Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

Eight stars

It is always an exciting adventure to read some of Stephen King’s horror-themed works, as they tap into some of his darker side and fill the narrative with wonderfully tangential material. Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job in a Maine town, uprooting his family from their Chicago home. As the Creeds arrive in town, they soon realise that there is more to the house than meets the eye. After meeting the neighbour, Judson ‘Jud’ Crandall, the family agrees to allow him to give them a lay of the land. Jud has lived in his house all his life, upwards of eighty years, so he is well-versed about all the local lore. While warning the family of the dangers of the local highway at the end of their property, he speaks of the local cemetery that many of the children have been using for their pets, hidden up amongst the forested area. Dubbed the ‘Pet Sematary’, this burial ground has many a non-human member of families as far back as can be imagined, with grave markers etched by innocent hands. However, there is something about the area that cannot be properly explained. When Louis heads off to work at the university infirmary, he encounters a young man who has devastating injuries and blames the ‘sematary’, though Louis is sure there is more to the story he is not being told. When the Creeds, sans Louis, head back to Illinois for Thanksgiving, the patriarch holds down the fort with the family cat. Over the holiday, devastating news comes of the cat’s demise, having been hit by a truck. This forces Louis and Jud to make their way to the sematary to lay the feline to rest. When the cat reappears, inexplicably, a few days later, Louis is sure it has something to do with the sematary. Jud admits that there is something to the mystery, as pets seem to resurrect themselves and return to their masters with no logical explanation. Refusing to share anything about the cat’s death, particularly since it has returned, Louis and the family continue living their peaceful life. When an accident sees the young boy die on the aforementioned road, the Creeds are paralysed by grief. Louis cannot wrap his head around it and turns to his wife, who is completely out of commission. Knowing the powers of the pet sematary, Louis must decide if he can risk moving his son’s body from its final resting place to the sematary, knowing that this could rejuvenate the clouds of depression that have started rolling in. Still, there is the x-factor of the unknown, which could trump any goodness that might return. Louis stands at a crossroads, wondering what to do, while keeping the secret of the pet sematary. Bone-chilling in its plot development, Stephen King shows that he is the master of his genre and can pull readers in with his well-paced narrative. Recommended to those who love a good story of thrills and dark plots.

With the recent movie re-release of this classic Stephen King novel, I thought it would be best to try this book before deciding about the big screen. While I was never one who read King in my youth, I have discovered just how addictive his novels can be, given the time to enjoy them. King has a way with developing complex storylines and intricate characters in parallel, enriching the reading experience for those with the patience to wade through his longer novels. Louis Creed is a wonderful protagonist, who has seen a great deal in his life. When he meets Jud Crandall, Louis finally understands what it means to have a great father figure as well as a loyal friend. While Louis is unease about the move to Maine from the early days, he discovers the nuances of the community and the dark secrets about this pet sematary. Offering the reader some insight into the struggles of his family politics, Louis serves as a wonderful guide on this monumental journey. Jud Crandall is one of many great supporting characters, serving as the community’s backbone and lore teller, which serves Louis well, while also leaving him worries about what he might have done by accepting work in Maine. King’s use of a large number of characters serves to enrich the story and offers complex development at every turn. Characters develop throughout and their lives mix effectively, serving to entertain the reader, as King is prone to do. As with many of King’s novels, the story twists and turns, meandering from one topic to the next. While this may be a criticism when lobbed at some authors, King is able to entertain the reader along the way, keeping them transfixed along the journey. I find that the plot develops on its own, inching forward at a pace the reader might not notice at first glance. It is, however, this journey that makes the reading experience all the better for the attentive reader. With regular mention of small things from past (and future) novels, King masterfully weaves his tale while offering nuggets of a deeper social commentary, this time about death and the loss of a loved one. Those who have the patience for such a novel will surely find much in these pages. As with most novel/movie-tv series adaptations, I would recommend reading the book before turning to either version of the cinematic experience.

