7.06.2016

King's Highway pt. 72.5: The Best of Stephen King, Revisited


RE-RANKING STEPHEN KING:
MY FAVORITES, LEAST to MOST,
the 2016 edition


I figured it was high time to patch up the Official Dog Star List of King Favorites. 

I've re-read several Kings over the past few months: The Tommyknockers, It, The Stand, Salem's Lot, From a Buick 8, The Shining, and I'm currently re-reading The Regulators. All for the hell of it/ personal-enjoyment, not really with the idea of blogging anything about them. But as I've suspected several times over the past few years, my 2013 rankings do not reflect my King sensibilities of 2016. Which makes sense: prior to 2012, I hadn't read any King since the 80s, pretty much, when he was my absolute favorite author. Since 2012, though, I've read everything except Lisey's Story (which is why it's not included below - just couldn't get into it and am saving it for the proverbial rainy day) and the two Straub collaborations (ditto) plus dozens of interviews and reviews and re-visits and re-reads and re-watches, yadda yadda.

So, a revised list seemed like a fun thing to do. Hope you agree. Feel free (in fact, consider yourself downright invited) to tell me where we disagree in the comments. (I'm still shaking my head at the Vulture list that kicked off the whole King's Highway project to begin with. The nature of horse races and all that, but our areas of deviation are great.)

Not included below: non-fiction, or short story/ novella collections. I wanted to keep this strictly to novels. If I had elected to, though, you'd definitely find On Writing, Different Seasons, Full Dark No Stars, and Night Shift in the top 20. I decided not to link to any previous reviews, as I didn't want to come up with dozens of ways of writing "As I wrote in my original review..." Plus, too many hyperlinks - you know where and how to find them all. All of this has happened before and will happen again. 

Where pertinent, I quoted myself. Not because I'm especially quoteworthy, just to either highlight where my opinion changed or because why-reinvent-the-wheel-eh?

53.
(2004)

Many King fans have been angry with the news that Idris Elba has been cast as Roland in the upcoming Dark Tower movie. Not just that bit of casting but other news of the production has led to the probable conclusion that what will appear on screen will be as removed from the source material as, say, the Under the Dome adaptation, or worse. I'm sure it will be very different, but my question is: is that in and of itself a bad thing? I'll put it another way: if the books were put on screen verbatim, they'd be a disaster.

My opinion on that has changed somewhat since I originally made my way through the Dark Tower Suggested Reading Order. I do like the very, very ending of the saga (in book 7), but there's an awful lot that I just don't like or even think is all that good in getting there. Song of Susannah encapsulates 80% of it. An ill-considered and irritating read with a few bright spots, I have no qualms nominating this as King's sloppiest book.

52.
(1996)

There's actually a few things I really like in this book. It's an irresistible set-up, for one, and the opening really grabs you. And I like how this and The Regulators appear as "twinners" of one another. (Although I don't think the idea was altogether successful.) And Johnny Marinville is a pretty good example of that-guy-King-protagonist.

While I'm praising the book, I think Desperation is probably better than the next four or five on this list. But the bottom line is it's just too damn long. For that alone, it comes in second-to-last. This could have been a cool novella and instead we get leviathan. I get the sense even King was sick of it about halfway through. 

And while I appreciate King's trying to write a serious exploration of dark religion/ God, etc., he does not succeed here. The compelling insights end up smothered by the mundane ones. 

51.
(2014)

That this book won the goddamn Edgar Award for Best Novel blows my mind. As a novel, it's the strangest and most-tonally-off episode of Barney Miller ever.

50.
(2016)

The conclusion of the trilogy that Mr. Mercedes began is equally unpalatable for yours truly - and for more or less the same reasons: cliched characters and scenarios, pandering, lazy writing, and unconscious (I'll be charitable) swipes from his own earlier material (but, as always, a "way to go, champ!" shout-out to his editor in the Author's Afterword, proving for the umpteenth time what I imagine an editor does and what an editor actually does must be completely different things) - but it gets the slight edge over that one because some of the mental possession stuff at least engaged my imagination. (Even if it seemed a swipe, too, from The Regulators and Dreamcatcher and elsewhere. But hey.)

49.
(1983)

This one is at least short. It's not bad - I like the idea of King writing a werewolf story, certainly, and I used to love Silver Bullet when I was in 7th grade. But this is like the Cliff's Notes for a novel King saw in a dream, or something, not fleshed out enough to really be compelling.

48.
(2005)

I actually like this one - it's engagingly written and all. I just can't fathom why the hell he wrote it. An anti-mystery mystery/crime novel is an interesting classroom exercise, I guess, and he does it reasonably well. But... that's kind of the point: how would you know if he did or didn't? Anyone can create a mystery and chop it all out into lines of dialogue and then fail to solve it.

Of course, not just anyone can make those lines of dialogue enjoyable reading. Which King can always do. But that's what I mean - is that why he wrote it? To show off? I doubt it. So... what's the point of it? Is this like one of those abstract "my kid could do it" paintings that is all-context? I'll have more to say on this when we get to From a Buick 8, but here's where this one falls for me. 

47.
(2004)

I like the very, very ending of this one. Everything else, not so much. And some of it - like the Crimson King ("EEE-EEE!") and the Bryan Smith/Stephen King stuff - I really don't like. That it's a long-ass book that ends the whole saga magnifies these problems.

But like I say, the very, very ending with Roland the tower, that works for me. And that is sometimes all it takes for me to be more positive on something than I otherwise would be. I guess that goes for the whole Dark Tower saga and not just Book 7.

46.
(2013)

I think this book is mostly a failure. It just doesn't work the way it should. He claims he wrote it as a challenge to himself. I wish he'd have challenged himself a little bit more. But as with The Dark Tower, the very last few chapters (once the frustratingly-non-threatening True Knot are finally put out of their goddamn misery) are good.

That said, if Howard Derwent and the ghosts of the Overlook wanted Dan as their own psychic-augmenter in The Shining, aren't he and Abra delivering an equally-powerful conduit to that purpose to them in Doctor Sleep? Someone mentions the possibility and shoots it down, but I almost wish they hadn't brought it up, as that idea was way cooler than what I was reading.   

45.
(2007)

Not a bad read at all, but it's the sort of thing a young man writes when he's channeling other authors rather than writing anything original. (In this case, I'd say Of Mice and Men and In Cold Blood.) It's interesting that he sent this to Bill Thompson alongside Salem's Lot way back when and that Thompson chose Salem's Lot. Who knows what King's career might have looked like had Blaze been the follow-up to Carrie? (Probably the same, but who knows.)

44.
(1977)

Another younger-man's-book. Not that that's a bad thing, just that it feels dated. Then again, I'm turning 42 this year, and with each passing moment the rage and narcissism of adrenaline-filled adolescence is more and more alien to me. That said, I can throw on "Kickstart My Heart" and get a much more palatable dose of it, and with fewer  pretensions.

43.
(1981)

In On Writing, King mentions that he has no recollection of writing this novel. I suppose on some level I am impressed by this. (Speaking of Motley Crue.) Putting together a coherent narrative, never mind a best-seller, in the midst of an epic-drunk blackout is certainly a feat. But I agree with Harlan Ellison: this one is "just okay." The kind of book 2-star reviews on Goodreads are made for.

42.
(1983)

I really loved this book when I read it in junior high. But not so much as an adult. I wonder why that is? Because I wasn't savvy enough a reader in junior high? Or because King captured a particular slice of adolescent malevolence and fear and recreated it well enough where my younger self could relate where my older cannot? 

I'm not 100% sure. So let me quote myself. "There is no real dramatic tension; the insights into adolescence, parental/familial relationships, girlfriends, and sex would be no one's idea of 'the definitive portrayal of...' such. Again, not that they're bad, just that they're functional and that's about it. They're as believable as they need to be, but all of it could be cut-out or diminished with no harm done. 

