Nerdy and Sleepless!

If you wish to hear your favorite nerd live and in the flesh, breaking down the novel Insomnia (written by The Master, natch) and geeking out over more than a few things, click the link below, as she was a guest on The Dark Tower Radio Podcast, and got to participate in a great meeting of the minds!  Long days and pleasant nights, and enjoy!

 

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/dark-tower-radio/e/49910648?autoplay=true

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Live Nerdiness!

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

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

 

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

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dark-tower-radio/id1173774601

Shit Weasels and Seeing the Line: My Review of Dreamcatcher

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

No, not the nerd thing…you knew that!

Here goes nothing…

Gulp, I confess that…

I can’t stay away from Derry, Maine!

It 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope, not at all!

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

And the novel Dreamcatcher is one of those stories.

NYX

NYX

Dreamcatcher is an interesting mashup, so to speak.

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

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

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

Hopefully, you see the line…

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

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

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

byrus

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

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

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

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

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

dreamcatcher-6

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

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

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

Beaver 1

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

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

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

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

Duddits 1

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

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

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

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

And it shows…

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

Quality: Original. Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003). Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

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

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

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

Beaver 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pennywise 9

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

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

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

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

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

Rennie

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

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

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

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

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

dreamcatcher-3

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


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

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

batman and robin


Connections

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

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

Pennywise 11

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

derry connection

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

Pennywise 19

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

Song of Susannah 1

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

carrie-1

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

Salem's lot 2

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

Red and Andy

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

Nick

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

tommyknockers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Gunslinger Needs a Companion: An Interview With Bev Vincent

In life, sometimes you take journeys.  Sometimes these are physical journeys (I have had a few myself).

Sometimes, there are other kinds of journeys as well…

super bowl 50 1

Well, I am sure most of us (me included) don’t take a journey like that often ever but that game last night sure was was ride, at any rate…whew!  And this little old blog sends you love, Ser Peyton!

Or, if you are more like me, you take literary journeys.  Oh, too nerdy for you!  Well, sorry, guess someone forgot what blog this was again!

And I have traveled alone, and I have traveled with others.  Now traveling alone is not a bad thing.  But sometimes, having a companion has its advantages.  A Sam Gamgee, maybe.  Or if you are Peyton Manning, a Von Miller (and it doesn’t hurt to perhaps throw in a Chris Harris, or maybe an Aquib Talib or two, for that matter).

Peyton Manning 1

In other words, great journeys are not usually accomplished alone, whether they are to destroy a pesky ring, or to obtain a pesky second (Super Bowl) ring.  Even this guy can testify to that!

Roland 1

Yes, you are definitely reading this blog and forgot to heed all the previous warnings!

Reading the Dark Tower series is a journey.  And I have taken that journey on my own.  And it was great, of course.

But I have taken it with friends, too.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Well, I wasn’t talking about these guys, per se.  If I was relying on them for friendship, well that is a recipe for guaranteed heartbreak, and I will leave it at that.

Nor am I talking about the followers on my blog and social media account, who were with me every step of the way in my latest re-read and review of the entire series.  I do appreciate both all of you very much though, and much love to everyone!

Rather, I am talking about works such as this one:

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And this one:

DT Concordance 1

Well, they may be books, but to any Constant Reader who is also obsessed with the Dark Tower series, they are almost as invaluable as a Sam Gamgee or Vonn Miller.  They aid in the journey, so that journey becomes that much richer.  These books have also made me become a much better reader, as I have picked out some details I missed on previous re-reads, which made me feel like the kid who found the Easter Egg that everyone else missed because everyone else did not know where to look.

easter eggs 1

Recently, I have the please of talking to one of the creators of my companions, aka Bev Vincent.  I was curious as to what goes on when creating works like these to aid in this journey that I have taken so many times.  And Mr. Vincent was gracious enough to talk to me, and given me a little more insight into his work, the Stephen King universe in general and the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  So, read below for the complete interview.

cuthbert and alain

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

 

Please, tell us a little about yourself. This can be anything, including education, background, etc. Also, when did you first become a Stephen King fan and why?

I come from eastern Canada. I grew up in a small community in northern New Brunswick, where I lived until I was eighteen. I then went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I studied chemistry. I got a B.Sc in 1983 and finished my PhD in X-ray crystallography in the fall of 1987. I did a postdoc at the ETH in Zurich and worked as a staff crystallographer until 1989, at which time I moved to Texas, where I’ve lived ever since.

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I started writing seriously at the end of the previous millennium and it has been part of my daily routine ever since, although I still have a day job.

Bev Vincent 1

I discovered Stephen King when I was living in Halifax. I picked up a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot in a used bookstore and I’ve been hooked ever since. I sought out his other books (there weren’t many in 1979!) and have followed along with him for over 35 years. I read a lot, and far more than just King’s books, but he’s been one of the constants. I guess you could call me a Constant Reader.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

What is your favorite Stephen King book, and why is it your favorite?

I have a hard time picking absolute favorites — I have affinities for certain books at different times for different reasons. I have a particular fondness for ‘Salem’s Lot because it was the first, the one that got me hooked. The book has a lot going for it, for a “second” novel (of course, we know it was not his second written book), and it stands up quite well.

