BEWARE OF SPOILERS

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

All caught up...

My first thought was to title this post "Done and done", but let's not kid ourselves.  I'm caught up is all.  I half expected to go online after finishing End of Watch and see announcements for another dozen books.
But no.  Not yet.

So, yeah, what to say after reading Stephen King's complete bibliography and taking about six years to do it?

It has been a wild ride.  I know I've made it up to be something more than it really is. But 55 novels and 10 short story collections is quite a bit to get through.  To really get a grip on it all, I think I'll need to go back and read the whole of this blog.  Bit I'm not quite ready for that.  A while ago I read some of the early posts and couldn't help cringing.  All youthful (ha!) ambition and exuberance, throwing opinions all over the place like I had even a clue what I was talking about.  Not that I know anything now.  At least now I know that I don't know shit.  But that's OK.  This is the internet.  Giving a voice to those with nothing to say.

Enough of that.

So, what's next?  Comics.  Lots of comics.  I've a few series to catch up on: Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther, Kim & Kim, Animosity, The Revisionist, Civil War II: Kingpin. With most of those, I'm only an issue behind as it was only in the last couple of weeks that I completely abandoned everyone but Uncle Steve.
Past that, I've got a Marvel Unlimited subscription to properly dig into.  I got it last year sometime, ostensibly for my son's benefit, but I was always going to give it some hammer.
After that, I'll be taking a step ladder to my "to read" pile and see what's what.  In the short term, I'll be heading into F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night.  My lovely friend Amanda and I talked about starting our own little book club a few years ago following our visit to North Carolina.  We did read Walker Percy's The Moviegoer and almost got going on The Last Gentlemen, but didn't manage to keep it up.  Now seems as good a time as any and the idea of maintaining closer contact with a friend is a massive boon.

I'm not sure whether to keep on blogging.  Posting about other books and doing the whole journal thing seems to go against the purpose of this blog.  It was/is a specific accompaniment to reading Stephen King.  Aside from recording and collecting any thoughts or reactions, it's main purpose was to maintain momentum and encourage progress. I don't know.  We'll see. In the end, I had no idea of the blog's audience.  The stats on the blogger account page suggest someone's looking at the posts, but I couldn't say whether it's more than bots dropping on search terms.  I've never encouraged discussion, mainly because I haven't given much value to my opinion, so there hasn't been much reader interaction.  All my own fault.  But it has served its purpose well enough for me.  I got to the end.
Maybe I'll just read books and keep my opinions to myself. Maybe I'll write bits and bobs in an attempt to see whether my brain still works. Yeah, we'll see.

Before I go, I'll give one note of thanks to Laura.  She keeps a blog at http://devouringtexts.blogspot.com where she has not only been reading all of Stephen King, she also reads and reviews (like proper reviews!) zillions of other books.  And engages with her readers in a warm and lovely way.  Go read her blog.

Here's the full list of books that I've trawled through:

Novels
Carrie (1974)
'Salem's Lot (1975)
The Shining (1977)
The Stand(1978)
The Dead Zone (1979)
Firestarter (1980)
Cujo (1981)
Christine (1983)
Pet Sematary (1983)
Cycle of the Werewolf(1983)
The Talisman (1984; with Peter Straub)
It (1986)
The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
Misery (1987)
The Tommyknockers(1987)
The Dark Half (1989)
Needful Things (1991)
Gerald's Game (1992)
Dolores Claiborne (1992)
Insomnia (1994)
Rose Madder (1995)
The Green Mile (1996)
Desperation (1996)
Bag of Bones (1998)
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
The Plant (2000; unfinished)
Dreamcatcher (2001)
Black House(2001; with Peter Straub)
From a Buick 8 (2002)
The Colorado Kid(2005)
Cell (2006)
Lisey's Story (2006)
Duma Key (2008)
Under the Dome (2009)
11/22/63 (2011)
Joyland (2013)
Doctor Sleep (2013)
Mr. Mercedes (2014)
Revival (2014)
Finders Keepers (2015)
End of Watch (2016)
The Dark Tower series
The Gunslinger (1982)
The Drawing of the Three (1987)
The Waste Lands (1991)
Wizard and Glass (1997)
Wolves of the Calla (2003)
Song of Susannah (2004)
The Dark Tower (2004)
The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
Richard Bachman novels
Rage (1977)
The Long Walk (1979)
Roadwork (1981)
The Running Man (1982)
Thinner (1984)


The Regulators (1996)
Blaze (2007)
Short fiction collections
Night Shift (1978)
Different Seasons (1982)
Skeleton Crew (1985)
Four past Midnight (1990)
Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993)
Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
Everything's Eventual (2002)
Just After Sunset (2008)
Full Dark, No Stars (2010)
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015)

End of Watch: 19th - 20th September 2016

Two days!  That's all it took my to blast through this book.  I'll put it down to a combination of being on the finishing straight of this reading mission as much as the book's pace and readability.
I checked out somewhat on the supernatural elements, almost lamenting their inclusion.  But I was happily along for another ride with Bill, Holly and Jerome.

The book didn't fill me with joy, but then neither did a good percentage of King's other books.
I think it's fair to say that there are elements of the detective story genre that King struggled to adopt and his usually tremendous depiction of youth didn't work at all.  The modern, especially technological, references stuck out like turds in a swimming pool, but rather than pick apart what I did and didn't like, I'll just say that it wasn't a waste of time and I didn't spend any of the time I was reading thinking that King could have better spent his time writing something in his usual mould, rather than this detective trilogy (as one goodreads reviewer said).

And that's that.  One more summary post, and I'm done.
End of Watch

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: 11th - 18th September 2016

I've never been wholly taken by Stephen King's short stories.  His novellas, sure.  Some of his most affecting work, for me, has been found in his slimmer volumes.  But, while there's some good stuff in here, nothing life changing.  God, what a dick I am to be so flippant and throwaway.  But, at this stage of the proceedings, I'll have to cop to not having given the book much of my critical acumen (I know, I know, I've barely done that for any of the books). I just charged through, inhaling the stories and maybe giving each a "that was alright" or "not so bothered for that one."
My standouts were:
Premium Harmony, Bad Little Kid, Afterlife, UR (even better second time), Herman Wouk is Still Alive and Obits.
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Finders Keepers: 2nd - 11th September 2016

I dunno. It was alright. It was a page turner, but the criticisms are easy pickings. As with Mr Mercedes, the villain is way too much of a caricature. Obviously not on the same level as Brady Hartsfield, but he's cut from a similarly perverse cloth.
King's up to date references are still pretty poor. Putting Snow Patrol and cool into the same sentence is a clanging bum note.
I'd been looking forward to seeing how the relationship between the three main characters had evolved, but it was resigned to a subplot that I struggled to care too much about.
The end of the book has me looking forward to the next instalment, but the fact that End of Watch will bring me right up to date on King's work and the opportunity to go to work on my 'to read' pile, may be doing a lot of the heavy lifting on that anticipation.