And as mentioned in this review from a defunct King-re-read blog that I wish its author would resurrect, 'It's almost as if the B-movie trappings are getting in the way of the Grade A horror I have come to expect.'"

41.
(1974)

King mentions it as "a young book by a young writer. In retrospect, it reminds me of a cookie baked by a first grader — tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom." That's how I feel about it, too.


Whatever the case, I'm not a huge fan of the inquest-framing-mechanism, nor the sudden development of a psychic connection between Carrie White and Sue Snell. 

Movie's way better. De Palma's, anyway. (ducks

40.
(1987)

As with Christine, I remember just loving this one when I read it in junior high. But there's really not much going on in it. 

Near the end, King writes that Thomas and Dennis do meet and do battle with Flagg again but that is "a tale for another day." I doubt he'll ever sit down and write that, but fingers crossed. (Ditto for The Further Adventures of the Tet Corporation aka "The Old Farts of the Apocalypse.")

39.
(1998)

Many people love this book, but I just think it's King on autopilot. That said, I wonder if my impression of it would have been different had I read it before I read Duma Key. It's possible - the two works share some thematic and structural overlap. And maybe this one just seemed like a poor-relation of Duma Key to me, but would it had I read the works in order of publication? Don't know.

One thing on which we all agree: the mini-series was dreadful. 

38.
(2001)

Another one I rated much higher than other people when I originally read it, but I've walked it back somewhat. Dreamcatcher reads more like an attempt to "fix" The Tommyknockers by grafting parts of It onto it. It has its moments - more than a few of them - but it's a bit of a mess. (Two words: "Shit Weasels." Two more: "I, Duddits!")

It benefits from having been made into an unfathomable trainwreck of a movie. Compared to it, the book reads like To Kill A Mockingbird, for eff's sake.

37.
Gerald's Game (1992)

Well, here's one that was practically in last place when I ranked these originally. I still think it's not altogether successful, but I appreciate that King made the attempt. It's a miss for me, but an interesting one. The epilogue is the fatal blow, I think, but many disagree. So it goes.

In my original blog on this book, I'd taken issue with the eclipse-crossover-stuff with Dolores Claiborne. (I felt - and feel - it didn't work.) A commenter left this succinct rebuttal: "I think crossover works perfectly. It is one of my favorite crossovers.

Not sure why, but that amuses me. I think it's the better-hop-on-the-bus-Gus-ness of it: "You got it wrong, Jack. I'm done."

36.
(1989)

If Gerald's Game is a noble failure, The Dark Half is an overly cautious success. I wanted to write "ignoble success," but I don't think The Dark Half is lacking in merit. Just that it's King not taking a chance, really. It reminds me of the album a band puts out when they want to assure their audience that they remember why they're fans. Nothing wrong with it, but it can sometimes lead to unexciting material, despite resembling the material you love. If that makes any sense. 

In a sense, I admire something like Gerald's Game (or even Lisey's Story) more, because it's good to see King pushing himself in other directions.

35.
(2015)

I agree with this review on Goodreads re: the Hodges trilogy overall but most especially re: Finder Keepers - this would have been a better stand-alone book had King not felt he had to cram it into the larger Brady/Hodges story. Divorced of the failings of the trilogy, though, it's a pretty good story, and Morris and Saunders are far more interesting (and original) characters than anyone in Mr. Mercedes or End of Watch.

34.
(1984)

I'd love to see a proper film of this book. The story itself is far more cleverly written than anyone who's only seen the movie (or only knows the basic concept) might think. A quick page-turner that resolves itself logically. 

33.
(2003)

Another one that I really enjoyed while reading but has fallen a little the more I think about it. Mainly due to where the story goes from here, forcing me to ask questions about this one that I hadn't when originally reading. But it's still an absorbing read, to be sure. (That picture of Susannah on the cover, though, is awful. I mean, she doesn't even look human in that pic. And the font/ typeset is so garish. All in all, the art design of the whole Dark Tower series gets more wrong than right, unfortunately, and with the talent they had working on it, that's criminal.)

32.
(1979)

My opinion is more or less unchanged from my original review: "King has said that he likes the movie better, and I agree. The changes in the material (from adapting it to the screen) definitely work to the story's advantage. The relationship between Sarah and John is more romantically-doomed as it stands in the film, as is the undoing-of-and-apocalyptic-visions-pertaining-to-Stillson scene(s). I think the book is good, don't get me wrong. I just like the way the film handles the elements better."

31.
(1987)

and

30.
(1991)

both have their strong points. I mean, we're ahead of The Dead Zone in our countdown, and that's a pretty damn good book, so from here on out we're in solid-RBI-and-extra-bases territory. (Have been since Finders Keepers, actually.) Drawing of the Three has a lot of rough spots, but damn if it doesn't draw you in and keep you close from start to finish. I'd say it's largely because of Drawing that the reader cares about the ka-tet in every other book.  

And in The Waste Lands the build-up and revelation of Blaine the Mono is some of my favorite King all-around. (The Tick-Tock Man, decidedly less so.) As is "Velcro Fly" playing forever over post-apocalyptic New York ("Tull") with slow mutants and rocket lasers and what not. Seems about right.

The only sticking points for me are larger-series-related. I'll stop writing that now, since I've well-established my feelings. But yeah, some of the mythology-related stuff, specifically, becomes like the mythology episodes of X-Files - I tune it out or it decreases in importance to me, as a result of my problems with books 6 and 7. 

29.
(1995)

While this novel doesn't enjoy the greatest reputation, I find its uniquely-Kingtastic take on the more misogynist aspects of Greek mythology to be pretty interesting. I could have gone for a bit more on that side of it and less on the Indigo Girls - and interesting parallel with Insomnia and the big abortion-rally convention center thing - but it's still an interesting work.  

Without that angle, it'd be a rather stacked-deck affair with your typical King villain (racist, misogynist, obsessed-beyond-all-realism with beating his wife) eventually undone by his own lack of other character traits. 

Perhaps it's a failure, but it's an interesting one, and I tip my cap.

28.
(1980)

Often forgotten or undervalued, it seems to me, but what can I say? There's nothing to cut or re-arrange. Like it or dislike it, it's a pretty lean book that holds to its own inner logic pretty well.

I only wish King had elected to write a sequel to Firestarter instead of The Shining.

27.
(1983)

This is a harrowing read, steeped in moral relativism and American Gothic Horror. I don't think it's perfect, but it works because it doesn't cheat: it ticks off each box of said genre with no apology and doesn't let you skip over any of the nitty-gritty. The sudden manifestation of a child with psychic powers in the latter pages is always unfortunate, but overall I'm positive on this one, mega-downer that it is. It's like a negative print of A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge gets the visitations but does not grok the true meaning of Christmas, so it becomes some horrific inversion of itself where resurrection is horror instead of salvation. (And Tiny Tim gets run over by an 18-wheeler.)

26.
(2002)

Here's another one that is placing much differently this time around than where it did the first time (in the top ten.) I still find it a very enjoyable read, but upon re-examination, I found myself agreeing with this Goodreads review:

"King spends a great deal of this book explaining to the reader that there's not always a definitive ending. Listen, friends and neighbors, I can get behind a short story or a novella that leaves me with an unsatisfactory ending because they aren't time sinks. To be in the audience of a magic show wherein the magic is only alluded to is a terrible trick. I don't need everything explained. I don't need my hand held. But I want a complete story. This is not a complete story. (...) The shifts in tone are jarring. You never know what kind of book you're reading. The characters are taken part and parcel from The Green Mile. If you've read both books, you'll probably see where I'm coming from. I mean even down to the wild fucker named Billy. Billy the Kid... Billy Lippin. And Sandy Dearborn and Paul Edgecomb are the same person. I don't care what their names are. Sweet baby Tom Cruise, the parallels are so obvious..."

I guess they are! Though: they didn't occur to me at all while reading. Now I can't un-see it, though.

