SO! I thought I'd review one of my favorite authors this week, the uber-best-selling author, Stephen King. I mentioned last week that I was just about finished with his book, CELL...well, I have since finished it and was not disappointed in the least. A taut thriller much in the spirit of the latest WAR OF THE WORLDS movie which Steven Spielberg directed. CELL was told from one character's point of view and it worked very well. The main gist of the book was that the whole world went to hell one day and the cause was cell phones. It seems that anyone using a cell phone went completely bonkers and started killing other people. The "phone zombies" then became a sort of "hive mind" assuming telepathic abilities. I won't give it all away but would like to comment that the reasons were never spelled out as to what specifically caused the pandemonium, or why, and I really liked that in this book's case. Usually I like an explanation but in this case Mr. King made the "unknown" work quite nicely.
Scale of 1-10 I give this one a solid 7.5!
NOW! While CELL would not make my STEPHEN KING TOP TEN LIST, here are the books that do...And, by the way, I've read all but 2 or 3 of his long list of books...
#10) GERALD'S GAME. This is the one about the couple who are up at a cabin, fooling around in the bedroom, getting kinky with bondage, and the husband has a heart-attack while the wife is tied to the bed. What happens after that is terrifying! is her mind playing tricks on her as dehydration sets in? Is there really someone else in the room with her? Stephen King's always at his best when the situation's set in reality. This one's truly scary.
#9) THE DARK TOWER III: THE WASTELANDS. Part III in the seven volume epic that spanned 20 some years in King's career. The first three installments were, in my estimation, the best thing he ever did. After part 3 I thought the story lost its way, and by the 6th and 7th books I was pretty disappointed but the first three were sheer brialliance! I'm so looking forward to the comic book adaptation coming out this month!
#8) THE EYES OF THE DRAGON. Probably one of his most overlooked novels and that's a shame. This one he wrote for one of his children if I recall. he wanted to do a "fairytale" type of story with princesses and dragons and wizards. I tell you...he puled it off! This book appeals to, both, adults and children. Just a good old-fashioned fairytale with enough twists and turns to entertain even the most critical of King's fans. And there's a Dark Tower tie-in for those fans as well.
#7) DIFFERENT SEASONS. This is one of his "collections" which featured four short stories or "novellas." This was actualy one of the first King books I ever read back when I was a teenager. Four stories, each representing one of the four seasons. From this book came three phenomenal stories and two phenomenal movies, and another movie which was merely great! In this book there was, RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), THE BODY (STAND BY ME), and APT PUPIL (APT PUPIL) all great stories, all great movies! And the fourth story in the book was no slouch either. That last one was called BREATHING METHOD. This book is sheer magic and few people outside of Stephen King's world realize that Shawshank, the movie, was actually a Stephen King book first. This collection is so good I almost put it at numero uno! Was a very tough call.
#6) CUJO. Saint Bernard named Cujo gets rabies and starts killing people. 'Nuff said! No, not really. What seems like such a simple premise and not nearly enough to encompass a whole 250-300 page novel does all that and more. Y'know, I didn't read this one until just a few years ago, always having another one of his books ahead of it and thinking just what I wrote above...that it sounds like too simple a premise to capture my attention...Wrong! This is another one of King's books that's set in reality like GERALD'S GAME or MISERY that the reader can completely relate to, and because it is so real, and so very possible, it becomes all the more terrifying to read. This dog only kills three or four people, if I recall, but I tell you the story is mesmerizing and one of those books you just can't put down.
#5) ON WRITING. One of two of his non-fiction books he's written. This one is just as the title describes--a book about writing books. Sounds kind of dry, hey? Nope, not at all. Sure it's chock full of great advice by the top-selling author of all time (if not top, then top 5...not quite sure), but it's also chock full of entertaining anecdotes, observations, experiences, confessions and the grim story about the accident that nearly killed him. I bought this book out of curiosity and, as a budding writer myself, hoping to get some "pearls of wisdom" from it. I got the pearls of wisdom and an entertaining read all at the same time. This is actually another one of his books I had a hard time not putting right up there at the number 1 spot! No lie.
#4) THE SHINING. This book scared the crap out of me! I read it when I was at the peak of my testosterone too! In high school...full of vim and vigor...fearless! And I remember getting to the part in the bathroom where the ghost is in the bathtub and Jack is running out of the room and King describes the thing in the tub giving chase! The sound effects, the descriptiveness, and the feeling of absolute hopelessness!...Brrr!...I still shudder! I remember having read that part and having to actually put the book down and, wide-eyed, staring around my bedroom (located in the basement) terrified. I literally slept with a light on. The movie was good--very good--but the book was even better!
#3) MISERY. Great movie! Phenomenal movie! And I was so glad when Kathy Bates won the Oscar cuz she sure deserved it. After seeing that movie I was scared walking through our house (I was a married adult then, too!) that night that she might be lurking! The movie actually captured the book to very nearly a tee. Probably the closest of all the King movie adaptations. Of course, the book is still the superior of the two as it gives more, more, and even more! And the book gives the actual re-writing of the "Misery" novel Annie's forcing poor helpless Paul to re-write (a brilliant touch and nice addition). It also has slight variations and an ending that I thought was even more powerful and chilling than in the movie. Again, King's best books are those set in reality...the ones that are so possible it's, well, scary!
#2) THE DARK TOWER II: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE. The second installment in the Dark Tower series where Roland gains his allies in his quest. We meet these characters and all the "baggage" they carry with them. Eddie the junkie, Odetta the young, beautiful black woman with no legs and the boy Jake. All plucked from different timelines and drawn, reluctantly, to Roland's crazy world. A "Mad Max" meets "Clint Eastwood western" type of future with magic and six-shooters! The dynamic between the characters is what really makes this second book work as we see our enigmatic hero, Roland, not only try and fight the forces of evil on his quest, but also try and deal with this ragtag bunch who are supposed to aid him. It's the development of these secondary characters and the relationship with Roland that makes this second installment really click! The opening sequence alone, where the main character is almost immediately crippled by crab creatures blows the mind! Totally kick ass!
#1) THE DARK TOWER I: THE GUNSLINGER. As if you didn't gather from the previous review. This first installment of the dark Tower series is Stephen King at his finest. A gripping tale told in a world not quite our own but close enough to strike a very raw nerve. There's enough fantasy mixed with familiarity to truly haunt you. A "future world" type of setting that's a little bit "Mad Max" and a little "wild west", frought with bad guys, wizards, mutants and good old-fashioned gunslingers! And a compelling lead character, Roland, that completely tranfixes and captivates. He is everything that is cool about every Clint Eastwood cowboy character and so much more! He also has a nobility about him that I've rarely seen matched in any other book, movie, comic, etc. He is King's single best character ever written! I have raved for decades to anyone who'd listen that these Dark Tower books were essential if you're a Stephen King fan, and I still do! The first three of the seven written are not only the best work by Stephen King but some of the best books ever written, period!!! And I should know...I'm a really smart cat!
And, so, there you have it! My first "Top Ten" list. I had fun doing this. I think I shall do this again soon. Give me your thoughts and feedback on my list. I know there were some ommissions bound to ruffle some avid King reader's feathers but, hey, I had my reasons and, after all, it is MY column!
P.S. Don't forget, if you're in the area, I'll be signing at Westfield's Comics in Madison, WI on January 27th from 1-4 pm. The rumors flying that I will be attending the "after signing" party hosted by Jennifer Anniston and my "relataionship" with Miss Anniston are, by the way, neither confirmed by me or unconfirmed. Sheesh!