of gene.

Rather, we need to test kids for bullying tendencies, along with testing parents for abuse tendencies.

Until we recognize bullying and abuse for what they are, hurt people will just continue to hurt people.

And the legacy of the Carrie Whites of the world will continue to live on, with horrific consequences.

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Well, that’s it for that tiny package known as Carrie…what a start to the new year!

Join me next month for the read and review of the greatest love story of all time between a boy and his car, aka the novel Christine!

Although we may make a slight detour into the world of Joe Hill again…I hear Christmasland is lovely at this time of year!

Tune in next month…

Same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

Even though Carrie is the first published Stephen King novel, it connects to his other works, just like nearly every other King novel.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The events in Carrie are referenced by a character in the novel The Dead Zone, and mention is made of a movie based on those events.

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-Carrie’s telekinetic abilities are similar to abilities possessed by several other King characters, including Ted Brautigan in Low Men in Yellow Coats (part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Kira DeVore (Bag of Bones), Jake Chambers (The Dark Tower series), Danny Torrance (Doctor Sleep and The Shining), Abra Stone (Doctor Sleep), Tyler Marshall (Black House) and several others.

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-In the King universe, Breakers are people who possess psychic abilities and are recruited by the Crimson King and his Low Men (Hearts in Atlantis, Black House and The Dark Tower series) to destroy The Dark Tower, the nexus of all existence.  If Carrie had lived, it seems she most certainly would have caught the eye of The Crimson King and his Low Men.

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-Religious mania is a running theme in King’s work.  Margaret White is similar to several other religious maniacs, including Sylvia Pittson (The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass) and Mrs. Carmody (The Mist, part of the collection Skeleton Crew.)

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-In The Dark Tower, Susannah mentions getting her first menstrual period, and her experience is similar to that of Carrie’s, as she is also abused in the same manner.

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-Margaret White is employed by Blue Ribbon Laundry.  This establishment is featured in the short story The Mangler (part of the collection Night Shift) and in the novel Roadwork, which was originally published as a Richard Bachman novel.

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Stephen King’s Holiday Newsletter

Written last year, but re-blogging because I can!

Oh, and happy holidays, everyone!


 

Dear Constant Reader family,

I hope that you are doing well, and that your year has been happy and productive.  I know mine certainly has!

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So proud of my boy here, he has a new book coming out in May of 2016…he is on fire!

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And Molly is quite well, too.  Although the evil grows stronger, day by day…

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But enough about my blood family members.  I love them to death (ha!) but let’s talk about my “other” family…

Yes, my “other” family…

I consider my characters to be my babies, so that makes them family, right?

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And if killing off your main characters is a sign of love, well then, I love them to death as well!

So, where to start?  Since so much is happening with these guys, it’s a little hard to keep track, but here goes nothing…

Let’s talk about my childe, Roland.  With Roland, it begins and ends with him chasing an unknown male in dark clothing across an arid region.  Gotta love Roland, although he can be a bit repetitive at times…

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And then there are Roland’s friends

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In fact, I have trouble keeping track of them, it seems like he has a different group of friends each time…

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Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!

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Poor Pennywise, always getting tripped up by those meddling kids!

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But when I get tired of Derry, I take vacations to other scenic towns…

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Well, actually ‘Salem’s Lot wasn’t much fun…seemed kind of dead, actually!  Personally, I prefer visiting Castle Rock, the shopping there is fantastic!

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But I don’t get out nearly as often as I would like…I seem to be prone to car trouble!

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Although the Plymouth Fury is a bit more reliable than, say, a Buick.  In fact, I think that Buick is trying to trick me into thinking it is a actually a car, for all the good that it’s done me…

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Now, I love to travel, but some family members certainly have me beat in that department

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Jack gets around, or so I hear.  I don’t envy him though, especially when it comes to the houses he has to visit!

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Although he does encounter some interesting folks along the way, I suppose.

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Really interesting…

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Sometimes my children take it one step further and do some really crazy things…

Like traveling back in time, for instance.  I hear November in 1963 is really nice, for instance, especially in the Dallas, TX area.

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Every now and then I need to take a break.  So I just stay in a remote hotel, because sometimes I need to get away from it all.  Although I would advise against drinking anything suggested by the management at the hotel (and if Lloyd or Delbert offers to help you, my suggestion would be to run).  I hear the red rum is a house specialty, though, so try it if you dare.

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All in all, most of the family is doing quite well, health-wise at least.  Well, except for Brady…I can never wake him up!

And then there is the matter of Annie

She is a bit spoiled, always thinking she comes first.  I don’t want to hobble her growth in any way, but I did have to take away the sharp objects from her, especially the axes. Cockadoodie children, I tell ya…what can you do but love them, right, Mr. Man?

