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Black House

As I’m making my way through SK’s back catalog, I learned that this one was a sequel to The Talisman, so I had to make sure and read them both this year. King doesn’t write many sequels, so revisiting old friends is fun. He has some series like The Dark Tower and Mr. Mercedes. And, of course, Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining. However, any student of his work knows that his books exist in a multiverse. Books crossover in seemingly odd ways. For example, there’s a tiny reference to The Stand in one of the Dark Tower books. Characters appear in other books, references to one book will be in another book. It’s like his own version of Easter eggs. This book is another example of that, although it’s not hidden at all. The connection is overt, and I loved it.

From Goodreads: Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer travelled to a parallel universe called The Territories to save his mother and her Territories “twinner” from a premature and agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world. Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, WI. He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories and was compelled to leave the police force when an odd, happenstance event threatened to awaken those memories.

When a series of gruesome murders occur in western Wisconsin that are reminiscent of those committed several decades earlier by a real-life madman named Albert Fish, the killer is dubbed “The Fisherman” and Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help his inexperienced force find him. But is this merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town? What causes Jack’s inexplicable waking dreams, if that is what they are, of robins’ eggs and red feathers? It’s almost as if someone is trying to tell him something. As that message becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past, where he may find the soul-strength to enter a terrifying house at the end of a deserted track of forest, there to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.

I liked The Talisman, but I didn’t love it. Jack was a great character, but the secondary characters annoyed me. This book, however, was fantastic. The secondary characters were even better than Jack (who was still great). The plot moved quickly, and I didn’t have to force myself to pick the book up, like I did with The Talisman. This book is set in the Dark Tower world. Jack’s regular world is ours, but when he travels to The Territories, it’s really mid-world. Roland and his ka-tet, The Crimson King, and the tower and beams are all mentioned. I looked at the publication of this book and it was after Wizard and Glass (book 4) but before the rest of the series. I imagine when it came out, Dark Tower fans were beside themselves with joy at seeing the references, showing them that SK hadn’t forgotten the series and would be returning to it. You really do need to read The Talisman first, but it’s worth it to get to this gem.

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books and reading

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 Dark Tower

I finished. It took me two years. But I finished. And it was worth every minute. Again, I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so it was crazy that I had never read his series, which many consider one of his best works. The Stand being the other one, which I have read and loved. I am going to try to do this book and series justice, however, the best I can do is urge you to read it.

The final book picks up right were book six Song of Susannah leaves us. There are various plotlines while our ka-tet is separated. And obviously, no spoilers because if you’ve come this far, I don’t want to ruin anything for you. However, it’s been hinted at for a couple books that Stephen King makes an appearance in the series. He does, and it’s really clever. I was very suspicious about how successful this would be, but I loved it.

Many people complain about King’s endings. Some of his books end much weaker than others, like Revival and Under the Dome. And I will say there is one aspect of the ending to the series that I didn’t care for. However, this book has an Epilogue and a Coda, and I really liked what happened in both of those. It’s no secret that King loves the battle between good and evil. And, considering the entire series was inspired by this poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, King definitely used many of the concepts loosely in this book, down to the last two lines.

I know King’s writing isn’t for everyone. However, let me say that this really isn’t like anything he’s written. There are some shocking and horrifying things that happen, but it is definitely not graphic horror, or even really suspenseful or scary.

If you consider all his works in a graphic, I would put this in the middle with his other works branching off of it. Many of his other novels are connected to this one by events or characters. There is a lot of overlap between the series and ‘Salem’s Lot and Insomnia. The nemesis in this series is also in The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon. The list of connections goes on and on. But this series is the backbone of his entire bibliography.

And it is worth every minute you spend in Mid-World. Long days and pleasant nights.

 

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Song of Susannah

The suspense is building. I finished the penultimate book in The Dark Tower series. I started in Jan of 2015 and am plowing through the series to finally reach The Tower. And to put it simply, this series is a masterpiece. Few authors are the caliber of Stephen King, especially in this series. The Stand is still my favorite, but The Dark Tower is what he should be remembered for. What’s sad is that most of his readers haven’t ventured into this series because it isn’t his typical genre. But that is what is so spectacular about King. He. Can. Write. Anything.

 

The Ka-tet is still alive (I apologize if I misspell things in this review. I’m listening to the series and am unsure how certainly MidWorld words are spelled), but Susannah is in our world set to give birth to the chap. She, Mia, Odetta, and Detta together must work together to deliver the baby safely and return to MidWorld to continue the journey.

I am so lucky to have found this series after it was finished. I’m not sure I could have waited years in between the books, especially between these two. Instead, I waited one minute for the book to download for me to listen to. And, of course, the movie comes out soon (see picture below…. thanks Idris Elba for tweeting this).

And on a side note, I have no issue with Idris being Roland. He will be fantastic. I have seen much of his work, and he has yet to disappoint. He is gruff and serious. He is focused and purposeful. And he is wonderful. I can’t wait for this movie.

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books and reading

Wolves of the Calla

There is just no denying what a master storyteller Stephen King is. I admit he has his misses, and he doesn’t always have the best endings. But overall, he truly is one of the most gifted writers of our time. And the Dark Tower, along with The Stand, are easily his masterpieces. I have yet to be disappointed with a book in this series.

This story is a bit of a side track mixed with some important plot events. The side story involves Roland and his ka-tet helping a town protect their children. Their cause is noble, but one they don’t enter lightly. The town must prove they are willing to do things Roland’s way, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize how valuable the ka-tet is to their cause.

The main plot of traveling to the Dark Tower is woven seamlessly within the town’s struggle. We get to revisit the world we know, where Jake, Eddie, and Susannah come from. The most interesting plot is Susannah and “the chap” which I will not elaborate on. However, the story leads directly into the next book, and I believe, Stephen King himself makes an appearance in this next book. I can’t wait.