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Bag of Bones is one that would appear in my top five list. It was the first of his books that I read in first draft manuscript long before it was published. That was a fascinating experience, and I especially appreciated the way he subsequently rewrote the book, layering in things that weren’t present in the first draft.

bag of bones 1

I used to like to tell people about The Gunslinger for a long time, when people didn’t know much about it. It was my entry point into the Dark Tower series, but for a long time it was the only book in the series for me. I loved its mood. I had no idea where the series was headed — or even that it was headed somewhere, but I reread that one a number of times. I could list others that are high on my list. But I’d have an easier time picking my two least favorites. No trouble there at all!

Roland 2


 

Oh, what is your least favorite SK book?

I have two: Needful Things and The Tommyknockers. I didn’t like any of the characters in the former and I liked Bobbi and Gard a lot in the latter and hated that King abandoned them for a huge chunk of the book when all I wanted to do was to get back and find out how they were doing.

Needful things 3


 

I am really excited about the upcoming Hulu adaptation for 11/22/63, and I have high hopes for the series. However, I know that movie adaptations of King’s books are mixed, at best. Some work, some don’t. Out of all the King movies, which one do you feel works the best, and why? Which one do you think does not work, and why?

I’ve already seen the entire miniseries of 11.22.63 and I think people are going to like it a lot. It is significantly different from the novel in many ways, yet it captures the sense of the book perfectly. The actress who plays Sadie is wonderful and it is her more than James Franco who gives this adaptation its heart. The production values are extremely high and the cast is terrific.

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I’ve never been someone who saw the adaptation as a necessary part of the life cycle of a book. Slavish adaptations aren’t always the best. The problem with Dreamcatcher, in my opinion, is that it tried to cram too much of a very big book into the movie, which made it almost incomprehensible to people to people unfamiliar with the novel.

Quality: Original. Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003). Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

On the other hand, the adaptation of Dolores Claiborne took significant liberties with the book, deleting characters, changing the emphasis on others, but it absolutely captured the novel.

Dolores C

A lot of the adaptations are forgettable or laughable. I have no use for The Mangler or Children of the Corn (I through XII) or any number of other B grade films.

Disney SK

I did like The Mist, despite the controversial change to the story–and I was thrilled to get to visit the set during production.

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I also visited (the set of) Haven for a day with my daughter, which was great fun. There’s a case of an adaptation that took a core idea and then ran off in a vastly different direction from the source. The same people did the same thing with The Dead Zone TV series.

Haven TV series starring Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, Eric Balfour, Richard Donat, John Dunsworth, Adam Copeland, Glenn Lefchak, Nicholas Campbell, Kate Kelton, Emma Lahana, Bree Williamson, Christopher Shore and Colin Ferguson - dvdbash.com

There are some great ones — Shawshank, Stand By Me — and some surprisingly effective ones, like 1408 — and a whole lot of turkeys.

ka caw


 

I have read your book, The Dark Tower Companion, and wow! Can you tell us how this book came to be, and exactly what went in to writing it and putting it together?

DT companion 1

I previously wrote The Road to the Dark Tower around the time King was finishing up the last three books in the series. People had frequently asked me when I was going to write a book about King and his work, but I had resisted the idea because it seemed like such a huge project.

the road to the DT 1

Then when I heard that King was going to write the final three Dark Tower books all at once, I had the idea that I could explore the series and, in doing so, say something about all of King’s work in general. King gave me the manuscripts for the final books a couple of years before they were published, which allowed me to have my book ready around the same time as Book 7 was published.

never just a book

The Road to the Dark Tower was written for people who had already read the entire series and wanted to revisit it with me. I would be the tour guide, and I would point out the things I had noticed while reading and rereading and studying the series.

Dark Tower 3

Then, a number of years later, the first serious indications that there would be a film adaptation emerged, with Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman. I thought it was time to update my book with all the things that had happened in the Dark Tower Universe since my first book was published. However, my publisher suggested that I do a new book, completely different from the first. So, The Dark Tower Companion was written for people who haven’t necessarily read the series. I thought there would be people who came to the Dark Tower via the movies or the Marvel graphic novels. People who might want to know more about something — a reference book. I had to read the series several times for each book, with different things in mind on each reading. My copies are marked up with so many different colored highlighters that they look like the Bends o’ the Rainbow!

Maerlyn's rainbow

I especially enjoyed getting to interview all these great people for the book, from King himself to Ron Howard (from the set of RUSH) and Akiva Goldsman, and then all of the creative people involved in the Marvel series. That was a series of terrific experiences. I also had a great time coming up with the two maps — the one that showed the known region of Mid-World, especially when certain details came together, and the one of the Dark Tower locations in Manhattan.

DT movie 3


 

It looks like we may finally get our Dark Tower movie(s). I know that if Roland doesn’t do the finger twirl in the movie, I will not watch it…at all! (Joking, joking.) All kidding aside, what do you need to see in the movie(s) from the books (since we all know that there will be changes, which are necessary) to make sure that the movie does not stray too far from the source material?