Annie Wilkes 1

I take care of my health too, so I can be in good shape to watch out for my family. I see my doctor on a regular basis (he is a little bald doctor, actually).  I watch out for speeding vans now, when I am out walking.  I avoid eating too much pie, especially if it’s a strawberry pie given to me by the white man from town.  Most importantly, I get my flu shot every year!  M- O- O- N, that spells good health, I’m told.

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So, Constant Reader, I enjoyed this recap of my year, and I hope that yours has been a bloody good one as well.  It is time for me to make my final Christmas preparations, I hear the bazaar will be closing soon, so I hope I don’t miss any good sales!  I wish you a Happy Holidays, and may you get a bunch of my books good books under the Christmas tree!

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My life for you,

The Wordslinger

RoaldDahl

P.S.,

Little disclaimer:  This letter was not actually written by The Master.  It just comes from the imagination of one crazy nerd with too much time on her hands.  But you knew that!

P.P.S.,

Happy Holidays both  all of my readers.  Thanks for stopping by, and you guys are awesome, every single one of you.  Peace out, and I hope your year has been a bloody good one!

SK christmas 1

 

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

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

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

 

Yes, it’s that season again…

No, not Halloween.  Something far more frightening…

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

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

Like books.

Like books that are horror stories.

Like books that are horror stories written by…

Simpsons SK

I’ll take Stephen King for $19, Alex!

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

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

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

That will calm me right down, I think.

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

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

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

Um, yeah…

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

Doctor Sleep.  The book with so much beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, in all seriousness, what did we expect?

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

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

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

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

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And what did we expect to happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny did grow up to become an alcoholic.

Danny also became someone with anger issues.

So that’s the yes part.

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

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

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

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

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

However, Danny succeeds where his father had failed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Burnin’ For You: My Review of The Fireman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

Well, let me just say this much:

Joe Hill, you are on fire!

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s talk about those…

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

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

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

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

And the homage went way beyond even The Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to talk about Harper Willowes, our main character.

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

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

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And now we have Harper Willowes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially about the ending, but more on that later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I admit it, I grew complacent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

 

11/22/63: Episode 2 Recap and Review

As a child, one of my favorite shows was Quantum Leap (yes, the nerd is strong in this one).

Every week, I would tune in and watch my hero, Sam Beckett (another Hoosier who also loved physics?  Hot!) travel back in time, and avert some kind of tragedy or make better decisions to change the past.  Sometimes, we got a two-for-one special, where Sam averted tragedy, and made someone (or even multiple someones’) life or lives better in the process.

quantum leap 2

Sure, it wasn’t always easy, and Sam frequently stumbled into road blocks.  And often there was a twist:  Sam thought he was there to do a particular thing, but Al and Ziggy would argue with him otherwise and push him into doing his “assignment.”  Or Sam would have to take a detour, which would be necessary to accomplish his “assignment.”  However, Sam would eventually be drawn back to his “assignment”, even when things were not as they seemed…

quantum leap 3

So yes, time travel was often a difficult thing.  That pesky past that does not want to be changed…

card-1963

And our hero, Jake Epping, was reminded again of that fact in last night’s episode of 11/22/63.  In fact, I was reminded of Sam Beckett and his adventures fairly often when I watched this episode.  However, I was also reminded fairly frequently that I was, in fact, watching something has been adapted from a book written by the man considered to be the master of modern horror…

So, Stephen King along with one of my favorite childhood television shows?  Where do I sign up for that?!

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Right, I did renew that Hulu subscription…whew!

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the second episode of 11/22/63, titled The Kill Floor.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins with a young Harry Dunning, who is chased by bullies into the woods, on October 29th, 1960.  The bullies steal Harry’s pants, so Harry heads to the neighborhood drugstore, where he stashes a spare pair of shorts with his friend the pharmacist.  At the drugstore, Harry encounters Jake, who is reminded of his mission to save Harry and his family from his murderous father, Frank Dunning.

Jake asks the pharmacist about renting a room in town for a few days, and is referred to Mr. and Mrs. Price.  Mrs. Price does not trust Jake, but rents the room to him anyway, demanding a week’s payment in advance.  With the words of Harry’s essay echoing in his head, Jake heads to the local bar in the hopes of meeting Frank Dunning.

When Jake arrives at the bar, he speaks to the bartender, a young man named Bill, and inquires about Frank Dunning.  Bill immediately becomes uncomfortable at the mention of Frank, and does not appear to believe Jake’s cover story that he is in town to write a book.  Jake’s wish is granted, however, when Frank and a group of his friends arrive at the bar.  Frank is charming and charismatic, and appears to befriend Jake.  After spending some time drinking with Jake, Frank invites him to visit the local slaughterhouse, so that Jake can prove that he is “one of them.”

After arriving at the slaughterhouse, Frank demands that Jake slaughter one of the cows with a mallet.  Jake refuses, so Frank slaughters the animal without a second thought.  Jake begins to realize that his mission of stopping Frank from murdering his family will not be easy.

