Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Eyes of the Dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Viking - February 2, 1987
326 pages
In the realm of Delain, King Roland has two sons: Peter the firstborn and his younger brother Thomas. His wife Sasha died in childbirth when delivering Thomas. King Roland also has an advisor, named Flagg (yes, people, this is the same Flagg as from The Stand.) Flagg was responsible for the death of Sasha and he plans to kill King Roland, framing Peter, so that Thomas can be the new king of Delain instead. You see, Flagg has come back many times and has destroyed the kingdom each time. He cannot wait for the reign of Peter to be over before going to work.
I actually had to stop myself from reading too much at a time on this one. Between the fact that it is so short and the fact that there are 142 chapters means that I suffered from "Just One More" syndrome while reading this. The syndrome in question is where you decide to stop reading, but the next chapter is short, so you decide to read that, and you've already read another twenty chapters before you realize that all the chapters are short. That being said, I rejoice in this deviation from horror fiction by Stephen King; the world of Delain is richly imagined, and each of the characters are great foils to each other. King was looking for an archetypal land when he wrote this, but he did not get it. Not to say that's a bad thing.
Grade: A

Saturday, September 15, 2012


It by Stephen King
Viking - September 15, 1986
1138 pages
When Bill Denbrough's little brother George decides to float a paper boat for Bill, who is sick with the flu, things begin to happen. George falls and the boat is carried into the sewers, which are still flowing water from a large storm the night before. George looks in the sewers to see if he can see the boat, but he finds a clown named Pennywise instead. Pennywise offers him the boat back and a balloon, and when he reaches down to get them, the clown is filled with malice and attacks. So begin the 1958 killings of It.
This novel was... interesting, to say the least. It was told in a flip-flopping style that occasionally had me want to slow down just so I could keep track of what was happening in both 1958 and 1985 at the time that I was reading. In addition, for the last 100 pages or so I had no idea how they (spoiler alert!)kill It(spoiler end), as it was told at least three different ways, despite the fact that there should only be two maximum. I did, however, appreciate the references to Christine and The Shining.
Grade: C


Thinner by Stephen King as Richard Bachman
New American Library - November 19, 1984
309 pages
An arrogant and obese lawyer named Billy Halleck was driving across town when he ran over an old Gypsy woman. Someone who he believes to be the woman's husband only utters one word: "Thinner". Soon Billy starts to lose weight frighteningly quickly, and there are consequences for others as well. The judge who gave an unfair verdict to Billy begins to grow scales all over his body, and the town cop who helped to soft-pedal the charges against Billy is cursed with a horrifying case of acne.
Thinner was the horror novel of all horror novels that I have ever read. This was no dark fantasy, my favored genre that is rarely terrifying, but rather a truly gruesome, horrifying novel. Thinner is, as well, filled with surprises, such as what the Gypsy man's relation to the dead woman really is, and the signature Stephen King twist of the ending.
Grade: A-

The Talisman

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Viking - November 8, 1984
646 pages

Jack Sawyer is a twelve-year-old boy whose mother is the famous Lily Sawyer (previously Lily Carvanaugh), known as Queen of the Bs back when she was acting. A man named Speedy Parker tells Jack that the reason his mother brought him to New Hampshire was because she was dying of cancer. Speedy then goes on to explain that there is another world called the Territories, and Jack's mother has a "twinner" (someone exactly like you under another name in the Territories) that is the queen. If Jack's mother dies, then Jack's evil uncle gets to be king of the Territories. He must top this by getting a talisman in California, flipping back and forth to save him from evils in the other world.

This, I believe, was one of Stephen King's best. It may be Peter Straub's helping, I'm not sure, but this was truly a wonderful work of fantasy. The Territories are a well-crafted land that is perfectly balanced between the modern and the medieval. My favorite character was Wolf, part of a group of "wolfs" (never wolves). These wolfs are werewolves that serve the Queen. Wolf's transformation was rooted in a strong, but not overpowering backstory. The story was fast-paced and actually picked up much earlier than other Stephen King books.

Grade: A

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Quality Comics - March 1982 to May 1989
10 issues

In "futuristic" (futuristic at the time, though the event is now in the past) London, the fascist government of Norsefire has control over everyone and has killed all those who were not white, conservative, and straight. London is controlled, until an anarchist named V in a Guy Fawkes mask ignites a revolution when he detonates a bomb in Parliament, setting off fireworks in the shape of a V. A woman named Evey Hammond, who he had saved earlier in the night, watches and comes to help him destroy Norsefire.