I’m open to a complete re-imagination of the series. If you’ve read my interviews with Howard and Goldsman, you’ll see that their ideas for the first movie are quite radical, and I was fine with that. I’m also fine with possibly having Idris Elba as Roland — in fact, I think that would be terrific.

Idris Elba 1

A movie isn’t made first and foremost for the readers of the source material, I believe. They are made for a movie-going audience, so a lot of accommodations have to be made, and can be made.

Some people have suggested that the movies should feature Roland’s NEXT version of his quest, the one where he starts of with the Horn of Eld. To my mind, that means that anything could happen. Anything. If Roland is a different person (arguably a slightly better one), then maybe he needs different companions to get the job done. I’m not saying I want to see that happen, but once that suggestion is made, it shows that people are open to change.

Roland and horn 1

I don’t know if the movie can work if it is too literal an adaptation. A lot of people were upset by how the series ended on the page — can you imagine going to see a handful of movies over a span of years only to end up back at the beginning again?

DT ending

I’m perfectly content for them to do whatever they see fit with the adaptation. There are some pretty smart people in the movie business. And if they end up making a hash of it, oh well.

Roland 1


So many thanks to Bev Vincent for this interview.  And remember, if you need a companion to help guide you on the Path of the Beam, whether it be be your first journey or your 19th journey, please check out The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance (written by the lovely Robin Furth).  These friends  works are available wherever books are sold.

And, as always, happy reading!

RoaldDahl

Clowning Around in the Sewers: My Review of It

Origin stories…

They are pretty fascinating, at times.

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After all, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Even your friendly neighborhood gunslinger has an origin story!  Turns out, he wasn’t always a cold-blooded killer, who knew?

Roland 1

And hey, even I have one…so here goes nothing!

Sometime in the summer of 1988, I attended a day camp.  I was ten years old and quite impressionable (see the part about being 10 years old).  One of my counselors told me and the other impressionable kids (well, I am making assumptions that everyone was as gullible impressionable as I was, but I digress) a story about a clown that lived in the sewers and killed people, but could only be seen by kids.  Of course, I took this story quite seriously.  In fact, I spent an entire summer assiduously avoiding storm drains, and watching my back when I took a shower or even (gasp) used the bathroom in any way.  In other words, just a typical summer for a ten year old with an overactive imagination.  The clown soon become forgotten, to be replaced with thoughts of MacGyver (was that a first name or a last?  And wow, science just got hot), Quantum Leap (I aspired to build a time machine and Sam Beckett was my spirit animal) and whatever else a really nerdy, awkward, ugly duckling with limited social skills growing up in the 90’s became obsessed with.  That clown soon became a faded memory, and even quit visiting my dreams for a while (whew).

Pennywise 2

Flash forward two years.  That extremely nerdy, awkward ugly duckling had growed up (so she thought) and had hit the big 1-2.  And became interested in all things macabre.  She was always looking for something to read, and something to watch on TV.  If either of these pissed off her parents, well, that was added bonus!

Enter a new mini series that aired over two nights on network TV.  It was based on the work of some horror writer I never heard of, Stephen King.  And it was about a clown who lived in the sewers, and happened to…you guessed it…terrorize kids!  The memories of that summer came flooding back to me, and my blood ran cold.  So of course I had to watch this mini series…

balloon2

And I was blown away by that mini series (I was 12, what else can I say).  Tim Curry brought a voice to that evil clown, and my dreams became a hoppin’ place once again.  And those kids…where was my Losers Club?  I wanted to play down in the Barrens, dammit!  One of the Losers was even a girl, and she kicked ass!

It 3

When I found out this mini series was based on a book of the same name, It, of course I had to find the book, since I thought that movie was pretty darn good.  So the book would be worth a read, right?

I was intimidated by the size of the book.  Over a 1000 pages!  Well, I would be reading that one for months…

One week later, I finished the book.  And I loved it!  I also learned that movies rarely do books justice, but that is another post.  I had to find more books by this King guy…where had he been all my life?

stephen-king-cover-ftr

And so it begun…

My origin story as a Stephen King fan, that is.  If you are still reading this at this point and are surprised, I am not really sure what to tell you, other than, well it’s this blog, after all!

So obviously, King’s books bring back many fond memories, and I never tire of them.  And in light of my New Year’s resolution to read at least one King book a month, I am going back to my origins:  the book It.  Like the Losers, I am coming home.  I am becoming a child again, and revisiting my past, along with Bill, Ben, Bev and the rest of the gang.  Per the line of one of my favorite songs:  “Oh don’t sorrow, oh don’t weep, tonight at last I am coming home.”  And I can’t wait.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of It, whose short title belies the depth of this story.  And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The book begins by introducing the reader to a boy named George Denbrough.  Georgie is the younger brother of Bill Denbrough, who is 10 years old.  Georgie and Bill live in the city of Derry, Maine, where there has been a lot of rain and flooding.  The year is 1957.  One afternoon, Georgie heads out to play with a boat made out of newspaper that Bill helped him make.  The rain has receded a bit, but Georgie still loses his boat in the sewers of Derry.  Georgie becomes upset, but forgets about his boat when he sees what appear to be a pair of glowing eyes looking up at him from the sewers.  Those turn out to belong to a clown who looks like a cross between Bozo the Clown and Clarabell the clown.  Much to Georgie’s astonishment, the clown speaks to him from the sewers, and offers him a balloon.  The clown introduces himself as Bob Gray, or Pennywise the Clown.  However, the clown is not friendly, or even human.  The clown entices Georgie to lean a little closer, and attacks.  Georgie’s arm is torn off, in much the way someone might tear the wing from a fly.  Georgie dies almost immediately, leaving his older brother Bill and their parents in a state of shock.

