Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rating Stephen King's Bibliography

I gave this a shot once before. [1]  But I'm giving it another go.  Albeit in a shorter per item format that's different from my usual set-up.

I'm going to have short, one or two line reviews of everything thing the King has ever done.  Adding new things as I read them.

As previously noted elsewhere, I started working my way through King's canon late in 2016.

1974

Carrie: Telekinetic girl gets teased until she snaps and runs rampant.  Simply amazing.  To think this is a first book makes it even more so.  It's tense in all the right places. Read this one multiple times.

Carrie: A

1975

Salem's Lot: Vampires invade small town.  Things go poorly for the town.  Great ensemble cast.  Fantastic writing really fleshing out the town.  Classic vampire story from classic King.

Salem's Lot: A

1977

The Shining: Alcoholic plus family locked for winter in haunted hotel in the mountains.  Creepy as all get out.  Alcoholic changes which side he's on.  Danny in the playground is downright terrifying.

The Shining: A

Rage: The first Bachman book.  Insane teenager takes high school hostage.  Lots of explaining.  Sort of a Catcher in the Rye but Holden goes off the deep end.  Not so great.

Rage: C+ [2]

1978

The Stand: Plague kills most of world.  Good and evil battle it out using the people left alive.  Really long, but worth it.  The beginning is amazing.  The end is amazing.  Some of the middle's a bit long.

The Stand: A-

Night Shift: King's first collection of short stories.  Some of them are insanely good.  A few not so much.  Highlights: Last Rung on the Ladder, Man Who Loved Flowers, One For the Road, etc, etc.

Night Shift: B+

1979

The Long Walk: Second Bachman Book.  Kids walk in a competition where stopping means death.  Twisted and yet believable.  You'd think it would plod along, but it avoids that pretty well.

The Long Walk: A

The Dead Zone: Smith can see future.  Reluctantly uses power to save lives and stop killer. Realizes he's got to stop a megalomaniacal politician from destroying world, but at what cost?

The Dead Zone: A

1980

Firestarter: Test experiments on Mom and Dad lead to girl who can start fires.  Government agency tries to capture and control her.  Not too smart.  Starts to drag in the motives.  A sentimental favorite.

Firestarter: B-

1981

Roadwork: Bachman number 3.  Man despairs over progress.  Ruins his own life to spite the world.  Takes about as long to read this as it would to pave a road.  Spend your time on the road.

Roadwork: F

Cujo: Series of bad choices and dumb luck allows a rabid Saint Bernard to trap a woman and child in a broken car.  Also somehow a commentary on women who feel/are trapped in their lives.

Cujo: B+

Danse Macabre: Non-fiction. King's commentary on horror in movies, radio, books and the like.  I really need to read the updated version.  Good insight from someone who knows the field well.

Danse Macabre: B

1982

The Running Man: Bachman number 4.  Man living in dystopia signs up for game show where he is hunted.  Great idea.  Well done in parts.  The ending isn't great.  The hero isn't so heroic.

The Running Man: B-

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: Roland begins his journey to stop the Man in Black.  More like a series of vignettes than a continuous story.  Didn't really like the first time I read it.  I was wrong.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: A-

Different Seasons: Four novellas in one book.  They are:

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption: Innocent man ends up in prison.  Survives until he can escape.  Amazing.  'nuff said.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption: A+

Apt Pupil: Boy discovers Nazi lives nearby.  Forces Nazi to tell tales. Both become twisted by it.  My memory of this was worse than the read.  Well written, but not something I will seek out again.

Apt Pupil: B-

The Body: The novel that inspire the movie Stand By Me.  Boys set out to see a dead body.  Their experiences along the way shape them more than they could have expected.

The Body: A-

The Breathing Method: Tales told in a gentlemen's club about a woman who gives birth even though she's essentially dead.  More of a long short story, but well worth the read.

The Breathing Method: A

Creepshow: Comic book of the movie by the same name.  Juvenile and campy, but not in a good way.

Creepshow: D

1983

Christine: Boy loves car.  Boy loves girl.  Car comes alive.  Lots of people die.  But it takes a long [reading] time to travel the distance and the journey's kind of boring at times.

Christine: C+

Pet Semetary: Indian burial ground brings things back from the dead.  Doesn't work great with the cat.  What could go wrong if we do it to the toddler?  Lots.  A few dead spots but overall great.

Pet Semetary: A-

Cycle of the Werewolf: Quick story told over the course of 12 monthly installments about a werewolf coming to town.  Too short to have bad parts.  Good enough you wish there was more.

Cycle of the Werewolf: B-

1984

The Talisman: Boy travels the country to save his mother and a world connected to our own.  Evil twins in both worlds try to stop him.  Co-written with Peter Straub.

The Talisman: A-

Thinner: Bachman book 5. Gypsy curses fat man to slowly wither away to nothing.  Can he resolve things before he fades away?  The ending seams cheap after the journey.

Thinner: A

1985

The Bachman Books: A collection of the first four Bachman books.  Look above for their individual grades.

[1] - You can read my attempts HERE, HERE and HERE.  Better efforts are done by the Loser's Club.

