Sleeping Beauties 

Another King great tackled! In case you need another reminder, Stephen King is obviously my favorite author and, as I said with my review of “Horns,” he obviously passed his talent on to his children. That remains true in regards to this novel as well, in my opinion. “Sleeping Beauties” jumps right in to Dooling County, West Virginia to present us with a quite fantastical tale of a world where females who fall asleep develop strange cocoons and find their collective consciousnesses transported to an alternate reality, dimension or mental locale that is free of men. Meant to give the women a fresh start, the worlds are very much strained by this occurrence and the decisions made by both sexes regarding their futures and the present.

First off, I did enjoy this novel. I would not place it as high on my favorites list as things like “Dreamcatcher” or “IT,” but it was good. One of the appeals for me, naturally, was the fact that it takes place in fictional Dooling County, West Virginia. The hefty little bit of fiction is located around an hour from where I grew up in Virginia, so the descriptions of the mountainous regions of my youth were interesting to say the least.

I really enjoyed the story itself. Putting women in this alternate reality and placing men in the position of figuring out what to do next was very interesting to me. I liked the way the Kings pushed the sleep element, having some of their characters stay awake for days and use all sort of methods to do so. The fact that sleep was the gateway to this new reality poses an interesting situation in itself, for me, as it hints at the age-old possibility that our dreams are literal gateways to alternate universes and all sorts of incredible places. 

The character of Eve Black was a mystery that I feel really added a lot to the story in the form of King’s classic supernatural element. Not that women developing their own personal weirdo cocoons wasn’t supernatural enough, of course. I really enjoyed the dynamic Eve presented with her mysterious past, strange powers and obvious knowledge of what was happening and why. The fact that she played the devil’s advocate between Frank and Clint (the opposite ends of the male reaction spectrum in this situation) definitely adds to her mysterious role in the overall event. Her behavior and attitude did make her a character that I couldn’t get a feel for. I’m still not sure if I like her or not. 

The Kings presented us with a view of mankind that, as sad as it is to admit, is scarily accurate. Men are often the more gung ho, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, self preserving type, while women tend to consider consequences more often. Granted that is very much a generalization, it is the large basis of the book. Some men decide the only way to fix the issues at hand here is to burn the sleeping women in their cocoons and hope for the best. Why these men didn’t realize this would make reproduction, and thus further life in this reality,  virtually impossible, I really don’t know, but that’s a different issue altogether.

I enjoyed the way the Kings worked in morals on both sides of the large tree that represents the gateway between the two worlds represented in the novel. Seeing how the men, both logical and illogical, choose to handle the situation helps us to get a handle on the representation of mysoginisitic versus logical ways of thinking presented in the book. Seeing the characters that would rather burn the women in their cocoons than find a cure, I think, represents the people in this world who choose the “attack first” method of solving problems. Those who are more careful, who want to figure out what is going on and why, represent the elements of mankind that, more or less, are more apt to allow us to have a real future.

To me that is really the core of the book itself. Eve’s purpose, and the reason the women are in the cocoons in the first place, is to emphasize the flawed nature many men exist under (i.e. men have ruined the world with violence) and to give women the option to “start over” without that tainted method of influence. 

Overall, the Kings present a very interesting book with a strong “1984-esque” message warning us as a species to stop resorting to violence and start understanding we need to work together to survive. At least that’s what I took from it. The book itself was very enjoyable, if a bit of an odd take on things, but it definitely was not without its faults. 

I had a bit of an issue with the overall representation of life in the Appalachian Mountains, being a native and resident of the mountains myself. The Kings repeatedly insinuated, if not outright said, that the area is nothing more than a hole filled with drug addicts, uneducated people, abusive men and adulterers. Which is very much an exaggeration of Bromdingnagian proportions. While these things do exist in the mountains, they do everywhere else as well, and it is a very unfortunate representation of an area that is already often considered to be deplorable and sordid in nature by mainstream media.

Furthermore,  I feel there was a lot of things left to be desired in the Eve storyline. Like who was she and where did she come from in the first place. Obviously the name Eve calls us to biblical origins with a possible holy connotation, but that was never confirmed for me. I also got a similar vibe from this book that I received from Under the Dome, where (spoiler alert) we realize aliens are actually in control of the Dome. This wasn’t mentioned, but Eve’s talk of herself and her mission led me to consider it. I also would have liked more of an explanation as to why Clint was the man she chose to save her, or for that matter why Dooling, West Virginia and it’s residents, which, based on King’s own description aren’t worth the trouble, were the basis for the rest of the planet. The women of Dooling got to decide the fate of every other woman in the planet when they chose to leave “their place.” Not to mention Frank and Clint and the other men of the town were the ones who decided the world’s fate in this reality. Why? Was it random? Was it thought out? What was so special about this town and its people? Furthermore, has Eve done this before? Will she do it again? And in general, what was up with the moths? And just what in the world was Eve in the first place?? And will the men and women of earth understand what happened well enough to make real changes to their lifestyles to keep it from happening again?

