Insomnia

As I’ve said a dozen times, I love Stephen King. He’s my all-time favorite author (ugh, that’s really hard to say considering how much I love Harry Potter) but it’s true. I’ve reviewed several of his books like The Outsider,  The Stand (my favorite of his),  Sleeping BeautiesPet Sematary, Lisey’s Story, Under the Dome, The Dark Tower, Song of SusannahEnd of WatchWolves of the Calla‘Salem’s Lot, and Wizard and Glass. Whew. I am a firm believer that there’s a King book out there for everyone, even if you don’t like horror. His Mr. Mercedes trilogy is a police detective story. The Eyes of the Dragon is a King Arthur story. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a survival story. The Dark Tower series is a quest. The Stand is dystopian. On and on. Insomnia, at its core, is just a story of a man who loves a woman and their task of helping others. Of course, there is a horror/supernatural element to it.

I had no idea what this book was about, other than it was a huge tie to The Dark Tower series. There’s a character in DT that is really important at the end. And this character is a minor character in Insomnia, but it’s critical that he survives this book because he is needed in DT. Cryptic, I know. But I’m trying to avoid giving too much away. I loved The Dark Tower series and don’t feel like I missed a lot by reading this one after I finished the series, but it would have been great to have the background info from this one first.

This story follows elderly Ralph who loses his wife, Carolyn, to cancer. After that, he begins not sleeping. Every night it gets worse, shaving off a few minutes of when he wakes up. He falls asleep no problem but wakes up at 5:30. 5:22, 5:15, until he is sleeping maybe 2 hours a night. And he starts seeing things. Weird things like people who aren’t there and colorful auras around people. He tries everything to sleep but is at a loss. He eventually realizes he isn’t alone in this insomnia. His equally elderly neighbor, Lois, is suffering as well. Together they must defeat the men of death. Basically, the grim reapers who visit you at that moment. Two of them are kind and do their jobs well, but one is sadistic and takes pleasure in torment. There’s quite the political anti-abortion plot that I rarely see in SK’s books, but it’s an important one to the overall events.

Many people find this book (pun intended) quite the snooze. I loved it, though. With all the DT references (hi there Crimson King) and the bond between Ralph and Lois, I thought it was a fantastic story. I listened to it over 25 hours!!! and didn’t mind a minute of it. This one is a must read for any SK fan.

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The Outsider

Is it just me or is Stephen King knocking them out of the park as of late? A few sketchy endings aside, some of King’s best work has been in the 2000s.  I loved the Bill Hodges trilogy, 11/22/63, and Sleeping Beauties. He finished the Dark Tower series and gave us a sequel to The Shining. And he puts out a book every 6 months. It’s insane! I’m to the point where I just preorder all his hardback books on Amazon. I own them all, though only a handful of them are first editions, but I don’t care. I’m going to keep buying as long as he keeps writing.

The Outsider starts out as a regular murder mystery with a young boy as the victim. Eyewitnesses identify the local baseball coach and teacher as the murderer. The setting is a small Oklahoma town (albeit fictional, but realistic…trust me) where everyone knows everyone else, so these eyewitnesses are pretty reliable. The problem is that the accused, Terry, has an air-tight alibi. He wasn’t in the area at the time of the murder, corroborated by other teachers and video evidence. However, Terry’s DNA is all over the crime scene. DNA doesn’t lie.

Thankfully, there are some detectives in this town that are determined to make sense of this mess. Terry is a good guy, but something isn’t adding up, so they call in some out-of-town reinforcements to help. This is a good place to say that reading the Bill Hodges trilogy is *strongly* recommended before reading this book. It’s not required; you will still understand what is happening, but you won’t have the full picture unless you’ve read the entire trilogy.

This book takes some crazy twists and turns, but I never felt like the ending was just tacked on randomly like I did with Revival or Under the Dome. The entire plot was headed towards this ending, and as crazy as it was, it made sense to me. Yet again, King has written another hit.