Mostly, the reviewer is right - it's kind of silly to write a book-length Shaggy Dog story about the non-point of Shaggy Dog stories. I get that the whole thing is a metaphor of life and death and the mystery of both, that the anger that Sandy feels towards Ned for his impatience and youth is fear of the unknown and deep primal urges to eat our young. (Wait, what?) But perhaps these are truths that don't fit so snugly in the not-quite-car of the title.

That said, I find the evocation of the barracks and the mystery of the car in Shed B very enjoyable reading. (And likening it to a magic show where the magic is only alluded to is not quite accurate; it's more than alluded to. The magician just doesn't explain his trick. That seems important enough of a difference to underscore.) 

25.
(1982)

It would be a real shock to people, I bet, if someone made a faithful film out of this book. The Schwarzenegger film is a dubious classic - the kind of film people love to remember and watch with friends but nothing anyone would mistake for a quality film. (I hope.) It also has very, very little to do with this disturbing and kinetic slice of dystopian sci-fi fatalism, one where the protagonist - holding his intestines in place with one bruised hand - pilots the jet-airliner he's hijacked into the skyscraper headquarters of the media conglomerate that rules future America at the end.

Like all the Bachman books, it'd have made one hell of an American New Wave film. 

24.
(1982)

A pretty surreal read. I wonder how the Dark Tower saga would read if each entry was written in this manner. Kind of pointless to speculate on such a thing, but pointless-speculation is my specialty. The whole thing with the Dark Tower is it's about different worlds, different levels of the Tower. This actually reads like you're reading King from a different dimension - familiar but alien. This quality fades over the rest of the series, but it's the main appeal of bk 1 for me.

23.
(1999)

I know this book bores some people, and I can totally see why. It's already short but maybe it could be even shorter. I think most of my affection for it comes simply from having hiked the same woods - and gotten lost in them and prayed to / feared the same God of the Lost - as its protagonist. More than once. A silly reason to like a book, I grant you, but also one any reader can relate to, I'm sure.

Nevertheless, I think if someone was trying to write a book on King's concept of God, this would be an important go-to. (And unlike Desperation, you don't have to dislodge a two-ton boulder worth of extraneous text to get to it.)  

22.
(1992)

The more successful of the two In the Path of the Eclipse books, for my money. Not the easiest subject matter - and maybe it's a better-realized film than a novel? - but a solid piece of writing and narrative voice. 

21.
(1981)

This book is a genuine surprise. I don't know anyone who's read it who doesn't rate it a lot higher than its reputation might suggest. It's a very honest book, written during a particularly painful period of time in King's life. (The death of his mother). 

What is it about it that works so well? I might have to do up a whole entry on this one, too. The King's Highway Bridges and Infrastructure Renewal 2016 Tour adds another connector byway

20.
(1996)

This too is part of said Infrastructure Renewal Project, so I won't say too much. But few champion this book, and I'm not sure why. This is King synthesizing much of his career up '96 into one blood-soaked, kinetic scenario: autistic child, possessed by a dark entity with fantastic psychic powers, utilizes the elements around itself (a show/ action figure-set called MotoKops 2020 and "her dead friends on TV" i.e. old, violent westerns) and wreaks unspeakable havoc on a tightly-drawn group of everyman/everywoman survivors. 

Its insights into TV-violence and TV in general are perhaps not as provocative as they want to be, but they're compelling just the same. This could be the craziest film ever made! Whichever candidate vows to greenlight its production gets my vote. 

19.
(2012)

A piquant aftermint/ prequel to the Dark Tower saga. Three stories for the price of one, with the central one of young Tim being the heart of the story. Am I ranking it too highly? On the contrary, I think quieter books like TWTTK will be the most enduring of all King's work in the years to come. 

18.
(2013)

A fantastic nostalgia piece from King, only slightly sullied by the appearance of yet-another-kid-with-psychic-insight - something that could have so easily been excised from the narrative - and on the heels of that, a huge-ass storm at novel's end. It makes me seriously consider whether or not King's success comes from a compact with some demon or faerie-folk whose only stipulation is to end everything with a storm and psychic child. 

Regardless, this one "lights" everything that comes in the path of its narrative eye with just the right touch. I like this side of King perhaps more than any, his "Summer of '69" or "In Your Wildest Dreams" side. King combines all the heartbreak-recovery-summer-I-grew-up narrative with a very believable recreation of a bygone-era amusement park. Good stuff. I can even see this being taught in classes of the future, so easily does it evoke a very specific slice of the past/ all our pasts.

17.
(1986)

Look, let's be honest: this book really could have used an editor. There seems to be some denial on this topic in the King community, and from the man himself as well.

What we have here is some of the best writing and structure of King's career, surrounded by a few interludes too many, one character (looking at you, Stanley Uris) too many, a few Bowers-outbursts too many, a few too many stutters, a few too many plot-convenient manifestations of telepathy, and a few (thousand) too many "Beep Beep Ritchie"s. It all adds up to three or four hundred pages - not chump change - that could and should be lopped off. 

And then of course there's the notorious ending. Which, needless (?) to say, doesn't work - not for puritanical reasons, though that case can certainly be made. It doesn't work because it makes no goddamn sense. And yet, then as in now, judging from the things I read about It, everyone just kind of shrugs and accepts King's completely unsatisfying explanation that the preteen sewer gangbang that "binds the characters" is just "another version of the glass tunnel that connects adulthood to childhood." 

It's such an odd evasion for an obviously-batshit scenario. All it would have taken was one trusted friend to point out the lack of preteen sewer gangbangs in every work of art ever made. "Surely you can see this, right, dude?" Meh. The ship has sailed.

King threw open the windows and wanted to make a book about everything: racism! nostalgia! childhood! imagination! more racism! sizeism! cosmic balance! the 50s! the 80s! riddles! cocaine! booze! writing fame! show biz! more coke! God! Anti-God! history! Bangor! America! the twentieth century! incest! bullying! child abuse! teenage reacharounds! hoboes! you name it. It almost never works to mash down every button on the board. That It actually almost pulls it off is nothing short of amazing. But: it doesn't. (That so many think it does work is evidence of how well-written so much of it is.) 

So, here it is at #17. Truthfully, any book that sticks the landing the way this one does, after 1000 pages, deserves to be punted even further down the line. Except well, like everyone else, the parts of It that work for me really really work, and I still kind of love it


16.
(1994)

This one also suffers from some bloat - and a bit of a confused ending where altogether too much is made of the Susan Day character, who is treated like some kind of rockstar for hundreds of pages but then is kind of shuffled off-screen, her importance never quite justified or fleshed out. And its Dark Tower overlap might be too off-putting to some, as might all the old-people-sex. (I still have no goddamn idea why the Crimson King was even interested in Earth, much less Patrick or anything happening here. The whole rose-and-Breaking-Beams thing seems so arbitrary. But hey, "he's evil! He's crazy!")

Nevertheless, Insomnia is a moving meditation on death and the joker-in-the-decks that beguile us on our way to it. 

15.
(1987)

A great and compelling novel made even greater and more compelling by the revelation in On Writing that "Annie Wilkes is coke, Annie Wilkes is booze, and in the end I was tired of being Annie's pet writer." The novel-within-a-novel that Paul Sheldon writes in captivity is almost more instructive than the one King writes

14.
(2014)

I've flipflopped on where to place this a few different times, but after much reflection, I feel reasonably certain this is where it shakes out at least for me. I love the bleak ending (earned, too, which makes its aftermath all the more horrifiying), the characters, and the time-sweep of the whole thing. A strong late-innings home run from Sai King.   

