The Mist: Episode 2 Recap and Review

So, last week was the first date.

And it was awkward, but it went well enough that I accepted the offer of a second date.

While this date was still a little awkward, there was something different about it.

I began to feel something.

Perhaps, there may be a spark after all.  And I want more.

In other words, I watched the second episode of The Mist this weekend, titled Withdrawals.

And no, the show is not perfect.

But again, it intrigues me.

I don’t feel like I am wasting my time watching it.  And I want more.

I am, dare I say it, developing feelings.  I am starting to care.

*gulp*

I see  a certain charm in this show.

It may suffer from some horror movie cliches (I am able to pick out the next death a little too soon.  And a white guy tripping and falling?  Cliche much?)

But at the same time, there is something unexpected to the show.  A victim of date rape, trapped in the mall with her accused rapist.

An addict who thinks she is suffering hallucinations brought on by withdrawals.

In other words, not elements you typically associate with horror movies.

So, let us get down to business, and review and dissect the second episode of The Mist!

And, as always:

Continue reading

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The Great Race: My Review of The Running Man

Lately, the world has been a bit topsy-turvy.

Maybe I am looking at it through a looking glass

Or did Barry Allen make an ill-advised trip, and travel back in time, so now that we have a paradox on our hands, so to speak?

(Not to be confused with our beloved Earth 2, where science accelerates at a rapid rate, and villains are the mayors of cities and heroes are well…kinda douchebags, actually.)

Maybe I traveled into an alternate reality, where Superman is the adopted son of undocumented migrant workers, and has a really, really close relationship with Zod, and Batman is literally backwards, and kind of sucks…

Well, actually no.

Not that I am knocking on any of the above, and wouldn’t be open to a little possible experimentation…

Although I could argue that Barry Allen and his ill-advised time travel has had some kind of effect on my reality…

After all, the Cubs are World Series champions!

And we may not have Leonard Snart as mayor, but hey, we have a Cheeto for president! So maybe that time travel did do something!

Now, if only it had won me the lottery…

Or at least given me cool super powers!

Okay, back on topic…

I have actually traveled to alternate reality, even though that trip to Earth 2 is still on my bucket list.

In other words, I have read a book written by that Bachman fella…

Well, I am really not sure if those guys are one in the same, even if that whole story about death from cancer of the pseudonym is slightly suspicious…

Hey, you never know.  If young boys and and middle-aged priests can “die” in one world, and be re-born into another (cooler) world, maybe writers can be stricken with cancer of the pseudonym, and end up being re-born on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, where the writer in question takes a grisly sort of janitorial type of job, collecting macabre souvenirs as a form of payment…

Okay, again back on topic.

So, I read a Stephen King book.

Yeah, water is wet, the sun rises in the east, and Cheetos make terrible leaders of the free world…

So what else is new?

Well, this book is actually new, at least somewhat.

As most of us probably know, early in his career, The King of Horror decided that he would like to write non-horror stories, every now and again.

While King has actually written some fantastic books that can be classified as not horror (The Talisman, 11/22/63, Different Seasons and The Eyes of the Dragon all readily come to mind), early on his career, he was bound by some silly rules about how many books he could publish in a year.

Somebody thought that there was such a thing as too many Stephen King books!  And they thought I was the crazy one!

So King did what any sensible King of Horror would do.  He created a pseudonym.

As far as I know, this pseudonym did not come to life and murder people, forcing a flock of birds to be called, so they could carry him off, kicking and screaming.

(However, if he is employed by the friendly folks known as SAMCRO, all bets are off, as you gotta do what you gotta do to survive over there in the charming town of Charming, California.)

King named this pseudonym Richard Bachman.  And for a while, that Bachman fella did pretty well for himself.

He wasn’t a horror writer, per se.  No, Bachman explored the darkness of human nature.  Man’s inhumanity to man, in other words.

He wrote of violence at school, corporate greed and of a dystopian government, that might actually not be fiction at this point.

And Bachman also wrote of our obsession with television, and our need to be constantly entertained, even at the expense of the feelings (and maybe even lives) of our fellow man.

In other words, I am currently reading The Running Man.

Dicky Bachman has come out to play.

So let’s indulge him, as we read and dissect The Running Man.

And, as always:

Continue reading

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.

Margaret White

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.

adam west

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.

dead zone 9

-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.

doctor-sleep-1

-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.

CK 2

-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.

Caveat Emptor: My Review of Needful Things

Once upon a time, two stories got together.

These stories were named Wall Street and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

gordon gekko

They fell in love, and got married.

something-wicked-this-way-comes-1

One day, there was so much love that a new story came into existence.

And that new story was kind of like its parents.

It dealt with many of the same themes and messages.

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But make no mistake, that new story was also distinct from its mom and dad stories.

It had its own voice, along with a large cast of characters and a pretty awesome villain, to boot.

So, what was this story named?

Surely, it had to have an awesome name to live up to all this hype, right?

Well, since you asked, the name of this story is…

Needful Things.

Yes, *that* Needful Things, written by none other than The Master himself!

Simpsons SK

You are visiting the right blog, in case you were wondering.

Where this month (much like the book in question), we end 2016 with a bang!

Or maybe a stink bomb…now that would be more appropriate, wouldn’t it?

So, strap in, and get ready for one Hell (this is a Stephen King book, after all) of a ride, as we review and dissect one of my all-time favorite Stephen King books!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Needful Things begins with an introduction of the town Castle Rock, by an unknown narrator.  The narrator seems familiar with the town and its inhabitants, describing, in particular, the various feuds and rivalries between the inhabitants, and some things that the inhabitants would wish to keep secret.  The narrator also advises the reader that new store, named Needful Things, has opened in Castle Rock, and that the new store will bring some kind of change to the town.

There is much talk and gossip about the new store in town.  However, the store’s first customer is an eleven year old boy by the name of Brian Rusk.

Brian wanders into Needful Things one fall afternoon.  There he meets the owner, a man by the name of Leland Gaunt.

Almost immediately, Brian takes a liking to Mr. Gaunt, and is in awe of the new store.  When Mr. Gaunt asks Brian what he desires, Brian replies that he would like a 1956 Sandy Koufax baseball card to complete his collection.

Somehow, Gaunt is able to produce that exact baseball card, much to Brian’s amazement.  The card is signed by Koufax, and even has the name “Brian” written on it.

Even though Brian has very little money, Gaunt sells him the card.  Gaunt also makes Brian promise to do something for him.  The deed is never specified, but Brian walks out of the store and is very happy.

When the store finally opens for business, it receives another visitor:  Polly Chalmers.

Polly is a long time resident of Castle Rock, although she spent several years living elsewhere.  Not much is known about Polly, other than the fact that she became pregnant, left town and possibly attended business school.  Polly keeps to herself and does not reveal much about her past.  Polly also suffers from a painful case of arthritis, and is desperate for a cure.

Polly also immediately takes a liking to Gaunt.  She pays him a visit and brings him a cake, and they chat about the town.  Polly reassures Gaunt about his new store, telling him that he will likely have many more customers.

That claim proves to be true, as Gaunt receives several more visits from the townspeople that day.  Some even purchase items from him, negotiating the prices with Gaunt.

The book then introduces us to a man named Alan Pangborn.  Alan is the sheriff of Castle Rock.  Alan has recently lost his wife and younger son due to a car accident and is mourning their deaths.  Alan is also in a relationship with Polly Chalmers.

Later that evening, a man named Hugh Priest is walking down the street, and notices a fox tail for sale in the window of the new store.  Hugh also notices that Needful Things appears to be open for business, even though the hour is very late.  Hugh is alcoholic whose life is beginning to fall apart due to his drinking.  When he sees the fox tail, he is reminded of his high school days and happier times.

Hugh walks into the store and meets Gaunt. He purchases the fox tail from Gaunt, and makes a promise to play a prank on a woman named Nettie Cobb, who is Polly’s housekeeper.

The new store does more business the next day.  Myra Evans, the best friend of Cora Rusk (Brian’s mother) purchases a picture of Elvis from Gaunt, and makes a promise to play a prank on another person in town.

Nettie Cobb, Polly Chalmers’ housekeeper, also becomes a customer of the new store.  Nettie is a troubled woman, as she has spent time in a mental institution, after killing her abusive husband in self defense.  She was released as part of a work rehabilitation program, and came to work for Polly Chalmers.   Nettie purchases a piece of carnival glass, and agrees to play a prank on Danforth “Buster” Keeton, a town selectman.

Meanwhile, Alan has a busy day as sheriff.  He has his deputy, Norris Ridgewick, write Keeton a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot.  Keeton becomes irrationally angry at this, and attacks Ridgewick after he receives the ticket.  Alan is able to break the fight up, but wonders why Keeton is so angry over a five dollar ticket, and speculates that Keeton may be deeply troubled.

Alan also meets with the Reverend William Rose, the pastor of the local Baptist church.  Reverend Rose is upset because the Catholic church in town will be sponsoring a bingo night in the name of charity, and the Baptist church believes that gambling in any form is a sin.  The reverend tries to convince Alan that this is illegal, but Alan has done his research, and tells the reverend that the Catholics will be able to sponsor their gambling night.  This upsets Reverend Rose, but he finally leaves the police station.

That afternoon,, Alan meets Polly for coffee, and they talk about the new store.  Polly is actually pleased that Nettie visited the new store, as Nettie is timid and tends to shy away from new experiences.  Polly also mentions that Gaunt returned the cake container, along with a note inviting her to visit the store that Sunday, as he has an item for sale that may be of interest to Polly.

Brian realizes that it is time to play the prank that he promised Gaunt that he would play.  Brian convinces himself to play the prank, as he fears his new baseball card may be taken away from him if he does not fulfill his promise to Gaunt.  Brian has not told anyone of the purchase of the card, as he fears that the fact that he now owns an expensive card may rouse suspicion.

Brian heads to the house of a woman named Wilma, who is a neighbor of Nettie Cobb’s.  The two women have been feuding for some time, and simply do not get along.  Brian smears mud on Wilma’s wash that is drying on the clothesline.  He feels some satisfaction after playing the prank, and heads back home to enjoy his new baseball card.

When Wilma returns that evening, she discovers her ruined sheets and becomes angry.  Wilma also assumes that Nettie is responsible, and places a threatening phone call to Nettie.  This upsets Nettie, who has no idea why Wilma is angry, but vows to not let Wilma bully her any more.

Deputy Norris Ridgewick passes by the store and his attention is captured by a fishing rod.  Ridgewick agrees to buy the fishing rod from Gaunt, and agrees to play a prank on another citizen of the town.

Gaunt makes several more deals with various citizens of Castle Rock, where his customers buy items from them that they deeply desire, and agree to play (seemingly) harmless pranks on other citizens of the town.

Danforth “Buster” Keeton also pays a visit to Needful Things and Leland Gaunt.  Keeton has become increasingly unstable and paranoid over the past several years, as he has become addicted to gambling and has been stealing from the town’s treasury to finance his gambling habit.  Keeton is now under the threat of an audit, which means that his embezzling will be discovered.

Keeton purchases a horse racing game from Gaunt, which he believes will help him predict the winner of the actual horse races.  Keeton also promises to play a prank for Gaunt, as payment for the horse racing game.

The next morning, Alan drops by Needful Things, hoping to meet with the owner.  Gaunt is in the store, but Alan does not see him.  Gaunt does not trust Alan, and does not want to meet him.

Polly sits on her porch, anticipating that she is going to experience a very bad bout of pain from her arthritis.  Polly also recalls her past, which she has not been honest with Alan.  When Polly was 17, she became pregnant out of wedlock with her son, Kelton.  She refused to marry the father or accept any help from her parents, who were ashamed of her.  Polly ran away to the West coast and ended up in California.  One night, while she was working, she left Kelton with a babysitter.  There was a fire at her apartment that killed both her son and his babysitter.  Eventually, Polly returned to Castle Rock, as she realized it was her true home.  However, she never told Alan the truth about her son, telling him instead that Kelton died of SIDS at three months old.  Polly knows that she must reveal the truth to Alan, sooner or later, but is not sure how to do that.

That night, Polly’s prediction about her arthritis proves to be correct and she is in terrible pain, and has trouble sleeping.  The next day, Nettie pays Polly a visit and becomes very worried about Polly’s health.  Polly is grateful for the concern, but tells Nettie not to worry and that she will be okay.

After Nettie leaves her house, Hugh Priests breaks into her home, in order to play the prank that Gaunt has ordered him to play.  Hugh kills Nettie’s dog Raider with a corkscrew, and leaves a threatening note on Raider’s collar.

Nettie leaves Polly’s house, and is ordered by Gaunt to play a prank on Buster Keeton.  She complies, breaking into Keeton’s house and leaving several parking tickets with obscene messages, signing one of the tickets as Norris Ridgewick.

Brian Rusk also realizes that he must finish paying for his baseball ticket.  Again, he heads to Wilma Jerzyck’s house, and throws several rocks with the windows, with threatening notes.

Nettie returns to her home.  She finds Raider’s corpse and is heartbroken and angry that someone has killed him.  She also notices the note, and believes that Wilma has killed her dog in retaliation for something.  Nettie finds a large, sharp kitchen knife, and heads to Wilma’s home.

In the meantime, Wilma returns to her home and finds the broken windows and the note.  She is furious, and assumes that Nettie is responsible.  Wilma also finds a large, sharp night, and leaves her house, looking for Nettie.

Wilma and Nettie meet on the sidewalk, and immediately exchange words.  This escalates to blows and the two women begin to stab each other.  Both women are able to inflict fatal blows on each other, and both die in the ensuing fight.

Polly begins to feel a little better and decides to take Gaunt up on his offer, meeting him at his shop.  Gaunt seems to understand how much pain that Polly is in, and offers her an Egyptian charm he calls an “azkah.”  Polly is skeptical, but Gaunt convinces her to try the charm, telling her that she has nothing to lose by trying.  Polly begins to feel better even before she leaves the store, but realizes that Gaunt had put her in a trance.

Keeton returns home from a rare, pleasant outing with his wife, Myrtle, and finds the fake tickets.  He is humiliated and attempts to remove all of the tickets, but his paranoia and instability become apparent.  Myrtle is worried about her husband, but is unable to reach him.

Alan and Norris complete the investigation on Nettie’s death.  Something does not sit right with Alan, but he does not know what.  He sends Norris home for the night, telling him to enjoy his fishing trip that Norris has planned for the next day.