Finders Keepers

Friday, 2 September 2016

Revival: 27th August - 2nd September 2016

Yes! I liked this one a lot. I think more for the style than anything else. King writes kids so well, it was hard not to be brimful of joy with the earlier sections of this book. It was only the end that turned me off a bit. But it's not a new thing for King to build things up beautifully to a damp squib climax.
Still, I galloped through the pages and will definitely put Revival on my good pile. If I had one. Maybe I will at the end.
Only three books to go. Wow.
Revival

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Mr. Mercedes: 19th - 27th August 2016

I came out of it having really liked Mr Mercedes. For a good part of the first half, it was hard to escape the sense of King wearing the disguise of crime writer. He knows his stuff, so the conventions and whatever else (I'm wholly aware that I don't really know what I'm talking about when it comes to the minutiae of genre and have rambled at some length about my literary and critical ignorance, so you'll just have to take these comments in the same throwaway vein as the rest of this blog) are all there, but so are the cracks. The disguise is ill-fitting at times. As in, he knows what's expected in a crime novel, but when he does it, it just feels formulaic. Maybe I'm projecting this, imposing my stylistic expectations on the book and being wrong footed by any step outside my comfort zone.
Anyway, when it really came to it, it was hard not to get pulled into the plot and into the characters' lives.
It only took me just over a week, so there's that to say for it.
I'm certainly looking forward to Finders Keepers.
But first, there's Revival.


Mr. Mercedes

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Doctor Sleep: 7th - 18th August 2016

Lovely stuff. Another one I got through comparatively rapidly. For me, that is.

One of the things that highlights how well I got into a book, is how much other stuff I read at the same time. For this and Joyland, I remained faithful. With The Wind Through The Keyhole, meanwhile, I read both Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and Dan Rhodes' The Little Whte Car. I read those books in particular as I was about to go to Paris for the week and both wanted to get into the vibe and also as I'd made two previous attempts to read Tropic of Cancer and thought maybe this time I'd get through it and be able to be that little bit more pretentious while I was over there. It didn't help. That said, while it was nothing but a tongue-in-cheek goal for me, it clearly isn't for many literary tourists to Paris. Back to sort of the point; for all but the overall conceit of The Little White Car, its being set in Paris is completely incidental and barely features in the book.  I knew that beforehand, but I love Dan Rhodes so much, I'll grab even the most tenuous reasons to read his stuff. So should you.

Anyway, back to Doctor Sleep. I'm going to come clean and say that I'm not the biggest fan of The Shining. I'd have to go back and read my thoughts from my latest reading to see whether I was still trying to shoehorn my opinion into the common mould, weighing the book against its popular reception and its relationship to the Kubrick film. At this point, I think I'll claim the inability to remain objective and admit a massive critical weakness.

With Doctor Sleep, however, its perfectly possible to read it without any of the kind of obfuscation that hampers The Shining for me. Evidently, as I bashed through it and really enjoyed it.

Doctor

Joyland: 5th - 6th July 2016

I liked Joyland a lot: as evidenced by my reading it in a few hours over a couple of days. It brought the film Adventureland to mind early on, but really only as a reference for the vibe of the place. Which was quite helpful for an Englishman with experience of only either big theme parks or the grim travelling fairs that turn up on village park and fields, that I wouldn't take my kids to for love nor money.

Other than that, it's a tight little book that has definitely left me looking forward to the crime trilogy, that I'll be starting with Mr. Mercedes as soon as I've caught up with these posts. It's partly the desire to get on with reading that these posts are so flimsy and shit. The other part is that I can't be bothered to pretend that I know a thing about reviewing. Commenting on how well the plot unfolds, how well the characters and motivations are painted would be a half-cocked wet fart. Most of the reviews on Goodreads, in fact in actual publications or on websites tend to make me want to boil my head. So I don't bother reviewing. I just talk anti-critical bollocks instead. But you already knew that. Don't worry, we're nearly done. Only a handful of books to go...


Joyland

A Face in the Crowd, In the Tall Grass, Guns - One day in July

I'm not entirely sure when I read these three stories other than it was all in one day in July.

Not much to say about them, I'm afraid. Obviously Guns is an essay rather than a story but, just like always, it's Uncle Steve telling it how it is. So it's worth a read. As are the other two. I think that's my main takeaway: they're all worth a read.

Oh wait, just remembered In The Tall Grass was co-written with Joe Hill. That reminds me, I need to get a hold of his new novel, The Fireman, cos I've rated everything he's done so far. From Horns to NOS4R2 to Locke and Key. Cool. I've also got a few of comics waiting for me to read them. Bonus!
OK, I'm done. Bye.

The Wind Through The Keyhole - A Dark Tower Novel: 30th June - 4thAugust 2016

I went into this one in two minds. On the one hand, I don't consider myself a true convert to the cult of the Dark Tower. On the other, I'm an open-minded soul and there were points of the Dark Tower odyssey where I couldn't help but be caught up by the undertow of the characters and their fates.

In the end, the story within the story was the one that got me and the rest became almost incidental. Part of this may have been the fact that, in the grander scheme, the fate of Roland's ka-tet has already been sealed. A cynical, dick point of view, I know.

All things considered, I think it has its place. It stands up both on its own and as a slight return to the Dark Tower.

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

11/22/63: 6th Jun - 29th Jun 2016

Awesome.
King has knocked out nothing but bangers for a while now and 11/22/63 was an absolute joy to read. One of those books you think about when you're not reading it and compelling enough to curtail the endless iPhone/iPad distraction. I also didn't read anything else concurrently. High praise indeed.

Not only was the book great, it features an uncharacteristically solid ending. Not the usual 'fuck it, let's tie this shit up and call it a day'. Perfectly bittersweet.

11/22/63

Thursday, 23 June 2016

UR & Mile 81: 3rd June 2016

I liked both of these stories.
The Dark Tower tie in of UR was a nice touch. Not much to say otherwise. Nothing amazing, but worth the time and money.
Mile 81 was a lovely dose of horror that King does so well.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Full Dark, No Stars: 10th May - 2nd Jun 2016

I've left this a bit late.  I finished the book brimful of enthusiasm.  I relished in the bleakness of the novellas.  1922 was my least favourite, but it's a solid collection and was a pleasure to read.
Big Driver was my favourite, because who doesn't like a good revenge story.
Overall, the book again fits into the mound of the sort of King I want to read. I'm torn as to whether this is more a case of it being the thing he does well/best or just my selfish wish that he write the thing I like.
Either way, Full Dark, No Stars is some good shit.

Full Dark No Stars

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Blockade Billy/Morality: 9th May 2016

Lovely couple of stories. Good, not great (I've a feeling I've totally overused that phrase in this blog, but it fits.)
It felt good to blast through them after thundering my way through Under the Dome. 
I don't know much about baseball. Certainly, I've never fathomed the scoring, but I know enough of the basics to have kept Blockade Billy from flying straight over my head.
That's it really. Full Dark, No Stars is next.