13.
(1978 / 1990)

The Stand is two different books. Both are insanely readable, but they do not (for me) occupy the same space as gracefully as they could. One is an ultra-realistic character study of a society in breakdown and recovery, with micro/macro managed adeptly. The other is a pulp religious parable where characters receive their instructions from dreams and a retarded man is put under deep hypnosis to become a spy and God speaks through burning bushes and stuff like that

I don't mind either book - I don't exactly mind their co-existing under one cover, for that matter - but I can't in good conscience say this is King's best work. The two books just don't reconcile themselves as masterfully as a truly great work should

An anonymous commenter at The Truth Inside the Lie's review of the miniseries points out another conflicting-voice problem with the revised (1990) edition of the book and addresses some of the problems current and future audiences might have with the material

"I've just been reading the 1990 version of the novel for the first time, having grown up with the original in the early 80's, and, despite the hype of it being King's 'original intention', large chunks of the text seem to come from somewhere else (...) The 70's voice is more idealized and poetic, the late 80's voice is more cynical and believes the post-modern 'ugliness is truth' cliche. The two voices are fighting throughout the text and it weakens the novel.

The Stand is a 70s Work, as perfect a summing up of the political climate of the 70s and its related apocalyptic fears as one could hope for, which explains its popularity at the time. (...) By moving the timeline further into the future, King's world stops making sense and reads utterly-false. Flagg's radical underground network is long a thing of the past by 1990. Student radicalism had become nonviolent and the ex-Hippies had all become Yuppies through the 80s. Larry - let's be real here - Larry is a poorly-disguised 70s Bruce Springsteen - and would have been all over MTV and easily-recognizable. Rita's 'mother's little helper' addiction is a 70s holdover. Frannie's discussion of abortion, the preciousness of her mother's parlor and her concerns over what the neighbors would think - to the extent of sending her away until the baby was born - ring particularly false in 1990. The final payoff is the grand 70s / early-80s fear of death by nuclear destruction, one that was pushed out of the cultural boogeyman spotlight by Reagan and Gorbachev's disarmament treaties in Glasnost.

If these themes didn't truthfully resonate across the 12 years between the first version and the uncut version, can they still resonate with a modern audience?"

All good points. And yet: I love it. I don't know anyone who read it as a teenager who doesn't. (At least of my generation.) 


12.
(1979)

I know at least one reader who considers this King's worst book. Needless to say, I disagree. Outside of The Gunslinger (and perhaps Lisey's Story, though I wouldn't know, would I?) this is King's most surreal work. I know exactly how the American New Wave version of this film should look, and everytime I read it, the film plays in my head. Very frustrating! But whenever they invent the machine to project films straight from someone's head, you're in for a real treat. 

11.
(1991)

Kevin Quigley referred to this one as "not only a terminal point for one of King's favorite fictional places (i.e. Castle Rock), but also a hub for his favorite dark fascinations." Namely mental illness, class and gender inequality, pedophilia, suicide, magical strangers preying on a small town's vulnerabilities, as opposed by an ordinary guy and gal in over their heads who may or may not have some help from God/ turtles. 

Not the best of King's town-under-siege stories, but it's a damn finely-constructed work. King's stock characters are all well-drawn. If you bought this from a catalog, it would arrive in perfect working order and as described and last you a lot longer than you ever figured. 

10.
(1996)

A now defunct blog (written by Steve Kimes) described this one succinctly: "a wealth of plot, a mix between the real and the mystical, excellent characters." It's all that and more - some of King's warmest writing. (Another source to mine for King's attitudes re: God/ the Great Beyond.)

9.
(2009)

My personal vote for the best political satire of the Bush/ Cheney years, by any American author, in any genre. (Having it be the Corgi (Horace Greeley) that gets the convenient psychic powers was an unexpected touch. You rascal, you!)  

8.
(1975)

A funny thing happened as I was re-reading this a couple of months ago. I kept dog-earing pages I intended to cite as evidence that King has grown quite a bit since his first town-under-the-siege books. Yet, when I went back to them after finishing, all of them seemed to prove that I was wrong - he was just as good at it then as he is now. Salem's Lot is a traditional vampire tale as mixed with Peyton Place. As with ISIS or whomever exploiting our existing domestic problems to wreak havoc, one dedicated vampire and his capable assistant (both of whom are combined into Leland Gaunt in Needful Things) exploit the crap out of the pre-existing conditions of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine. 

7.
(2006)

Some people really hate this book. These people are nuts. If you are at all literate in what King does, you must recognize that this one is the Matisse painting of King's catalog - everything's bold colors and stripped down to its essential lines.

Plus, as we go further and further into the internet age, the idea of society descending into weaponized chaos - equalized at last in pure hivemind-y hatred of "the other" - as triggered by some ghost in the machine seems less and less sci-fi and more just like everyday life in 2016, especially the false-reality that invades your brain and overrides even your desperate desire to escape 

6.
(1987)

It was written more or less at the same time as this one (and enjoys) the greater reputation, with Tommyknockers looked at as its Cocaine Album cousin. I think that should be reversed - It is the cocaine album and The Tommyknockers is the unsung punk-rock opera of King's bibliography.

5.
(1999)

A surprising and poignant collection of a few short stories and a novella, all connected thematically and sharing some characters. A beautiful little book. It aims at poignancy and nostalgia and hits its target(s). The short stories, far from being filler, complement "Low Men in Yellow Coats" (for my money, among the best of King's early-childhood-era recreations) perfectly.

4.
(2011)

That people routinely refer to The Stand as his best work when he has this so recently in his rearview must drive King crazy. Great characters, great pace, great construction, and great heart. A re-read will illuminate all the ways the recent Hulu adaptation went off the rails when it tried to compartmentalize and/or take shortcuts (or flat-out change all-important details with the Yellow Card Man/ nature-of-goddamn-reality.) 

3.
(1997)

An oddly-constructed book. It begins by ending the last scene of The Waste Lands, then wanders into The Stand (on some level of the Tower), then goes into a long flashback as Roland recounts the tale of his most tragic adventure. And within that tale is some of King's most emotionally harrowing and earned work, hands-down. 

If the movies get nothing else right, let them at least do Wizard and Glass half-decently. 

2.
(1977)

I will be revisting this one in more depth sometime soon. Suffice it to say, this is early-King at his best. Hitting on all cylinders. It amuses me to think Bill Thompson tried to talk him out of writing it, so he wouldn't be typecast as just a horror author. I mean, fair advice - I guess he was typecast as just that for quite some time. Still is by some, though not by anyone you should, like, listen to. Thankfully it was advice he didn't take, though, and America acquired a new home-grown horror classic.  

1. 
(2008)

If you line up every trope you could possibly associate with King, they all combine wonderfully in Duma Key. Just the right amounts of each are used.  

Some quick and by no means exhaustive examples: there is a big-ass storm at the end, sure, but it makes thematic sense and isn't just found-structure. There are characters who receive temporary, plot-convenient psychic insight, but there's just enough covering fire to excuse it. "Haunted racism" is a factor, but no one goes into cartoonish Brady Hartsfield/ Henry Bowers territory. And artistic creation / malevolent possession-and-disconnect are linked and explored, but this is not a novel that is about creative narcissism the way The Dark Half or "Secret Window, Secret Garden" are. Nor does it approach that topic the way Misery does. This is new terrain for King, even if it feels so familiar.

Beyond that, it's simply a beautifully written book, shocking at turns, and airtight as hell, all while feeling breezy even at its expansive size. It's for all these reasons I consistently nominate it as King's best book and probably my personal favorite as well. 

I don't know why I seem to be the only person to do so, but after revisiting the work several times now, I stand by the assessment. 

~
How about you? 

NEXT: The Best of the Miniseries 

33 comments:

  1. I can't resist a title-by-title commentary, so apologies for what's about to happen:

    #53 -- I like "Song of Susannah" more than you do, but all in all I probably would have to agree that it's the least of all the books in the series. I can't help but give it a bit of credit for the sheer audaciousness of one of the plot points (you know the one), though. I do agree that if they made movies based on the books as they are, it would be a disaster.

