books · Reviews

Red Dragon Review

dragon

I’ve had a bit of a reading break since completing ‘It’ so have only read one book this month. My friend suggested that as a fan of horror I should read the Hannibal series. She kindly posted me her copy of Red Dragon which also included Silence of the Lambs so I was excited to start.

My only exposure to Hannibal had been through the film Silence of the Lambs so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. At first I was surprised by the lack of Lecter as he was a predominant character in the film, but soon I realised that as the title suggests, the novel is about the Red Dragon.  At first the Red Dragon gave me the creeps, especially as he repeatedly watched the murder tapes. However I was quite surprised to be strangely willing him to end up with Reba. Don’t get me wrong I still thought he was a gross psychopath but I actually felt a bit sorry for him when we discovered his past. You would think that the revelation of a murderer’s tragic childhood would be a cliche but actually I didn’t find it to be the case in this book. His confused relationship with his Mother and Grandmother explained a lot and I can understand that he needed an outlet for his love that he couldn’t express to his family.

I thought that Reba could possibly change him and help him to function as a normal human being. Alas I was wrong and he died morally ambiguous. When I believed that he had killed himself to save Reba I was weirdly touched and thought that maybe he had beaten the ‘Dragon’, however when he attacked Graham and it was revealed that he faked it I was a little bit disappointed. But I much prefer this ending to the one I had imagined as it portrays the complexity of his condition, be it schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder and shows that although he did save Reba, he was still the murderer he always was.

The book had a good pace and style which was easy to follow and kept me wanting more, so overall I found it an enjoyable read. 4/5

 

books · Horror · Stephen King

‘You’ll float too!’: Review of IT by Stephen King

IT BOOK

Continuing my Stephen King binge I decided to read ‘Salem’s Lot’ and ‘Pet Sematary’ both of  which were brilliant. However the increasing hype for the new remake of IT couldn’t be ignored and so I decided to read the book ahead of it’s release.

IT is a pretty large book of 1392 pages, making it one of the longest books I’ve read in a while. But unlike many big books (I’m looking at you The Casual Vacancy) its content was consistently gripping and did not feel dragged out.

The plot follows seven kids who live in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. They are brought together by an evil force which thrives on the town, causing numerous peculiar murders. This evil thing they refer to as ‘IT’ lives in the sewers and can shift its form to impersonate the deepest fears of the children it feeds on, the most popular manifestation being Pennywise the clown.
Through the use of flashbacks we follow their story as their adult selves try to piece together what happened during their forgotten childhood and what exactly they had promised to return to 27 years ago.

This skipping between the past and the present was what I liked most about this novel, especially when a character would begin a sentence in 1985 and finish it in 1958, for example:

‘I think it was the same knife he had that day. When we went into the sewers. Do you remember?’
‘I r-r-remember’, Bill said grimly. “Eddie listen to me. I want you to

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g-g-go back and tell B-B-Ben to c-come up h-h-here.’

Because of the length of the novel I could connect to the characters and thus ‘root’ for them to defeat IT. I think King has mastered the art of writing and understanding the inner workings of people, especially those of the ‘bad’ characters, for example Bev’s husband. He is abusive to Bev and even recounts a time where he raped her, however we also see his genuine love for her and how he helped her grow her fashion label, reminding us that nothing is always black and white.

The characterisation of the ‘Losers’ was very well done as the children’s’ voices conveyed ‘authenticity’. What I mean is that I believe that eleven year old kids would behave like they do in the novel, and unlike Danny Torrance in The Shining,  I felt as if they used a lexicon appropriate for their age group. I enjoyed the idea that only children could see IT’s tricks, for example when blood bursts out of Bev’s sink and all over the bathroom her parents cannot see it. King really plays with the idea of the childish imagination. This is also why IT chooses mainly children as it’s victims as their fears are easy to manifest. Becoming a werewolf or a witch is a lot less complicated than impersonating a fear of rejection or of failure for example.
I also found it interesting that it was the children’s belief in magic that allowed them to defeat IT; Bill had faith that he could defeat the monster which gave him the power to kill it, just like when Eddie convinced himself that his inhaler contained acid so he could burn IT’s face with it.

I love the juxtaposition of the children’s fear of a monster with the evil force that causes the town to turn on each other every 27 years. At first the reader is led to believe that a creepy clown is stalking children, but as the book continues they realise that its more than that, it is an energy that has been a part of the town since the beginning of time. IT is Derry. Although trippy at first I really enjoyed this concept; Here was a novel that didn’t just follow the conventions of horror but completely turned them on their head.

Thus I found IT (especially as Pennywise) absolutely terrifying in his relentlessness to kill the children and its ability to cause the town’s folk to look the other way at their cries for help.