Kudos, Mr. King, for reminding me just how much I like reading your work. Enthralling until the very end.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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Flight or Fright, edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent

Nine stars

There is a certain majestic nature to being far above the clouds, crossing the country or an ocean while receiving small bags of snacks and watered-down drinks. Air travel has long been the go-to means of getting from one place to another, especially with the ongoing technological advancements for the general public. However, Stephen King and Bev Vincent seek to dispel this bucolic myth with their collection of short stories about flying, all of which explore levels of fear or evil when it comes to being in the air. The collection of seventeen pieces keeps the reader enthralled, with stories from many authors who penned their works at different times during the progress of flight over the past century. From stories about cargo trips back from Jonestown, to ever-elusive gremlins on the wing, through to pieces about a nuclear war commencing during the middle of a continental flight and even the joys of having an airplane before a crime scene during an in-flight murder, King and Vincent seek to spook the reader just a little as they learn about the many ways in which flight could be anything but safe. With wonderfully gripping pieces, some as short as a single paragraph, the editors offer a jam-packed adventure that would put any security scanning line to shame when it comes to horrific experiences. A great anthology that will keep many a reader wanting to plant their feet on terra firms for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended for those who enjoy short stories that differ greatly from one another and those who are not put off by some of the predictable disasters that could await any airline passenger.

Having long been a fan of Stephen King—and an avid flier—I was eager to get my hands on this piece to see the sorts of authors and stories that were gathered to create this nightmarish collection. Not only are the pieces entirely unique from one another, but they span the entirety of the flight experience. Some authors penned their stories not long after the Wright Brothers made their brief sojourn into the air while others tackle topics of a Cold War era or even when travel was as sleek as could be imagined. This great cross-section of writing enriches the collection even more, though there is a theme of fear within each piece. As the editors offer a brief synopsis of the piece to come, the reader is able to place it into context and can—should they wish—notice the chronological and technological progresses made in air travel. As the reader is introduced to scores of characters in a variety of settings, they can relate to as many as they like while endeavouring not to scare themselves with vivid imaginings of what could go wrong. The choice of stories was wonderful, as was the varied lengths of the pieces on offer. However, perhaps I should not have read this days before I would board a plane. Now then, which button was actually used to bring down the plane and not summon assistance for additional pretzels?

Kudos, Messrs. King and Vincent, for this captivating collection. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope you’ll continue to collaborate again soon.

This book fulfils Topic #1:Collecting Words in the Equinox #6 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Body, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Stephen King’s wonderful 1982 novella, which was transformed into the classic 1986 film, Stand By Me, four young boys to come of age over a weekend together. Set in 1960, the story takes place in the small town of Castle Rock, Maine, where twelve-year-old Gordie Lachance and his three friends are ready to set out to substantiate the rumours that the body of a missing boy has turned up near the next town. As the boys to begin their summer trek, they must come together to face winding train tracks, a brief dip in an interesting water hole, and a great deal of self-discovery. In a story that seeks to explore the innermost thoughts and feelings of these four, the reader can see that emotions run deep and that the ‘tough guy’ exteriors are only a pre-teen facade. King pulls the reader in from the outset in this well-paced piece, which shows just how amazing youth can be, when tempered with a little sobering maturity. Recommended for those who like King and his various writing styles. No need to be wary, for there is little gore, but enough language that some readers may want to look elsewhere.

I always enjoy Stephen King pieces, as they keep me wondering where things will go in his circuitous writing style. There was a strict ban on my reading his novels when I was younger, for reasons I am not entirely sure I remember. My adult years have been spent catching up and I have come to see that King can be a little intense, but he has a great deal I thoroughly enjoy. King offers up a lighter novella here, allowing his characters to develop nicely without the excessive gore. Gordie Lachance is both the presumptive protagonist and the ‘author’ of this story, a flashback piece penned when he was much older. Lachance explores some of the sentiments of his own childhood, as well as honing his skills as a writer. Gordie offers up much development as it relates to his friends, giving the reader a more comprehensive approach to those who populate the story. Through a series of events that weave together into the larger story, King allows his characters to mature through their learning experiences. Keeping the reader engaged throughout this quick read, King shows just how strong his writing can be, close to four decades later.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another wonderful piece of writing. I am happy to have stumbled upon this one and will admit that I have not seen Stand By Me in its entirety, which will soon change.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Laurie: A Short Story, by Stephen King