Under the Dome: 6th Apr - 8th May 2016

Under the Dome
I'm just going to come straight out with it. I loved this book and, still warm with the glow of belting through it a fair old pace and finishing it yesterday, I'm going to declare it my favourite book of King's so far.
A small part of me feels inclined to answer the obvious criticisms that can be levelled against it, but I'm not in the mood for negativity.  Instead, I'll just briefly ramble about what I liked about it.
I loved the scale; both the big (the length of the book, the expansive cast of characters) and the small (the enclosed, pressure cooker setting).  For me, this is the King I envisioned when I decided to read his from beginning to end.  Rich characters you can't help but love or hate.  You inwardly cheer when they triumph and even shed a tear at their demise. And when a bad guy gets his comeuppance...it's a fist in the air moment. I know they're often painted in broad strokes, and stereotypes are used to save dozens of pages of additional character exposition, but they work for the story and pacing.

Yes the ending is a bit silly, but I don't care.  I'm not going to write off 900 pages of thrilling journey to moan about the destination.

In the early days of this reading project, in each blog post I would ask myself whether the book had scared me at all.  In a lot of cases, it was really a question of whether it had successfully suspended my disbelief enough to render the supernatural elements in any way affecting. With Under the Dome, the nature and cause of the dome weren't important.  It's the people we have to be scared of. In this respect, the book was terrifying.

I said before reading the book that I planned to watch the TV series.  I watched the pilot last night with my wife.  I'm doing my best to avoid being a massive cock and constantly pointing out divergences between the book and series.  I know it's too soon and the natural inclination to make these comparisons will be hard to suppress, but I'm going to do my best.  There are already enough differences in the pilot to encourage me to just sit back and watch the show on its own merits.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Under the Dome - starting out

Under the Dome is quite a big deal to me.  I haven't read it before, so have no emotional attachment to the story and characters. Instead, the book functions as something of a milestone, a monolith and a line in the sand. It was the first book King published following my decision to start this chronological reading of his works. My mother-in-law bought me the book the following Christmas and there it has sat, calling me from a shelf, a box and, latterly, the top shelf of a wardrobe for the last six years (I might sort out some bookshelves again one day.)  I also bought a copy of the book for someone who binge read it soon after and they loved it. Vicarious enjoyment bears weight.

I've heard good things, I've heard bad, but nothing has dampened my anticipation and longing to read this book. It's a hefty thing and I want to get lost in it. When I finish it, I'm going to plough straight into the tv series. I'll probably watch the Simpsons movie again too. I'm going Under the Dome it's going to be awesome. It is.

Just After Sunset: 23rd Mar - 5th Apr 2016

A week.  That's not bad.  I know it wasn't a huge book, and it was a short story collection, but still.  On past form, a week's pretty good for me.  It helped that I enjoyed the stories.  They, for the most part, hooked me and took me.

The stand out stories for me were The Gingerbread Girl, Rest Stop, Stationary Bike, The Cat from Hell, Mute and A Very Tight Place.    Good shit, overall.


Just After Sunset

Duma Key: 7th Feb - 22nd Mar 2016

Totally forgot to write a bit about this book when I finished it.  Way too keen to get on to the next one.
So, two weeks after finishing it, what can I say about Duma Key?

I liked it a lot.  The first two thirds especially.  I was well into the pacing.  Usually a brick of a novel from King can take a bit of getting going, but I didn't find that with this.  I dug the character development and believed in Edgar and Wireman's friendship.

Parts of the last third lost me a bit.  I had a picture of the crew of the Flying Dutchman from the second Pirates of the Caribbean film which, while undeniably creepy if it was stood in front of you in the flesh in a dark room, just became cartoonish.  This is only because my boring, rational mind automatically rejects the supernatural, but still, it took the edge off.

It didn't take the edge off my enjoyment of reading King on top form, though.
Duma Key

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Blaze: 4th - 6th Feb 2016

Not bad.  Not great.  Not the tearjerker King introduced it as, but definitely to be filed under the 'sad story' category.  I haven't got much more to say about it.  It was easy to blast my way through it in a matter of hours, both in length and style/readability.
Blaze

Friday, 5 February 2016

Lisey's Story: 18th Oct 2015 - 4th Feb 2016

I didn't know a thing about Lisey's Story coming in to it. I posted a photo of the book on Instagram and a chap from Norway commented that it's his favourite Stephen King book. High regard indeed. So I went in with high expectations. Unfortunately, I didn't dig it at all. Sad face.

Aside from my usual habit of taking months to read a book, instead picking up comics and other books, I struggled to get behind all the smucking and booling. The smucking, in particular, just got on my tits. I wouldn't go as far as cringing, but I wasn't far off.
As usual, I picked up speed towards the end and hammered the last quarter of the book in a couple of days. Once again, I had the same rueful feeling that I hadn't given enough of my self to the reading, but at the same time, it just never grabbed me. I liked Lisey, but didn't give much of shit about Scott. The Dooley character was interesting, and more could have been given to the cat and mouse dynamic, but that's not the story King wanted to tell.
I've since read that Lisey's Story is one of King's own favourites.  Feels like I've missed something.
Lisey's Story

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Cell : 15th Sep - 17th Oct 2015

I'm in two minds about Cell. On the one hand, I just didn't get on board with the overall conceit of a brain rebooting pulse that turns mobile phone users into 'zombies'. It's a shallow metaphor for the benign influence of mobile phones - and, considering our ever increasing enslavement to the smartphone - wholly accurate, but I'm not sure it's strong enough to hold up 400-500 pages. Telepathy loses my attention a bit too.

On the other, I welcomed a return to the familiar King territor of a band of survivors embarking on an adventure and taking on the bad guy (without all the trappings of The Dark Tower - I still have some unresolved feelings about the series, that i'll be working through. Don't worry, it's less weird than it sounds.)

I know how soft and cosseted it makes me sound to find comfort - and relief? in the familiar and formulaic, instead of hankering for King's ongoing creative evolution and waving the flag for his writing whatever he feels like writing, but in order to keep up what little momentum I have in this mission, I was happy for a 'standard-King'.

Lisey's Story is next. I didn't know a thing about it, but I've recently heard good things.
Cell

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Colorado Kid - 10th - 14th Sep 2015

I really should have read this in one go as it's a short mystery novel. As it happened, I had a busy weekend flying to Atlanta, driving to Tennessee, running a half marathon before driving back and flying home.
The Colorado Kid was a cool little book that has acted as both a palate cleanser and a springboard to get cracking and power on through the back nine of the bibliography. It's becoming too common a final word in these posts but, we'll see.
The Colorado Kid

Reaching the Dark Tower - Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower: Apr- Sep 15

So, I went and finished the Dark Tower series. I haven't got the energy to write about the two books individually, and I'm not one for lengthy criticism, so I'll just close out the series with a few thoughts.

It's King's self-professed magnum opus. It didn't hit me the way I'd expected or maybe hoped. Overall, I could say I wouldn't have really minded missing the whole thing out. At the same time, there were sections that really got me, specifically the evolution of Jake and Roland's relationship and the death of one of the characters was like a knife. I read the section while walking home from work and after a couple of great wracking sobs burst out of me, I had to put the book away until I got in the house. 
The biggest thing for me, though, was that I didn't care how things turned out. Apart from the particularly moving passages, the rest was just a story passing by.