The Stand

Over a decade has passed since I first read The Stand. I have been meaning to reread it for year, so when the book challenge required me to read a book I meant to read in 2016, but didn’t get to, my selection was easy. When I first read The Stand, it immediately went into my top 10 of all time. There are certain books that I’m too scared to read again, for fear that I won’t love them as much. I’m happy to say The Stand is as good the second time as it was the first.

The Stand is Stephen King’s masterpiece. Originally published in 1978, one of King’s first few books. Due to being an unknown author with only a handful of previous published books, The Stand received a major edit before coming out. But by the late 80s, King was considered a master writer and was able to published the uncut version of his book, which is the one I read both times. At over 1100 pages, you will be spending plenty of time with the characters, and although there are dozens of them, their stories don’t converge immediately, so it’s easy to keep them separate.

The basic premise is that a government engineered superflu is accidentally released. 99.4% of the population is dead within a week or so. The rest are immune for unknown reasons, and those left have extremely vivid dreams, mostly of a man in black who calls himself Randall Flagg. Basically he’s the devil incarnate, and they are afraid of him. Those who aren’t afraid (and we don’t meet many of them…this is a tale of good vs evil, heavily emphasizing the good) end up in Las Vegas, doing RF’s bidding. Most of our characters end up in Colorado, under the leadership of a very old woman named Mother Abigail. The good guys are trying to set up a city, government, electricity, etc where the bad guys are doing the same, but also much much worse.

There is no good way to summarize this book, since it is so long, but I will just say that King is a master storyteller. He just gets it right. I made it a goal to read 50 pages a day, and that was easy to do because I was sucked into the story from the beginning. Where I think IT might be his most popular book, and I loved it, but The Stand will always be his best work.

Carrion Comfort

When you read an 800 page book, sometimes it truly feels like an 800 page book. On and on and on, plodding and dull. I’m happy to report this was most definitely not one of those books. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to fly through this one. For the 2017 book challenge, I had to read an 800 pager, and this one had been on my list for awhile after Stephen King said this is one of the greatest horror novels of the 20th century. If that doesn’t convince you to read it, maybe I can just sway you a bit.

When I first read the blurb and saw the word vampire, I just sighed to myself and thought “ugh” because I am SO over vampires. And even though I just read The Historian (review The Historian) which is about tracking a vampire, it’s really not a vampire book. Same with The Passage series. Vampires play a role, but they don’t dominate the plot. Well, vampires are the entire plot of this one. Hear me out, though. These aren’t your traditional blood sucking creatures of the night. These vampires can control your mind. I know it sounds cheesy, but I promise it is terrifying.

The story follows a handful of these vampires and the people who are trying to track and kill them. The vampires can simply enter your mind and control your body. Your will is gone. You have no ability to resist. They use you as a toy. After some innocent people are killed in a suspicious way, a small group of everyday people uncover the truth of these vampires and vow to take them down. As the chase progresses, they gain a few more helpers and lose some along the way. But the vampires and their soulless acts are what really make this story horrifying. They have no problem using and destroying people for their fun and games.

I have read much more graphic books like The Troop (also recommended by SK), but this one was wholly terrifying. Yes, it could be descriptive in parts, but overall it was just so creepy what some people are capable of. Of course, these mind control people don’t exist, but their ability to kill with no conscience isn’t unique to fiction.

IT

I read this book over a decade ago and didn’t remember much, aside from the vivid memories I have of the miniseries, all hail Tim Curry. So with the upcoming movie, I wanted to revisit the book this year. And for the 2017 book challenge update, I needed a book set in two different time periods, so this book fit perfectly.

The story takes place in Derry, Maine (of course) and follows 7 kids, AKA The Losers’ Club, and one summer in their lives. Kids keep disappearing, including Georgie Denbrough, brother of one of the Losers, Bill. Slowly, the kids discover they have all been seeing a terrifying entity, a clown, werewolf, leper, etc and that something strange is happening in Derry. One of them, Mike, does some research into Derry’s history and realizes random disappearances and murders happen every 27 years, and have been happening for over a hundred years. They take it upon themselves to kill IT, as it comes to be known.