Eight stars

An unexpected added short story to a recently released novella by Stephen King. Quite an interesting tale that mixes some unique character development with King’s trademark gory depictions at some points. A recent widower, Lloyd welcomes his sister’s visit to Florida. However, it would seem that this is more than a simple visit, but a family attempt to help a depressed older man. Lloyd is introduced to a puppy that is being left for him, something that might help distract from his recently departed wife. Lloyd hesitates and struggles to housetrain the little ball of fur, but Laurie soon creates a canine bond with her master. They find their niche and undertake a basic routine, including walks around the neighbourhood. When their walk takes them by a body of water, things go sour, forcing Lloyd and Laurie to take matters into their own hands. What might have started out as an awkward relationship soon develops into something that warms the heart. A nice filler that fans of Stephen King will likely find just up their alley.

While not everyone can admit to liking Stephen King or his work, I have come to find much of his work quite entertaining for its unique approach to the every day. In this short piece, King has little time to develop his characters, though does well with painting Lloyd as a man who pines for his departed wife but who does not want help with his sorrow. He has been losing weight and surely could use some companionship, but refuses to admit it to a doting sister. When introduced to Laurie, Lloyd pushes back, but soon has little choice but to act as master, sucking up all his resentments. From there, it’s all about the slow and ongoing connection between man and his dog. They come together with ease, even if it is somewhat jagged at the start. Lloyd comes to accept his fate and seems to embrace it, given time and his set of rules. The story was well written and kept my interest for the brief time it took to complete. King never ceases to amaze me, as he can grip my attention with long, drawn-out novels just as much as short stories that take only a cup of coffee to complete.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another great story that held my attention throughout. Even with a little gore, I can see many readers finding it to their liking.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Elevation, by Stephen King

Seven stars

It is always nice to turn one’s attention to a piece by Stephen King, where reality can sometimes take a backseat to entertainment. Some bemoan this, though is fiction not supposed to be a chance to suspend beliefs, if only for a short time? Scott Carey appears to be a robust man. When he calls upon an old friend whose medical practice closed a number of years before, Scott admits that he has quite the problem. While his appetite is voracious, he keeps losing weight. An additional concern is that he weighs the same fully dressed as he does in his skivvies. Astonished, this friend seeks to do some research and asks Scott to keep an eye on things. Going about his business, Scott learn that his neighbours, Deirdre and Missy, are being ostracised by the townsfolk of Castle Rock. A married, lesbian couple, Deirdre and Missy have faced ridicule and their local restaurant is on its last legs. When Scott seeks to speak out against the bigotry, he is silenced not only by those who toss epithets, but also by Deirdre herself, who wants to handle her own battles. While he continues to lose weight for some unknown reason, Scott enters the Castle Rock Turkey Trot, in hopes of staying in shape, for what it’s worth. Deirdre, a competitive runner in her younger days, is right there beside him. When something goes awry during the race, Scott and Deirdre are forced to come together, working as a team. This connection could serve to help others see a different side to them both. All the while, the scale is a slow reminder that Scott’s days are numbered, as his weight dwindles. Fairly soon, there will be nothing left but the indelible mark of his friendship on a few souls. An interesting piece, better labelled a novella, by King. One never knows what to expect when the King of Horror (pun intended) releases a new bit of writing.