As you can see, there are plenty of questions I feel could have been answered by the text or offered through consideration. Granted there are likely questions and answers that I missed, I think you all get the point. One thing I didn’t delve too much into was the obvious misogyny offered in various ways, either through women who were described more by their appearance than anything else, or by those who were overly reliant on others or something else of the sort. Just know that I did notice, and I don’t agree with it, but delving too much into it in this review would bring this to a whole new level. If you’d like to discuss it in the comments, I’m more than willing! 

I hope you all enjoyed this nice fantastical read for the month of November. It certainly was interesting and I look very forward to discussing it!! I’ll be making another post in the next few days regarding our December read, and a very special announcement of my own. In the meantime, I would love to get everyone’s opinion on a possibility I’ve considered recently. I’ve noticed that podcasts are coming back as a popular way for people to reach out to each other with news and ideas and I’m considering giving it a whirl. I’ve thought about posting a podcast to help me delve further into discussions of my book club reads, or maybe discussing my work or answering questions about writing, or maybe just as a discussion piece for us all to come into contact – the possibilities are endless, but I wanted to get your opinions. Would you guys like to check out a podcast on my site every now and then? Would you like to join in discussions in that way, or maybe even see some guests authors come in and record one here and there? Let me know what you all think! Leave me comments or shoot me a message! 

November Announcement

Happy November, everyone!! I apologize for this post being a bit later than normal, but such is the strife associated with NaNoWriMo! I hope you all enjoyed last month’s read, as well as the short break you’ve gotten here. 

This month, I’m going to return to one of my tried and true authors, with a twist! I will be reviewing Stephen King’s newest work, “Sleeping Beauties.” This book is a collaboration King wrote with his son, Owen,  which makes it even better. The novel explores what happens in a small West Virginia town when women all over the world fall into a strange sleep that sees them wrapped in a strange cocoon. When waking the women proves deadly, men are given few options, while the women who have not yet fallen asleep will try nearly anything to stay awake and keep from knitting cocoons of their own. Can men find a way to come together and put an end to the Aurora sickness before it’s too late?

Admittedly I’ve already started the novel and I have to say I’m hooked. The book is set in the Appalachian Mountains, in a fictional county that would be around an hour from where I grew up. The idea of that setting had me quite excited when I realized exactly where fictional Dooling County was positioned on the map. 

I won’t say much more, because thisnisnt the review yet! Since it is so late in the month I think I will plan to post my reveal on December 4th, to give everyone a few extra days. This book falls in at 700 pages, so it’s not a rapid read, but it’s not grueling either.  I look very forward to discussing it with you all! 

For a quick update on my NaNoWriMo progress; my plans were changed a bit. I had hoped to finally bring Maverip to a close in October, but unforseen circumstances put a damper on that. Some of you may have noticed my originally planned work entitled “Last Christmas was replaced on my NaNo profiled by Maverip. I have decided that the time has come to really place the challenge on myself wholeheartedly. Part of me is terrified to finish this novel, as it is one book on my queue right now that I feel most compelled to push forward, and it is one that I have put a lot of pressure on. But this month will see it completed. I won’t let myself or you guys down any more! I look forward to sharing the completed work with you all ASAP, and as always, if anyone is interested in being a beta reader, just let me know! 

We’ll talk all things “Sleeping Beauties” in a few weeks, and from there we’ll examine a Christmas-themed work, so get some suggestions ready!!! 

IT

Good Thursday to all of you! As fall approaches with heavy, dried and dying hands, so comes the release of the new “IT” movie adaptation. King has actually released his review of the film, in which he says he was “unprepared for how good it was.” This gives me immense hope for the film and its impending sequel. Being a diehard fan of all things King (I even stuck it out through most of the final season of the atrocious “Under the Dome” adaptation) I had to make sure we all had a chance to re-read the masterpiece that started the truly terrifying clown trend. I hope you all covered your boats in paraffin and remembered to thrust your fists against the post, because by the end of this, we’ll all be seeing the ghost!

First and foremost, this book is awesome. The length of the novel is something that often intimidates nearly everyone who looks at it, but once you dive in the pages seem to turn with a mind of their own. As always, I was instantly drawn in by King’s almost nonchalant description of the terrible goings on in Derry. I feel like he fills the pages with all of the tragedy and evil, but it isn’t forced and it doesn’t seem out of place like the villains in some horror works. From the first time we get a mention of Pennywise a sense of almost manic dread falls over the text. From the very beginning we see the clown as a symbol of everything evil which, when it has a mind to, can utterly destroy anyone and everyone it sees. Of course, it typically goes after children who tend to fear more, believe more and harder, and have a much higher energy force (as described in countless other King works).