Norris returns to the police station and changes back into his civilian clothes.  He finds a package on his desk, but does not know who the package is from.  When he opens it, his hand is snapped by a rat trap, and Norris nearly loses his fingers.  Norris is outraged and humiliated, and is also convinced that Keeton is responsible for the trick.

A prank is played on the Reverend William Rose, in the form of a nasty note left in the parsonage.  The note is signed by the concerned Catholic men of Castle Rock, but is left there by a young man named Ricky, who has played the prank in exchange for an item from Needful Things.

Gaunt watches over the town in the apartment above his shop, which is void of any furnishings.  He is planning something unpleasant for the town of Castle Rock, and various citizens stir in their sleep, plagued by disturbing dreams.

Pranks continue to be played on the unsuspecting citizens of Castle Rock, including the Baptist church, which receives a threatening note believed to be from the Catholic church.

More trouble rolls into Castle Rock: Ace Merrill, a former resident of Castle Rock, decides to return to town.  Ace was arrested by Alan several years ago in a drug bust.  Ace has been released from prison and is still a cocaine addict.  Ace also owes money to some unsavory people due to his drug habit, and has been given a deadline of November 1st to pay back the money, or he will be killed.

Ace happens to notice a “for hire” sign on the window of Needful Things.  He also notices what he thinks to be a book about hidden treasure in New England that is written by his late uncle, Reginald Merrill.  Ace has been convinced that his uncle had held out an inheritance that should have been due to Ace, and his greed is sparked.

Ace enters the store and speaks to Gaunt.  Gaunt convinces Ace to work for him so that Ace can pay back the money he owes to his creditors.  Gaunt also sells Ace the book on buried treasure, telling him that maybe the book will lead him to his fortune.

Alan soon finds out that Ace is back in town and confronts him.  Ace tells Alan that he has no intention of staying in town and that he will leave soon.

Brian Rusk begins to feel extremely guilty over his role in the deaths of Wilma and Nettie.  However, he receives a call from Gaunt advising him that he was not seen by anyone, and that he will be able to lie if necessary.  Brian does not feel any better, and begins to have thoughts of suicide.

Sally Ratliffe, the speech teacher at the local junior high school, becomes the latest victim of a prank.  Sally is engaged to Lester Pratt, the physical education teacher.  Both are devout Baptists and seem devoted to each other.  However, Sally finds what appears to be a love note from Lester’s ex-girlfriend in his vehicle.  Sally is extremely upset when she finds this, but calms down a bit when she returns home and begins to meditate.

Ace completes his first job for Gaunt.  He travels to Massachusetts and picks up a vehicle, per the instructions of Gaunt, along with a large amount of guns and ammunition.  Ace notices that the there is something strange about the car, as it appears to drive itself, but he return the car and the rest of his cargo to Gaunt, and then proceeds to hunt  for treasure.

Polly buries Nettie, and has Alan drop her off at Gaunt’s shop, so that she can pay for the azka charm.  Alan is skeptical about the charm, even though Polly is feeling better than she has in years.  The two argue, but Alan convinces Polly to pay for the charm with a check, so that she can cancel the payment if necessary.

When Polly enters the shop, Gaunt senses that she is troubled, and tells her that he will accept a check.  He also tells Polly that she must play a prank on someone, and that someone is Ace Merrill.  Polly agrees to the prank, and leaves the store with her azka charm.

Alan deduces that Brian Rusk may have either been involved somehow in the deaths of Nettie and Wilma.  Alan believes that Brian either played the prank, or perhaps witnessed it.  He tries to speak to Brian, but Brian seems distressed and will not open up to Alan.  Alan is then interrupted and called back to the station.

In the meantime, pranks continue to be played on various citizens of Castle Rock, with varying consequences.  In one instance, it is revealed that the principal at the middle school is involved in pedophilia.  In another instance, Lester Pratt, the fiancee of Sally, finds the wallet of Sally’s ex boyfriend in his vehicle, along with a picture of Sally and her ex, leaving Lester to believe that Sally is cheating on him.

Polly returns home and finds a letter waiting for her.  The letter appears to reveal that Alan has made some inquiries about her past and the death of her son, Kelton.  Polly is furious and calls Alan when he is at work and ends their relationship.

Alan is bewildered by the phone call from Polly, but has to put his feelings aside, as fingerprints were discovered at Nettie’s house.  The fingerprints do not belong to Nettie, but actually belong to Hugh Priest.  Alan suspects that Hugh killed Nettie’s dog, and sets out to arrest him.

Chaos erupts in the town, as people begin to seek revenge against those who they believe to be responsible for the tricks that were played on them.  One of Alan’s deputies, John LaPointe, is attacked by Lester Pratt at the police station, as Lester believes John was dating Sally behind his back.  Sheila, the dispatcher, attacks Lester and kills him, defending John.  The phones at the police station begin ringing off the hook, and Alan is bewildered.

Brian Rusk is unable to shake his distress.  Brian ends his life in his father’s garage, shooting himself with his father’s rifle.  Before his death, Brian makes his horrified younger brother Sean promise to never set foot in the store Needful Things.

Polly then makes good on her promise to play a prank on Ace Merrill.  She buries some torn pictures and stamps in a coffee can on some abandoned property, along with a letter addressed to Ace.  Polly questions her actions and her argument with Alan, but still plays the prank anyway.

Shortly after Polly buries the coffee can, Ace uses his book and maps and tracks down the location where the can is buried.  Ace eagerly digs and finds the coffee can, thinking that he has found buried treasure from his uncle.  However, his hopes are dashed when he finds the letter.  The letter appears to be written by Alan Pangborn and taunts Ace, telling him that his uncle left his treasure to Alan and not Ace.  Ace becomes furious, and vows to find Alan.

Chaos continues to erupt in the town.  Danforth Keeton finally becomes completely unhinged and kills his wife, Myrtle, beating her to death with a hammer.  Hugh Priest is also killed by the bartender who believes Hugh played a prank on him.  Alan Pangborn is bewildered, and attempts to question Sean Rusk, Brian’s younger brother, as he is unable to obtain any information from Cora Rusk, Brian’s mother, who appears to be in a daze.

While the chaos erupts in Castle Rock, Gaunt continues to make sales.  This time, he is selling guns, and the guns appear to have poison bullets.  It is also revealed that Gaunt is extremely old, and has been in this business for many centuries, causing chaos wherever he appears.

Alan is finally able to question Sean Rusk, and is disturbed by what he finds out.  Sean tells him that Brian made him promise not to ever enter the store known as Needful Things before his death.  Sean tells Alan about the baseball card that Gaunt sold to Brian, along with the sunglasses sold to his mother, Cora, and that Cora believes that those sunglasses allow her to visit with Elvis Presley.  Alan realizes that Brian was responsible for the pranks played on Wilma, and that Gaunt is the one actually responsible for the chaos in town.  Alan issues out a warrant for Gaunt’s arrest, and realizes that he must find Gaunt.

Gaunt recruits both Keeton and Ace to help him in his final act of mischief in Castle Rock:  he plans on using dynamite to destroy the town.

A stink bomb is set off in the Baptist Church.  The Baptists blame the Catholics, and the two groups meet with vengeance in mind.  The Catholics and the Baptists begin to fight, and people are badly hurt and even killed in the brawl, as both groups are intent on destroying the other.

Alan is on the hunt for Gaunt.  He vows vengeance on Gaunt, for his actions in Castle Rock.

Norris Ridgewick plans on committing suicide.  He believes that he is at least partially responsible for the chaos in town, as he purchased an item from Gaunt and played a prank.  However, something makes Norris realize that committing suicide is not the answer.  Norris then sees the fishing rod he purchased for what it is:  a piece of old bamboo.  Norris escapes from his noose and destroys the fishing rod, and vows that he will seek revenge on Gaunt.

Polly also has a revelation:  the letter she found earlier that day was addressed to Patricia Chalmers.  However, Polly had always been known as Polly during her time in San Francisco.  Therefore, Polly realizes that the letter was a fake, and that Alan has not made any inquiries into her past.

Polly rips the azka charm away from her chest.  When she does, a spider escapes from the charm.  Polly realizes that this is the manifestation of her arthritis pain, which never really went away, but was transferred elsewhere.  Polly chases the creature into her bathroom, and begins to attack it.

Alan finally arrives at Needful Things and notices that the store that the store appears to be abandoned.  However, Alan finds a note from Gaunt, along with a video tape claiming to capture the last moments of his deceased wife and son.  Alan pops the video into the VCR, and prepares to watch.

Polly continues to battle the spider, attacking it with her mouth and then a toilet plunger.  Finally, she defeats the creature, and realizes that she must find Alan.

Keeton and Ace begin the destruction of the town, using the dynamite.  They are seen by Norris, who orders them to halt.

Unable to stop himself, Alan watches the video tape.  The tape appears to show his wife car being hit by none other than Ace Merrill, whom Alan had previously arrested for selling drugs.  Alan becomes angry, and wants to seek revenge on Ace, who he now believes to be responsible for his wife and son’s death.

Norris attempts to arrest Ace and Keeton.  However, he is shot, and Ace escapes, looking for Alan.

While Norris is attempting to restore order, several buildings in Castle Rock begin to explode.

Polly finds Alan, and begs him to stop his search for Ace.  She is able to get through to Alan, who realizes that something is wrong with the video tape that he watched.

Ace interrupts the conversation, by pointing a gun at Polly.  Alan then has his own revelation: in the video tape, his wife’s seat belt is shown to be buckled.  However, Alan recalls that this was not the case and realizes that he has been tricked.

Alan also sees Gaunt leaving the store, with a valise that appears to contain the souls of his unhappy customers.  Alan has brought a container that has paper snakes with him.  This was something that his son, who enjoyed practical jokes, had purchased before his death.

Alan unleashed the joke on Gaunt.  The snake springs from the can, and is actually a real snake, not a paper one.  Gaunt is fooled, and grabs for the snake.  The snake bites Gaunt, and he screams in pain.   Alan takes advantage of this, and grabs Gaunt’s valise.

Polly breaks free of Ace’s grip and attacks him.  Norris sees his opportunity and shoots Ace, killing him instantly.

Alan continues to use his magic tricks to fool Gaunt, and demands that he leave town.  Alan brings out some trick flowers, which turn into a blazing bouquet of light.  Again, Alan casts out Gaunt.  The valise bursts open, and the trapped souls escape, free to make their journey to their final destiny.

After the valise is opened, Gaunt escapes the town, in his Talisman Tucker.  However, the Talisman transforms into a horse with burning red eyes, and Gaunt transforms into a dwarf.  Gaunt and his supernatural vehicle then vanish, and Castle Rock returns to normal.

Polly, Alan and Norris leave town, to seek medical attention for Norris.  They are heartbroken over the destruction of the town, but relieved that Alan has defeated Gaunt.  Alan tries to let go of his grief for his wife and son, so that he continue to live his life.

An unnamed narrator advises the reader that a new store has opened in the town of Junction City, Iowa.  The store is named Unanswered Prayers and is presumably owned by Leland Gaunt.


My Thoughts

Well, this was unexpected.

When I planned to read and review Needful Things, I purposely picked the month of December to do this.

I mean, Black Friday Christmas shopping, people losing their minds over big screen TV’s and Barbie dolls…

It fit, in other words.

Well, then this happened.

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)

Just when you thought only Stephen King could scare you, huh?

Whoa, I take that back.  Sorry Molly, didn’t mean to ruffle your evil fur!

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At first was I was like:

Hurr

Then I was all:

ermahgerd-1

But now I go back and forth…

Either at this end:

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

Or at this end:

Spike

And what, you are probably asking, does the dried up, racist Cheeto that is the bane of existence to *kitty cats* everywhere have to do with this month’s read and review?

Well, I see a lot of parallels.  So, let’s get to talking about the book and discuss those.

Again and again, as I have been re-reading the King classics, I have been reminded of something:  The Master has the ability to create characters who are so realistic that they practically jump off the page and make you want to ask them out for coffee.

There is Polly Chalmers.  She fled the small town life and wanted to forge her own path.  People can’t even decide if she is from Castle Rock (even though she was born there and spent most of her childhood there) or if she is from “Outside,” as they put it, because she spent so many years away.  Being from a small town in Indiana, this struck a chord with me.  I may consider myself to be “from” Bloomington, Indiana, but I am sure there are some that would debate me on that, because I left to forge my own path.  Small towns, aren’t they so (not) funny?

There is Alan Pangborn.  Let me confess, if I ran into Alan Pangborn, I would have much more than “coffee” on my mind…*let awkward throat clearing commence.*  Alan is the consummate good guy, even though he does have his vulnerabilities.  And he loves magic tricks (magicians are always hot, duh.)  Those magic tricks do everything from put frightened kids at ease to save the day!  How much hotter can you get?

 

Alan Pangborn 1

Let’s also not forget the character of Brian Rusk.

Now, as I’ve stated many times before, King likes to write about topics that many would consider to be taboo.

*That* scene in the sewers in It, anyone?

Well, that is one example, but King covers subjects like addiction, child abuse, domestic abuse and quite a few others.

Things that so-called nice people don’t talk about, at least in public.

However, I think the most “taboo” that King has ever gone is his portrayal of the character Brian Rusk.

In the beginning, Brian is innocent.

He’s a good kid.  He loves his family.  He collects baseball cards.  He has a crush on his speech teacher.

needful things 1

However, he loses his innocence, by becoming Gaunt’s first customer.

Gaunt takes that innocent love of baseball cards, and uses it to further his plans for the destruction of Castle Rock.

He forces Brian to play pranks on other citizens of the town, in the name of “paying” for that beloved baseball card.

So Brian is rather rudely pushed into adulthood, when he is forced to take responsibility for what he feels to his role in the deaths of Wilma and Nettie.

However, not all of the child has left Brian.

And because of that, he is unable to cope with his supposed role in a horrific tragedy, and sees no way to live with it.

So, he does the unthinkable, and ends his life at eleven years old.

I have read this book several times, but I am never prepared the part where Brian commits suicide.

I tend to see Needful Things as one of King’s more humorous works (Brian’s mother’s obsession with Elvis and her interaction with Gaunt may have something to do with that, along with the fact that I find the phrase “I’ll be butched” hilarious), although the humor in it is dark.

But at the same time, I find this book to be tragic too, because of the fact that someone who is still a child is forced into adulthood long before before he should be, and this child does not see any way to cope with this tragedy other than taking his own life.

In fact, this may be one of the most tragic incidents in any book I have ever read, let alone a King book.

Stephen King

And we have our bad guy, Leland Gaunt.

We also have another character:  the town of Castle Rock itself.