The book then skips to the year of 1984.  We are told of another murder in Derry, this time of a young, somewhat childlike gay man named Adrian Mellon.  The murder is told in flashbacks, when the local police question the young man’s partner, Don Haggarty, and the local bullies deemed responsible for the murder.  The bullies attacked Adrian one night, targeting him because of his sexuality.  Both Don and the bullies state that a clown was also at the scene and that the clown killed Adrian.  Don also reports that thousands of balloons floated to the sky at the site of the murder.  However, the local authorities do not believe Don or the bullies, and the bullies are tried and convicted of the murder.

Several months later, in 1985, six adults receive a phone call from a man named Mike Hanlon.  The adults are scattered across the country and even the world, but all grew up in Derry, Maine.  The adults are Stan Uris, Richie Tozier, Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kraspbrak, Bill Denbrough and Beverly Marsh.  All of the adults are told by Mike Hanlon that they must return to Derry, and most begin making the preparations.  However, Stan Uris is unwilling (or perhaps unable) to face what awaits him in Derry, and commits suicide by slitting his wrists in his bathtub.  Additionally, Beverly narrowly escapes her abusive husband, Tom, who nearly kills her for daring to leave him and return to Derry.  All of the adults have hazy memories of what happened during one summer of their childhoods in Derry, but all know that they must now return to Derry.

We then learn of how those seven children spent the summer of 1958.  The books tells of how the seven meet, and form a club they call The Losers Club, as all seven children are misfits in some way or another.  All seven children are also victims of abuse from Henry Bowers, the local bully.  Additionally, six of the seven children have encountered Pennywise the Clown in some manner, and have survived to tell the tale.  Ben saw the clown as a mummy, Eddie saw the clown as a leper in an abandoned house, Bill was attacked by the clown when he picks up an old photo album belonging to his deceased brother, Beverly heard voices in the drain in her bathroom and then sees blood come from the drain that is visible only to her and the other Losers, Mike saw a giant bird that attacks him, and Stan encounters the clown in an abandoned piece of property while he is bird-watching.  Richie tells the others he did not encounter the clown on his own, but he makes a trip with Bill to the abandoned house where Eddie saw the leper.  There, Richie and Bill encounter the clown in werewolf form.  Bill shoots the werewolf with him father’s gun, and Richie also attacks it with his sneezing powder (Richie is the comedian and practical joker of the group).  The two narrowly escape the clown on Bill’s bike Silver, and realize that they are pitted against a great evil. During that summer, Ben Hanscom falls in love with Beverly.  Beverly falls in love with Bill Denbrough.

The book skips to the present and to the viewpoint of Mike Hanlon.  Mike has begun researching the history of Derry, and discovered that the town has a violent past.  Mike tells of one of these incidents, which was relayed to him by his father before his father passed away.  Mike’s father tells of The Fire at the Black Spot, which was a fire that occurred in 1937, when Will Hanlon enlisted in the military and was stationed in Derry.  The Black Spot was a night club founded by some of the African American members of Will’s unit, which was known as company E.  The fire was started by Derry’s version of the Klu Klux Klan, known as the Maine Legion of White Decency.  Nearly 80 people perished in the fire.  Will tells Mike that he saw what appeared to be a giant bird dressed as a clown flying off with some of the bodies, confirming Mike’s suspicions that the presence of Pennywise and the town’s violent history are closely related.  Mike struggle with the decision to call the rest of his friends, but thinks that his heart will tell him when the time is right.

One by one, the adult Losers (minus Stan Uris) return to Derry.  Mike arranges a reunion lunch, and the adult Losers reunite and catch up with each others’ lives.  Mike also brings his friends up to speed on the nine child murders that have occurred in Derry over the past several months, and the Losers vow to stay in Derry and fight It, although they know that their odds are not good.  At the end of the meal, the Losers receive some fortune cookies that are actually a trick of Pennywise the Clown.  Each cookie contains something that each Loser fears, such as blood, insects, etc.  The Losers leave the restaurant, and split up to visit a place in Derry outside of the Barrens that meant something to them as children.  Bill tells them that when the first encountered the monster as children, the encounter was experienced alone, and that the same will probably happen to them as adults.

True to Bill’s statement, the Losers do have individual encounters with It:  Ben sees the clown at the library, Eddie sees the clown in the form of some of his deceased classmates at the local baseball field, Beverly encounters a witch in her old apartment that resembles the witch from Hansel and Gretel and Richie encounters the clown in the form of a Paul Bunyon statue that has come to life.  Richie also remembers that he had a similar encounter as a child, but dismissed it as a dream.  Bill and Mike do not encounter Pennywise, but Bill finds his old bike, Silver, at a second-hand shop.  Bill and Mike spruce up the bike, and figure that Bill finding the bike is not coincidental.