Some see ‘Stephen King’ and run the other way, either because of his macabre offerings from decades past or that he is simply too ‘off the wall’. I tend to turn towards him for these reasons, as the reader can never be entirely sure what to expect. King shapes the Scott Carey plight in such a way that it is less horrific and more a medical anomaly. It is a hurdle that Scott must overcome or at least face to the best of his abilities. While there is little backstory offered here, the reader learns some of the lead-up to Scott’s visit to a medical professional before exploring the character development throughout this ‘illness’. I can only guess some of the inner turmoil such a confusion prognosis would create, though King does a nice job of exploring this throughout the piece. As time progresses, Scott must come to terms with whatever is going on, forcing those around him to swallow the same pill. There is little that can be done, though no one is as accepting of it as Scott himself. The other characters in the piece, particularly Missy and Deirdre, offer some interesting insight into 21st century tolerance, particularly in small towns, when it comes to bigotry. While King does not bemoan the point, there will be some who cannot see anything wrong with ostracising others for their personal choices, which speaks of a larger issue best left dormant here. The story was decent and the narrative flowed well, though I would not call this a stellar piece. King certainly offers up some inspiration where it is due, though I am not going to pound my drum and recommend that every reader rush to purchase the piece. It’s a nice bridge between two books for those who want something a little different.

Kudos, Mr. King, for a unique story that keeps the reader involved throughout. Well done and I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for your fans in the coming year!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Outsider, by Stephen King

Nine stars

Stephen King has done it again with a powerful story that pulls the reader into the middle and will not let them go. Mixing his ability to write mysteries with a long-established foundation for the supernatural, this novel will impress the dedicated reader ready for an adventure like no other. When a boy’s body is discovered, murdered and sexually assaulted, many of the witnesses and evidence point to Terry Maitland. The town’s baseball coach, Maitland was described by many to be the salt of the earth, though Detective Ralph Anderson cannot discount all the information that he has at his disposal. Wanting to make a show of Maitland’s arrest, Anderson seeks to have Maitland taken into custody during a high-profile baseball game, in front of much of the town. While Maitland professes his innocence, Anderson turns a deaf ear, sure that the forensics are irrefutable. A solid alibi exists for Maitland being a fair distance away, with equally persuasive alibi witnesses and physical evidence, though Anderson chooses not to give this much merit. How can a man be in two places at once and does DNA lie? Anderson and others around him seek to explain this, but things go horribly wrong during the arraignment and Maitland’s innocence is now a footnote to a larger issue. When the evidence is extrapolated by a guilty Anderson, who cannot rest until he knows the truth, all eyes turn to Dayton, Ohio, where Maitland spent some of his time with family. A call is placed to the Finders Keepers Detective Agency, where one Holly Gibney is now running the show. Gibney, eccentric as ever, is curious and agrees to take the case, poking around and asking the right questions. She soon discovers that there is more to Terry Maitland than meets the eye and the case is blown wide open. What follows is a series of events that turns the small town of Flint City into the centre of a larger and more disturbing mystery, with ties to a piece of Mexican folklore. Is there a way to be in two places at once? Who is the mysterious man that appears in the dreams of many around town, making threats of violence? King offers up answers to these and many others in his latest piece of stunning fiction. Those who can stomach Stephen King will surely love this book, though his trademark meandering might turn the less than prepared off reading this stellar novel!

I will be the first to admit that it takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy Stephen King. His masterful ability to tell a story is surrounded by layers of tangential writing and minor characters seeking their time in the spotlight. However, if one can handle this sort of storytelling, there is a core tale that is almost addictive and one cannot walk away without being impacted. King does a masterful job here, focussing his attention on many people throughout the piece. Terry Maitland receives strong character development throughout the early portion of the novel, his life dragged through the mud as the accusations against him pile high. He seeks to clear his name, though the evidence appears to make this close to impossible. Ralph Anderson and Holly Gibney, though not the only others who share a significant amount of the spotlight, are two that will not soon be forgotten by readers. Anderson is the police official seeking justice over all else and not wanting to let his gaffes hang too long around him. Those who have read some of King’s recent material will know Gibney to be a central character in his Mr. Mercedes trilogy, where her unique style seems to have made its mark. Gibney divorces herself from the socially acceptable world and tells things as she sees them, no matter the consequences. Scores of other characters dot the narrative and push it forward, keeping the reader enthralled and wanting more, their characteristics sometimes a flash in the pan, but always appreciated. The story itself is complex and entertaining, full of King’s strong research and curious tangential commentary on life. What appears to be the thread the narrative will follow is soon abandoned for a different pathway, but one the reader can enjoy without too many mental gymnastics. I understand how many may not have liked this piece or found it too… odd for their liking. I know all too well that King can be difficult to digest and it takes a certain type of reader to understand him. That being said, I cannot praise this recent piece enough and await the next novel to see what else he has in store.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner. While I have been critical of some work you produce, you always keep me guessing and wondering what you have in mind when I crack open another of your pieces of writing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen King