And the inter-play between these two characters is just fascinating.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that Gaunt is a cool bad guy.

Gaunt 1

In fact, this guy came to mind:

phantasm-2-8

Somehow, the idea of The Tall Man driving a Talisman Tucker (why does even typing that out make me shiver, and shiver in a Lovecraftian way?) is not that far off, actually.

He doesn’t quite stack up to the likes of Pennywise, or Flagg, or even some of King’s “human” villains, like Margaret White, Charles Burnside, etc.

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But he does have his place in the King universe, so I pay him respect.

However, what was striking to me when I re-read Needful Things, was the fact that most of the horror was of the non-supernatural variety.

Sure, Gaunt planted the seeds, but the ground was already fertile anyway.  Most of the people playing the pranks just needed a little “watering” to grow the seeds of hate and resentment, and off they were, once they got a little drink of that water.

It is a known fact that King excels at writing characters that are realistic and believable.  In fact, this is my favorite thing about King’s work:  he writes believable people and believable situations.

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After all, who hasn’t dealt with addiction, unemployment, the loss of a loved one, terminal illness, parenthood and the many other scenarios that crop up in all of King’s works, even the ones billed as “horror”?

King also writes the small town extremely well.  This is evident in works such as It, Salem’s Lot, Dolores Claiborne, and quite a few other novels.

Small towns are almost human in some ways, and can be complex characters.  This is definitely the case with Needful Things and its small town character of Castle Rock.

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In the beginning of the book, we have that coy narrator (and oh, I so want to know who that is) introducing to the town of Castle Rock and its inhabitants.  It is actually akin to gossiping with someone, maybe a family member or friend, or perhaps a coworker, who just seems to have all the dirt on everyone.

Castle Rock 1

This introduction is brilliant, because it sets up the story so beautifully.

In any organization, whether it be a work place, a family or perhaps a small town, you have all these little interconnections.

There are the people, of course, who are friends and know each other well, perhaps even intimately.

There are the people who are passing acquaintances.  They don’t dislike each other, but they don’t really like each other, either.

Then there are the people who can’t be in the same room with each other.

The people who are the end of the candle to their counterparts’ matches.

In other words, get them together, and you will have a fire, perhaps even an explosion.

In one part of the book, Gaunt even compares his scheme to electrical wiring.  If you do it just right, you can connect a couple of wires and have an explosion.  I found this to be apt, for the events that transpired in this book.

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As stated before, Gaunt is one bad dude.  No question about that.

However, most of the horror from Needful Things is of the human variety.

People playing pranks on one another to make others think that their sworn enemies were responsible is actually something that happens pretty frequently in “real life.”

Right away, anyone who was the victim of a prank was quick to blame his/her sworn enemy.

Alan Pangborn, the most level headed of them all, even fell victim to this.

And the results of this prank were just horrible.

Well, not entirely horrible.  I did get a good chuckle when the Baptists and Catholics were victimized by the stink bomb and created their own Barf-o-Rama.

barforama

But I was still horrified when people began to hurt and even kill each other, and it was basically for nothing.

Nettie and Wilma killing each other was bad.

Well, Wilma dying wasn’t that sad (crazy bitch) but Nettie’s death was one of the saddest in the book.  She had tried so hard to get her life together, but she was knifed to death over some muddy sheets.  Muddy sheets that she was not responsible for.

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A few citizens, like Polly, Norris and Alan, saw the error of their ways.

However, most did not, and the results were horrific.

And the town of Castle Rock literally went up in flames.

What is happening in our country right now is not unlike what happened in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine.

We have a stranger that has suddenly appeared in town.

It is true that Donald Trump is (probably) not a supernatural creature, but I will take Gaunt or even The Tall Man over Trump any day.

Trump has done exactly what Gaunt has done.

He has swooped into our country.

He is selling people dreams.  At least, he would like us to believe that he is selling us dreams.

Donald Trump 1

He has made promises, and those promises sound good.  After all, who doesn’t want the manufacturing jobs to return to this country?  Those jobs gave everyone, no matter his/her background, a shot at the good life, the so-called American Dream.

For reasons beyond most people’s control, significantly fewer people are now able to obtain this dream.

But we have Gaunt, er Trump, swooping into town.  And he has sold something.

But like the sales made by Gaunt, that something will have a price tag attached to it.

Already, we are witnessing the true price of allowing a man like Trump into our country.

Like Castle Rock, America has gone crazy.

Since Trump was elected, the “pranks” have begun.

We may not be flinging mud at each other’s sheets, but like the citizens of Castle Rock, we are attacking each other, nonetheless.

There has been racist graffiti scrawled on walls.

People of the non-Caucasian persuasion have been attacked for being…well…of the non-Caucasian persuasion.

People have decided to let their hate loose, and it has not been pretty.

Castle Rock literally burned to the ground after the boogeyman paid it a visit.

Will the same thing happen to America?

The boogeyman is here, and he is already working his magic, and he has not even moved into his suite at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, although I don’t think that he even needs to, in order to accomplish his goals.

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But, I try to hold on to something positive.

After all, Castle Rock may have gone up in flames.

But it was able to emerge from the ashes, and eventually it rebuilt itself.

Fire can be used to destroy, but it can also be used to create.

Perhaps, like Castle Rock, this country may burn to the ground (hopefully only in the metaphorical sense.)

But maybe it can also emerge from the ashes and be reborn.

Being reborn is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, death and rebirth lead to new beginnings.  And new beginnings are often desperately needed.


Well, that’s it for Needful Things!

And I have to pat myself on the back, actually.

I was able to stick to a New Year’s resolution!

I read at least one King book a month and reviewed it, just like I said I would.

So, it goes without saying that I plan to continue this trend into 2017 and beyond.

I don’t know what my plan is, but I am sure I will figure something out.

There are classics, like Cujo and Christine, that I have not read in many years.

Cujo

There is that Richard Bachman fella…I heard that he is kinda like The Master, actually.

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There is also The Master 2.0, aka Joe Hill, who has some books that are worth exploring as well.

Joe Hill 2

So, what will next year hold?

Well, guess that is up to me!

So, we will talk next year!

Until then, happy holidays to all!

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Like all of King’s works, Needful Things is set squarely in the King universe.  Here are some of the connections that I found:

-Needful Things takes place in the town of Castle Rock, Maine.  Castle Rock is the setting for several King stories, including The Dark Half, Cujo, The Body and The Dead Zone.

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-Ace Merrill is a character in the short story The Body, and references the events in that story.

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-Reginald “Pop” Merrill is referenced.  Pop Merrill is a character in the short story The Sun Dog, which is part of the collection Four Past Midnight.

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-Norris Ridgewick also makes an appearance in the novel Lisey’s Story.

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-Alan Pangborn is a character in the novel The Dark Half, and references the events in that story.

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-The tabloid The Inside View is mentioned.  This publication is mentioned in several other King works, including The Wolves of the Calla, The Dead Zone and The Night Flier.

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-In the novel Bag of Bones, Mike Noonan encounters Norris Ridgewick and inquires after Polly Chalmers and Alan Pangborn.

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-Reference is made to Shawshank State Prison, which is the setting for the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

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-Junction City, Iowa is the setting for the novella The Library Policeman, which is part of the collection Four Past Midnight.

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-Gaunt’s Talisman Tucker appears to be similar to the vehicles driven by the Low Men in the Dark Tower series and the story Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  Gaunt’s vehicle also appears to be similar to the title “vehicle” featured in the novel From a Buick 8.

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

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

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

 

Yes, it’s that season again…

No, not Halloween.  Something far more frightening…

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

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

Like books.

Like books that are horror stories.

Like books that are horror stories written by…

Simpsons SK

I’ll take Stephen King for $19, Alex!

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

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

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

That will calm me right down, I think.

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

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

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

Um, yeah…

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Thoughts

Doctor Sleep.  The book with so much beauty.

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

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

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

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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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Family Horrors: My Review of The Shining

Have you ever…

Lived with a person who the human version of a volcano, and you didn’t know if this person was the dormant kind of volcano, or the other kind?

Loved this person beyond all reason, but spent much of your time in fear of them, eventually fearing for your life?

Been isolated, through no fault of your own, with nowhere to turn?

Felt conflicted, not knowing whether to protect yourself, or devote yet more energy and resources to protect your loved one, from his or herself, in the hopes that this person would not self destruct, so that you guys could attempt to build a life together?

Spent untold hours blaming yourself for the awful situation, even though you were actually the reason for anything good in that situation, although you could not see it, because you were too mired in guilt, defending yourself from the attacks that you were sure that you caused?

Still felt sad, and even guilty, even after you escaped your situation?  Not knowing how you would go on without this person who you loved so much, but somehow finding a way?

So, why are we talking about a domestic abuse situation?

After all, that’s what I just described right?

Someone who was in an abusive relationship, but somehow managed to escape, but still have survivor’s guilt?

Well, you would be correct.  But as always, there is more to meet the eye…

You guessed, I have just described a Stephen King story!

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And it is one of his most famous, maybe even his most famous, with a movie that is perhaps even more notorious?

Redrum…

Yes, in case you haven’t guessed, I am referring to The Shining.

And let’s take a moment to acknowledge the red-headed stepchild of the family, otherwise known as The Shinning.  As we all know, all work and no play makes Homer something, something…

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But yes, that The Shining.  The same one that is such a huge part of our culture now.

The same one that is the subject of some pretty entertaining memes.

Admit, you have muttered “redrum” in *that voice.*

Or been petrified by blood coming out of the walls.

Or freaked out by people in animal costumes.

I could go on and on.  The Shining is a frightening book and movie.

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But The Shining is so much more than just being scary.

The Shining is about family, and just what we will do to protect the ones we love the most.

The Shining is also about addiction and abuse, and how those can destroy a family from the inside out, even without the help of a haunted hotel.

In other words, for most of us, family is central.  And losing family is devastating, no matter the circumstances.  Over and over, King drives this theme home in The Shining.

So, welcome to this month’s read and review, and as always:

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Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to the Torrance family, which consists of Jack, his wife Wendy and their five year old son Danny.  It is revealed that Jack has recently become unemployed from his job as a schoolteacher, and is interviewing for a position as the caretaker at a hotel called The Overlook Hotel, in Sidewinder, Colorado.

It turns out that the interview is just a formality, and Jack is hired for the position, although the hotel’s manager, Stuart Ullman, is reluctant to hire Jack, as Jack has had past problems with alcoholism and controlling his temper.  Jack assures Ullman that the alcoholism is no longer an issues, and that he and his family can handle the isolation that will come with the job, which will require Jack and his family to live at the hotel during the winter and be cut off from all civilization.

During a tour of the hotel, the maintenance man, Watson, shows Jack how to adjust the pressure of the boiler so that the hotel does not catch fire.  Jack also learns that the previous caretaker, Delbert Grady, murdered his family during his stint as a caretaker.  Watson also tells Jack that the hotel has had a few deaths, and one of those occurred during the previous summer.  An older woman, Mrs. Massey, stayed at the hotel with her much younger suitor.  When her suitor abandoned her, Mrs. Massey committed suicide in room 217, in the bathtub.

In the meantime, Danny and Wendy await Jack’s return.  The Torrance family has relocated from Vermont to Colorado, due to Jack’s job loss, and Wendy has some concern that the move has not been easy for Danny.  We also learn that Danny has been a victim of Jack’s temper, as Jack accidentally broke Danny’s arm a few years prior, due to Danny spilling beer on his school papers.

We also learn that Danny is gifted with some unusual abilities:  he sometimes has knowledge of future events, or events in the present that he would otherwise have no knowledge.  Danny sees these visions through his friend Tony, another boy only visible to Danny, and referred to as his “imaginary friend” by Jack and Wendy.  We learn through Danny that Jack and Wendy’s marriage has been troubled, due to Jack’s alcoholism, and that Danny has feared that his parents will divorce.

Danny has another frightening vision brought to him by Tony as he is outside waiting for his father to get home:  he sees himself in an unfamiliar place being chased by someone, and also sees the phrase “REDRUM.”  Danny becomes frightened and has no idea what this vision could mean.

Finally, Jack arrives home.  Danny is overjoyed to see his father and glad that his father got the job at The Overlook Hotel.  However, Danny thinks that he sees a bloody mallet in the front seat of his father’s car.  When he looks at the front seat again, Danny realizes that is just a bag of groceries.

Jack makes a trip with Danny to a pay phone, so that he call his friend Al Shockley, who helped him get the job at the Overlook Hotel.  Jack recalls how, during one drunken night, Al hit a bicycle that was left in the middle of the road while driving himself and Jack home.  It is this incident that prompted Wendy to ask for a divorce, but Jack is able to stop drinking, and Wendy decides to stay, as she loves her husband and son.

That night, Danny has yet another, and Tony warns him not to go to the Overlook for the winter.  Danny is frightened, but does not say anything to his parents, as he knows how important this opportunity is for his family.

The Torrance family then arrives at The Overlook Hotel.  Danny is still feeling uneasy, but does not tell his parents, as he is still aware how important this opportunity is for his family.

After his family arrives at The Overlook, Danny is introduced to the hotel’s chef, Dick Halloran.  Danny and Halloran take a liking to each other immediately.

Halloran is able to ascertain that Danny possesses psychic abilities, to which he refers to as “the shining.”  Halloran tells Danny that he is not alone in possessing this gift, as Halloran also possesses it, although his ability is not as strong as Danny’s.  Before Halloran bids Danny goodbye for the winter, he warns Danny that he may see things in the hotel, as the Overlook is an old hotel and several unpleasant events have occurred there.  Halloran tells Danny that what he sees are akin to pictures in a book, and that nothing should be able to harm him.  Halloran warns Danny to stay out of room 217, as he may experience something unpleasant in that room.

Ullman gives the Torrance family a tour of the hotel shortly after Halloran and the other employees leave for the winter.  True to Halloran’s statement, Danny sees what appears to be blood and brains on a wall.  However, Danny looks away, and the vision soon vanishes.

Several weeks pass uneventfully for the Torrance family.  Jack is finally able to work on his writing, and thinks that he may be able to finish the play he is working on.  Jack and Wendy notice that Danny is a little withdrawn, but think nothing of it.  Danny continues to push himself to learn how to read, so that he may be able to communicate with his friend Tony, who has shown him signs with written words in the past.

One day, Jack finds a wasp nest on the roof of the hotel.  He kills the wasps with a bug bomb, and gives the nest to Danny as sort of a souvenir.  Danny is thrilled with the nest, and puts it in his bedroom.

