One of the things that we love is hearing what you think of books. It keeps interactions intimate along with helping us to find more literary lanes to lead you on. One of the things our friends hate is when we start nagging and begging for them to write reviews for us. Bless Bob’s heart though, after listening to us whine for longer than a person should have to, he has written us reviews on the last three Stephen King books he’s read. (On a side note he did try bribing us with sodas which did delay, but not halt the stream of whine.)
Here are both a quick summary and reviews for 11/22/63, Under the Dome, and Joyland. Please note we are not responsible for spoilers, so if you don’t want to know something then we recommend that you don’t read beyond the book blurb. When you see the title followed by the author’s name you are entering into the review itself, and the recesses of Bob’s mind.
Receiving a horrific essay from a GED student with a traumatic past, high-school English teacher Jake Epping is enlisted by a friend to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a mission for which he must reacclimate to 1960s culture and befriend troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald.
“Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
11/22/63 by Stephen King
For a retired man, Stephen King puts out an impressive volume of work.
11/22/63 takes the reader on the perils and pitfalls of stopping the most talked about assassination of the 20th century. As a man who lived through through the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination Steven King certainly has enough details to draw upon to create a vivid picture of what the world was like leading up to that fateful day in 1963.
The protagonist is given a charge to stop the murder by a friend of his. He can no longer physically make the arduous journey. The time portal that allows this to happen opens in 1958 and requires that any would be hero wait five years to be in place.
The main question of this story is can you prevent the assassination and if you, should you?
I don’t want to spoil the story, because the world is so rich. I especially appreciate that King does not gloss over the racism that prevalent during the time period. This is made apparent by a few clear scenes as the character moves south from Maine towards Dallas.
As a writer (Hey! I can pretend.) I love the way King creates characters and makes them live and breathe.
A special shout out to King for his acknowledgments. He thanked quite a few people and then thanked his son, Joe Hill (a fine fellow and an excellent writer) for his help with perfecting the ending.
Under the Dome
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.
Under The Dome by Stephen King
Lord of the flies in a bell jar. That is the most succinct description that I can give people when they ask what I am reading.
Without warning the people of Chester’s Mill are cut off (pun FULLY intended) from Maine, the United States of America, and the world. The transparent dome cuts animals and people in twain, causes vehicles to crash (there are air planes flying), and wrecks havoc. People go through the five stages of grief.
While Chester’s Mill is only cut off for a week, oh yeah, spoiler alert, they get out! This is one of the truly transformational weeks there is. This is the equivalent of being stranded after surviving a shipwreck. You’ve survived, but you’re not out of danger.
As in all of Stephen King’s work, there is much going on below the seemingly calm surface of the small town and they are exposed in the most unseemly of ways.
I feel a word of warning must be given here. The television program is, by its very nature, a different story then the novel. Many of the characters are muted for the show. Junior Rennie is made much more palatable for the viewing audience.
Also, you cannot have the more definite ending that the novel has if you wish to continue on for multiple seasons. Having said that, many of the elements, themes, and ideas are present in the television series.
I enjoyed the name check. Stephen King refers, several times, to Jack Reacher as a character in the same universe. I find this funny as Lee Child, creator of Jack Reacher, has a featured quote on the front cover.
I agree Stephen King is a master of the craft. His characters are vibrant, vital, and real. His pacing and structure only get better the longer he writes.
In a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.
Joyland by Steven King
Stephen King a behind the scenes view of what a regional amusement park in the early 70s. From what he shows us, I gather it was pert summer camp, part hell, and all hard work. The central murder mystery is not the focus of the tale. Instead, we follow our protagonist as he remembers having his heart broken, learning to recover and love again, and enjoys his time at Funland.
I had concerns about how well King, as if I should ever doubt the Master, would wrap up the mystery. The novel is short and he doesn’t dwell on the murder at all. But, Mr. King expertly weaves the threads of his tale to an exhilarating and satisfying conclusion.
I must confess I was somewhat disappointed Joyland, as the previous entry in the Hard Case Crime series [The Colorado Kid], failed to deliver. The novel is not a classic story of the hard boiled private eye slugging against all odds to solve the case. Instead we are treated to a lovely slice of life that shows us an Average Joe just trying to cope with the shift from adolescence into adulthood.
I enjoyed it and think you will as well.
To keep track of what Bob may be saying out in the ether of the webs you can check out @celticorca on Twitter.