The next day, Jake visits the Dunning house, and tells Frank’s wife Doris that she and her family have won an all expenses paid Halloween vacation, in the hopes that he can prevent tragedy.

That night, Jake eats dinner with the Prices and makes some small talk.  However, Mr. Price opens up to Jake, telling him about his experiences as a soldier in World War II. where he was awarded a bronze star after killing a young man.  Mr. Price tells Jake that his actions were not heroic, despite the fact that he earned a medal.

Jake’s conversation with the Prices is interrupted by the arrival of Frank, who tells Jake that he wants to make up for his treatment of him the previous night.  Frank takes Jake to his butcher shop, where his badly beaten wife emerges. It turns out that Frank has beaten his wife for accepting the “vacation” given to her by Jake.  Frank tells Jake to not interfere in his marriage, and also badly beats Jake.  This makes Jake all the more determined to stop Frank, and he makes a last minute purchase of a gun.

Again, Jake is reminded that the past does not want to be changed, as he suffers a suspicious round of food poisoning later that night.  Al’s notes state that his cancer was a consequence of his attempts to change the past.  However, Jake awakens the next morning, determined to go forward on his mission and stop Frank Dunning.

Jake stakes out the Dunning house, but runs into Bill the bartender.  Bill tells Jake that he has it in for Frank Dunning, as he thinks Frank murdered his sister and her baby 12 years ago, but was never brought to justice.  Jake confesses that he has time-traveled from the future and that he knows that Frank will murder the Dunning family, but Bill is suspicious, as the murders were supposed to occur at 8 PM.  It is now 8:05 PM and the Dunning family is still alive.  Jake realizes that Frank used the back door, and hears Mrs. Dunning’s screams.  Jake runs in to the house in an attempt to save the Dunning family.

When he is inside the house, Jake tells the young Harry to hide inside his bedroom.  Frank tells Jake that he should not be there, and Jake shoots him.  However, this only further enrages Frank, who wrestles Jake to the ground.  Mrs. Dunning runs, but Harry makes an appearance.  Frank yells at his son to give him back his hammer, which he was going to use as a murder weapon.  Franks demands that his son give him back the murder weapon, but Harry runs downstairs with it instead.  Frank lunges after his son, and Jake strangles him with a piece of rope from behind, killing him, sparing the lives of the rest of the Dunning family.  Bill also appears at the foot of the stairs, witnessing the death of Frank Dunning.

Jake walks out of the Dunning house and returns to the Price’s house.  Mrs. Price asks Jake if she needs to call the sheriff.  Jake tells her that he did not do anything wrong.  Mrs. Price responds, telling him that only God can judge.  Jake then proceeds to drive out of town.

While driving away, Jake is bothered by the blood on his hands.  He stops to wash his at a street-side faucet and reminds himself that Harry and the rest of the Dunning family are still alive.  Jake then turns around, and encounters Bill the bartender, who holds up a newspaper clipping from 1963.  Bill demands to know what is going on, and ushers Jake into his vehicle at gunpoint.


 

My Thoughts

Again, if you don’t have a Hulu subscription, get one…the first two episodes alone of 11/22/63 are worth it!

But of first of all, I am remiss…

I don’t even think that I can blame the fact that tax season is frying my brain for this one…

breaking bad

Derp.  Derp derp.  Derp derp derp.  Derp…well, you get the point!

Hurr

No, I did not recognize Bevvie from the levy er Annette O’Toole in this episode.  I only saw her name on the ending credits.  Talk about out of left field…

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So nice one, Mr. Abrams and Uncle Stevie and whoever else was involved in this…I never saw that coming!

And of course, for us Constant Constant Readers, this was a great Easter egg…

easter eggs 1

As many who are reading this know, part of the novel takes place in Derry, Maine.  Derry is a hotbed of strange activity of the Stephen King universe, and several books are placed in Derry.  And perhaps the most famous of all the Derry books would be It.

pennywise

Yes, the novel about your friendly neighborhood homicidal clown connects to a book about time travel, nostalgia for an era lost, Vietnam and all that other good stuff!

In the novel 11/22/63, Jake actually meets Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, who are two of the main characters from It.  And all of King’s work is connected (this is a well known secret), but I think that this is perhaps one of his best connections.  Somehow, the homicidal clown in the sewers gets a tie-in to the guy going back in time trying to prevent the Vietnam War, and it all makes sense…now how cool is that?

Of course, I had a funny feeling that this tidbit would not make it into the mini series, given the fact that written material has a different “face” onscreen, if you will.  But we were given the next best thing:  the actress from a mini series that was pivotal in my origin story as a Stephen King fan had a part in this mini series.  And yes, this made sense too!  Way to feel a chill up my spine, just like the chill I felt when I read that part in the novel.

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And the use of the word “rube”…nice way to refer to Dr. Sleep, along with working in your son’s novel as well!

Christmasland 1

So let’s talk about the visual component to 11/22/63 for a moment.

