11.22.63 by Stephen King (Book Review)

For me, Stephen King has always been one of those ‘hit or miss’ authors, whose books are either amazingly unputdownable or so hopelessly dull that they are difficult to finish. I remember watching the TV adaptation of 11.22.63, starring James Franco, a few years ago and finding it to be quite a fascinating story of historical time travel. Would it really be possible to change or influence the present, by going back in time to alter major events from the past? This in essence is what 11.22.63 is all about. Local teacher, Jake Epping travels back in time in a bid to prevent the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.

 

I really, really wanted to love this book. It was great to see what life was like in the 1950s and 60s America, before the electronic age of computers and smart phones, when people lived a simpler life. Unfortunately though, the story dragged on and on, overstuffed with intricate details and seeming to go nowhere. It took a long time to reach the crux, and even then, the story continued on and on and on, until I was praying for the book to hurry up and end.

The premise of 11.22.63 was good, the time travel theme enjoyable, the past trying its level best to prevent Jake from making significant changes to the future, great. But, overall, the story was far too wordy and drawn out, with a few difficult to comprehend scenes towards the end. The result, a rather rambling and tedious novel.

At 2 out of 5 stars, not a Stephen King book that I would recommend. Though if you’d like to check it out you can pick up 11.22.63 from Amazon.co.uk here.

For everyone else, check out the TV series instead.

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The Body by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Body is the third of four novellas in Stephen King’s short story collection Different Seasons.

It follows the adventures of four young boys as they embark on one final journey together as children, before taking the leap into adolescence and beginning High School.

 

In this coming-of-age story from Stephen King, a young boy named Ray Brower goes missing in 1960 while out picking blueberries three days before Labour Day weekend. Vern Tessio accidentally overhears his brother, Billy discussing the dead body of the boy with his friend, Charlie Hogan.

It transpires that the friends had stolen a car and driven out to a deserted dead end road, where they inadvertently discovered the boy’s corpse lying near the train tracks. Afraid of the authorities discovering that they have broken the law, Billy and Charlie vow to keep their discovery quiet, after all the poor kid was dead and nothing was going to change that so there was no point in getting into trouble over it.

When Vern informs his best friends, Teddy Duchamp, Gordie Lachance and Chris Chambers, the youngsters soon figure out that poor Ray Brower must have been killed by a passing train, as he walked along the tracks. Curious in a rather morbid sort of way, the young boys decide to hike out along the train tracks to see the dead body of Ray Brower.

 

Favourite Quote:

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” – The inner musings of Gordon Lachance, directed towards the reader. (p374)

 

Told as a first person narrative from the main character, Gordon Lachance’s viewpoint as an adult, looking back at a significant moment from his childhood as an innocent twelve year old boy in September 1960, The Body is a touching story of friendship, as four friends must face the harsh realities that are to follow when they begin their transition from childhood, through adolescence and finally into adulthood. Coming from dysfunctional or rather abusive families, not all of them will survive the trials and tribulations that will face them as they mature.

The Body is one of the three novellas contained within Stephen King’s Different Seasons short story collection which was successfully brought to life on the big screen under the name Stand By Me.

 

Stand By Me has an outstandingly famous cast, which includes Wil Wheaton (best known for his stint in Star Trek), the now deceased child star River Phoenix, Corey Feldman (The Goonies, Gremlins, The Lost Boys – to name a few), Jerry O’Connell (Jerry Maguire) and probably the most well known of them all, Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Mirrors, 24).

At 5 out of 5 stars both the novella and the film are personal favourites of mine, amidst the masses of horror novels, novellas, short story collections, TV adaptations and movies of Stephen Kings’ illustrious career,  although technically it’s not a horror story but rather an adventure drama.

Anyone interested can purchase a copy of Different Seasons from Amazon.co.uk here, or alternatively, Stand By Me can be found here.

 

See also:

The Breathing Method – Stephen King

Four Past Midnight Collection by Stephen King – Book Review

Four Past Midnight is a collection of four different horror novellas from Stephen King.

 

  1. The Langoliers

This is by far one of my favourite Stephen King stories. It is a science fiction, horror, mystery thriller with a chillingly spooky time travel theme. You can read my full review of the Langoliers here.

 

  1. Secret Window, Secret Garden

This story of a writer accused of plagiarism is probably known better in film format, as it starred Johnny Depp. However, as a book I couldn’t really get into it, finding it rather dull, boring and predicable.

 

  1. The Library Policeman

This one held the promise of an intriguing tale to scare the kiddies into returning their library books, but it just seemed to be a never-ending story. It started well, but eventually I just couldn’t wait for the end. Far, far too long. I lost interest altogether.