The story switches to the perspective of Henry Bowers, the Losers’ childhood bully.  Henry currently resides at Juniper Hill Asylum.  Henry was found guilty of the child murder that occurred in the summer of 1958, along with the murder of his father.  However, the only murder actually committed by Henry was the murder of his father.  Pennywise the clown is able to communicate with Henry and convinces him to do Its bidding and kill the adult Losers.  It helps Henry escape Juniper Hill, and Henry heads to Derry to finish the job.

We also learn a bit more about the history of Derry and the violent events that appear to be connected with the child murders that occur every 27 years or so.  Mike learns of the massacre of the Bradley gang, a gang of criminals from the Midwest on the run from law enforcement.  The gang holes up in Derry, and the citizens soon dish out their own form of justice and murder every single member, even the women, while local law enforcement looks the other way.  Mike also learns that Pennywise the clown was seen at the confrontation, once again confirming how much a part of Derry the clown really is.

In the meantime, Bill and Beverly’s respective spouses are determined to find out why their partners have suddenly left town.  Beverly’s husband Tom, beats the information out of one of Beverly’s few good friends who helped her escape.  Bill’s wife Audra simply books a flight to Maine, as she is extremely worried about her husband.  Both head into Derry, not understanding what lies ahead.

The Losers reconvene at the library later that night, and begin to recall the events of the summer of 1958.  The children spent much of the summer of 1958 playing in the Barrens, a wooded area in Derry that remains mostly abandoned and forgotten.  Because of this, the Losers are able to meet and try to figure how to rid the town of Pennywise the clown and not be bothered by Henry Bowers and his friends.  The children also build an underground clubhouse in the Barrens, which offers them even more protection from Henry and any other bullies.

Mike recalls how he became a part of the club that summer.  One day, Mike is chased by Henry Bowers, as Henry lives next door to Mike, and has been taught to hate black people by his father.  Henry’s father has blamed all of his problems on Mike and his parents, so Henry makes Mike’s life miserable at any opportunity.  When Henry is chased by Mike on this particular day, he runs to an area just outside the Barrens and encounters the Losers.  The Losers defend their territory by hurling rocks at Henry and his friends, in what is termed the Apocalyptic Rock Fight.  Henry and his friends are forced to retreat but swear revenge.  Mike then becomes a part of the Losers Club, and soon learns of their encounters with Pennywise the Clown and their determination to kill It.  Mike also tells of his encounter with Pennywise, and brings one of his father’s old photo albums to show his friends.  The clown is in nearly every picture.  The clown also makes an appearance while the children look at the album, and promises to kill them all if they do not back down.

Richie recalls the smoke hole ceremony performed by the Losers that summer.  Ben reads about the ceremony in a book.  He learns that it was a ceremony performed by Native Americans, and it involved breathing in smoke, which was supposed to induce visions.  The Native Americans performed this ceremony when the tribe had unsolved problems or unanswered questions.  The Losers perform this same ceremony by burning green wood in their underground clubhouse.  However, all bow out except Mike and Ritchie, who travel back in time and witness the arrival of It in Derry several million years ago.  The boys sense that It is actually an extra-dimensional monster, and very evil.  They impart this information to the others, and continue their mission to rid Derry of the monster.

Eddie recalls that Henry Bowers broke his arm that summer, in retaliation for the rock fight.  That day, Eddie headed to the drugstore to pick some prescriptions for his mother.  The owner of the drugstore, Mr. Keane, pulls Eddie aside and tells him that he does not actually have asthma, and that his symptoms are psychosomatic.  Mr. Keane tells Eddie that this is the doing of his mother and doctor, and that his asthma medicine is simply water with a medicinal taste.  Eddie becomes upset, but knows deep down inside that Mr. Keane is right.  Henry and his friends are able to corner Eddie outside the store as he is by himself, and Eddie’s arm is broken in the scuffle.  Eddie spends a few days in the hospital and his friends attempt to visit him.  On the first attempt, his friends are driven off by his overly protective mother, who does not approve of these new friends.  The Losers are not deterred, however, and come back later that night.  They sign Eddie’s cast, and tell him that their plan is to make silver slugs that they will shoot at It with a slingshot.  The plan is for Beverly to shoot the monster with the slingshot, as her aim is the best.  Eddie also has a confrontation with his mother, telling her that he will not choose her over his friends.

Beverly recalls another encounter with It that summer, when she heads to the dump to practice shooting with the slingshot.  Beverly nearly has a run with Henry Bowers and his friends, but is able to hide herself. Henry and his friends leaves, but one of the bullies, Patrick Hockstetter, stays behind.  Patrick Hockstetter is a sociopath who keeps an abandoned refrigerator in the dump.  Patrick is using this refrigerator to trap and kill animals, which are either pets or strays that he finds.  Patrick also killed his baby brother as a young child.  Patrick becomes the next victim of Pennywise the clown, who takes the form of flying leeches, and Patrick is eaten alive.  Beverly is also attacked by the leeches, but is able to use the slingshot to hurt the monster and escape.