The first hard murder we learn of, Georgie’s, brings us face to face with the leader of the Losers Club and throws us in the thick of childhood problems, love, and a sense of complete isolation from those who should be protecting the kids. This is one element I absolutely adore. King does an immense job of bringing these kids into the center of their own fears and making them face it all with only each other to turn to. No adult in this novel, save Officer Nell, can be remotely helpful when the kids are in need. In my mind, this is indicative of the sense of helplessness and isolation most kids feel even today as they go through puberty and coming-of-age, which is why so many of them slip into depression and begin to go to drastic measures both to gain attention of their elders and to feel like something they do matters.

Watching the devastation that rips through each of them, bringing them closer together and pitting them against this ageless, formless relic of a demon is something that never gets old for me. The idea that the extravagant minds and wills of seven fearful and angry children are enough to tear this ancient being from the fabric of the universe is something I find incredible. To me it’s a testament to what our minds are able to accomplish in reality. We can survive so much trauma, fear, and heartache and still come back with a vengeance. This is something King never has trouble describing.

The sense of companionship in this novel is one of my favorite elements, as well. Knowing that these children have bared their very souls to one another, and are consistently putting their lives in each other’s and Bill’s hands is amazing. King does a great job giving each of the children a reason to want personal revenge against It and he does it without making any of them seem petty. Some would argue that Bill’s initial motivation, to get revenge for Georgie’s death, is a bit immature – but they are 12. Come on, people! But seriously, it is such an awesome concept to get inside each of their heads and see what truly terrifies them. And the idea of a creature that can take the form of whatever you are most afraid of is something that has been around for millennia, but never becomes less terrifying.

I think the writing style in this novel is incredible as well. The various sections of the book go from a third-person omniscient point of view where we can see everything everyone is thinking based on what the narrator wants us to know to seeing Mike’s first-hand account of his own end of the tale in his journals. I think this is the first book I read where I got such varying and alternating points of view. Granted, I first read it in the third grade, so I’m sure that had something to do with that.  It has definitely inspired my own work and how I approach a novel. To see an author use this sort of method is very liberating after watching so many novels pass by in the third person. Of course, that doesn’t make them of any lesser quality, it is always a breath of fresh air to get a fresh take every now and then.

The thing that really makes this novel exquisite for me is the absolute terror the monster brings. Nothing is safe. From the man next door, to an abandoned refrigerator, from your kitchen sink to the 30 foot tall plastic statue in the center of town – anything can and will be a vessel for It to terrify and/or devour you. I love that. I love the absolute helplessness that fills this novel to the brim. No matter where you go or what you do, the only people you can be sure aren’t doing It’s work for for It are your six 12 year old friends. Nothing could bring our young heroes and heroin to a more exalted state while simultaneously dropping them into the deepest, darkest pit of despair than knowing that they have no one else to turn to to save themselves and their town. They are completely and utterly on their own – except for The Turtle.

This tie in to classic world mythos and King’s own other worlds is impeccable. The icing on the proverbial cake. The fact that The Turtle, this celestial force that vomited out the universe is not only exceedingly familiar with the ancient evil that lives under Derry, but that it is also doing as much as it is able (however little that may be) to help the kids defeat It is awesome.

Finally, the description in this novel, as with other King works, is perfect. I always feel like I can see everything he is writing about as if it’s playing out in my mind like the coolest 35mm projector in the world. And I LOVE it. When the end of the book rolls around I can seriously see the huge spider being torn apart from the inside out by this mental and existential Ritual of CHUD the Losers are forcing it into. I feel like I’m in the cavern with them while the acidic web (another King trope) is falling down around them. I am one with them as they collectively lose their memories and are released from the curse It laid on them. I love the conclusion, with Ben and Bev finally together, Audra getting her soul back (that’s how I think of it) and Mike finally able to move on as well. It is a truly novel resolution to the 30 years of pain and suspense these heroic individuals have been trapped in.

All of that being said, I do have some questions. First and foremost, of course is one that has eluded even my own overly critical mind for more than a decade. If It only awakens once every 25-30 years, how can the guise of Pennywise, or Bob Gray, be seen and photographed numerous times in these periods of hibernation? Many of the photos and incidents that are described in the book take place while It should be asleep in its lair, including, if I remember correctly, the infamous shootout and the axe murder in the bar. Both times multiple people saw Pennywise in various locations. Granted, I don’t think King ever explicitly says “yeah, he’s always sleeping in these periods,” I feel it’s sort of implied.