Well, more than a moment, as they deserve a little more time, since they are so great.

One aspect of the visual component of 11/22/63 that deserves some attention is the town of Holden, KY.  As I stated before, this part of the story takes place in Derry, Maine in the book.  And Derry is creepy, as any King fan will tell you.  Jake even talks of this in the book, noting that he felt quite unsettled during his time in Derry.  And I felt unsettled when shown the town of Holden, KY in the mini series.  I am sure that said friendly, neighborhood homicidal clown probably has the rights to Derry, so we had to change the location to Holden, KY.  However, the change was in name only.  I felt the same creepy vibe when I watched the mini series and wanted to warn Jake to stay away from storm drains, as a matter of fact.  So perhaps the mini series has created a Twinner of sorts to Derry…

One of my main concerns in regards to the adaptation of 11/22/63 was the portrayal of the time period, aka the early 1960’s.  King paints such a vivid picture in the book of this time period, as seen through the eyes of Jake, who was born in 1976.  And so far, the mini series is doing the same, and we see it in everything from Jake’s clothes (oh, that hat!), the cars, the neighborhood drugstore, the wallpaper in the Price’s house, to the TV dinners and even the books shown on display at the drugstore (The Flash and Batman…swoon).  The care and detail in this portrayal is just amazing, and I love it.

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Another part of the visual component I like about the 11/22/63 is the near constant reminder that we are watching something based on the work of Stephen King, aka America’s Boogeyman.  11/22/63 is not a horror story, and doesn’t really come across that way at all, but it does have its share of creepy moments.  The flies hovering around the dead animal carcass are one example (gross much?).  The use of red light when Jake is worshiping the porcelain goddess is another.  We even had someone show up in a creepy, old school bunny rabbit costume.  I don’t know how much, if any, say that good old Uncle Stevie had in all of this, but I am sure that it has his seal approval…I know that it has mine!

 

This mini series also makes good use of foreshadowing.  Foreshadowing is used A LOT by the Master, but that does not always translate well to the big screen (which is why some of his work loses its punch when translated into movie or television format).  However, this show is doing a fairly nice job of using foreshadowing.  In this episode, I was struck in particular by the tale of war that Mr. Price confessed to Jake.  First of all, this was great foreshadowing for what Jake would have to do:  kill someone so that he may save others.  I liked the implication that although killing may appear brave to others who were not in the trenches (aka Mrs. Price, who cannot figure out why her husband does not want to display his war medals), that is not always the case, and in fact the act of killing can be a cowardly thing, no matter what the circumstances or motivations behind the killing.  Also, 11/22/63 is a book that makes a statement on war, and just what, if anything, can be done to prevent it, along with the consequences of going to war, and even the consequences of not going to war.  So it seems to me that the show is setting all of this up with Mr. Price’s tale of war, although we shall see in the future episodes.

(Oh, and the M*A*S*H reference…nice one, guys!)

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And let’s talk about the bad guy…

Well, he may play a relatively small role (what I call a “major minor character”) but Franking Dunning is hugely important to the story.  For one, see the part about the foreshadowing. It seems that Frank is the warm-up for the “main” bad guy, aka Oswald. For two, Frank Dunning is a bad dude.  A really bad dude.  There are plenty of those in King universe, and Frank is just in a long line.  However, Frank stands out a little bit, because of the fact that he is not a main character, but still manages to have a huge influence in the overall story.

And in portraying Frank Dunning, Mr. Fergie er Josh Duhamel has pulled out a performance that I did not know he had up his sleeve…Mr. Fergie is not one to be trifled with!

Frank Dunning is handsome, charismatic and psychotic.  Naturally, Duhamel does not have a problem with that first part, but he also nailed the other two parts.  I know I would cross to the other side of the street if I saw him walking around town. James Franco looked the same way in most of their scenes together…the chemistry between those two was fantastic, and they played off of one another very well.  In fact, I am a little sad that Frank is now dead and we won’t get to see Franco and Duhamel together, although I do have the appearance of Oswald to look forward to.

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So that’s it for The Kill Floor.  Will the show continue to deliver?  Has Jake changed his mind about the past, or has it been changed for him?  Join me next week to find out, when we review and dissect episode 3, Other Voices, Other Rooms.  And maybe make some new friends in the meantime…

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

batman and robin

 

 

Stephen King’s Holiday Newsletter

Dear Constant Reader family,

I hope that you are doing well, and that your year has been happy and productive.  I know mine certainly has!

SK give me what I won

So proud of my boy here, he has a new book coming out in May of 2016…he is on fire!

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And Molly is quite well, too.  Although the evil grows stronger, day by day…

Molly 1

But enough about my blood family members.  I love them to death (ha!) but let’s talk about my “other” family…

Yes, my “other” family…

I consider my characters to be my babies, so that makes them family, right?