Now, I read with interest the introductions to the books where King says that he received letters from people who were dissatisfied with the way he ended one book and other plot decisions he made. Who are these dickweasels that take it upon themselves to write to an author and tell them they shouldn't have written this or that? Your options as a reader are limited to read or don't. That's it. It's not for you. It's mere coincidence if you like it. Jesus.

My final thought is that I'm inclined to find the audiobook series and give it all another go. We'll see.

Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower

Monday, 27 April 2015

Wolves of the Calla - The Dark Tower V : Feb - Apr 15

This big bugger didn't take me all that long, all things considered. I finally managed to find some reading discipline and forced my way through.
I suppose using the word 'forced' there says a lot. I wasn't rushing to pick the book up every night, desperate to see what would happen next, but soldiered through it.
I'm still not a Dark Tower convert, but still holding on that everything will fall into place and the scales will fall from my eyes. Or not. Either way, there are worse ways to spend your time.
Wolves of the Calla

Monday, 2 February 2015

From a Buick 8: 22nd Jan - 2nd Feb 2015

That's better. 400 and a few pages in little over a week.

I'll kick off by saying I liked From a Buick 8 a lot. It isn't a brilliant book, but I had a good time reading it. It had the feeling of coming home to me. Coming home to the style of Stephen King that I fell in love with all those years whenever when. Eminently readable, head far from up its own arse but still able to grab you by the throat, punch you in the gut or compel you to lay the book down and smile with a faraway look and say "shit, he nailed it."

The Stephen King I love always feels real, even though his stories take you further and further into the unreal. He's someone whose stories can be read without an overt, critical dissection of the themes and subtexts because there's enough satisfaction in just reading the fucking thing. The subtexts and themes come through and sink in without being mined in fear of having missed something because the book was so dry or listless.

As I said, the book isn't brilliant. Nowhere near his best, but it got me revved up. (I actually got a couple of sentences on before I came back to apologise for that pun). There were bits I had to force myself to keep reading (the autopsy being one) because the dread was rising.
Long story short, fun and satisfying.

From A Buick 8

Friday, 23 January 2015

Black House: 16th Aug 2014 - 21st Jan 2015

Hahahaha, 5 months. Pitiful. I'll list my excuses/distractions at the end.




On the plus side, as Laura of Devouring Texts fame promised, it was way better that expected. Still not awesome, but as I say almost every time these days, it would probably have gone a lot better for me if I'd have just charged through it.

Part of me got excited by the Dark Tower references (probably because it's nice to feel part of the in-crowd) but the other part wished I gave much of a toss about The Dark Tower series. Up to now, I really don't. I'm still looking forward to the three upcoming installments of the series I have coming up after From a Buick 8 and Everything's Eventual.

Anyway, Black House. Early on, it was really obvious who was writing. I found Straub's exposition dreary and could tell when King took over with his crackling prose and irreverence. After a while, I didn't notice it as much. I think it stood out at first because I came at the book expecting not to like it (The Talisman didn't thrill me at all - http://thekinglongread.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/talisman-8th-may-19th-august-2011.html), so, like a dick, it was easy to latch on to this as confirmation that it was going to be cack. As it turns out, it wasn't cack. It made me want to revisit The Talisman. Based on how things are going, that might not be for another 5-10 years, so we'll see.

Distractions:
My rekindled love of American Football, heroically enabled by the NFL GamePass app for iPad. So good.

I've also been catching up on some TV with Netflix/Amazon Prime

Sons of Anarchy - bit of a guilty pleasure.
Justified - love it and looking forward to diving headlong into Elmore Leonard's bibiliography at some point
American Horror Story
- only series 1 so far, not 100% but with so many genuinely creepy moments, I'll go back for the rest.
The League - my wife has an aversion to it because my hooting and belly laughing gets on her nerves
Community - only on series 1 and so much of it falls flat, I wonder whether to keep going, but then there are some great bits that keep me pressing the 'play next episode' button.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Dreamcatcher: 4th Mar - 15th Aug 2014

It was nowhere near as bad as I expected. I found it a bit dull through the middle and found it easy to put to one side while I read half a dozen other books and a few comic series. It got a bit confusing in the middle, probably due to my lack of application and just not giving too much of a monkeys how things went.
In the end, as is usually the case, I steamed through the last third and got into it, but still didn't feel too much about it, one way or the other.
Rather than rattle on about it, I'll just say that I wouldn't advise avoiding Dreamcatcher, I'd just recommend blasting through it and not taking four months.

Black House is next. I thought The Talisman was a bit shit. Wish me luck.

Friday, 7 March 2014

On Writing: 26th Feb - 3rd Mar 2014

I wasn't exactly dying to read this. The last of King's non-fiction that I read, Danse Macabre, didn't set my world on fire. While I dig his conversational tone, it didn't take me long to lose interest and succumb to the desire to press on with the fiction.

Similarly as with The Plant, I was in two minds whether to bother reading it at all. Laura - Devouring Texts helped
sway me towards reading it with her positive review and position that anything that delayed moving on to Dreamcatcher is a good thing.

So, On Writing... It's nice and short, split into two parts (autobiographical highlights that may explain how he ended up being the type of writer he is and advice on how to be a better writer). As I
said earlier, his conversational tone is eminently readable and his advice makes sense. Having tried my hand at writing before now and giving it up, I wasn't approaching it with a 'yes!!! give me answers so I can be an awesome writer and get paid/laid'. It did convince me that
I'm not cut out for it though, which is helpful in a different way.  Quickly getting fed up of the sound of your own voice isn't a winning
attribute.

The section on editing gave me pause. I've written half a dozen or so short stories with the following process:
Longhand first draft, type up second draft/edit, let my wife read it and make any changes based on her comments. They were then 'published' in an online magazine and read by no one. After reading On Writing, I've considered giving them a proper edit using the -10%
rule and the approach King takes in the example extract. We'll have to see if I can be arsed though.

Dreamcatcher is next. I've heard almost nothing but bad things (also about the film). I know nothing about the book so am harbouring a secret hope that it's not that it's actually bad, but rather, it just isn't to everyone's taste and I'll be one of the few who love it. Don't worry, it's only a glimmer of a hope.

First things first, though, I'm reading Dan Rhodes' new book, When the Professor got Stuck in the Snow. I love him. I'm also still on with working through Joanne Harris' works. She's lovely.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Plant: 9th Jan - 25th Feb 2014

What a surprise, I took my sweet time with a book, got distracted by others, lost momentum and ended up not caring for it all that much.

It didn't particularly help that, with it being unfinished, I was in two minds whether to bother reading it in the first place. My mind was made up after tweets from fellow Stephen King reader/blogger extraordinaire Laura, of Devouring Texts fame, where she offered the perspective that anything that gets in the way of reading Dreamcatcher must be worth a look.