    #52 -- The thing about most of King's books that makes his overall body of work so interesting is that even when I don't like one of them, there are things in them that I love. I agree that "Desperation" is a bit long-winded, but there are some great moments. The opening with Collie Entragian going nuts, for example; it's worth the novel being weak just for that opening to exist.

    #51 -- I suspect that it won the Edgar so the Edgar Awards could get themselves a few headlines. Or maybe they really dug it, but I don't. Although, once again, I thought the beginning chapter was a killer.

    #50 -- As you know, I've embargoed myself from reading this for a while. I'm certainly not all that encouraged by your verdict, though. Ah, well.

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    1. "I can't resist a title-by-title commentary, so apologies for what's about to happen"

      Nonsense! I hope others follow your example and I look forward to each and every word.

      Agreed on #52's opening and these little-moments even in work I overall don't like.

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  2. #49 -- Yes! It sort of feels rushed and/or unfinished. I wish the original idea (a calendar with twelve werewolf-centric vignettes) had panned out. You can see the seeds of that idea in the beginning of the book, and I think they work well.

    #48 -- My memory of this one is that it's well-written but (as you intimate) kind of pointless. I can live with that. Lord knows it's better than the "adaptation" it got on Syfy.

    #47 -- Agreed on the ending, and on the Crimson King (who flat-out sucks). But I find a lot of this book to be utterly haunting: Dandelo, the big shootout at the Breaker compound, Callahan's last stand, all of the major deaths, etc. I still mostly feel that it's a bit of a failure as a wrapup to that series; but it's a wrapup I mostly love. Kind of a paradox, that, but even that seems kinda appropriate!

    #46 -- I like this one more than you. The True Knot are indeed a bit unthreatening, but I liked that because it showed just how powerful Abra is. Those monsters never stood a chance against her. I felt a little sorry for them, amazingly; I don't know how that will hold up on a reread, but it sits well in my memory.

    #45 -- This one made virtually no impression on me. I couldn't tell you much of anything about it. I wish he'd have published the original draft, instead of a revised draft; it would be cool to see that original version just from a historical viewpoint.

    #44 -- "With each passing moment the rage and narcissism of adrenaline-filled adolescence is more and more alien to me." Amen to that. However, consider this: I think our culture is in a social-media-inspired adolescence filled with rage and narcissism right this very minute, so all you've got to do to revisit those feelings is get on Facebook or Twitter. I don't know about you, but I increasingly want to not do those things. As for "Rage," I think it's got its virtues, but I don't think it holds up overall.

    #43 -- I'm a bit more charitable than that, personally. I really enjoy the novel as a domestic drama, and then the horror stuff works for me too. I wish the supernatural hints at the beginning weren't there; they add nothing.

    #42 -- This is one of the rare cases in King's canon in which I think I prefer the movie, and by a considerable margin. I like the book just fine, but I think the movie does it better.

    #41 -- I'm a WAY bigger fan of this one than you are. I just keep coming back to it mentally. I see your point about the framing material, but I even dig that, especially the bit where the guy is giving testimony about Carrie being in his thoughts suddenly.

    #40 -- My big problem with this one is that the prose seems off. It feels like modern King telling an ancient story; the voice seems wrong to me. But others might see that as a virtue, I guess.

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    1. #46 - yeah, Abra's complete dominance was my other problem with Doctor Sleep. There was just zero tension in the book for me.

      44) Egads, you're right. How awful!

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    2. What interests me about that aspect of "Doctor Sleep" is how it mirrors Danny's struggle with alcoholism. It's a successful struggle, and ultimately Danny proves to be MUCH more capable in that regard than his father was. And, one suspects, more capable than King himself was.

      As such, I think this is a novel that celebrates victory. It also tries to make it clear that the struggle persists, and that it's always going to be a struggle; but it's winnable.

      I kind of see the True Knot as a reflection of that. This might be a case of my English-major tendencies coming out, though. That happens every once in a while. I cop to it!

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    3. I'll keep that approach in mind when I eventually pick it up again for a re-read. I start every King book highly motivated to enjoy it, so it would make me happy to find a way "in" to "Doctor Sleep."

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    4. I think that, at worst, it's like other King novels: at least some great material. I thought the opening chapter -- essentially a direct sequel to "The Shining" -- was just wonderful.

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  3. #39 -- The miniseries is indeed dreadful. I think the comparison to "Duma Key" is pretty dang apt, and I sgree that the later book is the stronger.

    #38 -- If there IS a Hell and I go there, the only books I am allowed to read will all be about Duddits. Is he the single worst thing in any King book? I don't know. In Hell, his books might have Jerome as a sidekick. I absolutely love the first third or so of "Dreamcatcher," but it really loses shape at a certain point.

    #37 -- I like the epilogue. But then, I like the explain-it-all epilogue to "Psycho," too, and a lot of people hate that. I guess I'm okay with being talked down to.

    #36 -- I really fell back in love with this one when I reread it a few years back. Lots of interesting stuff going on under the surface; I'm not sure even King realized what he had going with this one.

    #35 -- I think I probably agree that it might have been better-served as a standalone. And yet, despite not being a big fan of "Mr. Mercedes," I remember being pleased when the first book's characters finally reappeared. I'm not sure that reaction makes sense, but I had it nevertheless.

    #34 -- How MUCH better do the Mafia elements work in the novel than in the movie? 100% at a minimum. I might lean closer to 500%.

    #33 -- I kinda like the cover if I let my eyes go cross and prevent them from taking in any of the details. I like the novel; I don't love it as much as some do, but I might come around one of these days. I think you can definitely make the argument that this is where the series falls apart.

    #32 -- Oh, man, this is a top-ten novel for me. I like the movie a lot, but I prefer the novel. It was one of the first King novels I read, and maybe my opinion is colored by nostalgia to some extent. I really love it, though.

    #31 and #30 -- The "X-Files" comparison is interesting. I'm slowly working my way through a series rewatch, and am in season five currently. Your point about the mythology is interesting, but I've talked myself into seeing those episodes differently this time: I'm enjoying them for the potential of what the mythology COULD have been, rather than what it became. I think the same argument could be made for these two novels. In any case, I'm much more positive on them, personally. I think in some ways, it's really those first four novels that really form the series in my mind; everything else seems a bit less than genuine, even though I do like them.

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    1. #34 - I think King struggles with Mafia characters/ set-ups. With some very notable exceptions (such as "The Death of Jack Hamilton") and Richie Ginelli in "Thinner." And a few others. But I don't think the mob elements add much to The Shining or It, for example. (Not that they're overwhelming parts.) I'm 50/50 on the mob-aspects of The Dark Tower, too.

      #31/32 - For what it's worth, I'd grade these as "A-minus"es. So, while they clock in where they are, I do very much love them. And I agree that the first 4 books seem like the genuine Dark Tower.

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    2. If you ever want to read King's worst piece of Mafia writing, look no further than "Man With A Belly" (if you can find it). It is dreadful.

      I like those aspects of "The Drawing of the Three," but I can see how someone wouldn't. They are iffy. Feels like King writing what he demonstrably does NOT know.

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  4. #29 -- This one comes in at almost the very end of the pile for me. However, I'm WAY overdue for a reread, and rereads often prompt me to reevaluate my stance(s). What you say about the reflection of Greek mythology intrigues me.

    #28 -- Man, I would LOVE for him to write a "Firestarter" sequel. Charlie could up to almost anything these days. We have no idea!

    #27 -- I agree that the psychic-child aspect is unfortunate. It doesn't hurt the novel much, but I do wish King had found a more elegant way to push the plot forward in those scenes. Great novel, though. that Wendigo, man; creeps me out.

    #26 -- Hmm. Those comments from Goodreads are persuasive. I remember digging this one a lot, though. If you consider King's canon chronologically, it's interesting to consider that the not-all-stories-come-together aspect kind of works to prime the pump with Constant Readers for what would happen in the last Dark Tower novel.