Sutter and Martin

And if killing off your main characters is a sign of love, well then, I love them to death as well!

So, where to start?  Since so much is happening with these guys, it’s a little hard to keep track, but here goes nothing…

Let’s talk about my childe, Roland.  With Roland, it begins and ends with him chasing an unknown male in dark clothing across an arid region.  Gotta love Roland, although he can be a bit repetitive at times…

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And then there are Roland’s friends

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In fact, I have trouble keeping track of them, it seems like he has a different group of friends each time…

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!

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Poor Pennywise, always getting tripped up by those meddling kids!

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But when I get tired of Derry, I take vacations to other scenic towns…

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Well, actually ‘Salem’s Lot wasn’t much fun…seemed kind of dead, actually!  Personally, I prefer visiting Castle Rock, the shopping there is fantastic!

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But I don’t get out nearly as often as I would like…I seem to be prone to car trouble!

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Although the Plymouth Fury is a bit more reliable than, say, a Buick.  In fact, I think that Buick is trying to trick me into thinking it is a actually a car, for all the good that it’s done me…

From_a_Buick_8_by_nosprings

Now, I love to travel, but some family members certainly have me beat in that department

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Jack gets around, or so I hear.  I don’t envy him though, especially when it comes to the houses he has to visit!

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Although he does encounter some interesting folks along the way, I suppose.

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Really interesting…

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Sometimes my children take it one step further and do some really crazy things…

Like traveling back in time, for instance.  I hear November in 1963 is really nice, for instance, especially in the Dallas, TX area.

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Every now and then I need to take a break.  So I just stay in a remote hotel, because sometimes I need to get away from it all.  Although I would advise against drinking anything suggested by the management at the hotel (and if Lloyd or Delbert offers to help you, my suggestion would be to run).  I hear the red rum is a house specialty, though, so try it if you dare.

the-overlook-hotel

All in all, most of the family is doing quite well, health-wise at least.  Well, except for Brady…I can never wake him up!

And then there is the matter of Annie

She is a bit spoiled, always thinking she comes first.  I don’t want to hobble her growth in any way, but I did have to take away the sharp objects from her, especially the axes. Cockadoodie children, I tell ya…what can you do but love them, right, Mr. Man?

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I take care of my health too, so I can be in good shape to watch out for my family. I see my doctor on a regular basis (he is a little bald doctor, actually).  I watch out for speeding vans now, when I am out walking.  I avoid eating too much pie, especially if it’s a strawberry pie given to me by the white man from town.  Most importantly, I get my flu shot every year!  M- O- O- N, that spells good health, I’m told.

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So, Constant Reader, I enjoyed this recap of my year, and I hope that yours has been a bloody good one as well.  It is time for me to make my final Christmas preparations, I hear the bazaar will be closing soon, so I hope I don’t miss any good sales!  I wish you a Happy Holidays, and may you get a bunch of my books good books under the Christmas tree!

Christmasland 1

My life for you,

The Wordslinger

RoaldDahl

P.S.,

Little disclaimer:  This letter was not actually written by The Master.  It just comes from the imagination of one crazy nerd with too much time on her hands.  But you knew that!

P.P.S.,

Happy Holidays both  all of my readers.  Thanks for stopping by, and you guys are awesome, every single one of you.  Peace out, and I hope your year has been a bloody good one!

SK christmas 1

 

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

I seem to remember a saying…

One about all good things…

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Something happens to them, I hear…

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

Well, I digress, it seems…

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

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

And reunions…boy, do I love reunions!

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Tower 2


 

Synopsis

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

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

mordred birth

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

Callahan 1

 

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

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

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

man in black

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

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

Mordred 1

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

Tet 1

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

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

Bryan Smith 1

 

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

Jake and Oy

 

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

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

tower 8

 

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

Le_Casse_Roi_Russe

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

CK 4

 

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

Rando Thoughtful 1

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

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

Dandelo 1

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

Dandelo 2

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

Patrick Danville 1

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

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

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

unfound door 1

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

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

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

Oy 1

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

Tower 6

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

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

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

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

Tower 11


 

The Dark Tower is a rainbow book.

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

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

Maerlyn's rainbow

And speaking of seriousness…

Oh, the feelsies…

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

But seriously…

All.  The.  Feels.

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

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

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

sparkly vampire 1

And the deaths…

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

Jake death

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

Eddie 1

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

Roland 14

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

Oy 1

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

ugly cry

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

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

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

Yes, a coward!

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

Jake and the oracle

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

Mordred 3

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

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

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

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

DT door 1

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

Susannah 2

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

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

Roland and Flagg

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

Well, at least in some circles…

But those are circles I do not visit.

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

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

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

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

It is perfect because it is right ending.

It is perfect because of its implications.

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

The implication that hell is repetition.

Tower 3

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

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

Roland 10

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

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

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

Maybe.