That night, Danny is getting ready for bed in the bathroom.  When he does not come out of the bathroom, Jack and Wendy become anxious, and Jack breaks down the door.  They find Danny in a trance, but are able to rouse him.  Danny does not remember what happened, so Jack and Wendy put him to bed.

Later on, in the middle of the night, Jack and Wendy are awakened by Danny.  Danny is being attacked by the wasps from the nest given to him by Jack earlier.  Jack is able to kill the wasps, but cannot understand why the poison he used earlier did not work.

The next day, Wendy and Jack take Danny to see a doctor in town.  The doctor examines Danny and is able to find nothing physically wrong with Danny.

The doctor asks Danny to try and summon Tony.  Danny falls into a trance again, but is unable remember anything when he comes to.  However, Danny tells the doctor that his mother had a sister who passed away as a child, which is information he did not previously have.  Danny also tells the doctor that his parents had previously contemplated a divorce, but have since changed their minds.  The doctor refuses to believe that there is anything unusual about Danny. and reassures Jack and Wendy that Danny is simply an imaginative child, and that he will eventually grow out of his unusual behavior.

While he is setting rat traps in the basement, Jack finds a scrapbook of sorts.  When he opens up the scrapbook, Jack finds much information in regards to the history of the Overlook.  It turns out that the Overlook has seen many changes in ownership and has also been the scene of some violent crimes.  Jack becomes absorbed in this history, and also begins to exhibit behaviors that he exhibited when he was drinking, such as wiping his lips and dry swallowing Excedrin.

Danny also begins exploring the hotel, without the knowledge of his parents.  He is again tempted by Room 217, despite Halloran’s warnings.  Danny is able to resist the temptation, but thinks that he sees a fire extinguisher come to life, turning into a snake.  However, once again, he does not tell his parents about this incident, as he understands how important the job at the hotel is for his family.

Jack makes a trip to the library to do more research on The Overlook Hotel.  He places a phone call to Stuart Ullman, goading Ullman in regards to the history of the hotel, stating that he will one day write a book about the hotel.  This angers Ullman, and Jack regrets his actions as well.

After speaking with Ullman, Jack receives a call from his friend Al Shockley.  It turns out that Al owns part of the hotel, and is angry at Jack for making that phone call.  Al forces Jack to promise not to call Ullman again, and to not write any books about the hotel.  Jack is angered, but agrees, in order to keep his job.

Both Wendy and Danny become worried about Jack.  They sense that Jack is having trouble coping with his alcoholism, but are unsure of how to help him.  Wendy asks Danny if he would like to leave The Overlook, and Danny agrees that he would.  However, Danny is not happy with the alternative option:  staying with Wendy’s mother, as Wendy and her mother do not get along.  Wendy agrees to stay at the hotel with Jack for the winter, and hopes that things will get better.

One day, as Jack is trimming the hedge animals in front of the hotel, he is badly frightened.  He thinks that the hedge animals have moved.  He tells himself that this is impossible, and likely a hallucination caused by his struggles to remain sober.

The weather worsens in Sidewinder, and the Torrance family begins to feel the hotel closing in on them.  The only means of communication is a CB radio.  They are otherwise cut off from the world, unable to leave the hotel.

One day, Danny finally gives in to temptation and visits room 217.  When he opens the bathroom door, he encounters the ghost of Mrs. Massey.  The ghost then attempts to strangle Danny.

While Danny is being attacked in Room 217, Jack and Wendy have dozed off in their quarters.  However, Jack awakens to the voice of his dead father on the CB radio, warning him that Danny has broken the rules and visited room 217.

Once Wendy and Jack come to their senses, Danny appears at the top of the stairs.  Danny is bruised and bleeding from his encounter with the ghost in room 217.

Almost immediately, Wendy blames Jack for Danny’s injuries, convinced that Jack tried to hurt Danny in his sleep.  She chases Jack off and locks herself and Danny in the bedroom.

Jack is angered by Wendy’s treatment of him, and retreats to the empty bar at the hotel.  Jack then begins to fantasize about drinking again.

The fantasies about drinking seem to become real as Jack strikes up a conversation with the bartender he believes would have been serving the hotel back in its prime.  Jack refers to this man as Lloyd, and requests that Lloyd serve him 20 martinis.  Lloyd also appears to commiserate with Jack over his troubles.

Finally, Jack realizes what he is doing and snaps out of his trance.  Wendy appears with Danny at the bar, and Danny begins to have convulsions.  Jack is able to bring Danny out of his catatonic state, and tries to find out what happened to Danny.

Danny tells his parents about what happened in room 2017, along with the other incidents that he has experienced during the family’s stay at the hotel.  Wendy also tells Jack how worried she and Danny have been about him, as he appears to be struggling with his alcoholism.  Jack heads to Room 217, to see if he can find anyone or anything there.

When Jack arrives at Room 217, he investigates it and does not find anything.  However, when he leaves the room, he notices that someone or something is watching him.  However, he tells his family that he did not find anything in the room.

Later that night, Jack and Wendy begin to argue over their situation.  Jack reminds Wendy that they are snowed in, and that an escape attempt may kill them.  However, Wendy remembers that the hotel has snow mobiles, and Jack reluctantly promises to test them out the next day, so that they may possibly escape the hotel.

That night, Jack struggles with his anger at his family, as he feels that he will have no other options if they leave the hotel.  He dreams that he sees a ghost of one his students in Room 217, and that he attacks that ghost.  However, the ghost then turns into his son.  Jack awakens to find himself standing over Danny’s bed, and shocked by his behavior.

In the morning, Jack takes a look at the snow mobile and finds it in working order.  However, he is unable to bear the idea of leaving the hotel for a fate unknown, and deliberately sabotages the snow mobile, so that his family will remain stranded at The Overlook.

The weeks pass without incident.  Danny tells his mother that he still afraid of the hotel, but that he understands that his family has no other options.

One day, Danny is outside playing on the hotel’s playground.  He is playing in the miniature version of the hotel when he begins to feel trapped inside, and very frightened.  Danny makes his way out of the playhouse, and heads back to the hotel.

Danny also has a bad scare when he heads back to the hotel:  he sees the hedge animals move, and they begin to chase him.  However, Danny is able to make it back to the hotel, where he collapses on the porch from fright and exhaustion.

Danny tells his parents what happened.  However, Jack does not believe him and tries to convince his son that the movement of the hedge animals was a figment of his imagination.  Danny realizes that Jack is lying and that Jack has also seen the animals move.  When he tries to tell his father this, Jack slaps him across the face, angering Wendy.

Jack and his family are awakened later that night by the sound of the elevator running.  The elevator had not previously been in use.  Jack gets up to investigate the noise, with Wendy and Danny in tow.

When he investigates the elevator, Jack does not find anyone or anything there.  However, the Torrance family finds evidence of a party, which includes streamers and balloons.  Wendy and Danny also hear noises associated with a party, such as people talking and music.  Jack denies that anything unusual is happening, and chalks up the issues with the elevator to a short circuit.

A few days later, Danny comes across an old clock that no longer appears to be working.  However, the clock comes to life, and the figures in it commit lewd acts.  The clock then stops, and Danny has another vision.  He sees the word REDRUM again, and realizes that it is murder spelled backwards.  Danny is terrified, and sends a telepathic plea to Dick Halloran for help.

Hallorann is in Florida, working at his winter job.  He receives Danny’s message, and realizes that the situation at The Overlook Hotel is serious, and that he must return to Colorado as soon as he can.

As Hallorann is looking for a flight to take him to Colorado, Wendy and Danny sense that the hotel is closing in on them..  The hotel is working through Jack, in order to get to Danny.  When Danny tries to leave his quarters, he is accosted by a man in a dog costume, who tries to attack him.  Danny continues to call to Hallorann for help, but the hotel senses what Danny is doing and puts a stop to it.

Finally, Hallorann is able to find a flight to Colorado, and heads to the hotel, hoping that he will not be too late.

Jack becomes convinced that the hotel wants him, and not Wendy or Danny.  Jack encounters the ghosts of the hotel’s previous employees and guests, and is able to get drunk.  One of the ghosts, the ghost of Delbert Grady (the previous caretaker of the hotel), alerts Jack to the fact that Danny is trying to escape from The Overlook, and tells Jack that he must do whatever he needs to do to correct Danny.  Jack is also shown a vision in the clock:  a man beating a little boy with a roque mallet.  The clock then fills with blood, much to Jack’s disbelief.

Finally, Hallorann is able to find a flight to Colorado, and begins the trek to Sidewinder.

Wendy and Danny stay sequestered in their quarters, and are able to hear Jack in his drunken rage.  Wendy ventures out of their quarters to find food for her and Danny, and finds Jack passed out at the bar.  She realizes that Jack is somehow drunk, even though there is no alcohol anywhere in the hotel.

Jack regains consciousness, and begins to attack Wendy.  Wendy realizes that he intends to kill her and Danny.  Danny comes to the defense of his mother, and Jack also attacks Danny.  Wendy is able to finally subdue Jack by hitting him on the head with a glass.

Wendy and Danny drag Jack to the pantry, intending to lock him in there, for his safety and theirs.  Jack regains consciousness and fights them, but they are able to shut the door on him in the nick of time.

Even though they retreat to the their quarters, Wendy and Danny are still able to hear Jack’s protests, along with the elevator and other sounds that indicate that the hotel is coming to life.

The ghost of Delbert Grady finds Jack in the pantry.  Jack promises to kill Wendy and Danny, in exchange for his freedom.  The door is somehow unlocked, and Jack picks up a roque mallet, and looks to find his wife and son.

In the meantime, Hallorann continues to make his trek to The Overlook.  The hotel realizes what he is doing, and sends him a message, in an attempt to scare him off.  Hallorann fights it, and is determined to make his way to The Overlook.

Wendy begins to suspect that Jack has somehow escaped the pantry.  She heads downstairs, but this proves to be a mistake, as Jack is waiting for her.  Jack attacks her with the mallet, but Wendy defends herself with a knife.  She heads back upstairs, but an angry, inhuman Jack follows her, determined to kill her.

Finally, Hallorann arrives at the hotel, but is attacked by one of the hedge animals.

Wendy is able to flee from Jack, and hides in the bathroom.  She defends herself with a razor blade she finds in the medicine cabinet, all the while wondering where Danny is hiding, as she has been unable to find him.  She also realizes that the hotel has completely possessed her husband, and that Jack is no longer in control of himself.

Hallorann is able to fend off the hedge animal by lighting it on fire and makes his way into the hotel.  However, he is then attacked by Jack and loses consciousness.

Danny is in some kind of catatonic state.  He is visited by Tony, and realizes that Tony is a future version of himself, Daniel Anthony Torrance.  Tony tells Danny that his mother and Hallorann may be killed by Jack, unless Danny does something about it.  Tony then reminds Danny that he will remember what his father forgot, and vanishes.  Danny then returns to consciousness.

Finding himself in the attic on the third floor, Danny hears his father calling for him.  Resisting the urge to obey his father, Danny attempts to hide from Jack.

Wendy regains consciousness, and finds Hallorann.  She rouses him, and both hear the sounds of Jack on the prowl for his son.

Danny confronts the creature that had once been his father.  He tells his father that the hotel is using him, and will discard him once he has served its purpose.  Jack briefly makes an appearance, and tells Danny to run.

Danny then realizes that his father has not maintained the boiler, and that the hotel will go up in flames.  He runs, searching for his mother and Hallorann, so that they may escape before it is too late.

Wendy, Hallorann and Danny are reunited.  Halloran senses the urgency, and the three make their escape.  The hotel catches on fire shortly aftewards and is completely destroyed.

Even after they escape, the hotel tries to urge Hallorann to hurt Danny.  Hallorann fights the urge, and escapes with Wendy and Danny by using the snow mobile.  Soon, they reach civilization, away from the hotel and the haunted grounds.

Several months later, Hallorann has found work at lodge in Maine.  Danny and Wendy also stay at the lodge for the summer, but Wendy plans on relocating to Maryland, in favor of a new job and fresh start.  Danny is still saddened over the death of his father, but Hallorann reassures him that he will always be there for him, and that Danny will eventually recover from his ordeal.


My Thoughts

I have said it once, and I will say it again:  I appear to be incapable of reading anything that does not make me its emotional bitch in the end.

And The Shining is no different.

I have a few King books that are able to get to me on a personal level.  These include It, Bag of Bones and Rose Madder.

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Well, now I can add The Shining to that list.

And I would not be alone in that sentiment.  Out of all of King’s work, it seems like The Shining is the one that has had the biggest grip on popular culture.

Even non horror and non King fans get what “redrum” means.

The Shining is so compelling that Felicity was reading it in an episode of Arrow

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Jack Torrance, you have failed your hotel!

(OK, that one was admittedly bad.  Maybe Jack should have tried harder to save his city  hotel.  OK, I will stop now before someone sends the ghosts of the Overlook or perhaps Damien Darhk after me for making these bad jokes!)

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And there is a good reason why The Shining (both the book and movie) has the grip that it has on popular culture.  Actually, there are a few good reasons.

The Shining is scary.  Really scary.  Really fucking scary.  Fucking scary as hell, as a matter of fact.

OK, Captain Obvious is on board…

Stephen King wrote The Shining.  He is the King of scary.  So of course his books are scary, right?

Well, many times, King’s books are scary.  King does a lot of things besides scary (which he also does in The Shining, and which we will talk about later), but if you mention his name, the first word that comes up is scary.  That is what he is primarily known for:  writing books that will scare his Constant Constant Readers into a change of pants.

After all, who hasn’t been home alone except for the dogs, and felt her skin crawl while reading the likes of It, ‘Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, Revival or almost any other King book?

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

(Or is that just me?  OK, just checking, no judgement, right?)

Even The Body and 11/22/63 have creepy elements in them, and those are not traditionally billed as horror stories.

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Well, add The Shining to that list.  And believe me, it has earned that spot on the list.

First of all, there is the setting.  We have an isolated, abandoned hotel in the dead of winter.  Forget about the ghosts for a minute, and think about that instead.  Being trapped in the middle of nowhere is a real fear.  And The Shining plays upon that fear almost right from the opening pages, before we even have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of those lovely, hospitable creatures that call The Overlook Hotel home.

In fact, I could even rightfully argue that the hotel is a character, in and of itself, in much the same way that Danny, Wendy, Jack and Dick Hallorann are characters.

I find this utterly fascinating:  only King has the ability to turn an inanimate object, like an isolated hotel, into a compelling, fleshed out character.  Much love for The Master!

