Has Stephen King jumped the shark?

Rereading “Cell” and I’m really disappointed in his last few works.

Susannah’s Song: I know so many people reading the Dark Tower series that started this book, put it down, and never picked it back up again. Please God make a cliff notes version.

Dark Tower: I know a lot of people had a problem with the ending, but I for one did not. My problem is that after such a great series, King basically has the attitude of “OK. Time to wrap this up.” and it just ends. None of the promises made in “Insomnia” or even “The Gunslinger” were delivered. I’ve got a lot of problems with how all of the loose ends were tied up (or in many cases - not).

Cell: Unlike “Dark Tower”, this ending seemed like a big Fuck You to the reader. The story? I don’t know, a lot of great elements but not very well written. The single-minded of the quest but they don’t get some off-road motorcycles for speed? The kid that can figure out everything but the adults can’t (paging Wesley Crusher). The gore was just that - gore, but with no real horror. Not a bad novel, but not a great one either.

Lisette’s Story: I got to page 5. Has anyone ever finished that book?

I think he jumped it ages ago. “Bag of Bones”–ehh. “Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” was okay but lacked the oomph of his other books. “Dreamcatcher”–couldn’t get twenty pages in. That’s around the time when I gave up on his newer books.

I think GWLTG is a great example. Clearly there was something up with the bear - but what? It just ended with this mysterious bear we never find out about. I think that’s my major problem with King’s latest books. He sets up something mysterious but never expands on it. I’m not saying that he needs to expalin everything, but give us SOMETHING.

Here’s my prediction for a new book.
Author in Maine gets hit by van driven by a jerk. While recuperating, he starts dreaming in first person about leading another life. The dreams seem horrible real and not like dreaming at all. The author starts to think this maybe a real life he’s living in his dreams when all of the sudden . . .

the book ends.

“I love it! Beth, get on the horn and see if Jake Gyllenhaal is available. Let’s make a movie, gentlemen!”

I don’t think King jumped the shark, so much as the the shark ate him. You’ll notice that his books and writing style changed dramatically after he was hit by Bryan Smith’s Minivan in 1999. Some might say that he lost the edge from this NDE, some might say his books have matured. Whatever, I still appreciate him as a good writer although he has changed (and who wouldn’t after seeing death’s face?).

And I actually kinda liked Dreamcatcher… (the movie sucked, though)

I’m with the OP. I have read all of his early works at least 10 times. I love those stories. The Standis classic literature. The ballad of the Flexible Bullet is not really scary, but just creepy enough that it makes you wonder.

Since Desperation, they have gotten harder and harder for me to get through. I think I quit on From a Buick 8 . I did suffer through Cell, because I was traveling and it was on the bookshelf, but kept thinking, wow, this is a cheap remake of The Stand.

SSG Schwartz

You’re re-reading a book that disappointed you the first time? You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.

Lisey’s Story. I made it to about page 60, when Lisey started smucking this and smucking that.

While we’re on the subject of private languages, I just finished The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari. The kids with special abilities in Ferrari’s book have their own words for stuff, sorta like the muggles in the HP books. But the words are used sparingly, within a context, and aren’t annoying at all. (Great coming of age/fantasy/Book of Job combined with Arthurian legends book, by the way.)

I don’t think King has jumped any sharks, but some of his books do read like they were written to fulfill a contract, not because he had a great idea for a story.

I was okay with Cell, not nuts about Blaze, and am looking forward to Duma. There’s something about King’s writing that (except for Lisey’s Story and the last 2 Dark Tower books) always keeps me reading.

I’ve always said he jumped the shark at Tommyknockers.

I think you need two separate categories for Stephen King - jumped the shark stoned, and jumped the shark sober. I’d be tempted to put “Tommyknockers” in the first category, and “Cell” in the second. How big a writing star do you have to be before they let you get away with a weak re-tread like “Cell” as a major novel?

“Lisey’s Story.”

And, no. I made it to Page 64 in my first attempt. I waited a week, tried again, managed to get to about 150, and threw the book in the garbage.

Sing it, brudda. A seminal work of crapulence written by a coked out writer who figured his adoring public would haul away any ol’ trash he put on the curb. I didn’t pick up another King book until 1408, most of which was just more crap. Maybe he should write travel books for a living, since he burned out early with the horror genre.

Needful Things came after Tommy Knockers–I enjoyed it (Needful Things). Most of his output in the 90s wasn’t too good, though. I liked Storm of the Century, but that was a screenplay, not a novel.

On that topic:

I read Everything’s Eventual over the summer. I enjoyed it, on the whole, and the title story was, mostly very good.

But the story-specific terminology in it kept breaking me out of the story. Every time the narrator (whose name did it, too, actually) called something ‘eventual’ I kept stopping to try to figure out how his buddy ended up using ‘eventual’ to mean ‘awesome’.

And every time I decide the dude was just a little odd, and get back to the story, they soon start talking about the super-powered people, which breaks me out entirely.

‘Trannies’, is what he called them.

Let that sink in a minute.

He called them ‘trannies’.

I can’t believe either King or the characters who coined the term in the story are unaware of the real-world usage of the word, which just renders its usage in the story bizarre.

I think the terminology and the story was just an extension and fleshing out of “The Shop” from King’s Firestarter. Trannie as a term is believable for shop speak and a tongue in cheek nickname for people who deal with different classes of psychokinetic abilities as a profession. Seems logical to me, reminiscent of a natural language trend, ever hear of leetspeak? Auto mechanics and Motorheads call Transmissions Trannies too.

Me too. He pissed me off so much with that piece of twaddle that I haven’t read anything by him since, even though I loved his early works. I’m starting to think that the worst possible thing that can happen to a writer’s work is that he or she become so famous they can’t fail to sell.

Stephen King’s last good book was Carrie.

IMO Stephen King jumped the shark about the time he started getting aspirations to be “literary.” I love a lot of his books: Carrie, The Stand, Needful Things…but a lot of his newer stuff like Bag of Bones, Cell, and Lisey’s Story just leave me cold. The horror is there, but it just seems like he’s gotten pretentious in his old age. And I’m very sorry that he got in that accident, but I do wish he’d stop using his novels as therapy. We get it. He got hit by a van. He got better. Get over it.

The Dark Tower, I had a hard time getting through. Parts of it were good, but parts I had to listen to on an audiobook because I couldn’t slog through them by normal reading.

Don’t get me wrong–I love Stephen King. I still read pretty much everything he comes out with. But more often than not, I’ve been dissatisfied of late.

You and The Onion:After reading the plot synopsis, I sort of remembered it, but, then again, maybe it just sounded like something else I wrote. After your 50 or 60th one, it’s all kind of a blur. But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say I probably did write The Tommyknockers. It sounds like my kind of thing, what with this invisible evil being unleashed on a town full of innocent people and all.
Again, The Onion comes through with relevent commentary on issues that matter in your life. Well, okay, at least its not so mind-numbingly dumb as CNN.com.


I must confess I enjoyed reading The Cell–but I’m not a King completist. Maybe I liked it more because of that. To me, authors are like musicians: they can’t help but change over time. If you stick with them, there will be ups and downs; genius, not-so-genius, and sometimes crap. Considering the entire oeuvre, I’d say that overall he has served his readers well.

Naah, The Shining.