Eight stars

Having long been a fan of Stephen King, I was curious to tackle this novel, which pairs the King of Horror with his Prince of Thrills (?), Owen. Working together on this massive piece, the reader is able to see the Kings’ respective writing styles and notice how well they mesh together. In the town of Dooling, the discovery of two meth cooks are found murdered seems to be a day like any other, though a stranger may be behind this bloody mess. Normalcy ends in this community when women around the world are going to sleep and not waking up. While in these comatose states, they are discovered with an odd growth on their faces, spindly white thread that soon becomes a cocoon that surrounds their bodies. Panic ensues and those who seek to remove this cocoon from family and friends are met with a rabid response, sated only by the violent murder of anyone who dare disturb the woman’s slumber. This odd occurrence is tied to sleep—but only of women—and is soon labelled Aurora Sickness. As the folks of Dooling do all they can to understand this phenom, the women are taking matters into their own hands to stay awake. Chaos reigns as caffeine and other stimulants—both legal and illegal—are sought by anyone possessing the XX chromosome, in an effort to remain awake. When rumours hit the internet about a scheme to ‘torch’ the cocoon-bearers, this only adds a new layer of concern in Dooling, where riots and vandalism have changed things for the worse. Tucked away in the prison is that aforementioned stranger, Eve Black, who appears to be immune to the cocooning and enjoys restful sleep without consequence. Does Eve have something to share with those left awake in Dooling that might bring an end to the madness? What happens to those who remain asleep in their cocoons? These answers and more await the reader as they flit through this massive novel—like moths on a summer night—and are enveloped in a story that has all the markings of a King classic. This joint effort should leave fans of the elder King quite pleased and raise interest in Owen’s own writing.

Having never read Owen King before, I must use my knowledge of his father’s writing to provide comparative analysis for this review. I will be the first to admit that reading Stephen King is not for everyone, though his novels as not as horror-based as they might once have been. Their uniqueness lies not only in the number of pages used to transmit a story, but also the numerous tangents taken to get from A to B. While that might annoy me with some authors, I find solace in the detail provided on the journey when King is at the helm. As King is wont to do, he supersaturates the story with scores of characters, all of whom play their own part in the larger narrative. While this may annoy some readers, I find it—bafflingly—exciting as I keep track of all the mini-stories that develop throughout. That being said, a few characters rise to the forefront in this piece and help bridge the story together. Lila Norcross proves to be a pivotal character, both in her role as sheriff and a level-headed player in town when chaos begins to rear its head. Lila has much going on and her character must face many struggles throughout the story, but she never backs down from what stands before her. Clint Norcross, Lila’s husband and prison psychiatrist at the women’s facility in town also plays an interesting role, in that he seeks to explore the lives and thoughts of those incarcerated, as well as serving as an important liaison for Eve Black, currently being detained in the ‘soft room’. Eve Black remains that character that King uses in most of his novels, the unknown individuals who brings chaos to the forefront while remaining calm and even endearing. No one knows anything of Eve, though her character becomes significant as the story progresses. Turning to the story at hand, it is both complex and simplistic, allowing the reader to pull something from it that might appeal to them. The curiosity surrounding the cocoon remains at the forefront of the plot throughout and why women are the only one’s being saddled with this remains a mystery. Both Kings seek to have the characters explore this anomaly throughout the novel, while also facing some of the concerns of a town disintegrating at the hands of its female population falling by the wayside, particularly when Eve’s immunity becomes common knowledge. There are many wonderful plots to follow within the story, which develop throughout the detailed chapters. The reader will likely have to use the character list at the beginning of the piece to keep everyone clear, though the detail offered allows a quick refresher for the attentive reader. The writing style is clearly elder King, with its meandering way and a narrative peppered with commentaries. It is for the reader to sift through it all and find the gems that will help them better appreciate the story. Chapters are broken up into numbered breaks, assisting with the literary digestion process, which allows the reader to better appreciate the magnitude of the story before them. I enjoy this style of writing, though am not entirely clear what flavour the younger King added to the story, as I am ignorant to any of his past published works. That being said, the collaborative King experience was one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Kudos, Messrs. King, for this excellent collaborative effort. I found myself enthralled until the very end and hope you’ll consider working together again.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Gwendy’s Button Box & The Music Room, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Seven stars