I didn't dig it. I was so much more interested in embarking on a long overdue Joanne Harris binge and also finally got around to reading my favourite author, Dan Rhodes' last book This Is Life. I suck. On all fronts.
It's no that The Plant was shit. There were a few flashes of awesomeness, just not many.

The 'unfinished' element doesn't really bother me because it does stop at a logical point and I've read stories with intended endings that were much weaker than this.
So, smashing my way through On Writing is next, followed by Dreamcatcher, a book about which I've heard nothing but bad things. Exciting.
The Plant



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Hearts in Atlantis: 28th Aug 2013 - 8th Jan 2014

I really don't know what took me so long.  The first story (Low Men in Yellow Coats) didn't really grab me but I made my way through it and just sort of stalled halfway through the second (Hearts in Atlantis).
Considering that this was around two-thirds of the way through the book as a whole, you'd have thought I'd just power on and get through it. But no...I'll just read a few comics...oh and maybe a series of novels too. Oh, and then I spent a few weeks catching up on Dexter, wrote and rough-recorded some acoustic tunes. Altogether, no real excuse. It just didn't set my world on fire.

Next up is The Plant. The fact that it's unfinished sways me towards thinking it's probably a bit shit. I almost want it to be, as it would be easier to deal with the lack if conclusion. Let's find out.
Hearts in Atlantis

Sunday, 10 November 2013

I'm still on with Hearts in Atlantis, I promise.

As is customary, I'm on a periodic go slow with one of books. But, I assure you, I haven't given it up, I'm just crawling my way through Hearts in Atlantis.

Hiram - See The Thing Within The Thing: Not a review



Earlier this year, Hiram released their second album, See The Thing Within The Thing. It's tremendous.

It has been met with a varied critical reception, from the negatively indifferent to the voraciously gushing. That's all well and good and, considering the nature, tone and delivery of the music along with the expansive song structures and durations, to be expected. I'm not much of a fan of music reviewing, particularly the reliance on comparisons with other bands and how a good review is generally based on the reviewer's opinion of the bands they discern as influences/reference points and how well the songs fit the preconceived template of the style of music they see them as aiming for. I'm being overly harsh towards music reviewers and criticism as a discipline, but their part in providing some kind of official validation of a band and the way bands so unashamedly chase them and subsequently hold aloft good reviews and waft them in our faces with greater enthusiasm than they play the music is a bit gross.

While I know it's all part of the game and the established step in garnering wider listenership and interest for a band, it saddened me to see Hiram pushing for and then reacting to reviews, particularly negative ones or the few that seemed to have missed the point entirely, with disappointment and a little indignation. So, with the intention of explaining why it saddened me and what I think of Hiram and their album See The Thing Within The Thing, here's my non-review.

Hiram are not a typical band. They've been going for a long time (8-10 years?) and almost exclusively under the radar. During this time, they have been consistently practicing, writing and recording material. To me, they exemplify musicians as artists whose craft is the beginning and the end and the all. It is not a career in music, it is not a leg-up to a big gig, a tour or label deal, it is a lifelong artistic endeavour. It is a desire to create a body of work as complex, meaningful and worthwhile as the ideas, beliefs and convictions that inspire it.

From my vantage point, counting members of the band as my closest friends, I'd say they're successful in that goal.  Their work is inspiring in its ambition and execution. There are elements that don't do a great deal for me but their work thrills me. That is the crux of it. Art is something to be lived through, to be experienced. It connects with you on a personal level. It should, by its very nature, resist judgements of good or bad and instead offer only the question: does it thrill me?

I'm totally aware that I may have been fooled by an illusion of artisans toiling in obscurity to create art for their own edification and in satisfaction; when in truth, they were constantly chasing popular approval and the standard definition of making it, but were just too shit to get picked up. But I doubt it.

This album is the next evolutionary step for a band that, for me, are encapsulated by a single performance that will stay with me for a very long time. Earlier this year, they played at West Street Live in Sheffield.  The gig setup gives three/four bands an equal set time of 30 minutes.  We're talking local bands playing a pub in the centre of Sheffield, with no door charge on a Sunday night. And they opted to play a single, 30-minute song: Love's Lock. You can listen to it here - http://hiram.bandcamp.com/album/2011-loves-lock - to see what I'm talking about. It was outstanding. They took me somewhere and I came out the other end a different person. For a large part, the audacity of playing this single song, where the vocals don't come in until around the twelve minute mark and the last ten minutes are world's end crush and cacophony, swept me up and floored me. I remember giggling to myself at the balls of it. Here was a band marching only to the beat of their own drum and delivering exactly the performance they wanted to give. No pretences, no bullshit, just a potentially alienating 30-minute opus of claustrophobic, unsettling build-up, bleak rage and wisdom, tied up with devastatingly heavy riffs.

The album continues that evolution through further developed musicianship and ability, and the desire and consummate capability to paint yet more shades of heaviness into their thoroughly metal canvas.

There's little point in further attempts to try to describe their sound when you can just as easily listen to it for free and download for whatever price you like here - http://hiram.bandcamp.com/album/2013-see-the-thing-within-the-thing 

In my, admittedly short-sighted, idealised and completely untenable world, there would be no need for Hiram to submit their music for review because all reviews are meaningless and only detract and divert from the art, but I get it. I've probably shit where I eat in writing this but I couldn't resist showing my brothers some love.

Run, do not walk to http://hiram.bandcamp.com and furnish yourself with their entire back catalogue for the price that suits you.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: 20th - 27th Aug 2013

It seems as though every other post includes a moan about the often bloated length of the books,  so you think I'd have had a giant book boner for a nice, short, tightly-focused 300 pager. I was hoping it would work that way, but it just didn't.
In typical fashion, I haven't got much of a reason why or a list of criticisms to bring to it. I just didn't dig it all that much.

Weak. I know. Hearts in Atlantis is next, but not before I finish Jason Aaron's Scalped and bash through Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bag of Bones: 1st - 19th Aug 2013

Good. Very good.

I know I keep repeating that these posts aren't meant as literary reviews - even a cursory reading makes that quite evident - but I still get that initial sinking feeling of thinking that's what I should be doing, especially when I buzzed off a book and want to say why. And then it passes when I realise I can write any old bollocks I care to. It's a blog. Who cares?

Right. Bag of Bones. It's a good read. I know that's an inane statement but, at this point, it counts for a lot. When you're reading book after book by the same author it helps maintain momentum, not just for the next book, but half a dozen down the line.  'A good read' also translates as saying it's well written, but I'm not going to claim the critical acumen to back up such a claim. What a fanny.

While it's an overtly supernatural tale, it's the human detail that makes it for me. There are glimmers of goodness (Mattie and her daughter are gorgeous - I'm really looking forward to seeing how the very lovely Melissa George does with the part), it mainly hit me as a study in the depths of shittiness of which we're capable and consistently willing to plumb, both personally and as a community.  A somewhat pessimistic reaction to King's handling of facing his worst fears (losing his wife and writers block) perhaps, but there you go.

This is good King. 