Roland and horn 1


 

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

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

Calvin and Hobbes

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

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

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

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

Red 1

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

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

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

mash 1

 

 


 

Connections

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

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

Insomnia 4

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

Ted Brautigan 1

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

It 3

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

Pennywise 5

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

Everything's Eventual 1

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

Dinky

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

carrie-1

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

Eyes of the Dragon 1

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

gorg_and_mr_munshun

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

Charlie Manx 1

 

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

duma key 4

Getting the Band Back Together: My Review of Finders Keepers

Well, looky here folks…

Christmas came over six months early this year!

Christmasland 1

Um no, my birthday is in June and it is an awesome day but that’s not what I’m talking about!

Nope, the master has graced us with a new book!  And a couple weeks before my birthday…how considerate of him!

Stephen King

And Finders Keepers was a great gift.  Not that anything was wrong with Mr. Mercedes, but oh man, Finders Keepers!  If Finders Keepers is what I got for my upcoming (eek) 37th birthday, then I can’t imagine what my present (The Suicide Prince) for my 38th birthday will be like…already looking forward to next year’s birthday release of the third book in this series.  Thanks Uncle Stevie, you know me too well!

i-want-my-cake-and-now-ive-got-it

But seriously, Finders Keepers was a fantastic read, and really does have me excited for the release of the third and final book.

FK 3

With all that being said, here is my review of Finders Keepers

And as always…

Spoiler alert

 

 

 

 


 

Synopsis

Finders Keepers begins with a murder in 1978.  The reader is introduced to Morris Bellamy, who is obviously troubled.  Morris and his friends break into the home of John Rothstein, who is a famous writer admired by Morris.  Morris and his friends steal cash from Rothstein, and Morris also takes some notebooks belonging to Rothstein that contain letters, musings and even a draft to a novel.  Morris becomes upset at Rothstein for what he believes is the wrong treatment of a characters in Rothstein’s novels, and murders him.  Morris and his friends escape, but Morris then murders his friends, and hides the cash and notebooks in the woods near his house.  Morris is later imprisoned on unrelated charges, and spends over 30 years in prison.

The novel then shifts shifts to 2009, and tells the story of Tom Saubers and his family.  Tom is unemployed and desperately seeking employment, so he attends a job fair in his city.  Tom becomes one of the victims of the Mercedes Massacre when he is injured by a Mercedes that is deliberately driven into the crowd waiting in line at the job fair.  The driver turns out to be Brady Hartsfield, who is later apprehended when he tries to place a bomb at a concert.  Tom and his family were suffering before the Mercedes Massacre, but their situation becomes even worse, as Tom is unable to work.  The family is forced to move and fears losing their home.  The oldest child, Peter, becomes worried about his parents and fears their financial situation will cause them to divorce.  Peter takes a walk in the woods near his house one day, and finds the cash and notebooks buried by Morris Bellamy.  Peter finds a way to make it appear that the cash is being anonymously mailed to his family, and the family receives several hundred dollars in cash per month for the next four years.  Pete considers selling the notebooks of John Rothstein, as his family is still needy, and speaks to an owner of a used bookstore, Andrew Halliday.  Andrew also happens to be a former friend of Morris Bellamy.  Andrew threatens Peter and attempts to blackmail Peter into handing over the manuscripts, but Peter stands firm in his insistence that Andrew share in any proceeds he receives for the notebooks.  Peter then hides the notebooks at a recreation center.

In the meantime, Morris is paroled from prison, and begins to wonder about the money and the notebooks that he buried so many years ago.

The story then switches over to the perspective of Bill Hodges, the primary character in Mr. Mercedes.  Hodges has now opened his own detective firm called Finders Keepers, and specializes in apprehending fugitives, especially ones that have defrauded wealthy people.  He is assisted by Holly Gibbey, another character in Mr. Mercedes, who also happened to be the cousin of Janey, the woman who Hodges had a brief relationship with, before she was killed by a car bomb that was meant for Hodges.  Jerome Robinson, the third member of the trio, stays in touch with Hodges, but is attending Harvard and unable to assist Hodges with most of his cases.  Hodges has also made several positive changes in his life, including adapting to a healthier diet and exercise program.  However, he still feels remorse over the death of Janey and feels responsible for it.  He also remains close to Jerome’s family, and is considered an honorary member of that family.  Hodges visits Brady Hartsfield, the Mercedes killer, in the hospital, every so often.  Hartsfield is supposedly in a vegetative state, but Hodges sometimes doubts that Hartsfield is actually in that particular state.

Jerome’s younger sister Barbara pays a visit to Hodges in his office.  Barbara brings Tina Saubers, the younger sister of Peter, with her, because she has heard a troubling tale from Tina.  Tina has deduced that Peter is responsible for the “mystery money” and worries that her brother may have committed a robbery or other illegal act to obtain it.  Tina tells the story to Hodges and to Holly, and also mentions that Peter may be in possession of some old notebooks.  Hodges agrees he will speak to Peter when the next school day ends.  Barbara also tells the tale to Jerome, who is back in town for the weekend, and Hodges and Jerome make a plan to follow Peter and confront him.  Holly also spends time thinking about the new case, and believes that the notebooks may actually be an important detail.