    #25 -- I doubt it will be possible for a faithful movie version of this book to happen in my lifetime. I've told the story elsewhere, and you might know it, but it was that movie that helped turn me into a King fan. Accidentally: I read the book as a substitute for the movie because my Mom wouldn't let me see it!

    #24 -- I like that surrealist/alien aspect of "The Gunslinger," too. It's my personal favorite in the series.

    #23 -- I don't think that's a silly reason to like "tom Gordon" at all. Pretty damn good reason, it seems to me. I have to confess, though, that this is the title currently occupying last place in my mental ranking of King's novels. I don't find it to be well-written, and I don't like the protagonist. I understand that kids get lost in the woods on occasion simply because they are idiots; that rings true to me. But I don't need to read about those kids, and if I'm going to, I want a bit more than this. But, again, a reread might turn me around.

    #22 -- I love "Dolores Claiborne." I do wish King had jettisoned the crossover with "Gerald's Game," though. Or, failing that, I think he needed to somehow pay it off in some later books.

    #21 -- "Roadwork" confused and frustrated me when I read it in high school. As well it should have! There's nothing going on in that novel that a high schooler should be able to relate to. As such, this is maybe one of King's most mature novels. Either that, or my idea of maturity is hopelessly juvenile. I could see either being true...

    #20 -- "Whichever candidate vows to greenlight its production gets my vote." -- Well, I think Gary Johnson is probably your/our best bet for success there. Alternatively, you could write me in, but know that if I were to somehow win, I would refuse the office.

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    1. #21 - me too, definitely. I don't think I even finished it. I was surprised when I got round to rereading it in 2012. Looking forward to re-reading that, probably after I finish The Regulators. I've been cluster-reading King lately, and I can't say I mind.

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    2. I aspire to cluster-reading King! I used to do it frequently, and have got to get back there.

      And soon.

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  5. #19 -- Don't think I didn't notice what series you represented in spot #19. I noticed, and I give it a big thumbs up. I loved this novel, man; nothing about it failed to work for me. I hope King has a few more of these series-sidebar novels in him before it's all over.

    #18 -- "It makes me seriously consider whether or not King's success comes from a compact with some demon or faerie-folk whose only stipulation is to end everything with a storm and psychic child." -- This gave me a laugh. I'm considering that in his heart of hearts, King is actually yearning to write Presidential biographies, but can't on account of the forked-road meeting from that one time decades ago. What a thought! I like this novel a lot; but yes,m definitely one too many psychic children.

    #17 -- I wish somebody had convinced King to cut the train-running scene, though, simply so none of us had to think about it. Like, recently I saw a photo of the Losers cast from the new movie, and the first thing I thought was, "All those boys are gonna fuck that one girl," and then I considered turning myself in to the authorities simply for thinking it. And yet, how can I not?!? Nothing salacious in it, it's just a fact. That said, I guess I'm one of those King-fan defenders of the scene. I can't justify it, but the scene does kind of work for me, possibly because I myself was still a juvenile when I first encountered it, and so I still engage with it in that mindset. But yeah, I agree, I really don't think it makes much sense. Still, I think it's enough to diminish the novel, which is frequently next-level brilliant.

    #16 -- One of the few novels that made me cry. I don't think it holds together all that well, for the reasons you mention and probably others; but I admire its ambition and applaud the effort. The fact that it hasn't had a television adaptation yet mystifies me.

    #15 -- Last time I reread "Misery," I bore that addition-metaphor aspect in mind, and yeah, boy, it really works in that capacity. But so do his novels adjacent to that one: "The Dark Half," "The Drawing of the Three," and "The Tommyknockers."

    #14 -- Oooh! that's higher than I would have thought. I loved it until the last act, in which I felt like it copped out a bit. But that might have expectations versus reality, and I look forward to rereading it to find out how wrong I was. Either way, I loved the first, oh, four-fifths or so.

    #13 -- I totally agree that this is work of the seventies that, in the longer version, has anachronisms grafted onto it poorly. Doesn't mean I don't love it, though; I do.

    #12 -- I don't know how anyone could consider "The Long Walk" to be King's worst book. But to each his own. You and I can keep sailing happily in the boat of correctness!

    #11 -- That last sentence of your entry for this book is an excellent observation. I was down on this novel for many years. Then I reread it, and fell in love with it. It's a shaggy beast, but that's not a bad thing.

    #10 -- I'm happy to be a longstanding King fan if for no other reason than that I got to experience reading this in real-time. It's great no matter how you read it, but that monthly trip to the bookstore was stuff to treasure.

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    1. #19 - would you believe this is a total coincidence/ unplanned? Wow. There will be water if Ka wills it.

      #15 - That's a good point on "The Dark Half." Maybe I should re-read that one - I remember really enjoying your review of it from a few years back, but the novel itself faded a bit in memory.

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    2. Yeah, the way I saw it was that Beaumont was so addicted to the things he was addicted to that he'd essentially invented a second personality under which to play in that world. Then, when he tried to go cold-turkey, that personality proved to be so potent that it took on a life of its own. Seems like a good metaphor. The fact that King was able to come up with so many different -- and useful -- ways of examining the same subject (addiction) is a bit of a wonder. He'd do it again with "Doctor Sleep," of course, and probably in other works.

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  6. #9 -- I wonder to what extent the CBS series (which was SHIT) has prevented our culture at large from agreeing with your assessment. There is a prominent King-fan podcast (Stephen King Cast) that agrees with you 100%, though, so you are not alone. I loved it, although I could have lived without Dale Barbara being called Barbie. And the alien stuff is great; anyone who says otherwise needs to come fight me, and lose.

    #8 -- Oh, man, that ISIS parallel is intriguing. We'll see how it all turns out, of course, but if the republic falls, I think historians will point to the day the towers fell and say that that was when it happened, and that we ultimately did it to ourselves. There really is kind of a version of that happening in "Salem's Lot." What a novel! Those early-years works by King are something else.

    #7 -- This is enough for me: I'm now extremely excited to revisit "Cell." By the way, the movie is an abomination.

    #6 -- I wouldn't rank it quite this high, but I do believe "The Tommyknockers" is a wildly misunderstood and underappreciated novel. King himself is to blame for much of that, I think, given how uncharitable he has been in interviews about it. His fans tend toward sycophancy; I'm glad to see one of them who doesn't. That's you, in case I wasn't clear enough!

    #5 -- I think this one will only gain in stature over time, unless its connections to "The Dark Tower" somehow prevent it. And they might. I think of it as a novel moreso than as a collection, but however you classify it, it is deeply poignant stuff. I hope King eventually gets around to writing "The House on Benefit Street," which he has said will complete it.

    #4 -- I'm beginning (tonight, actually) a weekly viewing of the Hulu miniseries with a group of friends who hasn't seen it. I'm dreading it, because while I liked a lot of it, I hated -- HATED -- a lot of it too. And the reason for that is that there was simply no need to deviate so wildly from the novel. It's one of King's best, and you've got an hours-long platform to tell the story, and THAT was the best you could do?!? Fuck that. When I first heard about the novel I thought, that sounds nothing like Stephen King. Then I read it, and it's JUST like Stephen King, and in all the good ways.

    #3 -- It was news to me when I entered the online King-fandom community -- which I have almost totally exited since -- that "Wizard and Glass" is looked down upon by a lot of people. Mostly they seem to feel that it goes nowhere and does nothing. What can you do in the face of opinions like that except squint, frown, shrug, and go elsewhere?

    #2 -- How exciting is it that "After the Play" (a four-page epilogue King himself has, for years, said had been lost) recently turned up? Having a long-lost excised section of "The Shining" back in the world is going to be a BIG deal for people who love it. It's a truly great novel, and while I'm loathe to bring up the Kubrick movie, I stand as living proof than a fella can indeed love both equally.