The book isn’t just about murders and evil though, it also demonstrates friendship and the love between childhood friends, as well as a lot of humour. Richie in particular was my favourite and really reminded me of some of my old school friends. For me he completely steals the show which makes me incredibly nervous for the film adaptation of his character. I think the portrayal of Bev was very well done, as I have mentioned before King is very good at creating young female characters. I was glad to see a girl who was ‘one of the boys’ without compromising her femininity. She was just as physically able as her friends and was in fact better at using a slingshot. However, she still wore dresses and skirts and did not reject any references to her gender. Overall she was a fully developed female character whom I could relate to. However what ruined this for me was what occurred in the sewers with all the boys (if you’ve read it you will know what I’m referring to). I really did not enjoy that part and to be honest didn’t really understand its purpose other than to sexualize an eleven year old girl, especially as she appeared to enjoy it. However King has since stated that he regrets that part of IT so I’ll do my best to ignore it.

Overall I really loved IT and am honestly sad to have completed it. Although there was that one part that I despised, I thought it was a genuinely incredible book with enough great content to remain a favourite. I cannot wait to see the film adaptation on Sunday!   
5/5

Beep Beep Richie!

 

books · Horror · Stephen King

‘FEAR stands for fuck everything and run’: Doctor Sleep Review

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In my last post I wrote about my thoughts on The Shining and having loved it I decided it would be a great idea to read its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep. Returning to the now middle-aged and alcoholic Danny Torrance (sound familiar?), the story follows his journey into embracing the shining after coming off the booze, and his work helping terminal cancer patients reach the ‘other side’.  I was pleased to see Danny using his abilities for a great cause and it was interesting to see that he had inherited a drinking problem from his father. The start of the book was promising and the continuation of the Torrance’s story after the Outlook Hotel allowed for some closure for fans of The Shining. However prior knowledge of the book is not essential as this also acts as a ‘previously on’ for the new reader.

In spite of this the introduction of Abra was for me, the decline of the book. There were parts where it felt more like young adult fiction than a Stephen King novel, as the sporadic pop culture references seemed like an attempt to relate to a younger audience. That aside the overall characterisation of Abra was pretty good for a middle aged, male author but I still feel that like Danny in The Shining, some parts of her mannerisms seemed too mature for her age. Again, this may be because of her ability to read the dark thoughts of the adults around her but the juxtaposition of her maturity with her love of her cuddly rabbit seemed out of place.

Another criticism I had was with the discovery that Danny and Abra’s mother were long lost half-siblings. The idea of Jack Torrance sleeping around during his drunken tirades is plausible but the fact that Danny happened to have a psychic connection with his niece just seems a bit far fetched.

Other than that I did enjoy Doctor Sleep  and I would definitely read it again. The True Knot were adequate villains (although very easy to kill for steam sucking monsters), and the character of Rose the Hat was probably one of my favourites. I would have liked to learn more about her backstory but I suppose that would take up too much word space. I also loved that the Shining ability was explored more thoroughly and that we got to see how Danny and Wendy coped after the Overlook Hotel. Overall it was a good novel that had enough strong points to hold it up. 3/5

 

books · Horror · Stephen King

‘This inhuman place makes human monsters’ – The Shining: Review

shin

In completing my English Literature degree with a 2:1 classification (yay), I finally have the time to read fiction for fun again!
Of course being left with an unlimited array of genres to choose from I decided to read three books at the same time. However when I began the third book The Shining I physically couldn’t put it down so completed it without distraction within a few days.

I had never read any of Stephen King’s novel prior to this but had seen a few film adaptions of his work, The Shining included. I was pretty shocked however to discover that the book is almost completely different in tone and theme to Kubrick’s version.
In the book Jack is a good father to Danny (albeit flawed) and shows genuine love and compassion to his family, light-years away from Jack Nicholson’s psychotic maniac.

But, I don’t wish to scrupulously compare the two versions as this is a review of the book after all!

The narrative is somewhat slow paced at the start as the Torrance family relationships are thoroughly explored. Nonetheless I felt this was necessary for the horror later on and did not get bored at all. Although Jack suffers from alcoholism and anger issues King makes it clear that he wants to change, for the sake of his family, a reason why he takes the caretaker job at the Overlook in the first place. Setting this up allows for the true horror of the hotel’s possession of Jack, especially when he manages to temporarily break through at the end of the novel to tell Danny that he loves him and becomes the hero of the story by turning the roque mallet on himself (a much stronger ending than the film).

I also loved Danny’s character and the idea of the Shining, although I did feel like he was way too eloquent for a five year old who is learning to read. I guess he would be more mature than others his age due to the fact that he can hear adults’ thoughts, but he says pretty big words for a small child.

I was also surprised that there was less ‘horror’ conventions than I first expected in a King novel, but on reflection the horror lay in The Outlook’s influence on the characters’ minds (especially Jack), rather than the ghosts themselves.

Overall I really enjoyed The Shining and have never felt so tense and jumpy whilst reading a book. Its the first novel in a while that I have been ardent to get back to, and I felt the whole consuming force of the Overlook’s possessive power. 4.5/5