October 24, 2004
44. Everything's Eventual, Stephen King*
I'm at the end of Tower-crazies (for now, at least), I promise. I wanted to re-read this book because two of the stories in the collection are Dark Tower stories ("Everything's Eventual"--the main character becomes a major character in DT VII, and "The Little Sisters of Eluria"--a story about Roland before the events of DT I) and I couldn't remember much about them.
The other thing I'd forgotten was how good some of his stories are. Despite the subtitle ("14 Dark Tales"), most of the stories here aren't straight-forward horror, and some of them are flat-out, downright literary, albeit with a little twist of the strange. Reading these stories was both enlightening and frustrating from a writer's perspective. Enlightening in that I could see exactly how and why some of the stories worked, and frustrating in that I couldn't quite see how to apply some of that knowledge to my own work. But oh yes, I could make the comparison quite clearly.
The best story in the book? Probably would have to be the O. Henry-winning "The Man in the Black Suit", but I think the 'best title' award has to go to "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French".
43. The Road to the Dark Tower, Bev Vincent
Yeah, I'm still a little Tower-crazy right now. I've been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it at work back in May. It isn't quite what it was touted as being (a complete academic analysis of the series, tracing the various influences and allusions therein) but it's close. Close enough to make me completely happy. Vincent spends a chapter on each of the books, mostly summarizing it, but also making connections and conclusions that I'd always missed on my readthroughs. Then there are chapters on the characters, on the non-series works that directly (and sometimes indirectly) relate to the series, as well as a chapter on external influences, and an essay on whether or not the series is in fact King's magnum opus.
The biggest thing the book did for me is reinforce my desire to write a paper or series of papers on the books. I'm almost to the point that I'd gladly write said paper(s) just for myself alone, forget about being in school. I can guarantee, if/when I do get around to writing, this book will be one of my major resources.
42. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, Stephen King
Now, honestly, when I said in my Livejournal entry that I needed to think a little while before I wrote about this book, I didn't mean a week--but RL concerns (and a week spent recuperating from a back injury) got in my way.
This book broke my heart and blew my mind all at the same time. As I mentioned, it's not a perfect book, but so much about it--even the parts that I absolutely hated--was completely right. It's what Jo Walton calls the "weight of story", and what I usually call "dramatic inevitability". The "metafiction" from Song of Susannah continues here, but to me, that's what gave the story (and Roland's quest) so much of the pure heft it had.
This is one of those books that you're either going to absolutely love or absolutely hate, especially if you've followed the series passionately. I don't think you could be completely neutral. The last line of the novel just doesn't let you be neutral. You're either going to feel cheated or you're going to sit back and go "whoa". I was one of the latter. A bunch of y'all need to read this book so I can find out what you thought.
(Interesting aside about metafiction, spec fic, and authors: isn't it funny that Philip Roth can write what is essentially a spec fic alternate history novel with himself as a main character--The Plot Against America, it just came out recently--and receive widespread critical acclaim, while Stephen King makes some pretty profound statements about the role of the creator and the created by making himself a vital character in his own spec fic novel, on top of telling a damn good story, and still be largely dismissed just because he is Stephen King. Which isn't to say he hasn't gotten good reviews, but still.)
October 12, 2004
41. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah, Stephen King*
I think this may be the first time I've read a book twice in the same year. I'm extremely glad I re-read this before starting VII, though. There are lot of small details I'd forgotten, mostly because I blew through this book the last time I read it. (Although, I have to confess, I started and finished this book today, but I think more of it stuck this time.)
Anyway, it still grabbed me by the collar and shook me. The Susannah/Mia sections, which lost my interest a bit the last time, were more intriguing this go-round. And I fear for Jake more than ever. I go into the final book of this mammoth series fully aware that my heart is going to get torn out of my chest and stomped on. And I intend to enjoy every moment.
40. The Dark Tower V: The Wolves of the Calla, Stephen King*
I blew through this book so fast the first time I read it, I missed a lot of it (ditto the next book in the series, which is ironic, as you'll see in my next post). On a second reading, it feels much more coherent than it did the first time. The first time, I finished it and was hard pressed to tell you exactly what had taken so many pages to tell--it went by so fast!
One thing I love about this book (and I've seen it called a retread of IV because of the similarities between Mejis and Calla Bryn Sturgis, but oh, far from it) is that it expands on the sense of world (worlds?) that comes from the first four books. There are different cultures in Roland's world, and cultures that live next door to each other--Mejis is to the Calla as Georgia is to Mississippi. The other thing that snags me (although I know it drives other people crazy) is the crazy patois the Calla folk use. It's so damned sneaky, I catch myself wanting to use it afterwards.
One book closer to the Tower. I'm crazily giddy at this notion.
October 08, 2004
39. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, Stephen King*
This is undeniably my favorite of the Dark Tower series so far (Number 7 is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me, so we'll see if that continues to hold true). Roland becomes so much more human, and we get a much clearer glimpse of the world that was lost, both by him and by everyone he's known.
Susan Delgado, one of the things Roland loses, is one of my favorite characters in any book: she's smart, she's resourceful, she's clever, she's brave, she's beautiful--but she's human, she does things that fall outside of the usual "romantic interest of the hero" stereotype--like generally keeping her head. Her fate always, without fail, every single time I read this book, makes me cry. It's right for the story, but if I were to attempt an alternate universe fanfic, I'd change her fate in a heartbeat. (Scary. I'm tempted to try that now.)
This is one of those books that I love so much that it's hard for me to put into words exactly what I love about it. I'm not even sure that I could tell you what about it stands out for me, it just does. Is it weird and wrong that this is one of my comfort reads?
October 04, 2004
38. Diary of a Radical Mermaid, Deborah Smith
Wow. If there was ever a book to give me hope that I might publish a novel yet... this is that book. (And sentences like that one could be the reason I might not ever publish a novel.)
I say again, wow. I knew going in that this was a fluffy romance where the main characters were also mermaids, so I wasn't exactly expecting Pulitzer Prize-winning prose. However, I was also not expecting a novel written from three points of view, all of them in first person. This could be intriguing, if the transitions were clear. In a romance novel, it's just jarring, especially when we end up switching from female protagonist to male protagonist with only a paragraph break (no blank line, just an indent). I swear, it took about four readings before I could figure out why Molly suddenly had a Scottish accent.
Oh yes, the male protag narrates in a Scottish accent. Because naturally, everyone from somewhere other than the US thinks in such phrases as "I could no' yell at little Venus." (Yes, a character named Venus.) And did I mention that another main character keeps a weblog? And that some of her scenes are written as posts to it?
The abuses of the poor apostrophe are rampant, and spelling errors abound--although to be completely fair, I did read this as a uncorrected proof, so it's possible the errors were fixed in later editions. I will say, however, that I've never seen an uncorrected proof in such shape before.
So, on the whole, marginally entertaining fluff, but plenty horrifying as well--with some hope for this aspiring novelist tossed in on the side. It always sounds vaguely jealous and somewhat pathetic when someone in my position (i.e., with multiple unpublished novels under the belt) reviews a book by saying, "I can write better than that", but damn, it's hard not to at least think it in this case.