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But, I don’t want to forget about the ghosts.  No, let’s not do that!

Now, the build up to the ghosts is a nice, slow burn.  There are a couple of flashes here and there, like the blood and brains Danny sees in the one room on his first tour, along with the incident with the wasps.  But King spends the first half of the book getting us invested in Danny and his parents, and even the hotel.  So the ghosts take a back burner, at least at first.

But then King unleashes them.  And good things (or is it really scary things?) come to those who wait.  And the payoff is grand.

It had been many years since I read this book.  And a few details may have escaped me.  But lucky me, they came back to me on my re-read.

There is the ghost of Mrs. Massey.  Now, thanks to Kubrik and his movie, I have never really forgotten about her.  But she deserves mention here.  I may make jokes and kid around with all The Shining references, but here is my confession:  I do that to hide the fact that she still scares me into a change of pants, even to this day.

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(Again, we cool and no judgement, right?  Whew!)

Although Mrs. Massey scared me, and the guy in the dog costume scared me (who does that?  Who wears a dog costume and makes the rounds at a party, greeting people by barking?  Ew much?), along with the ghosts of Grady and Lloyd, I think the honor goes to…

You got it, the clock!

I know that a wind up clock is not what most people associate with this “redrum” of a book.  However, that is one seriously scary scene.  And it would actually be two scenes, as Danny sees the figures in the clock do some unspeakable things to each other after it comes to life, and then Jack also sees the same clock come to life, showing him a guy murder a kid with a roque mallet.  And then the clock fills with blood.  Nice touch, Sai King!

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Okay, we have paid the ghosts their due.

So let’s take away the ghosts now.  Let’s take away the spooky hotel.  Let’s take away a little boy’s mysterious, PSI powers.

We are doing away with anything and everything supernatural.

With most horror stories, if you took away all the supernatural elements, you would not have a story.  You would have the equivalent of a car with no engines, no tires, probably even no stereo to listen to the music on.

But this is where King separates himself from the pack, and shows us why he has earned the moniker “The Master.”

SK give me what I won

You can take away anything and everything supernatural in The Shining.

And you are not left with an empty vehicle that won’t go anywhere or play any music.

Rather, you have a vehicle that is functional.  It may have no “extras”, like the fancy tires and state of the art stereo system.

But this vehicle will run.  We can drive it, and it can still take us places and can be counted on for a journey.

In other words, The Shining is not just about ghosts.

The ghosts make the story fun, and provide some great scares (again, Mrs. Massey).  But they are not what makes this story so memorable and so effective on so many levels.

At its core, The Shining explores familiar territory.  Or familiar to anyone who has had to “adult” for more than thirty seconds of his/her life.

The Shining is about family.

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The Shining is about addiction and the devastating effects it has on the addict and the addict’s loved ones.

The Shining is about unemployment, and how devastating it can be to lose one’s job and place in the world.

In fact, the Torrance family’s stay at The Overlook Hotel could be seen as metaphor for being trapped in an abusive relationship.

In an abusive relationship, the abuser will use isolation as a tactic.  This is what my ex did to me:  he cut me off from everyone and everything that I loved.  And then the monsters were unleashed.

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Like Danny, I lived in fear.  I also constantly questioned myself and blamed myself, as Danny did, when his father and the hotel would do terrible things.  I believed, like Danny, that I had caused those things.

Like Danny, I believed that there was something I could do to keep the monsters at bay, and prevent the terrible things from happening.  I shouldered much responsibility for what happened, and looked for ways to prevent (like Danny avoiding certain parts of the hotel.)

But, like Danny, it became too much, and escape became necessary to save my life.  Danny agonized over the escape, and so did I.  Escaping from an abuser is never easy, as you are running from someone you love, sometimes a person you love beyond all reason.

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And the recovery is not easy, as evidenced by the end of the book.  Like Danny, I spent much time crying.

But, again, like Danny, I found the light.  Light is never so beautiful as when you escape that darkness.


Well, that’s it for the roller coaster otherwise known as The Shining.  Join me next month for a reunion of sorts, when we review and dissect the follow up to The Shining, aka Doctor Sleep!

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

batman and robin


Connections

Even though The Shining is an early King work, it is still set squarely in the King universe, and shares some notable connections with other King books.  Here are the connections I found:

-The most obvious connection to another book is to Doctor Sleep, which follows the adventures of Danny Torrance in adulthood.

-The town of Sidewinder is mentioned in the novel The Talisman.

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-Danny has PSI abilities.  Many other characters in the King universe have these abilities, including Carrie White, Jake Chambers, Kyra DeVore (Bag of Bones) and the Breakers in The Dark Tower series.

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-Room 217 is the room that houses Brady Hartsfield in the Mercedes trilogy, which includes Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.

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-In the book The Drawing of the Three, Eddie recalls a movie that he has seen, titled The Shining.  Even if Stephen King does not exist in every reality (or even most of them), apparently some version of The Shining does exist on more than one level of The Tower, and may even exist on all levels of The Tower.

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-The ghosts seen by Danny at The Overlook Hotel bear some resemblance to the “vagrant dead” mentioned in The Wolves of the Calla and The Song of Susannah.

Roland dance

-In the novel It, Dick Halloran makes a brief appearance in a story in a flashback regards to Derry’s history.  Hallorann saves the life of Wil Hanlon, who would later go on to father Mike Hanlon, one of the members of the Losers Club.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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-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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up With Travelin’ Jack: My Review of Black House

Throughout our lives, we meet people.

This seems to be especially true in childhood.  After all, we go to school.  And we play sports, go to camp, etc.  And live in a neighborhood, surrounded by other people, many of whom are families with children.

It’s easy to meet other people when you are a child.  In fact, you meet people, and they come in and out of your life.  Sometimes, it’s the ones who are in your life for the shortest amount of time who have the most impact.  I met so many people at all those nerdy summer camp programs that I attended who were the greatest, but I only had the privilege to know them for all of two weeks, at the most.  Those two weeks seemed like a lifetime to me, but a lifetime that flew by too quickly.

Sometimes, I think about those people I met in childhood, especially the ones who I only knew for such a short period of time.  And I wonder what happened to them, and what kind of adults they turned out to be.  Hopefully, the awesome children turned out to be even more awesome adults.  I would like to believe that, any way.

One of my favorite characters from any Stephen King novel (yeah, you knew where this was going, don’t act surprised) is Jack Sawyer.

wolf and jack

I first met Jack Sawyer when I read The Talisman.  And I loved him.  He was the coolest, even at the tender age of 12.  And was more bad ass than people three times his age.  I would want Jack in my corner any day of the week.

However, like the cool people I met at summer camp, Jack exited my life too quickly.  And I wondered what had become of him.  What kind of person had he grown up to be?  Hopefully, he was even more awesome.

Well, The Master and his cohort, Peter Straub, grew curious about Jack as well.  And they decided to answer this question with a follow up to The Talisman:  Black House.

black house 3

Now, Black House may be a follow up to The Talisman, but make no mistake about it, it is so much more than a “sequel” (really, the word sequel has four letters in it, I am sure) to The Talisman.

Black House adds to the story of Jack Sawyer and to the mythos of that awesome place known as “The Territories,” although it brings up A LOT more questions than it answers (more on that later.)

Not surprisingly, Black House is also connected to The Dark Tower series, as do most of King’s books.  But, like Insomnia, Black House could almost be considered to be another Dark Tower book, without the words “Dark Tower” anywhere in the title or description of the book.

Plus, Black House is just plain scary!  Some of the things that happen in Black House are just entirely too plausible, and no one does “real life” horror better than Sai King, in my opinion.

So sit down, put your seat belts on, and join me, as I light out for The Territories once again, as I recap and review Black House.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an introduction to a town by the name of French Landing, Wisconsin.  We realize very quickly that something out of the ordinary has been occurring in French Landing, as three children have been murdered by a serial killer calling himself The Fisherman.  The residents of French Landing are frightened, and the police department is coming under scrutiny, as the murders are unsolved.

We are then introduced to several characters.  The first is an old man named Charles “Burny” Burnside.  Burnside is a resident of a facility named Maxton Eldercare, as he supposedly suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, although Burnside sometimes seems to experience extended bouts of lucidity.  Burnside is a ward of the state, as he claims to have no surviving family and no memory of his past.  Maxton Eldercare is run by a man named Chipper Maxton.  Chipper is a corrupt man, stealing from the residents of the facility, including Burnside.

Dale Gilbertson is another character we are introduced to.  Dale is the Chief of Police in French Landing, and is being heavily scrutinized due to the unsolved murders committed by The Fisherman.  Dale understands that he is out of his depth, and has requested help from a friend of his, Jack Sawyer.  Jack first met Dale four years prior, when he collaborated with Jack to solve a series of unsolved murders in California, which turned out to have a connection to French Landing.  Jack has refused to help, much to Dale’s frustration, as Jack is now retired from police work.

We are also introduced to Fred Marshall, father to Tyler Marshall and husband to Judy Marshall.  Tyler is a seemingly ordinary child, enjoying his summer vacation.  Judy, however, is not ordinary, as she slowly seems to be losing her grip on reality.  Fred is concerned, but pushes aside his worry for his wife, as he does not think that her problems are that serious.

Finally, we are introduced to Jack Sawyer.  When Jack collaborated with his friend Dale, he fell in love with French Landing, and later purchased a home that had once been owned by Dale’s family.  Eventually, Jack moved into the home, but spends most of his time in isolation, despite Dale’s attempts to get to know his friend better.

The book also introduces us to a man named Henry Leyden.  Henry works as a DJ with multiple on-air personas.  Henry is the uncle to Dale Gilbert and a friend of Jack Sawyer.  Henry is also blind, but his other senses are acute, to compensate for the blindness.

Lately, strange things have been happening to Jack.  A robin’s egg mysteriously appears in his refrigerator, and he also sees robin feathers around his house.  Jack begins to question his grip on reality, especially when he tries to call his mother, who has been dead for several years.

One morning, Jack picks Henry up from work.  While driving and listening to one of Henry’s CD’s, they see a group of boys.  One of the boys makes an obscene gesture to Henry and Jack, expressing his feelings on the music.  Another young boy seems to approve of the music.  Henry also tries to persuade Jack to assist Dale with the investigation of the child murders, but again, Jack declines, reminding Henry that he is retired.  Henry also says that he has experienced some odd occurrences lately:  he thinks that he has heard his deceased wife walking around the house.  Jack drops Henry off at his home, and dismisses the occurrences as a manifestation of Henry’s grief.

Later that day, Tyler Marshall is riding his bike with his friends.  He falls behind his friends, who abandon him.  Just outside the Maxton Eldercare Facility, Tyler encounters a talking crow that calls itself “Gorg.”  Tyler is entranced by the bird, and moves closer to it.  This allows Charles Burnside, who has momentarily regained his senses, to abduct Tyler.  Tyler’s friends notice that he is lost and that his bicycle has been abandoned, but decide not to say anything, as they fear they will be implicated in his abduction.

In the meantime, Judy Marshall, Tyler’s mother, continues to lose her grip on reality.  Judy then receives a mysterious package at her door.  When she opens the package, she finds a note stating that her son’s kidney has been eaten, along with human organs of some kind.  Judy becomes hysterical, and a neighbor calls her husband Fred at work.

Fred returns home, and finds that Judy has seemingly gone mad, destroying Tyler’s bedroom on her rampage.  Fred is finally able to calm Judy down, and begins to worry that Tyler is indeed missing, as Judy has said.  The local police also find Tyler’s bicycle, and Dale Gilbert worries that The Fisherman has claimed another victim.

Fred awakens from an afternoon nap to find his wife choking on scraps of paper.  Fred is able to rescue Judy from choking, but Tyler still has not returned home.  This prompts Fred to call the police, and find out that Tyler’s bike was found abandoned in front of the nursing home.

That afternoon, Henry Leyden does a DJ gig at Maxton Eldercare Facility.  He takes notice of Charles Burnside, who behaves unpleasantly, and seems to babble some nonsensical words.

That evening, Henry persuades Jack to speak to Fred in regards to the Fisherman’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Tyler.  Jack and reluctantly agrees to assist in the investigation, and to also speak to Judy, who has been institutionalized.  Jack also questions Tyler’s friends, and finds out that they abandoned Tyler and noticed that he had left his bicycle by the nursing home, but did not actually witness the abduction.  One of Tyler’s friends also tells Jack that he saw black crow feathers by the nursing home.

Jack also has a strange dream that night.  In the dream, he encounters Speedy Parker, someone he knew as a child.  Speedy commands Jack to assist in the investigation, as an entity called The Crimson King has kidnapped Tyler, because Tyler is a Breaker, with the ability to help The Crimson King commit a terrible deed.

The following morning, Jack awakens and finds a mysterious package on his front porch.  The package contains a sneaker, which also contains the severed foot of a child.  Jack realizes that this is probably from one of the victims of The Fisherman.  This causes Jack to remember an incidence from his childhood that he had tried to forget.

Jack then “flips” to another world, one he knows as The Territories, from his childhood.  This world is a fantastical version of ours, and Jack’s memories continue to awaken.  While in this alternate world, Jack discover’s Tyler’s baseball cap, and realizes that Tyler is probably still alive, and that The Fisherman wanted Jack to find the cap.

When he returns to his own world, Jack finds a note on the mysterious package, advising him to try a place called Ed’s Eats and Dogs.  Jack calls Henry and tells him about the package and the note, and Henry agrees to take Jack to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, which was a food stand that is now closed.

The French Landing Police Department also receives a call from someone identifying himself as The Fisherman that morning.  The caller instructs the police to also go to Ed’s Eats and Dogs, and Dale Gilbertson and his officers proceed to do just that.

Jack receives a call on his cell phone from Dale, and learns that Dale is also headed to the abandoned food stand.  They meet at the food stand, and Jack shows Dale the package sent to him by The Fisherman, and Dale tells Jack about the phone call from The Fisherman.

In the meantime, the officer who received the call from The Fisherman tells his wife, who tells her friends about the call.  Soon, several people in town find out about the call.  One of these people is Beezer St. Pierre.  Beezer is part of a motorcycle club in town known as The Thunder Five, and is also the father to Amy St. Pierre, one of the victims of The Fisherman.  Soon, Beezer and his friends Mouse, Doc, Sonny and Kaiser Bill also head to the abandoned eatery.

Wendell Green, a reporter for the local newspaper, also heads to the eatery, in the hopes that he will find his next story.