The other main issue I had with the book was how fast the ending happened. I know some of you are probably groaning that I said a 1,000+ page novel was over too fast, but I feel like some of the lesser involved portions of the book could have been removed in order to give us that much more of a struggle in the end. Obviously a lot is happening, between changing perspectives and different characters and a universal voyage of consciousness with the ‘eater of worlds’ ( you didn’t think I’d make this without a Tim Curry nod, did you?), I would still like to see the final battle drawn out a little more. There was a bit of a race, which again I know was intentional, to get the battle over and find a victor in this decades long battle, but I would love a little more actual banter between the characters. I really want to see into the mind and heart of It, get more of an answer of what It is, where It came from, whether more of them exist, what It wants, etc… But, alas, I guess the remainder of that information will remain in King’s own head! Unless, of course, he can offer us a sequel… but that may be too hopeful even for me.

Anyway, what did you think? Are you a fan of “IT?” Did “IT” give you nightmares, or make you despise clowns in the worst way? What was favorite, or least favorite, part? Comment below, send me an email, whatever works best for you. Let me know your thoughts. And let’s share this far and wide in anticipation of the movie!!

Preparing for dystopia

The world has certainly kept turning since January 20. But that’s really the only way we can say it. Global citizens have watched, many in unabashed horror, as the new leader of the free world has stomped on countless toes and attempted to create little more than an industrial, alienating wasteland of our once-great country. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the U.S.. I still see that, as a citizen of the United States I have countless opportunities to see and explore the world in ways others may not, and I fully respect the great country I live in. But the danger is here nonetheless.

Just in the last month we have heard about how certain people should be banned (but not banned) from the country, we’ve heard that actually counting the heads of those present to get a number is clearly a dated practice that doesn’t mean anything, we’ve heard how large a threat grizzly bears pose to the public school system, and we’ve realized that some people think an industrial pipeline is more important than preserving the resting place of the dead. And that’s just the drop of the hat.

I have kept my over-sized nose out of the discussions of politics that are rampant on every form of news and social media available, but I do want to share my very real concern for how much worse things may realistically end up getting before they get better.

Just today I’ve been seeing the news of an overturned regulation that now allows coal mines in my region to once more dump their waste into streams. This particular practice has led to filthy, sulfurous, uninhabitable water for a good portion of my area. The repercussions of this practice have only recently started to see a reversal. I honestly fear what problems may start to arise from these things alone. I look to the future and, sometimes, I find myself unable to see little more than a ruined, smoking hole in the ground that is not unlike the disaster showed us at the climax of countless apocalyptic movies. But, (and on a much less serious note)it would appear Mother Nature has also picked up on the problem and is working to rectify the situation.

Thousands of people in my region have been hit by a severe strain of the flu this week, leading to around a dozen counties in my neck of the woods going so far as to cancel school for multiple days in an attempt to slow the spread of the illness. I hope I’m not the only one who sees the truth here. We are now entering the real-life culmination of the events in Stephen King’s “The Stand” – and our new president is Randall Flagg.

What other explanation is there? He walks out, looking somehow less than human, feeding off of human suffering and strife, turning as many people as possible against one another, while the rest of the people around him are fighting a severe version of the flu that medicine doesn’t seem to be able to help. Schools are closing, streets are filling with people shouting for change and help, hospitals are being overrun …. My only question now is; where is Mother Abigail when we need her? Who else is going to throw down the Walkin’ Dude and bring us back to a moderate form of social peace? Or, if that can’t happen, where is Roland, who will stop the fall of the tower and bring order back to the realms. Shout out to those of you get the interconnected references of a King fiend here.

In all seriousness, though. There are some administrative decisions being made by “those in charge” that are going to continue to cause problems for those of us who, like Atlas, are left holding up the rest of the world. Wow, that was pathetically conceited and hopelessly deep. I’m in a league of my own today, huh? Basically I just wanted to share that the world is slipping into rough shape, but that we can still survive and use humor to get through life. Most importantly, we can compare the real-life horror story that surrounds us to literature and find true peace to comfort us as the world burns!

I’ve shared my own ideas of the lack of existence of true democracy many times, so none of you really need to hear that again, I’m sure. So the question of the day must be; what book are you reading now? What fictional world are you pushing your consciousness into in order to escape the harsh mundane reality of everyday life? And, more importantly, what’s next?! I hope all is well for everyone here, and I hope I’ve at least brought a smile to a few faces. Keep reading, writing, watching movies and enjoying the world while we have the chance. My review of Thirteen Reasons Why will go up next week and then I’ll be ton the lookout for the next big review, so send me your ideas and let me know what we should read. Have a good February, a good weekend, and make sure to take advantage of any half-priced candy you see!

 

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