Sunday, June 24, 2012


Rage by Stephen King as Richard Bachman
Signet Books - September 13, 1977
211 pages

Charlie Decker is called to meet with his principal after attacking his chemistry teacher with a wrench. His anger with the principal causes him to let out a string of insulting remarks, resulting in his expulsion. Once he's expelled, he goes to his locker, burns all of the things he no longer needs, destroys his health book, and takes a pistol from his locker, as well as a few bullets. He walks back into class, and a single gunshot kills his algebra teacher and turns his senior class into hostages.

This novel is extremely hard to come by today in bookstores; it fell out of print in the United States and was taken out of recent editions of The Bachman Books after it was attributed to multiple high school shootings. I got a copy from the library as part of an old copy of The Bachman BooksRage was an incredibly fast read, and not just becaus it was short. I read the whole book in an hour and a half. I didn't sympathize with Charlie, so I wasn't inspired to shoot up my school, but instead I feel like he was falling into the dark chasm of psychological disorder. The characters, while they had extremely similar names that I often confused, developed personalities on their own in the four-hour standoff that Charlie keeps them. Rage is not your average story of a kid who's pushed too far and opens fire; instead it's the story of all twenty-five high school seniors who had algebra second period that day.

Grade: A-

The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King
Doubleday - January 1977
447 pages

After ex-alcoholic and writer Jack Torrance gets fired from his job on the debate team at a New England prep school for injuring a student, he'll take any job he can to get the money. The job in mind for him is to be the caretaker of the Overlook for the winter, a mysterious Colorado hotel that the cook says is home to some horrible things. His son Danny has what is known as "the shine", telepathic abilities that make him sensitive to supernatural forces. The cook warns him to stay out of room 217, and that if there's any trouble he can just call using his powers.

The Shining, like other Stephen King novels I've red, started off incredibly slowly, but then picked up the pace much later. The topiary animals were extremely frightening to me, as well as the transformation of Jack Torrance. I thought that some parts were unneccessary when they were happening, such as the repeated mentioning of the boiler, but it turned out to be neccessary in the end. The scene where (spoiler alert!)Wendy stabs Jack with a butcher knife, but he turns out to be alive and comes at her again with the roque mallet(spoiler end) was one of the most frightening things I have read. This was a truly great example of horror fiction, and it made me scared to go to a hotel in Colorado.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

'Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
Doubleday - October 17, 1975
439 pages

Ben Mears, a popular writer, lived in Jerusalem's Lot when he was young, and left as soon as he could. But now, twenty-five years later, he feels a strange, compelling urge that pulls him back to the Lot. He decides to make his new book about the Marsten House, a house that was owned by a couple whose marriage was ruined in the Depression when Hubert Marsten killed his wife and then himself. Now, after all this time, the house has been purchased by two men named Barlow and Straker, who are not what they seem.

This novel began extremely slowly. I knew that something was going to happen when Ben came back as well as when the house was found to be purchased, but the vampire plot didn't surface until much later in the story, when (spoiler alert!)Danny Glick, who died following his little brother Ralphie being taken in the woods, rose from the grave and killed the gravedigger(spoiler end) that the real action began. Afterwards, it moved quickly. Sometimes, though, it seemed like King was looking for an easy way out, like when a vampire who was invited in was repelled by the invitation being revoked, something that seems too easy to do. Some of the many viewpoints got confusing or I did not care about. There were also many "crash test dummies", as mentioned in my Mockingjay review. As for characterization, some characters felt like archetypes while others were developed. I would be interested in seeing how Ben Mears would have written this story.

Grade: B

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fahrenheit 451

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Ballantine Books - 1953
179 pages

Guy Montag was a fireman, but not the kind of fireman that you'd expect. He doesn't put out fires---he starts them. But only when it comes to books. Books are outlawed in Bradbury's futuristic America, and anyone who reads them is put in prison while their books burn. Montag has never questioned his line of work, until a 17-year-old girl named Clarisse McClellan makes him rethink everything he's been told.

I read this book twice. The first time, I read it simply for leisure purposes and I feel like I missed the point a little. Then, a month later, I had to read it again. The second time I was made to analyze it closer, and I feel like I got more out of it. The only problem is how slow it is. The three parts to it are called "The Hearth and the Salamander," "The Sieve and the Sand", and "Burning Bright", but I think that they should be more like "A Day in the Life of Montag", "Montag Keeps Books But No One Notices Yet", and "Something Happens but the Book is Almost Over". I was also very frightened with the fact that when Guy Montag meets Clarisse, he falls out of love with his wife and in love with her. That didn't seem necessary and was rather creepy.

Grade: B-

The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
William Heinemann - 1895
216 pages

The Time Traveller hosts a dinner party one night to tell his guests that he has made a miniature version of a time machine, but he is laughed off. A week later, he invites them back for another dinner party, where he says that he has been to the future and begins to recount his tales in the year 802,701 A.D., where mankind has shifted itself into two forms: pale, naïve creatures called the Eloi, and apelike, light-fearing beasts called the Morlocks, who feed on the Eloi.

I was forced to read this book. If I weren't, I would probably have read it sometime later in life, when I felt like I wasn't really living until I read such classics as this and Dracula (which I still have not read). If I had read it later in life, I probably would have been more disappointed with The Time Machine than I already am. I did not feel one bit of emotion for the Time Traveller during his journeys because the fact that he was recounting them to us means that he could not have been in too much peril, otherwise he would not be telling them to us. If it were happening in the moment, while he were getting attacked by Morlocks and more, then it would have been better. The startling lack of characterization did not help the story either. The Time Traveller seemed nothing more than any old scientist who has an extravagant idea that he feels he simply must do, otherwise he will be mocked forever. The book moved along quite slowly, to the point where I felt like I needed Sparknotes to find out what just happened. I feel sorry for the person who had to write Sparknotes for it, because they must have had to pick through for some sort of meaning.

Grade: D-


Carrie by Stephen King
Doubleday - April 5, 1974
199 pages

Carietta White was never the popular girl. Far from it. She was the girl who got picked on. Since first grade, she's been the victim of attacks from her peers because of her religious beliefs, her outdated clothing, and her bovine appearance. At home, her mother abuses her emotionally and physically. What nobody knows about Carrie, though, is that she is possessed of an extraordinary power, and when people take it too far, they are going to pay.

This novel was the first Stephen King book I have ever read, the first of over fifty in my summer quest to read all of his full-length novels in chronological order. I had high hopes for Carrie, and it somewhat disappointed. It went much slower than I anticipated, and it was hard for me to put it down not because I was so invested in Carrie's life, but because there were few good places to stop in the story. Unlike the next book (which I am currently reading), 'Salem's Lot, there are no real chapters, or chapters-within-chapters, which King later becomes quite fond of, like in The Gunslinger. I finally accepted the obvious: I was going to have to almost always stop right before one of the fictional documents to avoid reading 120 pages at a time. Personally, my lack of interest in the book I don't believe was King's fault. It was just that I knew what was going to happen because of popular culture. If I had no idea that Carrie was going to (spoiler alert?)burn down the school(spoiler end?), the book probably would have been much better.

Grade: B