Morris Bellamy tracks down his old friend Andrew, and confronts him at his bookstore.  He threatens Andrew into giving up the name of the now owner of the stolen notebooks, and then beats Andrew to death in his own store.

Hodges confronts Peter outside of his high school, and tries to obtain information regarding the “mystery money.”  However, Hodges is not successful in obtaining any information from Peter, and has Jerome tail him.

Peter enters the bookstore, and discovers the body of Andrew Halliday.  He also encounters Morris Bellamy and is nearly shot by him, but manages to escape.  Peter then contacts Hodges and arranges to meet him again, but takes a detour to his house, as he receives a call from Bellamy indicating that his family is in danger.  Peter rushes home to find his mother shot in the head by Bellamy, and his younger sister kidnapped.

Peter tracks down Bellamy at the original hiding spot for the notebooks.  Bellamy uses Peter’s younger sister as bait, and Peter leads Bellamy to the recreation center where the notebooks are hidden.  Peter and Bellamy scuffle over the notebooks, and Peter douses them with gasoline to burn them.  Hodges and his friends track down Peter and Tina, and are able to rescue them from the now burning recreation center.  Morris is left in the recreation center, and is burned alive.  The notebooks are also destroyed by the fire.

The story then moves ahead a few months.  Peter’s mother has recovered from her bullet wound and is doing well.  Tina has also recovered from her ordeal and has resumed a normal life.  Peter has been offered a job by a major newspaper.  The newspaper wants him to write summaries of the writings of John Rothstein, and will pay him $15,000 for the job.  Jerome will be returning to college for his senior year.  Holly has gained even more confidence and will take a trip to visit her mother on her own.  Everyone is doing well, except for Hodges.  Jerome and Holly worry that his fixation on Brady Hartsfield has become unhealthy.

Hodges makes another visit to the hospital to check on Hartsfield, after he receives news that a nurse has committed suicide under suspicious circumstances.  Hodges also learns that some employees at the hospital believe that Brady has the power to move objects with his mind, as he has heard stories of odd things that seem to occur around Brady.  Hodges pays another visit to Brady but nothing seems to have changed.  However, once Hodges leaves Brady’s room, a picture falls over, confirming that Brady is not what he seems to be.

 

 


 

My thoughts

So let me start off by saying this:  I liked Mr. Mercedes.  I really did.  I have a lot of like for Mr. Mercedes, in fact…

mr. mercedes 1

And I would also like to set the record straight on one other matter;  I loved Finders Keepers!  Much love for Finders Keepers!

For the record, this does not diminish my feelings for Mr. Mercedes in any way.  I just happen to think that Finders Keepers is the stronger of the two books.  And if the trend continues with the third book in the series, I may have to write another statement to reassure the master that my feelings for the other two books are still valid…

Last year, when I read Mr. Mercedes, I immediately thought of Bachman

Cleaner 3

You know, Bachman?  That guy who died of cancer of the pseudonym.  Although we all know he is not really dead, he is actually still alive on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, disposing of dead bodies as we speak and requesting that 80’s music be played while he is working…

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In all seriousness, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers have the feel of a Richard Bachman book.  The story line is of the “real world” and the supernatural aspect is practically non-existent (although if the ending of Finders Keepers indicates what I think it indicates, that may change in the third book).

One of Bachman’s, er King’s, strengths as a writer is his ability to incorporate reality into his works, which makes them that much more believable.  This is particularly evident in books like The Shining, in which themes such as financial problems, domestic abuse, alcoholism and divorce were prevalent.

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Like The Shining, Finders Keepers was also rife with “real world” themes.  And this Constant Reader could emphasize with the struggles of Peter and his family.  I have lost my job.  My husband has also lost his job.  We came close to losing our house.  We have had to rely on the kindness of friends and family to get by.  Although our situation has much improved, I have not forgotten our struggles, and I never will.  And if I had found a box full of money while out walking in my neighborhood (hey, work with me and suspend disbelief for just a minute), I would have used it to help my family, just like Peter.  And I would have felt no guilt.  The money may have had “blood” on it, but anyone who uses that kind of money to help his/her family is not a bad person in the slightest.  I admired Peter in his conviction to help his family and keep it together.  Because without family, what is there?

As I have mentioned before, Uncle Stevie has quite the sense of humor.  And it will show up where it is least expected.  You know, like in a book about a crazy obsessed fan who murders his favorite writer because he didn’t like the ending to the latest book?