    #1 -- Fascinating! I'm a big fan of this one, too, and it grows in my memory as time passes. I believe you, sir, may be leading the charge to keep this one valued highly. Kudos! And kudos on the list overall; we diverge in places, but the important thing we converge on is that this is a fucking KILLER body of work. One of the best I know of in any field.

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    1. Thank you kindly for taking the time to offer these book-by-book remarks.

      9) I wonder that, too. Considering how highly motivated a good portion of the book-reading public is in collecting anti-Bush/Cheney invective, you'd think a high-profile book where they're compared to Big Jim and his necrophiliac son would be more popular. I'm glad to hear StephenKingCast and I see eye to eye on this one.

      8) Amen. (Sadly.)

      7) That's really too bad! Of all the goddamn books of King's to fuck up, too, for fuck's sake. Pardon the outburst of profanity, but it blows my mind. It'd be like being in a Ramones cover band and consistently forgetting the chords. ("Dude! There's only two of them!!") "Cell" should be a cakewalk for a competent filmmaker.

      6) I agree with you here. And I hate to admit it, but I think King would disavow me as a Constant Reader if he could! But I ain't going anywhere.

      5) Man, I hope so.

      4) I had the same reaction(s), prior to and post reading it, that's great. Good luck with the rewatch. The more I think about what they did with it, the angrier I get. Those first few episodes are good, though - I wonder if they'll remain good, knowing how it ends? Keep me posted.

      3) That boggles my mind, truthfully. I mean, i get that I might have a fanciful take on "The Tommyknockers" or something (though I don't believe I do, really, and the testament of other fans like yourself makes me think there IS a great novel in there that people - including its author - simply have to rediscover) but "Wizard and Glass?" Mothereffer's damn near perfect.

      2) Absolutely! Can't wait to read that damn thing.

      1) So say we all!

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  7. Well I've nowhere near read all of Kings works (I've only read 27 currently) but I will give my opinions on the ones I have read.
    # 53 Song of Susannah: This is defiantly the weakest of The Dark Tower books for me as well though overall I don't know where I'd actually place it on a list. The main parts I like come from the section with Calvin Tower (I thought he was a really interesting character) and the end at the Dixie pig which I though had some really cool and creepy parts. The rest was ok but kind of boring to me.
    #52 Desperation: Is over all my least favourite king book. I think the crazy cop part is great and I find it a really interesting concept, but the rest with all the supernatural stuff I don't really care about. If it was just a short story or novella about a psycho cop then I think it would be far greater. I like the first 200 pages with Collie and despite the rest of the novel kind of being wonky for me I actually think John Marinville is one of Kings greatest characters and he saves the second half for me somewhat.
    #51 Mr. Mercedes: Its just an ok book. I don't have much of an opinion on it. I like the characters fine enough but I didn't think it was anything that great.
    #47 Dark Tower 7: I really like the first bit in Blue Heaven, I like seeing the lives of the breakers, can-toi, humes, and taheen and the demise of Flagg is probably my favourite part in the book ( I was so shocked by it happening so early and so easily that I should of hated it but I thought it was really fitting for him and no better then he deserved) but after that I feel the books kind of a bunch of random sequences that I don't care about as much put together until the very ending with Roland that I thought was excellent (I have more mixed feeling's on Susannah's ending personally). Plus the Crimson King was a big letdown, wish he was handled better. Overall it was just ok with a great ending.

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    1. No apologies necessary! Thanks for leaving such detailed remarks.

      Sounds like we are in agreement on some major points with the Dark Tower and others, like Johnny Marinville. (While I like The Regulators better as a book, Marinville is a stronger character in Desperation.)

      I was really surprised to see Flagg punch out as early as he did, too.

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  8. #43 Cujo: I really liked Cujo. I guess the book can get boring (The parts with the husband,and the mother and son stuck in the car kind of drags a little) but I think this is one of kings most scary and depressing books (at least from what I've read). I find the parts with Cujo incredibly interesting and sad, and the book has one my all time favourite King side characters, Gary Pervier ( I assume most don't give a shit about his character but I found him one of Kings funniest characters, I just look these kind of grumpy assholes in king books). All the other characters are good as well though, none are bad its just Cujo and Gary (while he's in the book) steal the show for me.

    #40 Eyes of the Dragon: A nice little book that I think needs for love then it gets. My main problem with it is that it really goes nowhere in the end, I was expecting a little more but over all it was good, especially the parts with Thomas who I wish they brought back, along with Devin to play more of a big role in the Towers instead of just getting briefly mentioned as getting screwed by Flagg, but hey what yah going to do.

    #37 Geralds Game: A nice disturbing book. Jessie Burlingame is a great King character and I feel really bad for her. I'm mixed on Joubert, I like and dislike the reveal, I thought he was scarier as a possible grim reaper of sorts ( that's what I thought he was initially) but him being a serial killer was ok, though it felt a little tact on (like the Dolores Claiborne which is one of the stupidest things in a king book I've seen).

    #33. Wolves of The Calla: It was a decent book. I feel its a little drawn out but the things that are great in this book are really great ( I love Callahan's backstory after the events of 'Salem's Lot and how its wrapped into the Low Men, I thought Jakes new friends father to be a really interesting and sad character along with Andy, who I feel may not have become as evil if he wasn't treated as shit as he seems to be in the book, he clearly has some emotions and other robots that appear later clearly do as well, and the wolves are pretty cool villains over all, especially their weapons.). Over all it is better then 6 and 7 but sadly since those book weren't as great it kind of effects something's in this one.

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    1. I agree on Gary Pervier. He gets some crazy-good lines in Cujo, like "I don't care if he was hitting line drives into her catcher's mitt." Which just occurred to me might not translate beyond US borders if one doesn't know baseball terminology. Anyway, I agree on grumpy-old-bastard characters, particularly in King books.

      Agree on all things Wolves, there.

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  9. #31 Drawing of the Three: Either this or the Waste Lands is my favourite book in the Dark tower series ( and both are my third and fourth favourite of King's books behind the Stand and 'Salem's Lot). I just love the way all three characters interact and I think this is the book that develops all of them the most (especially Eddie who, besides Roland, is my favourite member of the Ka-tet). I unlike you have basically no problem with Detta ( I get why you would though) personally I freaking love Detta, maybe more then Susannah herself which may be bad, but to hell with it. Plus Mafia(I love Italian gangsters), one of my favourite creatures created for the Tower series the Lobstrosities, and the final section with Jack Mort which I find one of the most fascinating parts in any King novel(alongside Patrick Hockstetter from IT, him and Mort are great).

    #30 The Wastelands: I love, love, love this book. The beginning with Shardik is badass, Calvin Tower is badass, the strangely sort of Creepy kid's book Jake picks up is badass, Jakes drawing into Mid-world is badass, Oy ( my third favourite member of the Ka-tet) is badass, and everything that happens in Lud is badass. This book also includes my two favourite Dark Tower villains Gasher and Blaine the pain train (I know he's a mono but I love calling him that), plus Tick Tock Man is pretty cool as well ( just wish more was made of him in the next book) and this book possibly has my favourite Randall Flagg scene in any of the novel's (The Stand included). Idk why I love that part so much but I do. Overall this book is perfect (atleast as perfect as a book can be to me) and the cliff-hanger is great.

    #24 The Gunslinger (Original version): I read the original opposed to the revised and don't regret it, I really didn't catch most of the inconsistencies that appeared later in the series ( a few I did like the beast becoming the Crimson King I guess) but even if I did this book is still really good to me. I love the scene in tull ( along with another great scene with Randall when he resurrects Nort), the scene with Brown is Zoltan is great as well. I also really love the part were Roland lets Jake fall, and Rolands palaver with The Dark Man is great. It does have its problems ( sometimes the writing can get annoying) but overall it is a great start to the series and people who think you can just skip right to Drawing of the Three in my opinion are dead wrong.

