Book Reviews, Novels, Short Stories

Stephen King’s Four Past Midnight (1990)

Four Past Midnight is a wonderful collection of four ‘short’ novels Stephen King wrote in the late ’80s. They include the Langoliers, a light-hearted adventure romp that revels in its own ridiculousness; Secret Window, Secret Garden, the closing of a thematic trilogy King wrote about the power of storytelling; the Library Policeman, in which a man is haunted by his childhood fears, traumas, and a monster feeding on the emotional turmoil of children; and the Sun Dog, a lead-in to Castle Rock’s final moments in Needful Things, and in which a demonic monster works its way across dimensions through a Polaroid camera.

Most of the four novels are wonderful, among my favorite work from Stephen King even under the weight of their own cheesiness and fluff, particularly…

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Book Reviews, Novels

Stephen King’s the Dark Tower (1982-2012) — a reflection

a series of seven, sometimes eight, novels

[ ranking | review ]

Tackling the Dark Tower over this last year has been both a pleasant surprise and a disappointment. It’s awakened a love for Stephen King’s writing I never felt before, but it’s also been a constant reminder of all the issues I’ve taken with his work since first picking up Carrie (1974) at 13 years old.

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Book Reviews, Novels

Stephen King’s the Dark Tower (1982-2012) — a ranking

a series of seven, sometimes eight, novels

[ ranking | review ]

The Dark Tower, as a series, was defined by its ups and downs. An addictive yarn though it was, it was easy to find myself both adoring each page to seething in rage at cheesy turns. Perhaps this prevents the series from reaching a place alongside the Lord of the Rings or the Book of the New Sun as a definitive fantasy, but it doesn’t mean the series isn’t a classic. (The Chronicles of Narnia is heavily impaired by its frequent downs — and gross religious dogma, racism, and misogyny — as well, and still remains required reading.)

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Graphic Novels, Novels, Random

dendrobiblio’s Top 10 Reads of 2016

10. Stephen King’s the Dark Tower I : IV (1982 : 1997)

A somewhat difficult one to include, Stephen King’s writing, while always entertaining, is similarly always bothersome. The King-isms build and bug me. The Dark Tower series has been no different so far, with the Drawing of the Three and the Waste Lands, in particular, being hampered by bloated writing and awkward pacing. Wizard and Glass, the fourth of an eight-part series (including #4.5), and the last I read this year, was an absolutely engrossing and addictive fantasy yarn. The horror and post-apocalyptic settings were mostly removed in favor of straight fantasy in an extended flashback story — which was worrisome — but Roland’s tale was so focused and wonderfully-told that it alone puts this series on the list. I hope 2017 lets me finish the the final four books.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

The problem with Preacher (1995 – 2000)

a maxiseries of 75 issues
art by Steve Dillon

The more I read of this series, the more I found hard to enjoy. Ennis’ writing style carries a lot of frustration with it, and a lot of it is born of the series’ time. It ain’t as timeless as the classics of similar length (e.g., the Sandman), and part of why is Ennis spent too much of the ’90s channeling the voice of a million other snarky 20-somethings channeling the voice of Bill Hicks. The series repeatedly pays homage to Bill Hicks, and literally ends with a quote meant to convey the topics the series never had time to explore.

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Book Reviews, Novels, YA

The forgotten sci-fi sibling of Goosebumps — Star Wars: Galaxy of Fear (1997 – 1998)

a series of 12 novellas

During the peak of the ’90s Goosebumps craze, LucasFilm contracted John Whitman, then an editor for HighBridge Audio, to tap into this rich market with a six-part series of Star Wars-themed horror novellas. Whitman’s work on adapting countless classic Star Wars stories into audio dramas, complete with John Williams’ scores, sound effects, and multiple actors, was counted as a boon for the YA market, where the audio-drama format would have contributed to framing quick, punchy stories full of action and suspense.

The result was Star Wars: Galaxy of Fear, a quirky combination of classic Star Wars tropes ‘n’ cameos, original characters that can best be described as Saturday Morning Cartoons,* and untethered gore. Six books turned into 12, and the series lasted with modest (but decreasing) success through 1998 when John Whitman and LucasFilm both decided to move on.

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Book Reviews, Novels

M.R. Carey’s Fellside (2016)

A different beast than M.R. Carey’s previous novel — the wonderful 2014 zombie-drama, the Girl with All the Gifts — Fellside takes a far more introspective and personal direction. Advertised as a ghost story, the horror of Fellside increasingly bleeds into the background, leaving room for a story of crushing guilt, identity, empathy — and an exposé on privatized prisons.

Jess Moulson’s life climaxes in a loss of control; as heroin addiction and an abusive, enabling partner extend themselves too far, she loses herself in an act of violence while overdosing. She sets fire to all the memories she has of her partner in hopes of removing the negative influences on her life, but the fire immediately spreads to the house as she passes out amidst the flames. Her partner escapes without much harm, but she’s severely disfigured from the accident, and a young boy who lived upstairs is dead of smoke inhalation.

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