The Losers also recall how they made silver slugs to use a weapon against Pennywise that summer.  They gather one night at Bill’s house, and melt down a silver coin that was passed from Ben’s deceased father down to Ben.  The process is a quick one, and the Losers now have a weapon against Pennywise.  And the Losers use that weapon against Pennywise.  They confront the monster at the house on Neibolt Street.  Beverly uses the slingshot to hurt the monster, but does not kill It.  However, the monster retreats, and all is relatively peaceful for about two weeks.

The adult Losers leave the library for the night, and agree to meet at the Barrens the next morning.  Before they leave the library, their hands begin to bleed, as they swore in blood to return if It still lived.  The Losers take the blood oath again, and wonder just what they are in for.

Bill and Beverly walk back to their hotel, and Beverly talks of her father’s abuse.  Beverly also remembers one day in August, as she returned home after playing in the Barrens with her friends.  She was confronted by her father, who accused her of performing sexual acts with the boys, and physically attacked his daughter.  Beverly realized that her father was possessed by It, and ran from him. Beverly thought that she had escaped her father, but does not know that Henry Bowers and his friends are also waiting for her.  Henry and his friends were under the influence of It.  Henry also killed his father that day.

The story flashes back to 1985, as Mike Hanlon prepares to close the library for the night.  However, Mike is interrupted by Henry Bowers.  Henry attacks Mike, but Mike is able to defend himself.  Mike calls 911 and hears the voice of Pennywise the Clown and begs for someone to help him so that his wound does not become fatal.

Beverly and Bill head back to Bill’s hotel room.  They are seeking comfort and make love to each other.  As she falls asleep, Beverly once again flashes back to that day in August of 1958, when Henry and his friends chase the Losers Club down to the sewers, forcing a final confrontation with It.

In 1985, Henry is met by It, who has taken the form of his deceased friend, Belch Huggins.  It drives Henry to the hotel the adult Losers are staying at, and gives him a list of the room numbers occupied by each Loser.  Henry chooses Eddie as his first victim, and attacks Eddie.  However, Eddie fights back and kills Henry, breaking his arm again in the process.  Eddie calls Bill and the others back to his room, and they decide what to do about Henry’s body, and determine that involving anyone else in the town, including the police, will only make things worse.  The Losers also find out that Mike was attacked by Henry and is gravely wounded.  The Losers decide that they need to confront Pennywise again and that there is no other choice.  Again, they head to the Barrens and use the same entrance they used in 1958 to get to Pennywise’s lair.

In the meantime, both Audra and Tom (Bill’s wife and Beverly’s husband, respectively) have arrived in town.  Both begin to have peculiar dreams:  Audra dreams that she is Beverly, following Bill to fight Pennywise, and Tom dreams that he is Henry, chasing Beverly and the rest of the Losers in the sewers.  Both awaken and become trapped by Pennywise.  Pennywise is able to influence Tom, and Tom kidnaps Audra for It.

The story goes back and forth between 1985 and 1958, telling of the Losers’ confrontation of It in 1958 as children, and in 1985 as adults.  In 1958, Henry continues to chase the Losers into the sewers.  However, the Losers are still able to find Pennywise and his lair, and Bill enters what he calls the “deadlights”, or the true home of the monster.  With the help of a mysterious creature simply known as “The Turtle”, Bill battles Pennywise in Its true form, and believes that he has defeated the evil.  Richie pulls Bill back from the deadlights, and the Losers Club escapes from the lair, believing Pennywise to be defeated.  However, as they attempt to exit the sewers, the Losers nearly lose their way, as their bond is beginning to dissolve.  In order to keep the bond intact, Beverly makes love to all of the boys.  This act restores the bond, and the children are able to find their way out of Derry’s sewers.  Stan cuts all of the Losers hands with a coke bottle, and all seven promise to return to Derry if Pennywise is not dead.  All of Henry’s friends are killed by It, and Henry is institutionalized for the murder of his father

In 1985, Bill, Ben, Beverly and Eddie confront Pennywise once again.  Bill again faces Pennywise in the deadlights, but is accompanied by Richie.  The two fight the monster in the deadlights and defeat it.  Eddie also fights the monster in Its physical form and defeats it as well, but loses his life in the fight.  The monster’s true form is something close to a spider, and the spider has laid eggs.  Ben makes sure all the eggs are destroyed.  Bill also rescues his wife Audra,who is still alive but catatonic, and he and his friends make their way out of the sewers.  Once the Losers emerge from the sewers, they realize that Derry has nearly been destroyed by a rainstorm, which stops almost the moment Pennywise is defeated.

A few days later, the remaining members of the Losers Club leave town and return to their lives, and they are already beginning to forget each other’s names and other vital information, including the battle with Pennywise.  Beverly has fallen in love with Ben, and the two plan to head back to Nebraska, after filing a missing person’s report on Beverly’s husband Tom, who was actually killed by It.  Only Bill and the catatonic Audra remain, along with Mike, who is still in the hospital.  Bill has nearly given up hope on reviving Audra, until he gets an idea.  He takes Audra for a ride on his old bike Silver, with hopes that the magic remains in the bike.  The magic does remain, and Audra is revived, with no memory of what happened after she arrived in Derry.  Bill and Audra then return to their life.  Bill, along with everyone else, has forgotten the experience in Derry, but continues to lead a happy and productive life.