How is it that I am reading so many sexist books? Evey Hammond is an extraordinarily passive character, doing next to nothing throughout the course of the graphic novel. The most she does to help V is sit there and gasp when he sets off another one of his bombs. You think that she's becoming a stronger character when she's imprisoned, but it turns out (spoiler alert!)that it was all a trick by V in the first place. She "enjoys" her freedom by becoming the girlfriend of a Scottish gangster and only comes back when V dies. Finally, when V dies, she decides to become the next V, although by now London is already an anarchy, so there's not much she CAN do.(spoiler end) This was ridiculous.

Grade: D

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Macmillan - 1903
231 pages

Buck is a mix of a Saint Bernard and Scotch-Shepherd that has known nothing else than the comforting life of Judge's backyard. That is, until Miguel, a worker, has a debt to pay in gambling and can think of nothing else to give than his master's dog. Buck is shipped off to Seattle and is beaten by a man in a red sweater, giving him his first lesson in The Law of Club and Fang. Buck is bought by the French-Canadians Francois and Perrault, who make him part of a sled dog team. This begins Buck's adventure of changing masters and experiencing different levels of care.

Those that read The Call of the Wild told me this was going to be horrible, but I knew White Fang was excellent, so I decided that I should give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was a great adventure novel. While Buck may be all-dog, unlike White Fang, I definitely think that the two of them could be lead dogs together. At the same time, The Call of the Wild is not exactly the same as White Fang. The former is shorter and about a dog uprooted from his comfortable life, whereas the latter is longer and about a wolf-dog that lived in the wild before joining the sled team. Once again, though, there is racism in the "Yeehats", an American Indian tribe that behaves stereotypically. They are also much more violent than the Indians in White Fang.

Grade: A-

Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
Land of Enchantment - November 1983
127 pages

Reverend Lester Lowe has always been revered in the Maine town of Tarker's Hills. However, that was before the beast attacked him and changed him into a monster that terrorized Tarker's Hills. Every month he changes into an anthropomorphic wolf with extreme strength that kills one person. However, nobody would suspect that the kind Reverend Lowe would be behind the murders until later, when Marty Coslaw notices that the Reverend has an eyepatch after Coslaw shot out one of the werewolf's eyes with firecrackers.

I don't really know if I can give this one a review being as it was so short (a Stephen King first; he has three in the thousand-plus club). That being said, the shortness gives Cycle of the Werewolf some serious faults. Each of the victims you rarely get a page or more of background knowledge about before they are finally offed by the werewolf. I would care more about their deaths if I had really gotten the chance to know them before. However, the fact that it is only around 125 pages means that it is a quick read and the action has to pick up quickly, unlike in Pet Sematary.

Grade: B

Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Doubleday - November 14, 1983
416 pages

Louis Creed and his family are moving from Chicago to the small town of Ludlow, Maine. He has a wife named Rachel, a kindergartener named Ellie, a two-year-old named Gage, and a cat named Winston Churchill (Church for short). Their neighbor is an elderly man named Jud Crandall. Jud and Louis become fast friends, and Jud warns the couple about the highway that passes by their house and shows them the pet cemetery (misspelled pet sematary). This causes Ellie distress, thinking about what would happen if Church died, and causes a fight between Louis and Rachel. A short while later, a college student named Victor Pascow leads Louis to believe strange things are happening.

If you don't like the last sentence because it's so mysterious, I apologize. I read this a while ago and didn't have the time to review it until now. One thing I found very distracting about Pet Sematary was the fact that Jud Crandall has a Yankee accent, one of the most annoying accents ever to be spoken (see Christine review). Another thing that I didn't particularly care for was the fact that nothing really seemed to happen that was suspenseful until the last fifty pages or so. When (spoiler alert!)Church gets run over on the highway but comes back to life(spoiler end), you assume that things are going to get strange, but yet they don't. They really don't get strange until the end, and by then you wonder why this couldn't have been accomplished in fewer than 416 pages.

Grade: C


Christine by Stephen King
Viking - April 29, 1983
526 pages

Arnie Cunningham noticed the 1958 Plymouth Fury when his best friend Dennis Guilder was driving him home from a day of high school, and he immediately wanted it. Roland LeBay, an elderly man with a back brace, sells Arnie the car for $250, though it will take much more to repair it. LeBay refers to the car as "Christine". Soon after, Roland LeBay dies suddenly and Dennis begins to notice a transformation in Arnie Cunningham. He and Arnie's girlfriend Leigh must work together to stop Arnie and Christine.

I appreciate the Philadelphia setting of this novel, a change from King's usual small-town Maine (which is occasionally filled with an annoying Yankee accent). However, what I do not appreciate is the overwhelming sexism in the novel. The one true female character (I'm not counting Christine here) is a teen-queen object of every man's affection, and she ends up doing little to stop Christine in the end of the novel.

Grade: B-