                     

Monday, 19 August 2013

Danse Macabre: 28th Nov 2010 - 13th Aug 2013

Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

Nearly three years to read a book.  Once again...hahahahahahaha.

Anyway, Danse Macabre.  I thought it was pretty boss to start with. King's conversational tone is part of what makes his fiction so eminently readable, but - as evidenced by my initial stalling in this reading, and subsequent halting limp through the remainder - it just wasn't enough to keep me enthralled. I eventually got hold of the audiobook version and things looked up. But, as time wore on, I just became less and less interested.

I imagine that most people reading Danse Macabre would find it a great springboard to influential and contemporary works.  Dude knows his stuff. Being in the midst of reading King's full bibliography, though, I can ill afford to add to my "to read" pile (It's actually hurts to so roundly deflect all manner of awesomeness from my life!) so, in the end, it acted more as a increasingly tiresome distraction from the main mission.
That aside, my interest in a deconstruction of the horror genre also waned heavily as things progressed.  I'm not sure how well visceral art lends itself to be disassembled and explained. It takes a lot of the magic out of it (something King puts a lot of importance in as the special ingredient), a little like being shown how an illusion is actually performed. Seeing what's behind the curtain isn't for everyone. Shitty metaphors aside, some people have no problem with appreciating art purely on the technical ability and execution.  I'm less inclined towards this.  Similarly with music. Virtuoso instrumentalists and muso-wankers bore me senseless.
But, I digress.

The length of time it took me to get through it, multiplied by a desire to crack on with other books, sucks a lot of the weight out of my reaction and its worth (especially to me).

Read it if you want an approachable version of how the engine works. If you just like to drive, don't.



Thursday, 1 August 2013

Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower V - 18th March - 1st August 2013

How embarrassing. Four and a half months to read a book. In my defence, it's a big book and it isn't very good. Due to the latter, I found it hard to hammer it. And obviously didn't.

The worst thing is probably that I chose to read two of Joe Hill's books instead of charging onward. Don't tell him. Please. Nah, fuck it, you can. I don't think he'd mind too much to know someone really likes his son's work.

So, am I now a massive Dark Tower fan and totally excited by the picture that is developing of this series and its world as underpinning and encapsulating his entire oeuvre (in a fashion, at a stretch and with selective reasoning)? What do you think?

I don't really dig it at all. But I'm happy for him to be doing it. An artist should be doing whatever the fuck he wants, for himself and no one else. Whether I like it, is the least important thing. I'm just glad I'm done with this chapter of it.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower IV - 18th Mar 2013

I really, really want to love The Dark Tower.  Really I do.  As it happens, I didn't care too much for The Gunslinger, loved The Drawing of the Three and found The Wastelands veered too heavily between being totally compelling and rambling into the wasteland of abject boredom.

I think part of my problem is that fantasy lit. requires a level of reader engagement beyond your average popular fiction. You've got to take your suspension of disbelief to a whole other plane before you even start. I'm aware how lazy and ignorant I sound, I'm just explaining the shit my brain makes me deal with when I read. That I'm on a mission to devour these books as rapidly as time and commitment allow (partly because I'm feeling the pull towards eventually reading something other than King for a change) doesn't help getting in the mindset of full mental application. Having actually typed that, I'm realising I'm wrong, that's exactly what I need to do. I've probably already made the same point in an earlier post, so I'm obviously not bothered about making myself look daft.

Anyway, onward! Please be awesome.

Six Stories: 12th-17th Mar 2013

Considering this is out of print, was limited to 1100 copies, isn't available for Kindle and all the stories appear in later collections, let's pretend I haven't read it.

The Green Mile (film) - 3rd Mar 2013

So good.  So, so good.  It's nice when you don't have to watch a Stephen King adaptation and constantly make excuses for the quality and convince yourself that it's at least worth watching for the story and revisiting the novel or short-story.
If you haven't seen it, you should.  The ending is utterly crushing, no matter how many times you've seen it.

The Green Mile

The Regulators: 4th - 11th Mar 2013

So, it turns out there was a much greater connection between The Regulators and Desperation than I expected.  I'd got the impression that the links were more or less nominal, but it turns out that some of the characters (Johnny, Steve and Cynthia at least) were pretty much the same people. Oh, and it's the same Tak, his possession is just a bit different.

Overall, the book's a bit daft.  Crushingly insightful criticism, I know.  But it's all I've got.  I agree with Laura @devouringtexts.blogspot.co.uk that The Regulators feels designed to offer Johnny redemption for being such a bell-end in Desperation.
The violent deaths and dismemberments were pretty arresting/cool this time around.
I recently read a comment on a message board in answer to the question of whether one should read Desperation or The Regulators first. The guy suggested that one would be better taking both books, putting them in the bin and forgetting all about them. Dude had a point.

p.s. Apart from Cynthia. I could have used more Cynthia.

The Regulators

Desperation (TV mini-series) 11th Mar 2013

Seriously now, WHY?  This was terrible.  Ron Perlman was about the best thing in
it.  The smugness of the 'god is good/terrible/great' thing was nauseating.  I
really need to stop watching these.  I won't.  I'm an idiot.

Desperation

Friday, 1 March 2013

Dolan's Cadillac (film) - 21st Feb 2013

Why? Seriously, though. Why?

Why do I read Stephen King novels/stories and then watch film adaptations? I know there are some exceptions that don't need to be listed here, but there are so many more that just didn't need to be made. Maybe that's not entirely true. Some of them work well enough on their own, when compared to other films of their quality and production value. For example, I've seen Dolan's Cadillac likened to an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and other stories described as perfect for The Outer Limits. Now, that's all well and good. It's just, when you read Stephen King, you don't ascribe the movie in your mind with the production value of a 70's TV mini-series. That's being a little unfair towards Dolan's Cadillac as it's a pretty good looking film and, while Christian Slater and Wes Bentley are no longer the big hitters they once were (moreso Slater), they're not shit.

And neither is Dolan's Cadillac shit. It's not great and, as a fan of the story and Slater (yep, you heard), I really hoped it would be. One thing that threw me was that, having heard Slater was in it and looking no further into the film until it came through my letterbox, courtesy of Lovefilm, I'd assumed Slater played the part of Robinson. So fully formed was this assumption - made before I'd even read the story - that I read it with Slater in mind. I'd got him looking all harried, sweaty and balding like he did in the film He Was A Quiet Man. Error on my part. Or maybe theirs.

Stephen King film adaptations are a bit like when you go out to eat and have something that blows your mind. Then you have a go at making the dish yourself and it may range from a passable imitation to an inedible mess or on those rare occasions, you nail it or make something not quite the same, but due to the quality of the ingredients and the skill/luck of adaptation it's just as mind blowing. Most of the time, it just won't be as good and you'll realise that you'll never equal the restaurant version and should just save that dish for when you eat out and know that the chef will nail it.

All that said, you know I'm still going to watch all of them. Idiot.

