27 Oct 2011
Audio Books: A Stephen King Review
Over the past while I've been listening to a lot of Stephen King, with the exception of the odd book here or there,he is someone I hadn't read since my early teens. I've discovered he is the perfect author to listen to, the story hold enough intrigue to keep me interest, but it's not too difficult that it will distract me from my work. His stories usually involve some element of psychic ability or other worldly phenomenon. But the key to their appeal is how he writes his characters. They genuinely feel like real people, so when something fantastical happens to them it somehow feel plausible. The worlds he creates are full of all the tiny nuances of daily life which make them fuller and more believable than lots of other books in this genre.
Some of the highlight of my listening have been:
Under The Dome: This is a Mammoth sized book that King had original tried to write in the 70's and 80's, which he eventually published in 2009. It is set in the small town of Chester's Mill in Maine, which is mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world by at dome that appears out of nowhere. It shows what might happen to a small society when they are cut off from society, and all the responsibilities and strictures that go with that. It has a sprawling and varied cast of characters, giving us a fly on the wall view to a Lord of the Flies type situation. I loved the scale of this story, and the believability of the towns inhabitants/prisoners.
Hearts in Atlantis: This book is a collection of two novellas and three short stories, that all weave around the same interlinking characters at different points in their lives. It is set in the baby boomer generation, and their journey and failures in their lives set against the promise and hope of that age. It was interesting to read characters of this age as I'm only in my late 20's and only have a token understanding of Vietnam and what it did to that section of society. The tale hops from a small group of friends in their early teens and their friendship with an unusual elderly neighbour, then to an all consuming card game marathon in a college dorm room, and then to a begging Vietnam Vet of the streets of New York. King artfully weaves them all together, while also sewing in the threads of an ongoing story from the Dark Tower, something that pops up a lot in his work. A film was made of the first part of this book, it was a pale picture postcard version that hacked the story beyond all recognition, something that happens a lot in the film adaptations of his work.
The Stand: The Stand is probably one of King's more famous works as it tells a doomsday tale between good and evil in a world consumed by an apocalyptic virus that kills of most of the population. I think I prefer the first half of the book when it shows people carrying on obliviously while people drop off life flies around them, then how they grapple with the realisation of the reality around them. It's the popcorn blockbuster bit to the story and it's lots of fun. It is another epic story from King that spans endless characters, weaving them together seamlessly. I'm not so thrilled with the latter end of the book when it all gets a bit God-ish, which as an atheist all rings a little tinny.God comes into a lot of Kings work, which is fine, but in this book it kinda slaps you in the face and there is no ignoring it.
Bag of Bones: Bag of Bones tells of Mike Noonan a writer who is suffering from writers block after the death of his wife, he goes to their Summer house in Maine to tackle his problem. There goes a series of psychic visions which unfold a darker history to the village he is living in. The description sounds a little corny, but it creeped me out on quite a few occasions, while still really enjoying the Noonan character. Also the added bonus to listening to the audio book version is that you get to hear the lovely/ghostly blues music of Sara laughs which is part of the hidden background in the village. On the down side there is some bizarre,meant to be eery, music at the start of every chapter, but all it manages to do is make it difficult to hear the first few sentences of each chapter.
The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower is a seven book series that is King's Magnum Opus, it somehow manages to span the genres of Western, Sci-Fi, and Horror. It centres around the 'Gunslinger', a kind of western version of an Aurthurian Knight, who is on a life long quest to find The Dark Tower. Most of the books are set in another world that is a blend of the Wild West with magical dystopian feel to the latter books. There are also cross overs to our own world in New York and Maine, from which three central characters come to join in the Gunslingers journey. The story is so long an varied it's nearly impossible to describe it any further without meandering off. The interesting thing about this vast story is that it spills out into Kings other books, with characters from 'our world' popping up, showing their lives before they appear in the Dark Tower. During my Googling for this post I just found out the there is an eighth book penciled in for next year, which is pretty exciting, as when I finished it I got that sense of sadness when finishing any good series; that it just wasn't long enough, that I wanted them to go on forever.