Gwendy’s Button Box:

A wonderful collaboration between ‘King of Horror’ Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, who have been long-time friends but meshed their literary ideas into a single piece. This story is peppered with the New England flavour for which King is so well known and an innocent story that turns on a single item, something Chizmar surely influenced after being handed control of the story. Gwendy Peterson is an energetic girl who seeks to change herself before heading into middle school, where the teasing she has undergone will only get worse. When a mysterious man, Richard Farris, engages her in conversation, Gwendy soon realises that this is not a man who seeks to do her any harm. Rather, he has a special gift for her, a mahogany box affixed with eight buttons, their convex surfaces and varied colours quite alluring. Farris explains the importance of each button, warning her away from pressing the red, unless she is sure of what she wants, as it packs quite the punch. With that, Farris is gone and Gwendy is left to fend for herself. She hides the box from everyone else, pulling it out only to feed off the delectable sweets that are compartmentalised along one side. As the story progresses and Gwendy ages, she becomes tempted by the buttons, or at least the red one, and seeks to experiment. The result is anything but peaceful, but Gwendy knew that was a distinct possibility. With events around her playing out, Gwendy is left to wonder, could she be solely responsible? An interesting novella that pulls the reader in from the start and posits some interesting theories. A wonderfully entertaining read for any who enjoy some of the less macabre King work with this new spin that Chizmar brings to the writing process.

I have long been a King fan and can only hope that there will be more stories like this. King and Chizmar took on a seemingly innocent plot and allowed it to evolve and take shape, to the point that the reader is left to wonder just who Gwendy Peterson might be. She has moments of teenage naïveté that are contrasted nicely with some darker thoughts, especially when she knowingly uses the ‘red button’. However, there is little attempt by the authors to turn her into anything sinister. The same goes for Richard Farris, who balances precariously on the fence from being that creepy ‘man in the shadows’ to an innocent stranger who seeks to offer up something interesting, akin to the magic beans that Jack received for his cow. King and Chizmar take the story from there and allow Gwendy to apparently control her destiny, while also placing much burden at her feet. Did her pressing the button lead to various newsworthy calamities? Without going too far off the beaten path, King and Chizmar force the reader to wrestle with destiny and the influence of choices on the larger scale. Call it The Butterfly Effect through the eyes of a teenage girl. A wonderful story that packs a punch and offers up much entertainment, one can only hope that King has more of these ideas rumbling around and that Chizmar is on hand to help spin them, in the years to come.

Kudos, Messrs. King and Chizmar for this wonderful novella. I am impressed and the early hype is right; you two are a wonderful team!

The Music Room (written solely by Stephen King):

Pulled from a collection of short pieces that seek to flesh out what is going on in a popular painting, Stephen King offers up this for his readers. It is the low point of the Great Depression, with people starving and suffering just to make enough to eat. However, the Enderbys have found a way both to survive and entertain themselves at the expense of others. Various ‘guests’, picked up by Mr. Enderby, are placed in a sound-proof closet, left to fend for themselves, How will they make it? No one is quite sure. While the Enderbys consider themselves only thieves, picking the pockets of those who enter the room, the reader might have other ideas, as what goes in does not come out in the same form. An interesting tale, though not long enough to expound some of King’s true abilities.