Dolan's Cadillac

Desperation: 4th - 27th Feb 2013

I had such high hopes for Desperation.  It totally grabbed me by the scrote within the first few pages. For a Stephen King novel (at least so far in my chronological reading) it's not all that common. Sure, he posits ideas that that are immediately intriguing, but he rarely hits the ground running in such a forceful way as he does here in Desperation. I had chills within minutes. Needless to say, I was very excited.

As things progressed and the cast of characters was assembled in opposition to the evil adversary, I got echoes of The Stand. Not so much Captain Trips, but the classic battle of good* versus evil and the character of Johnny Marinville reminded me of Larry Underwood. King certainly likes his washed-up artists.

*Unfortunately, for me, this "good" is here represented by the plainest Christian representation of god, not only as a focus of faith and hope, but a direct agent of action and influence. I say unfortunately, but I don't suppose it's totally impossible to regard it as a literary device based on the tradition of other great works of fiction. That some people don't realise that they are works of propaganda and fiction is another, more troublesome, matter entirely.

While The Stand didn't light my fire in the way I'd hoped, particularly considering its almost universal acclaim among King's fans, I was hopeful and very willing, considering how well it started, to love Desperation. As I wrote in my opening post for the book, even at the halfway stage, I wasn't disappointed. Somehow, though, things went awry as I hit a lull, both in the narrative and my momentum. I'm not sure to what extent spending a good week catching up on about fifty issues of The Walking Dead comic was a cause or effect of this lack of motivation, but it was a welcome relief.

I eventually stopped farting about and went back and finished the book. It pains me to say that my liking of the book steadily decreased throughout the second half. I just stopped caring. And this was in spite of the inclusion of Cynthia from Rose Madder. I was inordinately happy about her inclusion in the book and actually rather liked the fact that she didn't have the largest of roles, she was just there - at about the same level as she was in Rose Madder.

I hadn't really paid much attention to or recognised the fact that King's endings tend to be somewhat hurried and almost anticlimactic - I'm obviously not the most involved or perceptive of readers. Maybe it's that he doesn't signpost his transition into the third act as clearly as I need him to. I'm dumb.

Alright, that's enough. I wanted to like it a lot and, for the first half, I really did. Then I started liking it less and less until I thought it was just OK and can't imagine I'll ever read it again to see if I was wrong. On the plus side, it stands out as the book that got right inside my mind and put a knot in my belly within minutes. So there's that.


Desperation

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Regulators - 2nd Mar 2013

Right then. I'm in two minds going into this one. On the one hand, I'm eager to find out how the book ties in with Desperation, even though I've been told it's not that much. Having gotten all sloppy over Cynthia from Rose Madder showing up in Desperation, it's a bit gutting that in The Regulators, the names will all be familiar, but the characters are all different. I'm sure I'll get over it.

The other vibe I've got for The Regulators from the internets is that it just isn't very good. Exciting.

In my post for The Green Mile I talked about whether I had become numb to graphic descriptions of the horrors of physical violence. While Desperation didn't really get under my skin in this regard, a story told in The Walking Dead comic last week did. One of the characters talked of a guy that, before the rise of the dead, had sucked out and eaten the eyes of his four year old son. Fuck.

So I'm not totally dead inside.

The Regulators

Monday, 11 February 2013

Desperation - 4th Feb 2013

Desperation
I didn't know the first thing about this book other than that the next one in line, The Regulators, was published under the Richard Bachman name and acts as a sort of companion piece.
As I write this, I'm already more than halfway through Desperation and have read a little about The Regulators, so know that any assumptions I had about the relationship between the two books is completely wrong.

I'd imagined the two books being two perspectives on the same story and highly anticipated seeing how King would handle this approach. While it turns out that it's completely unrelated, I'm still going to bluster ahead with a recommendation of Lucas Belvaux's 'La Trilogie' - three films with interlocking plots and characters that are played out in different genres - Cavale/On the Run (thriller), Un couple épatant/An Amazing Couple (romantic comedy/farce) and Après la vie/After the Life (melodrama).  They're not perfect films either individually, or even as a whole, but they're mightily impressive and very powerful.

Now I've got that out of my system, I'll get back to reading Desperation, as it's treating me very well so far.  There are some echoes of The Stand, except I'm actually enjoying it and hammering my way through it.  Sweet.

The Green Mile: 28th Jan - 4th Feb 2013

 I don't have a good reason for having taken a week to write this.  I loved The Green Mile and know exactly why, I just didn't get around to writing it down until now.

Without really thinking about it too much, I'm going to say that The Green Mile has been the most enjoyable read so far in this trip through the King library.  Not necessarily my favourite of his books (although it is high up the rankings), but more in the reading experience.  I've spoken of my sometimes very simplistic approach to reading novels and my willingness and belief in the act of submitting to the narrative.  In this respect, The Green Mile was made for me.  He just takes hold of you and guides you through the a story which, I find it easy to forget, is pretty fucking dark.

I was happy to find myself so attached to the book and especially happy to find that I can make the time to dedicate to the book.  I knocked it off in a week around all of my usual commitments (I'm sure it being written as a serial novel helped with the pacing and keeping the whole thing going) a probably a lot less farting around than I'm used to. Same again please Matthew.

I've noticed that my posts are getting briefer and briefer and have questioned whether I should have more to say about the books and, more importantly, what I'd actually say.  Any sort of plot synopsis seems a little redundant, as I'm not writing a book report or reviews per se.  It must be pretty clear that I'm not casting much of a critical eye on them, either.  You'd be better of heading over to James Smythe's series on the Guardian book blog - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/rereading-stephen-king  Previously, I've looked at how well a book got under my skin and whether they managed to scare me.
The Green Mile didn't really do either.  Maybe because I've already seen the film, maybe because even the grisly description of Delacroix's demise didn't even make me flinch.  I'm aware that this sort of talk is a stone's throw from sociopathy.  Shit.  Nah, it can't be that.  It must be due to overexposure and an increasingly logical and matter of fact approach to the effects of gross acts of violence on the human body.  Fun.

So, my future goal is to find out a way to make these intricately described physical violence shocking again.  Ideas and suggestions will be warmly received.

Other media fascinations:

Ears
Pure Love - Anthems
Baroness - All
Torche - All

Eyes
Game of Thrones
The Walking Dead
Downton Abbey

Words and Pictures
Y: The Last Man
The Green Mile


Monday, 28 January 2013

The Green Mile - 28th Jan 2013

It's going to be hard to read this one without visualising the characters from the film.  I'll give it a go, though.

Rose Madder: 12th - 26th Jan 2013

I liked this book. It may have had a lot to do with my having hunkered down and rattled through it - comparatively speaking, at least. If only I can maintain this sort of momentum, I won't need to begin each review with a lament on how much more I'd have got into and enjoyed the book if only it hadn't taken me months to get through it.

Rose Madder is a page-turner with a very real horror executed by a very real villain towards (as we can typically rely with King) well-realised characters. The supernatural element is a bit hit and miss, but not total horseshit. Overall, the book sits on my "good" pile.