My Thoughts

Well, I will say this much:  It is a monster of a book.  And I am not just talking about the length…

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Yes, It is one scary book, with what has to be one of the most iconic horror villains in history.  Who in the free world  doesn’t recognize Pennywise the clown?

But there is so much more to this book than a clown living in the sewers…

I recognize so much of myself in this book, as a matter of fact.  I was a Loser growing up, and I still consider myself to be a Loser.  And I am proud of that, as a matter of fact.

Loser

But I know the pain what those kids went through all too well.  In one part of the book, it is said that the kids turned into ghosts one afternoon, and no one, including their parents, seemed to know that they existed.  Well, that was not a bad description of my child, at certain points.  Often, I wondered if people even knew, or cared, if I was alive.

childhood is hell

Which brings me to my next point: Yes, that clown was scary as fuck (more on that later).  But I was more afraid of the real-life horrors that the Losers had to face.

For example, the bullying.  I was a victim of bullying as a child, and it was frightening.  Getting beat up is scary.  But perhaps what is even more frightening is having to live with the anticipation that the act of terrorism could happen at any moment, and you were powerless to do anything about it.  Or the most frightening of all:  the fact that you were alone, and no one, not the other kids and not even the other adults, would go to bat for you, and you were on your own when it came to fighting the monsters.

Henry Bowers

And then there was the abuse.  Many of Stephen King’s books deal with abuse in some form or another, and It is no different.  Child and spousal abuse are huge themes in It, and make up the tapestry of real-life horrors that many people have to deal with on a daily basis.  And I have been there.  I am a survivor of domestic violence.  Trust me, no horror story can hold a candle to living with an abuser.  My “Tom” was much like Beverly’s Tom (and father):  I didn’t know when the horror would be unleashed, and I felt like a prisoner in my own home.  And the scene when Beverly left Tom for good mirrored so much of a fight from my own first marriage, in a hotel room.  Like Beverly, I was frightened for my life, and actually thought that I would die.  And I completely understand the shame that Beverly felt, and the lies that came afterwards.  Beverly could not even admit to her closest friends (at least at first) the truth about her marriage.  It was only after things came to a full circle, so to speak, that Beverly actually admitted how abusive her husband was.  Living in an abusive marriage is much more frightening than most horror movies.  The movies have a beginning and an end, and someone usually defeats the monster.  But it is not so neat when any form of abuse is involved, and many survivors, including myself (and probably Beverly) would rather have faced a clown in the sewers with a slingshot and pair of silver bullets, than to actually face our abusers.

Beverly 2

And speaking of Beverly, I think I need to clear the air about something.

Beverly 1

Yes, I am talking about “that scene.”

I probably don’t need to explain myself, but I am talking about what is so eloquently referred to as (not my words) “the gang bang in the sewer.”  In other words, I refer to the scene near the end of the book, when Beverly has sex with all six of the boys, in order to escape the sewers and return to the light of day.

I would be lying if I said that this scene was not a little disturbing, because it is disturbing.  After all, we are talking about 11 year old children.  When I was 11 years old, I was still playing with stuffed animals and wouldn’t touch boys because they had “cooties.”  I was still very much a child, in other words.

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But, I was also about a year away from needing my first bra.  My skin had already begun to break out.  I was at least 5’4″, only a few inches from my adult height of 5’9″ and change.

In other words, I was crossing the bridge into adulthood.  And the Losers were crossing that bridge as well.  They had to behave as adults that entire summer, in dealing with a monster that their town simply refused to acknowledge.  Really, we could argue that the monster was their town.  And all seven of them recognized that fact on a fundamental level.  The Losers longed for the grown-ups to come in and take charge, but really, a grown-up “taking charge” would have just hindered their quest, since they were more adult than 99% of the adults around them.

And what do adults do, aside from being able to choose Oreo cookies as a valid breakfast option?  Well, Oreo cookies are great and all, but being an adult involves a few more choices than breakfast.  And one of those choices is who to love, and how to express that love.

Beverly

In other words, adults have sex.  In fact, having sex is probably a consolation prize for being forced to be responsible, aka working and paying bills (kidding, kidding).  But sex is one of the choices of adulthood.  And sex is often viewed as one of the major transitions from childhood to adulthood.

And this is exactly what happened during the “sewer gang bang.”  The Losers Club crossed the bridge from childhood to adulthood during that afternoon.  They had been walking the bridge that summer, but fully crossed over that day when they finally did “It.”  For Beverly in particular, it was an especially meaningful experience.  She had been receiving the message all summer from her own abusive father that sex was “dirty” and that she needed to remain “intact.”  With this act, she was finally empowered and saw the “sex act” for what it really was:  the ultimate act of love with some special people.  And it was not a repulsive or ugly.  It was just beautiful.

Ben and Beverly

Before we talk about the clown (trust me, we are getting there), I want to pay homage to another character in this book that is often overlooked.

I am talking about the town of Derry Itself (see what I did there). In all seriousness, though, no one can write the small town like The Master.

small towns 1

Again, if I start to get nostalgic about small town life, all I have to do is crack open a Stephen King book.  And bam, there goes the nostalgia!