At the investigation scene, chaos erupt, mostly due to Wendell Green’s attempt to distract Jack and the police.  Beezer and his friends assist Jack and the police in dispersing the crowd, but the state police also arrive at the scene, and tell Dale that he can no longer work the Fisherman case.

That afternoon, Jack and Fred visit Judy in the mental hospital.  Jack is struck by how beautiful Judy is.  Judy also knows of the alternate reality Jack calls The Territories, and says that she is able to communicate with a woman who lives in that reality.  Judy also tells Jack that The Fisherman has stashed Tyler in that reality, and that Tyler is in grave danger, but still alive, and that Jack is the only one who can rescue him.  On the way home, Jack shows Fred the baseball cap that he found in The Territories, and confirms that it belongs to Tyler.  Jack also promises to do whatever he can to rescue Tyler.

That night, an ominous fog covers the town of French Landing.  Charles Burnside escapes the Maxton Eldercare Facility, and sneaks into the boarding house next door.  He breaks into the room of a man named George Potter, and plants several pictures of the Fisherman’s victims in the closet.  The pictures are discovered by another resident of the boarding house, and a call is placed to the local police.

Jack, Dale, Wendell and Beezer all find out about the pictures in George Potter’s room, and all head to the police station.  Dale places Potter under arrest, and books him in a holding cell.

In the meantime, the mysterious crow visits Tansy Freeneau, the mother to Irma Freeneau, one of the victims of The Fisherman.  The crow somehow can speak, and tells Tansy about George Potter’s arrest.  Tansy rounds up a group of locals from a bar, and all head to the police station.

When Jack arrives at the police station, he receives a call from Speedy, someone he knew as a child.  Speedy tells Jack that an angry mob is headed to the police station, and that Jack needs to meet him in the men’s bathroom.

Shortly after the angry mob arrives, Jack steps out into the parking lot.  He is holding a bouquet of flowers and allows Tansy to smell the flowers.  The smell of the flowers calms Tansy, along with most of the crowd.  Jack calls for someone to take Tansy home, and the crowd dissipates.

Jack questions George Potter, and determines that George is not guilty.  George states that he was a contractor many years ago, and engaged in some shady dealings.  One of the people George engaged in deals with was someone named Carl, who now happens to be living in French Landing.  George thinks that the man now goes by the name Charles Burnside, and that the man had a house built in French Landing many years ago.  George does not know where the house is located, but tells Jack of many strange things that happened while the house was being built, such as the workers being injured and even losing their shadows.  Jack determines that this man is most certainly The Fisherman, but is unable to obtain any more information from either George or Dale Gilbertson.

The next morning, Jack checks on Tansy Freeneau, who appears to succumbing to madness, even though the flowers from The Territories that Jack had given her the night before seem to have a calming effect on her. Jack finds out from Tansy that she received a visit from Gorg, and Tansy tells Jack that Gorg is actually a raven from another world. Jack then goes to a local bar called The Sand Bar, where he had promised to meet Beezer and the rest of The Thunder Five.  While Jack is waiting for Beezer and his friends, he notices that the movie playing on the television is one that had starred his deceased mother.

When the bikers arrive at the bar, Jack asks them if they know anything about a mysterious house in French Landing.  One of the bikers, Mouse, recognizes the house, and tells Jack that it even has a name:  Black House.  Mouse also tells Jack and his friends that he and a girlfriend, Nancy, were actually in the vicinity of the house a few years prior, having accidentally discovered it on a bike ride.  Right away, Mouse realized that something was not right, and managed to escape with Nancy.  Mouse survived the experience, but Nancy was not so lucky.  Soon after, Nancy becomes extremely ill and tragically dies from her illness.  Jack warns Beezer to not get too close to the house, but to check it out, and that they will meet up again later.

Beezer and the rest of the bikers set off that afternoon to find Black House.  Finally, they are able to find it, and right away, things begin to go wrong.  They notice a change in the air, which seems to become poisonous.  They also encounter a creature that appears to be a dog, but attacks the bikers.  All of the men suffer from headaches and vomiting, and experience unpleasant memories from their past.   They are finally able to escape the dog and Black House, but Mouse is bitten by the dog, and Doc (Beezer’s right hand man) notices that the wound is severe and unlike an ordinary dog bite.

In the meantime, Jack heads to the mental hospital to visit Judy Marshall.  Jack realizes that Judy’s counterpart in The Territories, her Twinner, has been trying to communicate with her, and her Twinner’s attempts have become more urgent, due to the situation with The Fisherman.  Jack also suspects that The Fisherman has a Territories Twinner, and that creature is probably holding Tyler Marshall hostage.  Jack also finds out that The Fisherman has sent a tape of himself tormenting Judy to Judy at the hospital, which has caused Judy to regress to her previous state.

When he arrives at the hospital, Jack encounters Wendell Green, who has tracked him down.  Wendell tries to sabotage Jack’s attempts to visit Judy, but Judy’s doctor agrees to allow Jack to see Judy, for a short time.

Jack speaks to Judy, and she tells him that he must travel to The Territories to save Tyler.  Jack does just that, arriving at The Territories once again.  When he arrives in the other world, Jack finds himself in the company of Judy’s Territories Twinner:  a woman named Sophie.  Almost instantly, Jack falls in love with Sophie.

Wendell Green has also traveled to The Territories with Jack, as he was spying on Jack and Judy at the mental hospital.  Wendell is shell-shocked, and unable to comprehend just what has happened to him.

Shortly after his arrive to The Territories, Jack encounters an old friend:  Parkus, the man who is responsible for law and order in The Territories.  Parkus is the Twinner to Jack’s friend Speedy.  Parkus tells Jack that Tyler is still alive and Jack may be able to still rescue him, but that there are much bigger issues at hand.  Parkus then tells Jack and Sophie that the entity known as the Crimson King has gathered a group of children with psionic abilities that he calls Breakers.  The Breakers have been assembled to help destroy The Dark Tower, which is the nexus of all existence. Parkus tells Jack that The Fisherman does not have a Territories Twinner.  Rather, The Fisherman is possessed by a being from another world, which allows him to commit his horrific acts.  The being is a creature known as Mr. Munshun, or sometimes Mr. Monday.  Mr. Munshun allows Charles Burnside to murder all of the children he wants, but if the children possess psionic abilities, they are to be turned over to Mr. Munshun and The Crimson King at once.  Tyler is special, as he has the ability to become the most power of all Breakers.

Parkus tells Jack that he must find out the exact identity of The Fisherman, so that he can get to Mr. Munshun and rescue Tyler Marshall, as well as foil the plans of the Crimson King.  However, Jack still does not know just who The Fisherman is in his world.  Parkus also tells Jack that he will need to use Black House to enter the world of Mr. Munshun, as Mr. Munshun does not reside in The Territories.

Jack then travels back to his own world, taking Wendell Green with him.  Jack heads out of the hospital and receives a panicked call from Beezer.  Beezer tells Jack that Mouse is dying, and that Jack needs to come quickly.

When Jack arrives at Beezer’s house, he sees something horrific happening to Mouse.  Mouse is literally being eaten alive by the poison he received when the dog creature bit him at Black House.  Mouse is mostly delirious, but he tells Jack to meet Beezer and the others at noon the next day, so that they can head to Black House to rescue Tyler and defeat Mr. Munshun.  Mouse also gives Jack a spell of sorts:  the word “d’yamba.”  Mouse tells Jack that he will need this word in the near future.  Shortly after imparting this information, Mouse passes away.

In the meantime, Henry Leyden is at his home, listening to the tape of The Fisherman’s voice.  Henry also believes that he can smell the perfume of his late wife, and thinks he is losing his mind.  However, Henry recognizes the voice of Charles Burnside from the tape, as he also heard Burnside’s voice from his gig at the nursing home.  Henry also realizes that Burnside is in his house and using the scent of his wife’s perfume to trick Henry.

Henry attempts to defend himself against Burnside, but is stabbed by Burnside with a pair of garden shears.  Henry realizes that he will bleed to death, so he makes a recording for Jack, revealing the identity of The Fisherman, and the fact that The Fisherman lives in the nursing home.  Shortly after finishing the recording, Henry signs off, saying goodbye to Jack, and dies.

Jack heads home after paying respect to Mouse.  Amazingly, Jack is surrounded by a swarm of bees.  The bees appear to offer comfort and do not sting Jack.  Jack then decides that he will open to Henry, and tell Henry the story of his past journey to The Territories when he was a child.

Jack arrives at Henry’s house and realizes almost right away that something is amiss.  He discovers Henry’s body and hears Henry’s last recording that identifies The Fisherman.  Shocked and saddened, Jack calls the local police, and then travels to The Territories once again, seeking comfort.

Charles Burnside returns to the nursing home.  He has been injured in the confrontation with Henry, but still alive.  Burnside is confronted by one of the nurses on duty in regards to his whereabouts.  He uses the garden shears to kill her, and makes an attempt to escape back to Black House.  However, he is also confronted by Chipper Maxton, who has learned of his true identity.  Burnside also kills Maxton with the gardening shears, and returns to Black House, with the assistance of the entity known as Mr. Munshun.

After Burnside arrives at Black House, he arouses Tyler Marshall from a dream, and takes Tyler into another world.  He places a sort of “hat” on Tyler that dulls Tyler’s thinking, and tells Tyler that he is taking him to the Crimson King, who has a job waiting for Tyler.

The next day, Jack meets Dale, Doc and Beezer at The Sand Bar.  He is able to summon the cloud of bees again, much to the astonishment of his friends.  Jack utters the word “d’yamba” over a bottle of honey, and has his friends dab a bit of the honey underneath their noses, in the hopes that the belief in the honey will protect them from the ill effects of Black House.

In the meantime, Burnside and Tyler arrive at their final destination, where they see many children with special talents being forced to perform the work of the Crimson King.  Burnside attempts to shackle Tyler, but Tyler strikes back and disembowels Burnside, which kills the old man.

Before Jack and his friends leave for Black House, they encounter Fred Marshall outside of the bar.  Fred has received a package addressed to Tyler, from George Rathbun (one of the radio personalities of the deceased Henry Leyden) containing a bat signed by a Milwaukee Brewers player.  All of the men then sense that Tyler has killed Burnside, which offers them hope that their mission may succeed.

When Jack and his friend arrive at Black House, they encounter the swarm of bees that surrounded Jack earlier.  Jack sees the crow, Gorg, and shoots him. Once inside the house, they encounter some frightening illusions, as the house tries to keep them from tracking down Tyler Marshall.

While Jack and his friends are searching for Tyler, Tyler manages to free himself from the shackles by obtaining the key.  However, once he frees himself, he is then captured by the being Mr. Mushun.

However, as Munshun attempts to take Tyler to the Crimson King, he encounters Jack and his friends, who are ready to fight.  Jack attacks Munshun with the bat sent to Tyler’s father, and is finally able to kill the evil creature.

Jack tells Tyler that he must rescue the other children before he can return to his family.  Tyler argues that he cannot, and Jack argues otherwise.  The cap that Burnside had placed on Tyler’s head then falls off, and the full extent of Tyler’s powers are unleashed.  Tyler then uses those powers to destroy the machines that have imprisoned the other children, and the other children are freed as well.

Jack, Tyler, Dale, Beezer and Doc then return to their world, along with the rest of the children freed by Tyler.  Black House has now lost its magic and is an ordinary house.  The dog that had attacked Mouse is also destroyed.

Some weeks later, Jack, Doc, Beezer and Dale prepare to attend a ceremony so they can be recognized for their bravery by the town of French Landing.  They have concocted a cover story that leaves out the visit to the other world, and implicates Henry Leyden as the one who identified The Fisherman and led Jack and his friends to him.  The government is also dealing with the other children who were rescued, and the origins of most of these children remain a mystery.  Black House has also been destroyed, thanks to the efforts of Beezer and Jack.

Jack and his friends enter the stage and face the crowd, which begins to wildly applaud.  In that crowd is Jack’s old friend, Speedy Parker.  However, a woman named Wanda Kinderling is also part of the crowd.  Wanda is the wife of the man who Jack helped Dale imprison for murder several years ago.  Wanda is angry, as she believes her husband was wrongfully imprisoned.  Tragically, Wanda acts on that anger, shooting Jack.  Speedy is unable to stop her, and Wanda shoots Jack in the chest and throat.  After she shoots Jack, Wanda is almost immediately attacked by Doc.

Speedy then grabs Jack and carries him in his arms to The Territories.  He tells Sophie that Jack will survive his injuries, thanks to his encounter with The Talisman as a child, but that Jack must remain in The Territories, as a return to his own world will likely kill him.  Jack continues to remain in a coma for several days.

Several days later, Jack awakens, with Sophie by his side, who welcomes him to his new life in The Territories.


My Thoughts

And there are so many of them, in regards to Black House.  But I will try to condense myself (hey, don’t laugh too hard, now.)

First of all, the men.  There are some fine men in this book…and I am not even talking about the main character, Jack Sawyer (although be prepared for more in depth discussion of him in a bit.  Don’t worry, I have not forgotten.  Far from it, in fact.)

There is a little something for everyone, in terms of men in this book.

First of all, Henry Leyden.  He is blind, but anyone who has sex with Henry is not having pity sex with him…no sir (or m’am, if you please.)

He’s a DJ, and he knows his music.  Check.

Despite the fact that he is blind, Henry has an incredible sense of style.  Just thinking about the suits that he was described as wearing…whoa!  What is it about well-dressed guys that makes you want to tear those same clothes off?

And Henry has the x-factor too.  Just something about his friendship with Jack sent shivers down my spine.  Henry never pressured Jack to take down those walls, but chiseled away patiently.  And that made my heart melt.

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My heart also broke wide open, when Henry died.  I have read this book a few times, but each time I find myself, hoping against hope, that things will be different this time.  Of course, they never are.  And my heart breaks wide open yet again.

Beezer St. Pierre.

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Yes, I know that guy is not Beezer.  But I don’t think I am that far off, am I?

Anyone who lives in a place known as “Nailhouse Row” (can you get any cooler than that?) is already hot by association.

And let’s just admint:  Beezer is a bad ass.  A fucking bad ass, as a matter of fact.  In fact, he wouldn’t be that out of place in a certain club known as SAMCRO.  Not out of place at all, as a matter of fact.