Yes, Finders Keepers had some funny moments.  Tina describes the arguments between her parents as “arkie barkies” (I am stealing that one, thanks Uncle Stevie!)  “Shit don’t mean shit” was a popular phrase uttered throughout the book (imagine if we Constant Readers could get that one trending on social media!)  And perhaps my favorite no my mind is not in the gutter   was the description of the act of copulation… in other words, a guy putting his “John Hopkins” into a woman’s “Sarah Lawrence”…good one there, Sai King!

Finders Keepers also incorporated an element of creepiness that was not present in Mr. Mercedes.  Mr. Mercedes was a bit unsettling, and suspenseful, but the story took place before the obsession…

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Well, maybe not quite like these two guys!

Maybe more like a certain friendly neighborhood gunslinger who spends his time chasing a man dressed in dark colors across a region that sees little rain?

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Yes, Brady Hartsfield is the creepy element in this book.  And Hodges concern obsession (calling a spade a spade) is also unsettling.  And the ending…whew!  That ending left frightened for Hodges and anyone even remotely associated with Hodges (Hodges third cousin once removed better watch his/her back…you don’t mess with Brady Hartsfield!)  I have a feeling that the third book in this series will deliver, and we are in for a bang (no pressure, Sai King.  No pressure at all)!  Brady Hartsfield was a bad enough guy before he slipped into a vegetative state (although the jury is still out on that), but Brady with PSI powers?  Not good at all!

Writers and writing are a big theme in King’s works.  The Dark Half talks about the effect of fiction on the writer.  Misery discusses the effect of fiction on the reader.  The Dark Tower series even takes a stab at this theme, as Stephen King is a character in his own books (that’s meta-fiction, for the uninitiated).

Finders Keepers continues on with these themes.  Morris Bellamy becomes obsessed with John Rothstein, and that ultimately becomes his own un-doing.  Peter also develops an obsession, and narrowly escapes being killed by that obsession.  Obsession and addiction are also huge themes in King’s work (The Dark Tower series could be said to be a metaphor for the journey of an addict), and King successfully weaves these themes into Finders Keepers, adding a level of depth and richness, which makes a what appears on the surface to be a simple detective novel, into something that is far beyond a simple detective novel.


 

Christmas in June?  Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!  In other words, Finders Keepers works very well when one wants to celebrate Christmas in June.  Or maybe Thanksgiving in June.  And I am sure some culture has celebrated New Year’s Day in June.  Or heck, get Finders Keepers if you want to give a Flag Day present to yourself!

Who am I kidding?  New Stephen King books do not need a holiday behind them!  So no matter what you celebrate, treat yourself and read Finders Keepers, and take a holiday into the awesomeness known as the Stephen King universe!

 

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Connections

Again, here we go with the connections.  There are enough of them in Finders Keepers to remind you that you are, in fact, reading a Stephen King novel.  So here is what I found:

-Burt Hodges apprehends a criminal who has been accused of stealing a car (among other crimes).  This vehicle just happens to be a Rolls Royce Wraith.  The Rolls Royce Wraith also happens to be the vehicle owned by Charlie Manx, the main villain in the book NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.  This connection is worth noting because there are tie-ins in Joe Hill’s work to King’s work, especially in NOS4A2.  Charlie Manx is also mentioned in passing by Dick Halloran in the book Dr. Sleep, during a flashback experienced by Danny Torrance.

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-Brady Hartsfield is housed in Room 217 in the hospital.  217 is also the room number to a famous haunted room in the novel The Shining.

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-Jerome’s alter ego, Tyrone Feelgood, makes a brief appearance.  Tyrone’s manner of speaking is similar to Detta Walker’s speech in The Drawing of the Three.

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-Andrew Halliday’s pin number consists of the digits 9118.  9+1+1+8 = 19.  As most Constant readers know, 19 is a significant number to King and his work, especially to Roland and his friends in the last 3 books of the Dark Tower series.

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-Pete Saubers’ mother refers to her son as a “do-bee.”  “Do-bee” is a phrase used by Craig Toomey in the novella The Langoliers (which is a story in the collection Four Past Midnight), and also by Jack Mort in The Drawing of the Three.

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-Andrew Halliday was the owner of a used bookstore and had an obsession with books, especially rare books.  Another character in King’s work is the owner of a used bookstore and is obsessed with rare books:  Calvin Tower in the Dark Tower series, who first appears in The Wastelands.  It is possible that Tower and Halliday are Twinners of sorts, as both are owners of used bookstores, both are obsessed with rare books and both are even described as being overweight.

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-Morris Bellamy is described as having lips that are extremely red.  In the book Black House, the villain Charles Burnside is also described as having lips that are very red.  This may be another example of people who are Twinners, or doppelgangers to each other.

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-Brady Hartsfield has been in a comatose state, but appears to have awakened with PSI powers.  This is similar to what happened to Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone, as Johnny awakened from a five year long coma with the ability to see future events.  Brady’s powers are also similar to Carrie White’s telekinetic powers in the novel Carrie, as she had the ability to move objects with her mind.

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