I haven't got much else to say about the book. That's not really true. There's a lot more I could say, but it would just be arguing with other people's comments and reactions to the book. I'm not really interested in going down that road.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Rose Madder: 12th Jan 2013

Here we go.

Rose Madder

Insomnia: 23rd Oct 2012 - 12th Jan 2013

I'm an arsehole. Nothing you didn't already know, of course, but here's why this time. Two and a half months to read a 700+ page novel is fucking nuts.

I've been banging away at a few comics - finally finishing Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan, getting caught up with Joe Hill's tremendous Locke & Key, making some progress with Bill Willingham's Fables and making a start on Brian K. Vaughan's Y The Last Man - so there's the reason. It's not an excuse though, when I charged through the last couple of hundred pages of Insomnia lamenting not having kept up any sort of momentum.

For momentum would have made the book a lot better. I had a few moments of thinking "christ, this is dragging" and, while it didn't approach The Tommyknockers' level, it did a fair bit of limping.

More than anything, it just didn't grab me. I liked the characters of Ralph and Lois just fine, but the book just didn't thrill me. I'll admit the closing pages hit me, but you'd have to be hollowed out not to feel a bit of something at the closing events.
Check me out, writing spoiler free reactions.

Having read the bulk of the book in November, I'm struggling to say much more worth saying. I think I've promised myself I'll hammer the next book each time I've finished the last so I won't kid either of us this time.

Edit:
I've just read Laura's review on her blog, Devouring Texts, as I generally do once I've finished a King book and, while the points she made didn't make me buzz off the book, I will admit to being a sucker for references, links, nods and winks to others of his works. The Dark Tower isn't as dear to me (yet?) but the Derry refs did have me in nerd-glee.

Insomnia

Friday, 11 January 2013

Proof of Life - 2012 non-King highlights

As last year drew to a close, plenty of people made "Best of" lists. I've done it in the past but won't this year.

When it comes to film and music, I just didn't see/listen to enough stuff to produce a meaningful list. It would just illustrate how closeted I've been and how narrow my tastes have become.
So, instead, here are a few of the things that have moved or thrilled me in 2012. Some of them may not have been released this year, but it's my list.


Skyfall
I’m not much of a Bond fan. I appreciate the kitsch of the Connery and Moore eras but I’m no die-hard. With Daniel Craig’s first two additions to the canon, I offhandedly judged it as a dying franchise that should probably be put out to pasture. Come Skyfall, I wasn’t overly excited. I ended up seeing it as there wasn’t much on at the cinema that week and I was swayed by the positive things I’d heard. Javier Bardem and Sam Mendes’ involvement gave me that final push.

As it turns out, I loved it. Absolutely loved everything about it. Well, apart from the shitty theme song.

Listener
The song Wooden Heart was the single most moving/affecting/perception-shifting piece of art I witnessed last year.

It’s not the most immediate and accessible style (I first came to an almost a cappella version of Wooden Heart that initially baffled me) but, hearing it in conjunction with the video, something clicked and it just floored me. The rest of the album, also called Wooden Heart, is just as good.




Joe Hill
Aside from the obvious motivation for recommending his works to me, my first introduction to Joe Hill was as the writer of the Locke and Key comic book series - http://www.idwpublishing.com/lockekey/

From there, I stumbled up his second novel, Horns, in my local library and now I’m programmed to devour anything he produces.

Both are fantastic. Joe is also seems a very nice guy. You can get to know him better on Twitter - @joe_hill, his website http://www.joehillfiction.com and his Tumblr – http://joehillsthrills.tumblr.com


Bob Mould on Letterman
I’ve been a fan of Bob’s since the Sugar days when, at the tender age of 14, I heard If I Can’t Change Your Mind from the album Copper Blue. This performance of The Descent from the album Silver Age on Letterman had my jaw on the floor. Describing things as ‘raw’ and ‘honest’ is unfathomably clichéd, but this is just that. The guy’s in his fifties too. I love him.
Oh, I also listened to the audiobook of him reading his autobiography -See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody - last year. I’d definitely recommend it for fans.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Insomnia: 23rd Oct 2012

I'm looking forward to this one quite a bit. I don't know the first thing about the book itself other than the subject matter inferred by the title. What I did know was that I'd read a glowing review of it somewhere. Just before I started this project, I wrote a couple of posts talking about why I'd decided to read all of Stephen King's works in chronological order. One of these concerned a gorgeous blogpost written by Ryan McKenney (Trap Them - http://www.wecraftindarkness.com - http://trapthem.bigcartel.com - http://insomnialways.blogspot.com - @trapthem on Twitter) enough links? You can read the whole thing here: http://insomnialways.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/constant-reader.html but here's the part I'm talking about:

"I read Insomnia over the course of four nights, two hundred pages at a time. I learned the story of Ralph Roberts and the end results of gradual sleepless nights. By the time I was finished, my heart was aching. Part of it had to do with the story itself. It was, at the root, a perfect story of life and death. The other part of the ache came from overflowing of anticipation. I simply couldn't decide which of his works I wanted to read next."

So, as you can imagine, my expectations are high.

On an unrelated note, if you haven't seen Bob Mould on Letterman,
here you go.
If you have, you know what I'm talking about.

Insomnia

Nightmares and Dreamscapes: 8th Sep - 22nd Oct 2012

Another story collection, another collection of disappointments. For so long, I've harped on about my love for the medium but King just hammers in nail after nail. A couple of them were quite creepy - The Moving Finger among them - but my main response to the stories was a shrug and "it was alright."

As I was reading this collection, I wondered whether its downfall is due to the relative quality of ideas. I imagine that, for King, a good idea is worth wringing out to 400-700 pages, while it only takes an average, or more likely a goofy/kooky/throwaway, idea to make a few thousand word story. A lot of the stories feel like he's just trying out his genre chops. Some might see it as an arena where he can be more daring and experimental and maybe that's true but, more often they comes across to me as the half-baked, poor relations to the novels.

I'm painfully aware that I'm doing him a disservice and probably coming across as an ignorant hick. In a away, I think I am actually guilty of laziness and failing to properly engage with the stories as much as I'm usually inclined and as much as they deserve. It didn't help that I took my time with it. Getting a hold of some of Jeff Lemire's works that I hadn't already read as well as re-reading everything I did, won't have helped. As always, his work is fully recommended. Essex County is a fabulous introduction.

Back to the stories before I wrap this up. I liked Dolan's Cadillac . It had a hint of Bachman to it and buzzed with a similar demented unravelling to the chap in Roadwork. I'm now very much looking forward to seeing the film and not just to satisfy the latent man-crush I mentioned previously.

What else...? In fact, fuck it. I was going to go through and pick out some of the ones I dug even a little and say what I didn't about the others. But it feels like as much of a chore as reading them did. And I don't really feel like talking shit about work that I couldn't come close to creating. (My having just started consecutive sentences with 'but' and 'and' should be some indication of my meagre abilities.) So, I'd rather look for the positive and move onto the next thing. From what I've heard, there's a lot to like in Insomnia.
Nightmares and Dreamscapes