I feel like my own unnamed Indiana hometown could have been Derry’s Twinner.  Sure, we didn’t have a clown living under the sewers (I can’t entirely vouch for that, though) but the rest of the similarities were just frightening.  Such as people’s attitudes towards bullying.  Man’s inhumanity toward’s his fellow man was accepted in Derry, and it was accepted in my town.  And you had to belong.  In other words, if you were like me and spent a minute of your life outside the town, you were an outsider and subject to punishment for that act.  And there is a culture in small towns, whether it be through its local celebrities, certain stores and restaurants that cannot be found anywhere else or maybe even a “funny fellow” that always seems to show at the local celebrations mass slayings of people  that makes sense to locals, but causes anyone else to shake their heads and wonder why something so trivial can hold so much meaning.

derry connection

Ok, the clown…

Yes, we are finally there, so let’s talk about the most iconic clown…ever.

Pennywise-Ronald meme

Now, to me at least, there is something inherently creepy about clowns.  I am not really sure why this is.  Maybe it’s because they hide under all that face paint.  Or that they don’t wear regular clothes but instead wear garish colors and over-sized shoes.  And they try to make us laugh.  Now, I like to laugh…don’t get me wrong.  But when people, especially ones hiding under grease paint and wearing garish clothes that come complete with over-sized shoes try to force it on me, then the laughter becomes forced.  In fact, the laughter turns into a weapon.  And the laughter is no longer fun, but something to be feared.

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So, the clown is inherently scary.  But at the same time, the clown is also associated with childhood and fun times, like the circus.  So, a perfect lure, in other words.

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And it worked.  It fed off the fear of children.  And in order to do that, It had to lure them in somehow.  And fool those children, at least momentarily.  And what better way to do that, than to bring up happy associations, such as the circus?  And children are imaginative, and can be emotional hurricanes of sorts.  So the monster had it right:  conjure up the happy emotions, and then (literally) scare them to death, almost in the same breath.  And children, unlike adults, have fears that are easy to capitalize on.  Mummies, werewolves, witches and the rest of the usual suspects are all ripe for the picking.  And, as stated in this book, a haunt is a place where animals come to feed.  And what better place to feed for such a creature than a city full of the rich imaginations of children, providing the food needed to nourish such evil?  That is, until It’s own source of food was used against It, and It became the hunted, instead of the hunter.  And the lion was vanquished by the antelopes, proving that sometimes, even the underdogs can fight the good fight, and come out the winners.

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So that’s It!  Or maybe I mean that I am done with my review of one of The Master’s most iconic books, and a book that stays with me to this day, no matter how many times I read it!  So join me next month for February’s read and review, where we take a short detour to Derry yet again, but we are staying away from the sewers this time, since love is in the air!  That’s right, I will be reviewing and dissecting Bag of Bones, another favorite of mine!

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

batman and robin


Connections

Like most of King’s other work, It is part of the Stephen King universe, and it connected to many of his other books.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-It takes place in Derry.  Derry is a hotbed of activity in the King universe, and several other King stories take place in Derry.  These include Bag of Bones, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher and Secret Window, Secret Garden.  Derry is also mentioned in countless other stories, including Revival and The Tommyknockers.

atropos

-Pennywise refers itself to Legion.  Legion is also mentioned in other King works, including The Storm of the Century and The Stand.

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-Ben Hanscom is said to live in Hemingford Home, Nebraska.  Hemingford Home is also the home of Mother Abagail in The Stand.

Mother Abigail

-Pennywise is similar to Dandelo, a creature encountered by Roland and Susannah in the final book of the Dark Tower series.  Both creatures feed off of human emotions, although fear and laughter appear to be the central ones.  Additionally, Dandelo owns a robot that he refers to as Stuttering Bill.  It is possible that the Losers did not completely destroy It, and that Dandelo may be one of Pennywise’s offspring.

Dandelo 1

-Dick Halloran is mentioned as a friend of Wil Hanlon.  Dick Halloran is a major character in The Shining, and also makes an appearance in Dr. Sleep.  In essence, by rescuing Wil from the fire at the Blackspot, Dick Halloran helped give birth to the Losers Club.

the-overlook-hotel

-Mike Hanlon makes an appearance in the book Insomnia.

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-In the book Dreamcatcher, Jonesy sees a statue that the Losers Club has dedicated to the missing and murdered children in Derry.  However, the statue is defaced with graffiti that says “Pennywise lives”, provoking further speculation that the Losers did not completely destroy Pennywise.

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-The house on Neibolt Street is similar to the house that Jake uses in The Wastelands to enter Mid-World, and even contains the same kind of wallpaper.

blaine

-The Losers frequently refer to The Turtle.  In the book The Wastelands, Maturin the Turtle is said to be one of the Guardians of the Beam.

turtle graffiti

-Beverly references the Castle Rock Strangler.  Of course, this is the killer that Johnny Smith helps to catch in the book The Dead Zone.

Stillson 1

-In the novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping meets two children and teaches them how to dance the “lindy hop.”  These two children happen to be Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier, and Jake meets them shortly after the children have confronted Pennywise in the sewers of Derry.

card-1963