[2] - I don't hate this as much as some.  I think if you read it with the mindset that a lot of what Charlie thinks he's seeing on the faces or in the minds of others is just as much a creation of his derangement as his actions and reasons for what he's doing, the book is pretty good.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Loser's Club

The Loser's Club:

My three favorite authors in no specific order are: Dick Francis, Nick Hornby and Stephen King [1]  I own everything that they've ever written. [2] Moreover, I've read all of it too. [3]  That isn't really saying much for Hornby, he's not written that much.  Francis has written tons [4] but they are light, quick and enjoyable reads that you can finish in a day or two.  But this post isn't about them, it's about King (sort of).

King has written a TON of books. [5] And no they are not all "horror" novels. [6] A few are light and quick.  A few are dense and long.  Most live somewhere in between.  About a year ago or so [7] I decided to reread all of my King books in the order that they were written. [8]  I was also going to post about it on the way.  You can read the initial post here.  And here are my posts on Carrie and Salem's Lot.

It was at that point that my dedication to posting sort of died. [9]

But it is not where my reading stopped.  Currently I just finished Thinner and am taking a break before I read Skeleton Crew to read Sleeping Beauties. [10]

I know you dedicated readers of this blog [11] were real sorry that happened.  But have no fear!  Enter The Loser's Club: A Stephen King Podcast by Consequence of Sound.

Like some sort of divine serendipity, this podcast began in January of this year.  Filling the immense void left by my failings.  In essence it is a podcast doing what I set out to do, but doing it much, much better than I ever could. They started at Carrie and have been working their way forward.  There 33rd episode just reviewed The Running Man.  And in a near future episode they will get to the Gunslinger.

The basic layout of the podcast changed a bit since the beginning, but here is how it currently works.  There is an episode every Friday, but the format alternates between two types.  Every other week there is an in depth discussion, review and analysis of a Stephen King work.  And on the in between weeks there is a look at what is going on in the real world as it relates to King.

The King centered episodes usually involve talking about King's tweets, news about upcoming movies, books, TV shows and the like that are King related and sometimes answering questions from listeners. [12]  Book episodes have segments on how the novel was written, looking at specific characters, discussing the gory bits, discussing the salacious bits [13], looking at how this novel fits in and connects to the greater King Universe and reviewing any adaptations of the work. [14]

If that sounds like a lot for one podcast.  It is.  But it is awesome.

One of the things that sometimes bugs me about podcasts and TV/radio discussion/interview shows is that you know that you only have a set amount of time.  You know the show is limited to 30 minutes or an hour and you really want to hear person X talk about whatever it is the interview is about.  But then things get off on a tangent and while the tangent might be super interesting.  This is what's going on in my world:

Host: I'd really like to talk some more about that great new [THING] you have out.  But first, didn't I hear somewhere that you got a new puppy?
Guest: Yeah.  She's great.  She's a mix of a . . . .
Me: There's only five minutes left!  Stop talking about the puppy!  Talk about the [THING]!  AAAARRRGGGHHH!!! [15]

The point is you do not have to worry about that with this podcast.  If they want to go off on a tangent and talk about puppies.  Have no fear, there is still plenty of time to get back to King.   Plenty of time. Seriously.  Their current record is the second episode on The Stand [16] which is nearly four hours long.  And it was all worth it.

I hope they never change.

There are six or so different hosts, but in the current set-up only three or four at a time are on any one episode. I could spend time talking about each, but if you are wondering what kind of people spend hours talking about Stephen King and if you've bothered to read this far into this post and are still interested, the answer is that they are just like you and me. [17]

So far my only real concern with the podcast is the fear that they will quit making it before they get to the end. [18]

To sum up:

If you like Stephen King.
If you REALLY LIKE Stephen King.
And listening to people talk about his work sounds interesting to you.
You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't start listening to this podcast immediately.

It's great.

The end.

The Loser's Club: A+ [19]

Sweater nubbins.

[1] - There are days when I should really say four favorites and add Michael Chabon to that list, but this evidently isn't one of those days.
[2] - With a couple very esoteric exceptions.
[3] - With a couple of rare exceptions.
[4] - For the record I am including the books by Felix Francis in this grouping.
[5] - The Interwebs says 56 novels, six nonfiction books and several short story collections that contain most of his over 200 published short stories.  And when I say Interwebs, I mean Wikipedia.
[6] - Saying Stephen King is a horror writer is like saying Michael Chrichton is a dinosaur writer.  Except that sounds stupid.  But you get the idea.
[7] - I don't really remember and I don't care to figure it out, just accept that it was late in 2016.
[8] - Don't judge.
[9] - And when I say "sort of", I don't mean sort of at all.  I mean it died.  Shriveled up and faded away like Tad Trenton and no movie adaptation is going to save it.  (There's a King reference for all the real fans.)
[10] - For the record, I'm not just reading King.
[11] - Consisting of my wife and some blogbot in Russia evidently.
[12] - With other random tidbits thrown in for goodness.
[13] - Pound Cake!
[14] - Plus more random goodness.
[15] - Okay maybe I've over dramatized that, but you get the idea.
[16] - To further prove the point, they spent four episodes on just The Stand.  It was great.
[17] - Complete nerds.
[18] - Should that day come, it will be a sad sad day in my life.
[19] - Honestly, I actually get excited every time I realize it is Friday and there's a new episode out.  (Don't judge.) (Also 19.)