Beezer is also smart.  Smart is always hot.  The fact that he was reading William Blake…swoon!  And that his house was overflowing with books?  Woo, I am feeling a little flushed right now…

I could also feel empathy for Beezer, given what happened to his daughter.  I never pitied him, like I pitied Tansy Freeneau.  But I could emphasize with him, as his daughter was brutalized by The Fisherman.  And I could understand why Beezer and his friends felt the need to police the police, so to speak.  Poor man was going through an unimaginable pain, it’s a wonder that he didn’t break down doors at the police station.

And we have Jack Sawyer.

As all both  of my faithful readers know, I have book boyfriends.  Like Aragorn.  And Jon Snow.  I am such as sucker for fictional men that I can never, ever have an actual relationship with (don’t worry, my marriage is open in regards to this…heehee!)

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One of my favorite book boyfriends is Jack Sawyer.  It feels weird saying that, since he was 12 when I first met, and I was in my twenties, but it’s ok, I am reading Black House and Jacky is all growed up!

I think the reason why I love Jack so much is because I identify with him.  King writes about people who don’t quite fit in and who often live on the fringes of society, and are maybe even marginalized by everyone else.  I am pretty isolated (even though I do have a few good friends and an understanding husband), I live on the fringe (although that is my choice and I spent my life being marginalized.  I was the odd kid, and childhood and adolescence were a social disaster for me.  And until recently, adulthood was a social disaster for me.

At the beginning of the book, Jack is a lonely man.  Jack probably does not realize this, but the reader certainly does.  Jack is unmarried (criminal!) and has retired from the police force at the impossibly young age of 31.  Jack has no surviving family members. and no close friends.  When people do try to reach out to Jack (like Dale), the walls go up, and Jack pushes people away.

However, Jack slowly emerges from his shell as the book progresses.  And it is quite a beautiful thing to watch.  Jack had been living in a sort of fog and has not been truly engaged with anyone or anything.  It takes a series of gruesome child murders, along a ghost from Jack’s childhood in order for that fog to lift. But it’s worth the wait, because Jack Sawyer reminds me of a rose:  it may be a little shy to open up and finally bloom, but when the flower does bloom, it is beautiful beyond words.

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I consider Black House to be one of King’s most frightening books ever written.  Normally, when people think of scary Stephen  King books, works such as The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, It and Pet Sematary come to mind.  When you mention a scary Stephen King book, the one co-written by Peter Straub that is the follow up to the epic fantasy otherwise known as The  Talisman that could almost be considered another Dark Tower book does not come to mind.  However, it should, since Black House is an extremely creepy read, and should be recognized as such.

First of all, the book deals with child murders.  King is known for writing about “real-life horrors,” and unfortunately, children being killed fall into that category.  In fact, the events in Black House are tragically plausible: children go missing and are murdered on an almost daily basis in this country.  I have stated in the past that Charles Burnside is one of King’s worst human (or is it best) monsters, and I stand by that statement.  Burnside was based on Albert Fish, who (at least to me) was one of the worst real-life monsters that has ever existed throughout history.  Anyone who can do what Fish (and Burnside) did to children…well, Hell would be too good for that person, actually.  I would hope that there was some place even worse than Hell for someone like that, where he would be made to suffer just as his victims did.

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Often, King books, there is what I call “buried treasure,” or something that really does not have much to do with the story being told, but is something that just takes the story from good to fucking epic (the history of Derry in It being a great example, among countless others.)  In Black House, it is the bit about borders, and how borders seem invite bad things in.  I loved the story told by Sonny about Harko, Illinois, and the border town of Harko, where one of his friends murdered the other with no provocation and ended up in the mental asylum…it had a kind of EC Horror Comics feel to it…I loved it!

Black House also has a scary non-human bad guy:  Mr. Munshun.

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Or is it Humpty Dumpty on a bad day?  Dammit, I knew Humpty wasn’t who he seemed to be!  And I always had an uneasy feeling about him, anyway…I can see why they knocked him off that wall!

The descriptions of Munshun are just so unsettling (I think King also compared him to Humpty Dumpty.)  The teeth, the orange hair, how Tyler Marshall could fee his presence when he was shackled.  My heart raced as Tyler struggled to beat the clock, and I jumped up and down when Munshun was finally disposed of.  Pennywise, Randall Flagg, Kurt Barlow are all frightening, but Munshun has also earned his spot on the list of Stephen King monsters…he needs to be in the discussion a lot more!

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There is also Black House itself.  A house that literally eats people?  And has a hell hound for a watch dog?  To boot, the bite of that “dog” is much, much worse than its bite.  The description of what happened to Mouse (seriously, vomit that comes alive…I can’t even) is just seriously…well…disgusting…even for the likes of writers like King and Straub.  Did they have a sleepover where they spent the night trying to see who could gross the other out, and then decide to include those details in Black House?  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Stephen King

As I have stated before, Black House is also a bit frustrating.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but still.

I found the ending to be very open-ended.  Jack is shot, and transported back to The Territories.  Speedy then hints about the business with The Tower (goosebumps) not being finished yet.  Ooooh, a sequel!

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A sequel that we have been waiting about 15 years for.  King and Straub have both stated that there should be a third book, but we have yet to see it.  I have faith that we will one day, but even I am not THAT patient.  C’mon, don’t tease me like this, Uncle Stevie!

I just have to know what happens to my friend Jack Sawyer.  Did he somehow help Roland and his friends in their quest (again)?  Or is it some other adventure, where Jack meets even more interesting folks in The Territories?  What of Jack and Sophie?  I know that Sophie stated she was barren, but I would so love a Jack Junior!

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Such questions…such torture…

But hopefully, we end the torture soon, and The Master graces us with the answers to those questions!


Well, that’s it for Black House.  Join me next month for an out of this world experience, as we review and dissect Dreamcatcher!

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

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Connections

Like all King books, Black House is a part of the Stephen King Universe, and is particularly connected to the world of the Dark Tower series.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The most obvious connection is to The Talisman, as Black House is a follow up novel to The Talisman.  Several characters from The Talisman are referenced, including Lily Sawyer, Morgan Sloat, Wolf and Sunlight Gardner.

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Black House could also be considered another Dark Tower novel, as part of the book takes places in the same world inhabited by Roland Deschain and his friends.  Roland Deschain is specifically mentioned, along with the fact that Roland is training Eddie, Susannah and Jake to be gunslingers.  The Crimson King, who is also a character in the series, is  referenced as well.

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Ted Brautigan is mentioned in Black House.  Ted Brautigan is a character in the novella Low Men in Yellow Coats, which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis, and is also a character who appears in the final Dark Tower novel.

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-Black House and the town of French Landing are mentioned by Randall Flagg in the final Dark Tower novel.

-The house named Rose Red is mentioned.  Rose Red is the haunted house featured in the movie of the same name.

-Parkus owns a two-headed parrot.  This is similar to a parrot owned by Randall Flagg in the book The Eyes of the Dragon.

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-Blaine the Monorail, along with Patricia the Monorail, are referenced in Black House.  Blaine the Monorail is a character in The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass.

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-The phrase “Light out for the Territories” is used.  This phrase is also used in several other King novels, including The Talisman, The Wastelands and Lisey’s Story.

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-Mention is made of Legion.  Legion is also referenced in It, The Gunslinger and The Stand.

Black House features people with psionic abilities, or Breakers.  People with these gifts are featured in several King stories, including Everything’s Eventual, The Wolves of the Calla, The Shining, Dr. Sleep, The Song of Susannah and Carrie.

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-The being known as the Crimson King is referenced several times in Black House.  The Crimson King is also the antagonist in the novel Insomnia.

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Making Castle Rock Great Again: My Review of The Dead Zone

As I have stated before, one of Stephen King’s strengths as a writer is that he writes about “real life”, and is able to write about it very well.

Stephen King

And this is a good thing for a few reasons.

For one, it makes the stories more believable.  The Shining is a good example of this.  We may know the book for the scary hotel and the lecherous ghost in a certain famous room, but much of the book centers around the Torrance family and their problems, which include financial issues, abuse and substance abuse.  These are all topics we are familiar with, so when the familiar is juxtaposed with the supernatural, it makes the supernatural that much more believable.

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In other words, seeing Jack’s struggles with addiction and his need to provide for his family adds an element of credibility, and suddenly we can believe that an old hotel is really haunted by angry ghosts that want to use you as a human battery of sorts, because you really do have those psychic abilities.

(Ok, maybe a stretch on the psychic abilities part.  But, still you never know.)

King also creates great characters.  These characters also add to the story, allowing one to emphasize with the horrible situations they are put in.

In fact, King has the ability to create a sympathetic “good guy” and a great bad guy.  Both of these are essential to any good story.

Actually, bad guys are unfortunately a part of real life…

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures after Carly Fiorina says she met with Russian President Putin at a one on one meeting, during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Coincidentally (or maybe not), one of King’s most iconic bad guys is, in fact, a politician.

Again, real life can actually be much scarier than a clown in the sewers or a haunted hotel.

In case you were wondering, the character I am talking about is Greg Stillson, from the book The Dead Zone, which also happens to be one of my favorite King novels (and movies!)

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With it being an election year that has proved to be horror show that scares even motherfuckers like Stephen King, there was only one thing to do.

That’s right:  a read and review of The Dead Zone!  Makes perfect sense!

So join me, if you will, on my recap and dissection of The Dead Zone…hope you don’t scare easily!

Oh, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The prologue of the book features two people.  One is a young boy by the name of Johnny Smith.  Johnny suffers a head injury as a child due to an ice-skating accident.  This accident is not serious, but it does briefly render Johnny with precognitive abilities.  However, these abilities soon become dormant, and the rest of Johnny’s childhood is normal.

The other person is a man named Greg Stillson.  In the beginning of the book, Stillson is a young man who does door-to-door sales, but aspires for something better for himself.  However, there is something not quite right about Stillson, as he is shown to be a cruel man.  On one of his stops, Stillson kicks a dog to death out of anger, and proceeds to cover the act up so that he will not be caught.

Several years later, Johnny has graduated from college and secured a job as a teacher.  He is also dating a young woman named Sarah Bracknell.  One fall night, Johnny and Sarah attend a fair.  Johnny wins big in one of the gambling games and plans to consummate his relationship with Sarah.  However, Sarah becomes ill, and Johnny takes a cab back to his apartment.

Tragedy strikes on the cab ride back to Johnny’s apartment:  the cab collides with another vehicle.  The driver of the cab is killed, along with the passengers in the other vehicle.  Johnny survives the accident, but suffers from severe brain damage and falls into a coma.

For nearly five years, Johnny remains in the coma.  His parents, Herb and Vera Smith, are grief-stricken.  However, Herb is able to cope with the accident a little better than Vera, who succumbs to a sort of religious mania, and begins to subscribe to beliefs that can only be described as “fringe science.”  Sarah is also grief-stricken, but falls in love with a man named Walt Hazlett and has a son by him.

While Johnny is in the coma, a killer that becomes known as the Castle Rock begins to terrorize the town of Castle Rock.  Several women are murdered, but the murders go unsolved.

One day, Johnny awakens from his coma.  His mobility is limited, and he lacks control over certain bodily functions, but he is coherent and remembers his name, his parents, etc.  Johnny is also devastated to find out that Sarah has re-married, but holds no ill will against her.

Almost as soon as he awakens from his coma, Johnny begins to manifest precognitive abilities.  When Sarah visits him in the hospital, he is able to touch her and tell her where she lost her wedding ring.  He is also able to touch one of his doctors, Dr. Weizak, and determine that Weizak’s mother did not die in the Holocaust, after all, and is living in California.  Both of premonitions are subsequently verified, and bring attention to Johnny.

Johnny continues with his physical therapy and rehabilitation, even though it is painful for him.  One day, he touches his physical therapist, and has a premonition that the woman’s house has caught on fire.  Luckily, the fire department catches the fire on time, and no serious damage is done to the woman’s house.  However, this incident continues to bring more unwanted attention upon Johnny, in the form of curious reporters.

Shortly after the incident with his physical therapist, Johnny is hounded by news reporters who are curious about his abilities.  With Dr. Weizak at his side, Johnny attempts to answer some of their questions.  When he touches one reporter, Johnny is able to obtain some information about the reporter’s deceased sister, and there is no explanation as to how Johnny could have obtained this information.  The reporter becomes angry and calls Johnny a charlatan, even though the information is not false.

However, Johnny is distracted from the reporters when he finds out that his mother is in the hospital, as she has suffered a stroke.  Vera passes away shortly after Johnny’s arrival at the hospital, and Johnny and his father are devastated.

While Johnny is recovering from his accident, Greg Still becomes the mayor of a small town in New Hampshire and is on a rise to power.  However, his methods of keeping order in his city are unorthodox, to say the least, and some question his legitimacy.

After the death of his mother, Johnny moves back into his childhood home with his father.  Shortly after he moves back home, Johnny is approached by a man named Richard Dees.  Richard Dees works for a tabloid magazine called The Inside View, and offers Johnny a job at the magazine that promises to be quite lucrative.  Johnny becomes angry, and chases the reporter off his property, threatening to hurt Dees if he ever returns.

Sarah visits Johnny a few days after the incident with Richard Dees.  Even though she is happily married to Walt, Sarah consummates her relationship with Johnny, reminding Johnny on what he has missed.  Sarah then leaves, and she and Johnny agree not to contact each other again.

The weeks and months pass by, and Johnny struggles to return to a normal life.  An article accusing him to be a charlatan is published in The Inside View, in retribution for his refusal to work for the tabloid.  However, Johnny ignores the article, and the publicity surrounding him begins to die off.

One day, Johnny receives a call from Sheriff George Banner in regards to the Castle Rock Strangler murders.  Sheriff Bannerman requests Johnny help in solving the case, as the case has remained unsolved for several years and quite a few women have fallen victim to the murderer.  Initially, Johnny refuses to help, as he feels that he is being mocked.

However, when Johnny watches a news report on the murders, he changes his mind and agrees to meet with Sheriff Banner.  He meets with Sheriff Bannerman in a local diner, and finds out that the latest victim of The Castle Rock Strangler was a nine year old girl.  Johnny heads back to the police station with Bannerman, so that he can touch something that may have belonged to the killer, and hopefully get some information on the murderer.

When Johnny touches the cigarette carton that may have belonged to the murderer, he does not get any information.  However, Johnny heads to the site where the murder occurred, in the hopes that he will be able to obtain some information from the area.  And Johnny is successful in making this visit, and reveals the murderer to be Frank Dodd, who is actually one of Sheriff Bannerman’s deputies.  When Johnny makes this revelation, Sheriff Bannerman is angered, but agrees to at least investigate the possibility that Frank was involved in these murders.