 

  1. The Sun Dog

The final novella is part of the Castle Rock Series and gives me goosebumps and chills all over, with its terrifyingly realistic descriptions and paranormal events. Don’t read it in bed at night when its dark, or you’ll be apt to get nightmares. Fair warning to those faint of heart.

 

Overall, at 4 out of 5 stars this is a great collection. With my personal favourites ‘The Langoliers’ and ‘The Sun Dog’, the best picks of the four stories. You can pick up a copy of Four Past Midnight from Amazon here.

The Langoliers by Stephen King (Book Review)

I wanted to share with you one of my favourite Stephen King horror stories The Langoliers, which I mentioned during a previous review (Slithers by W.W. Mortensen). Note if you like Slithers, you’ll probably enjoy The Langoliers, and vice versa.

It is one of four novellas which make up the Four Past Midnight Collection, and it has always left me with goose bumps, ever since reading it as a teenager. It opened up my mind towards things that we normally take for granted and don’t tend to think about.

Quote from the ‘Introductory Note’ by Stephen King himself:

“Time, for instance, and the corrosive effects it can have on the human heart. The past, and the shadows it throws upon the present – shadows where unpleasant things sometimes grow and even more unpleasant things hide . . . and grow fat.”

 

During a routine flight from Los Angeles to Boston eleven passengers awake to discover themselves immersed in a rather disturbing situation. While they were peacefully sleeping, the rest of the plane’s passengers and crew have mysteriously vanished.

The Langoliers is a science fiction, horror and mystery novella all rolled into one. The surviving passengers must now band together and solve this complex mystery. Thankfully they happen to have a competent pilot amongst them who can both fly the plane and land safely, but will Brian’s skills be enough to save them from this odd situation?

As mentioned before, this spine-tingling story always creeps me out, and Stephen King does a terrific job building up the suspense and terror as you follow this terrified group of survivors seeking only to return to normality. It is a little longer than most novellas at just shy of 300 pages, however it keeps the reader hooked, with such themes as severe mental illness under stress, childhood nightmares that come to life, and of course its locked room mystery.

 

It has been a long time since I read any of the other three novellas in the Four Past Midnight collection, however if memory serves me right The Langoliers remains my personal favourite at the full 5 out of 5 stars. Those interested can get their copy of Four Past Midnight from Amazon here.

 

One final note to this review is that there was also a two part TV adaptation of The Langoliers back in 1995. It seems a little dated now, especially since it doesn’t have all of the fancy CGI special effects that we usually have nowadays. I think the story probably works best in print rather than on a screen, but for those interested you can find The Langoliers on DVD at Amazon here.

 

A Winter’s Tale: The Breathing Method (Book Review)

The second of this week’s festive reviews is quite fitting for this cold, wintry, snowy Thursday evening here in Scotland, it is The Breathing Method by Stephen King.

The Breathing Method is the final novella in Stephen King’s short story collection ‘Different Seasons’. It takes place at a ‘Gentleman’s Club’ on a snowy Thursday night just before Christmas in New York City. A man named Emlyn McCarron recounts a tale called ‘The Breathing Method’ in front of six of his fellow club members. It is a tale of birth, a brutal but wonderful accomplishment.

In 1935 a young unmarried woman finds herself ‘in a scrape’ but endeavours to go through with the situation with as much poise and composure as possible.  Dr. McCarron provides the young lady with a pamphlet on useful information related to ensuring a healthy delivery, which includes the breathing method, nowadays known as the Lamaze Method.

‘The breathing method was supposed to help the mother focus her attention on the job at hand and to cope with the pain by utilising the body’s own resources.’ – Dr. McCarron. (pg 528)

The young lady in the tale was the type of woman for which the breathing method was invented for, alone and independent, and Dr. McCarron recommended it to her as a means of easing her delivery.

After one particular appointment Dr. McCarron experienced what can only be described as a sort of spooky sensation or precognitive knowledge that chilled him through to his bones. The breathing method was a contributing cause to the accident that was to come and the main reason for what happened next.

 

The Breathing Method is a chilling tale of what the body can really achieve when the mind is persistent enough to endure whatever is necessary to reach the end result. In this case a healthy child being born, despite the unlikely circumstances.

Stephen King’s Different Seasons collection also bears host to another three novellas which have all been converted to the big screen with varying degrees of success: The Shawshank Redemption, a prison break story, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Apt Pupil, the Nazi Thriller starring Ian McKellen, and finally the coming of age tale The Body, which went on to become one of my favourite movies of all time, Stand by me featuring child star River Phoenix. I believe an adaptation of The Breathing Method may also be in development however I’m not holding my breath.

Despite being one of my least favourite novellas in this collection even though it has a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, The Breathing Method is a disturbingly festive story which truthfully depicts the difficulties encountered by unmarried pregnant women in those less accepted times.

You can get a copy of Different Seasons from Amazon here.

 

See also:

The Body – Stephen King