Interspersed with the childhood stories, we also see these Losers as adults. Because they vow to return to Derry if ever IT returns (no spoilers…this happens in the first few pages), they will get back together to rid the world of IT once and for all. However, since they have left Derry, they don’t remember their childhoods there or each other, even. Mike has stayed behind and does remember, so he has the job of gathering the Losers again. Once the Losers return to Derry, their memories begin to unlock.

This is such a basic synopsis for an 1100+ page book. King really does lead you down some terrifying paths of childhood trauma, horrifying events, and the power of friendship. There’s no way to capture all of these in one review. I’ve read more than half of his books, and this one is easily one of his best. He definitely has some duds in the bunch, but IT is worth reading.

I also saw the movie. It’s not like the book, understandably. There are some big changes between them, and I really was disappointed in them. But, overall, I’m glad the book was translated to the big screen. Maybe more people will read the book now.

The Troop

I apologize for the delay in posting. I’ve been doing a bit of beta reading. Side note- if anyone needs a beta reader, please contact me!

It is no secret that I love Stephen King. He’s just one of the greatest writers and I think doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he’s mostly known for being a horror writer. But he is so much more than that. He’s truly a master storyteller. So, when he recommends books, I make a note to read them at some point. For the 2017 book challenge, I had to read a book recommended by an author you love, so this was an easy category. I already had The Troop on my Kindle and just hadn’t gotten to it, yet. I have previously read another of Nick Cutter’s books, The Deep, and really enjoyed that one, so I was looking forward to another one.

Hoooo boy, this one was pretty intense. And gross. Like really gross, by my standards. I still liked it, but the grossness was a bit of a turn off. This is a personal preference, though. It says nothing about his writing or storytelling. The basic plot is that a troop of 14 year old Boy Scouts (or whatever the Canadian equivalent is…I forget exactly the specifics) and their Scoutmaster have gone camping on a deserted island just off Prince Edward Island when a sick guy in a boat comes along. The guy smashes their radio and the boat he came on no longer works. It’s clear the man is dying, and conveniently, the Scoutmaster is a doctor, but he can’t figure out what is wrong. As the story progresses, you get answers as to what the illness is, and unfortunately, how it spreads from person to person. Yep. It’s rough.

The boys (5 of them) have their own demons to face (one’s an asshole, one’s overweight, etc) which play into the dynamics of the situation. This book was reminiscent of The Long Walk (by SK under the Bachman name) where you wonder which one(s) will make it alive. It’s pretty clear from the onset that not everyone makes it home from the island. The story is also told after the event is over from the perspective of media reports, interviews, etc. These small bits are interspersed in the chapters.

But, like I said, you’ve been warned that this book is pretty gross in parts. I don’t want to go into detail to avoid spoilers, but if you are the least bit squeamish about the human body and illness, it might behoove you to avoid this one. I’ve read worse, yes, but I do want to just let you know.

Overall, I enjoyed Cutter’s other book, The Deep, more. That shouldn’t detract from this book though. It’s a great read. I truly couldn’t put it down, wondering who survives and just how horrific the story was going to get.

Pet Sematary

I’ve read over half of Stephen King’s works and this was one of the several I hadn’t read. For the 2017 book challenge, I needed a book with a cat on the cover. I started The Master and Margarita, but after 100 pages, I was completely bored. So I hit the bookshelf looking at one cover after another and found our old hardback of Pet Sematary with an evil looking cat on the cover. Problem solved.

Back when I was teaching, a student loaned me his copy of the PS movie and told me I absolutely had to watch it because it was the best movie ever. Helpful note: it’s not the best movie ever. One of the worst, really. But because I had seen the movie, I knew the basic plot of the book. A family moves to Maine, comes across a Pet Semetary, but behind that is a Native American burial ground where magical things happen. It takes at least 200 pages for the big crazy stuff to start truly happening. However, like I’ve said before, SK is a master storyteller, so I was always entertained, even if nothing was really going on.

I wouldn’t say this is one of his best works, but it’s certainly not the worst. I appreciated the creativity of the story, how he so accurately described what it is like to be a parent, and the well explained history of the town. But if you are new to SK, don’t start with this one. I would select one of his more well known works like The Shining or It (especially with the movie coming up, eek!)