    #19 Wind Through the Keyhole: The little fairy tale is really where the novel's heart is, and it is great. Not a part of that tale I didn't enjoy. The skin man story is ok, I like the gore of it and the little connection to Desperation, and I like the nun women (if that's what they were, I forget sorry) but the rest is just kind of average, especially just coming from Wizard and Glass. And the story to wrap all the rest together is nice and well, probably has more impact if you read it after you read all 7 but I read it between 4 and 5 so it may of not been as great as it may have been for you. Over all maybe slightly better then 5 but doesn't quite make it to the level of the first 4.

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    1. That's a good point about when to read "Wind Through the Keyhole." I read it between 4 and 5, too, as per the Dark Tower Recommended Reading Order (link provided above).

      You make me want to read "The Waste Lands" again!

      I really didn't like the way the Tick Tock Man was dispatched in book 4. Just seemed kind of a lame end to a villain who seemed craftier or more dangerous than how we saw him dispatched. But, King can sometimes have that issue with his villains.

      Sounds like this is a topic to which you've devoted some careful consideration!

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  10. #18 Joyland: Its an incredibly touching story, and that's all I really got for it. Besides the Stand I think this book is probably one of his most relatable for me. I was shocked who the killer was, but I wasn't looking that hard and there were quite a few hints but I was to wrapped in the rest to really try. I wasn't bothered at all by the kid with psychic abilities (this was I believe my 4th King book so I wasn't really overwhelmed with how much he actually uses psychics as a deus ex machina by that point).

    #17 IT: A book that I feel shouldn't be as good as it is (I feel like it is stuff full of a bunch of weird and unneeded stuff that somehow makes it work or even advances my opinion on it, like the part with Patrick Hockstetter, I don't really get why he devoted so much time to such a minor character but I turned out to love that section) but in the end do think its one of Kings best. This novel comes up with lots of great imagery ( I love the part where Pennywise drags a dude off into a jungle of balloon strings) and the ending somehow really worked for me. I heard it was super weird and that a lot of people didn't like it but how can you not love a giant god turtle thing. As for the sex scene, I don't really get bothered by it, the only reason I don't really like it is because it makes me feel bad for Ben (defiantly my favourite of the Losers)as I feel it lessens what King was doing with him and Bev.

    #16 Insomnia: A really surprising book because it has become one of my favourites. I love all the main characters to death, including the two doctors, and feel the third doc to be a pretty cool villain ( I love that he was connected into Pet Semetary as the one who cut Gages string, that was a nice little reference) along with Ed who I do feel kind of bad for. The books only problem with me really is (besides kind of hyping up The Crimson King more then he deserved) is that I don't see how people who aren't fan of the Tower can really like it, at least to a full extent, that wasn't a problem with me it made me love the book more but I count that as a problem. Plus the feminism stuff kind of annoys me and distracts from what otherwise is a great book ( Probably wouldn't mind as much if feminism wasn't how it is currently but whateva)

    #13. The Stand: Other then the ending at Las Vegas (Probably the most disappointing part in any king book for me)I love this book entirely. I think it has Kings greatest characters ever, namely Harold Lauder who I find his best written character (Besides maybe Roland) ever. Its just so fascinating and kind of sick how much I can sympathise and understand Harold, what he does later is terrible but I cant help but still like him because of our similarities. Its kind of like seeing what would happen if I turned evil, not something I should be proud of in anyway but I still love it. Plus Tom and Nick in general are my all time favourite King characters, and how can you not love Randall.

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    1. My opinion on Harold may change over time when I grow up more and he probably wont be as great to me then, but at the time I read the novel I was at the right age and mind frame as Harold.

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  11. #12 Long Walk: So far the only Bachman book I've read fully (I attempted to read Rage but something didn't click for me at the time so I stopped) and over all it was a pretty good book. I don't know if I love it as much as everyone else seems to, its good and I like most of the characters (namely Abraham, and Barkovitch who I wish got killed by actually starting to fail instead of killing himself, didn't think it was a satisfying enough way for him to meet his end) just don't think its as great as most, but it is very impressive to come out of such a young man.

    #11 Needful Things; The most recent King book I've read and I think it is a pretty great novel overall. I don't think it is kings best town getting screwed with book but its close. I find the whole idea of the book to be probably my favourite King concept for a novel and he does some pretty great stuff with it (I was surprised how early the people of Castle Rock actually start killing themselves and each other, thought King was gonna save that for the very end. Alan is a great and interesting character, along with the villains Leland Gaunt (was expecting a little more from him personally but what we got was good), Ace, and Buster, along with the rest of Castle Rocks citizens. Though for the destruction of a popular King town I thought Derry actually got it worse in IT.

    #9 Under the Dome: Great novel that I feel over all not much happens but somehow never gets boring for me. The villains may be 1 dimensional to some but personally I really enjoyed Big Jim and Junior ( I love how Big Jim replaces swear words like instead of bitch its rhymes with witch and instead of titties its tiddies, plus I understand how Junior feels about migraines) and I think it has one of Kings greatest endings and town destructions (Chef and the first selectman were also great characters, probably my favourites from the book, best love story ever in my humble opinion).

    #8 'Salem's Lot: Hands down Kings best dark and overly depressing book that I have read of his so far (no ones leaves this book happily) and it has Kings best side and minor characters (from the bus driver to the hunchback they are all great) plus two great villains Barlow and Straker ( Barlow may actually be my favourite King villain but I'm not to sure yet). I also like to point out even if Father Callahan never came back in another King book, I would of been completely happy with the way his story ends, one my favourite King moments ever.

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  12. #5 Hearts in Atlantis: The first two stories are absolutely great ( I don't consider "Low Men in Yellow Coats" to be a novella though, its more like a novel especially since the version I have goes past 300 pages) and the next two short stories are decent (" Why we're in Vietnam" kind of confuses me but whatever). The final story though personally I could of done without, felt a little sappy and unneeded. Book over all though is great.

    #3 Wizard and Glass: Besides maybe the Waste Lands I think number 4 has kings greatest writing in the series. I personally thought the book was going to be shit after the amazing opening ( I think it was the last truly great moment from when I loved dark tower the most, Blaine's defeat was actually incredibly satisfying for me mainly because I actually guessed how it was goanna be done and the joke Eddie actually used first, it made me feel so great, probably was obvious to most people but to hell with it, plus Blaine's final line, I believe it was anyways, " I HATE YOU FOREVER" was just so whinny and perfect for Blaine)but it was actually pretty great. I love Cuthbert and Alain, and Roland's relationship with Susan I actually loved surprisingly. The villains are half and half for me, on one hand I love Rhea, great awesome villain who I completely underestimated (really wish they brought her back, I thought she was the one they were going to face in the palace personally, and the fact King didn't bring her back to the final book I thought was stupid), and the Jonas and his coffin hunters were alright ( He had a lot of promise but I feel they made him to immature later when he wrecks Roland's place, plus how he kind of gets taken over by the ball and gets killed so easily at the end sucked). Overall I think this novel turned out to be great, more then the Gunslinger and only slightly under 2 and 3 for me, probably the last truly great Dark Tower book to me personally.

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    1. It sounds like you could start a Stephen King blog of your own, if you haven't already. Excellent reviews and perspectives all around.

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    2. Thanks I appreciate that. I may start a blog one day but as of currently I think its to big a task for me, but hopefully it can happen. I'm thinking about reading Pet Semetary or Bag of Bones next personally.

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  13. And that's all I got. The other King books I've read include Full Dark No Stars, Night Shift, Everything's Eventual, The Talisman, and Black House if you wanted to know.

    Thanks for taking time out of your day to read and comment back to these, I really appreciate it!

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  14. My pleasure. Thanks for sharing these reviews.

    I'm re-reading Duma Key at the moment. The wife and kids are out with friends, and I've got nothing to do. A pleasant - and all too rare - afternoon of reading in the garden is coming my way!

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