The sheriff and Johnny then head to Frank’s house to confront him in regards to the murders.  When they arrive, they find that Frank has somehow figured out that he has been caught, and has committed suicide by slitting his throat with a razor.  He has also written “I confess” on his bedroom mirror in red lipstick.

After The Castle Rock Strangler has been caught, Johnny’s life has been turned upside down.  He is hounded by the press, and loses a teaching contract that he had previously secured.

The years pass, and Johnny eventually moves to a nearby town and obtains a job tutoring a high school boy named Chuck.  Johnny is quite good at his job, and helps Chuck overcome his difficulties with reading.

Greg Stillson continues to gain popularity as a politician, and runs for a seat in The House of Representatives.  Johnny is somewhat skeptical of Stillson, but does not pay him much mind, as he continues to try to live a normal life.

One afternoon, Johnny attends a rally to hear Greg Stillson speak.  Johnny is able to shake Stillson’s hand, and has one of his premonitions:  he sees Stillson being elected president and wreaking havoc on the United States and the rest of the world.  This frightens Johnny badly, causing him to faint.  When he awakens, he is questioned by the police, but released, as they cannot charge him with a crime.

Johnny continues to work with Chuck, and to live his life.  However, Greg Stillson is never far from his mind, and Johnny decides that something needs to be done about him, although he does not like the idea of killing, even a psychopath like Stillson.  Johnny begins to keep obsessive notes on Stillson, and wonders just what he can do.

One night, Chuck gives Johnny a hug, thanking him for his help.  Johnny has another premonition.  He sees the restaurant that is hosting a graduation party that Chuck is planning on attending get struck by lightening, killing several students.  One of these students may be Chuck.  Johnny convinces Chuck not to attend the party, and Chuck agrees, hosting a party of his own at his parent’s house.  Later that night, Johnny hears a radio broadcast that there has been a fire at that restaurant, and that 75 people were killed in the fire, which was caused by a lightening strike.

After the incident at the restaurant, Johnny flees New England and heads to Florida.  He is determined to stop Stillson at any cost, and purchases a gun.  He then heads back north, in the hopes of catching Stillson at a town hall meeting in Jackson, New Hampshire.

At the meeting, Johnny fires his gun at Stillson.  In order to defend himself, Stillson grabs an infant and uses the boy as a human shield.  A nearby reporter takes a picture of Stillson’s act of cowardice.  In the meantime, Johnny is shot by Stillson’s bodyguards and dies almost instantly, but knows that even though he was unable to shoot Stillson, he has still completed his mission.

Once the picture of Greg Stillson’s act of cowardice is brought to the public’s attention, his political career is killed, and the world is safe from the nuclear war that otherwise would have occurred.  It is also discovered that Johnny Smith was suffering from a brain tumor and had only months to live.  His letters to his father and Sarah indicate that he was of clear mind in his decision to stop Stillson.

Sarah visits Johnny’s grave, and feels distressed.  However, she feels a ghostly, gentle hand on her cheek, and knows that Johnny is not truly gone.


My Thoughts

The Dead Zone.  Many know Stephen King as the guy who writes scary stories.  And they would not be wrong, some of King’s material can scare someone right into a change of pants.

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But then, you have the underrated gem otherwise known as The Dead Zone.  In other words, the other Stephen King.  And people often forget that King does indeed have another side.  And this side is not the one that can scare you into a change of pants.

No, one of the things that the other Stephen King is good at is feelsies.

Yes, the guy that can (literally) scare the crap out of you can also reduce you to tears, and not the kind of tears brought on by a certain homicidal clown or by a creepy woman who has taken up resident in the bathtub in a certain famous (or is it infamous?) room in a haunted hotel.

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No, these are the kind of tears that you shed for the human condition, which is actually one of the most fucked up conditions of all time.

And The Dead Zone is a constant reminder of this, even from the very beginning.  Tragedy does not wait to strike in The Dead Zone.

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Rather, it rears its ugly head right away, as Johnny falls into the coma right away.  When Johnny falls into a coma, his life is forever changed.  He was a young man with a bright future with the woman he loved.  However, the accident changes everything for Johnny.  He is no longer the young man with a bright future, the young man who made being a high school teacher look effortless, the young man who had a beautiful girlfriend who he planned to marry.  He is now a vegetable, and even his father prays for death for him, so that he can receive some form of mercy.

The lives of Johnny’s loved ones are irrevocably changed as well.  His parents have effectively experienced the death of their only child.  To witness your only child suffer like that…it’s no wonder that Vera basically went insane, and Johnny’s father prayed for his death, so that he would not have to witness his only child suffering.  Who could blame them?

And there was another victim to tragedy:  Sarah Bracknell.  It is true that Sarah was not married to Johnny, or even engaged to him.  Sarah’s tragedy was the future that never came to be:  her marrying Johnny, building a life with him, possibly even having children together.  However, the accident robbed Sarah of that, and made her live with “the what if” for the rest of her life.

The tragedy continues, even when Johnny awakens from his coma.  “The world has moved on” (in the words of another famous King character.)  Johnny has missed out on almost five years of his life.  Not only does Johnny not know who the president of the United States is, he has missed out so many other things, like his career and his family.  And perhaps the saddest part is that Sarah has moved on and married another, so he has also lost the love of his life, along with the five years he will never get back.

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Stephen King often writes about ordinary people placed into extraordinary situations.  The Stand, It, The Shining and even the Dark Tower series are all examples of this.  And The Dead Zone is, as well.

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At first glance, the ability to predict the future may seem like a good thing.  After all, knowing that something terrible with happen gives us a chance to prevent it, and preventing something terrible from happening is always a good thing, right?

More like nope, at least in The Dead Zone.  Johnny’s abilities make him a pariah.  They frighten other people, because most people fear what they don’t understand.  Often, Johnny’s knowledge brings some unwelcome revelations.  Sheriff Bannerman punched Johnny for accusing Frank Dodd of being the Castle Rock strangler.  Bannerman literally needed to have the evidence in front of his face before he would even entertain the notion.  And even then, he wasn’t convinced.  Bannerman was only fully convinced when he got a written confession from Dodd, and by then it was too late for Dodd to face justice.

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Johnny’s abilities also put him in a moral predicament.  He knows that a nuclear war will ensue if Greg Stillson becomes president.  But is there any way to prevent this from happening, without resorting to actions which make Stillson such an awful person (as Stillson has shown he is not above murder, by killing law enforcement officials who possibly would have put a stop to his political career)?  However, unlike Stillson, Johnny is not someone who can so easily resort to murder.  Johnny struggles hugely with his decision, and often (rightfully) curses his “gift”, which has caused so much turmoil in his life.

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Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?

Throughout my re-read of The Dead Zone, I wondered this.  A lot, actually.

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And I think we all know what I am referencing…

Although I will also take a dig at Her Nibs here, just to show I am not just picking on The One Who Won’t Be Named.

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In all seriousness, the resemblances to our current political climate is just unreal.  That’s the only word I can think of to describe it.

King’s description of Stillson’s antics at his rallies is so strikingly similar to Donald Trump’s antics.  In one scene, Stillson crawls across the stage like a dog.  In another scene, Still promises “free hot dogs for all.”  I am sure that if I actually watched some Donald Trump rallies (while we are on the subject of being scared into a change of pants), I would find footage of The Donald crawling across the stage like a dog.  Probably barking too.

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And don’t even get me started on the subjects of hot dogs, since Mr. Trump has so generously let us known that his…ummm…man parts are fully functioning and of proper size.  Actually, if you never want to eat hot dogs ever again after reading this paragraph, I won’t hold it against you!

But, let’s get serious again.  Stillson founded his platform on hate, just like Mr. Trump.  Donald Trump has been repeatedly promising us that wall that Mexico will so magnanimously fund.  Stillson also had a hatred of the “outsiders”, promising his constituents that he would eradicate them.  Both Trump and Stillson attracted a certain type of voter:  white, lower middle class, ignorant and convinced that their problems were causes by “the outsiders” (Muslims, an African America president with a “foreign” name, any “foreigners”, etc), and not by a system that is inherently unfair to anyone who is not rich, like Stillson and Trump.  So both men were able to take the rising fear experienced by their supporters, and got the results that they wanted:  supporters who are frightened, and because they are frightened, are actually zealots as opposed to supporters.

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When reading this book, I was also struck by the description of the violence at Stillson’s rallies.  One woman had a miscarriage. People broke bones and suffered other injuries.

Like I said, art sometimes imitates life.  And I may be insufferable in regards to the jokes I have been making about Trump and Stillson lately.  But then King throws in a detail, like the fact that a woman suffered a miscarriage due to the violence at one of Stillson’s rallies.  I can also watch footage of violence at Trump rallies, as there has plenty.  And I can’t joke any more, since I am reminded of the horrible problem we have in this country, where these types of incidents are accepted.  Footage like this is much, much scarier than anything that has ever come out of the mind of Stephen King.

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Johnny Smith prevented Greg Stillson from starting a nuclear war.  This is a scenario that would be all too plausible if Donald Trump was to be elected the leader of the free world.  When someone uses fear as his/her campaign platform and actually gets elected, what else can we expect?  The campaign was not based on rationality, so why would any decisions, especially the important ones, be based on rationality?  In other words, campaigns based on hate and fear do not end well, and will probably end in disaster.

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)

In school, I remember reading Animal Farm.  1984 also may have been required reading.  However, The Dead Zone was not required reading.  And that was a damn shame.  Perhaps, if this book was required reading in high school, “Making America great again” would not be a political platform in 2016.

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Well, that’s it for The Dead Zone.  Join me next month for the review and dissection of another Castle Rock tale, The Dark Half.  And there will be a bonus recap and review, as the final installment of The Mr. Mercedes trilogy, End of Watch, will be released next month.

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

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Connections:

Just for fun, here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in The Dead Zone:

The Dead Zone takes place in the town of Castle Rock.  Castle Rock is the setting for several other King stories, including Needful Things, The Body, Cujo and The Dark Half.

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-Sheriff George Bannerman also makes an appearance in the novella The Body (part of the collection Different Seasons), and in the book Cujo.

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-The events from the book Carrie are referenced.

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-Beverly Marsh mentions the Castle Rock Strangler in the book It.

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-Richard Dees, the writer from the tabloid The Inside View, is also a character in the short story The Night Flier, which is part of the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

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Eddie makes mention of the tabloid The Inside View in the novel The Wolves of the Calla.

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Top 10 Women in Stephen King Books

I am a nerd (well, duh).

I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)

Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.

In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)

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And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty.  But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position.  I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.

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But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.

That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.

At least, this was the case when I was growing up.  It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.

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There was also Dr. Crusher.

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(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental.  Nope, no bias here at all).

But there was no denying it:  nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me.  Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys.  And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality:  meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.

In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept.  At last, a female nerd!  She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade!  And do all that in three inch heels!

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As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions.  Slowly, I began to find them.

In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus.  And I found some great female role models…

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Ok, glad you have let that sink in.  So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.

Stephen King

King is the master of modern horror.  This fact is undisputed by most.  He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.

But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too.  Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.

King also has given us the Every Woman.  It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male.  Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.

But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.

So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check!  I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.

So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works.  This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!

And, as always:

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10.  Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)

I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.

However, Jo Noonan won out in the end.  She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point.  Which makes her human to me.

Jo Noonan was a force.  In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.

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Even in death, she was unstoppable.  Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished:  expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history.  Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike.  However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.

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And Jo succeeded in that mission:  with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.

Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book.  Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died.  Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.


9.  Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)

In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations.  Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions.  And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.

Abra Stone is one of these “King children.”  And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list.  One of them is that she is female.  She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women.  Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker.  There is no other way to put it.

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In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player.  Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.)  So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be.  And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.

However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities.  Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.”  In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones.  The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.

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However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others.  In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed.  Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed:  redemption.


8)  Margaret White (Carrie)

No story is complete without a good bad guy.

Or bad gal, as the case may be.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.

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The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right.  As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels.  In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)

But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains.  I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.

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Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way.  However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere.  Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.

Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter.  Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose.  Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence.  She is further alienated by her peers.  One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom.  Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again.  However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.

Margaret White

Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story.  If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all.  So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.


7.  Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)

Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others.  King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.

Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse.  However, there is a twist:  Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.

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Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe.  Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop.  But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else:  his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena.  Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost.  And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.

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At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem.  But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy.  So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident.  Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”

However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer.  She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family.  The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her.  But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.


6)  Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)

Behind every good man, there is a good woman.  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.

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And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63.  Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.

Initially, Jake is alone in his question.  But this is not the case for long.  Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband.  And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.

Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest.  When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time.  She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake.  Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.

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Sadie is also amazing in her own right.  She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women.  She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake.  Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)


5.  Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations.  This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.

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Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth.  However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly.  Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.

However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland.  She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet.  Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation.  And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery:  she is burned alive for “treason.”  But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.

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Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.”  She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather.  However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.


4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind.  And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.

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However, Roland is not alone in this quest.  He had friends once, but they were lost.  But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.

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Enter Susannah Dean.  And Odetta Holmes.  And Detta Walker.  No, Roland was not given three women.  He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)

When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self.  One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle.  However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah.  Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.

Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges:  Susannah Dean.  Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates.  She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything.  Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.

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Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest.  First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean.  Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son.  But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.


3)  Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness.  Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.

One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story.  Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process.  Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.

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Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary.  However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.

Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer.  Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.)  However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.

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Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor.  When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him.  Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.

Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott.  However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength.  And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.


2)  Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.  For years, I lived in hell.  At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.)  I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse.  This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage.  The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally.  Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.

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But something kept me going for all of these years.  That something was the book Rose Madder.

Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman.  Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away.  But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.

Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help.  She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.

I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath.  Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles.  She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life.  Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.

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Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser.  And this is indeed a major step.  However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath.  Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more.  In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.


And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…

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Allow me the pleasure of introducing…

Beverly Marsh (It)

Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character.  There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.

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Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers.  She may not technically be a “gunslinger.”  But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.

When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things.  I did not play with Barbie dolls.  Instead, many of my interests were “male.”  I liked the Ninja Turtles.  I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.

Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me.  Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family.  I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.

Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It.  And I met Beverly Marsh.  Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either.  Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own.  Beverly was tough and seemed fearless.  And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.

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Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact.  Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.

As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well.  And this is evident in a book like It.  The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book.  Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.

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And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror.  For starters, she was an outcast.  She was poor, so she was bullied.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones.  Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.

Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly.  She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years.  However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.

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In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life.  She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom.  Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome.  And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.


So there you have it.

My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe.  I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.

Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in.  They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.

And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring  world known as a Stephen King book.

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