Has Stephen King jumped the shark?

I actually enjoyed the first half of The Cell. Then, it turned into complete crap.

I loved his earlier works. I note that I made to self after reading Pet Sematary": "Do not read Stephen King horror novels while working night shift security on a an empty campus.

Dreamcatcher was such a disappointment that I’ve never given him another chance.

Tommyknockers isn’t that bad - the first 150 pages are a pretty good study of what it’s like to be addicted, written by a man in the throes of them. You do get the feeling it was written for the big screen, however. I read it as a malevolent Escape From Witch Mountain, which might’ve helped me place it in its proper mental framework. :wink:

Imho, the last great, moving piece of writing of Kings was the opening chapter to Rose Madder. Dreamcatchers (or whatever) was goofy fun in the Tommyknocker/“The Jaunt” tradition. He was one of those writers that I read everything they published until recently: I haven’t even bothered with The Cell, though I know I should.

I love Stephen King’s books. I really do. But he has jumped the shark so many times that I am certain that he owns stock in Paramount.

That said, I do have to admit that I have been reading “Lisey’s Story” over the past several weeks. It is definitely not what I would call a “regular Uncle Steve” style of book. I find it to be rather touching too. It seems like the accident had brought out a different side of Stephen King that he had chosen not to show before.

Yea. His insides. :smiley:

Me too, as with Dreamcatcher and Desperation. I describe it to my friends as “Stephen King Syndrome”. He paints a beautiful, but horrible and scary picture in the early parts of his books, but the problem is is that the ending can’t live up to the expectations that that you hoped for. Cell started out fantastically. There was graphic death and violence, destruction of humanity, the mystery of how widespread it was; and you’re waiting to find out why? Well, the answer is he can’t tell you why, because King wrote himself into a hole and there is no legitimate explanation that would make the reader happy. The solution, offer no explanation.

Or even worse in Desperation and Dreamcatcher, offer an explanation for the sake of giving an explanation, and it’s stupid.

I’ll continue to read him though. Second to Augusten Burroughs he’s still my favorite author of short stories.

Oh, and the title story to Everythings Eventual, as well as the Dark Tower books I recommend on tape/CD. It really helps to listen to the type of language used, as King likes to sort of create his own use of speech. I’ve always admired him for that.

Tommyknockers was definitely a confirmed fin spotting, but looking at his own listing of books on his own site, there were signs before that. I can point to stuff in The Stand that’s just insufferable. I think Dead Zone is his last unequivocally good novel (and several years of the show based on it shows there was promise in the concept).

FIRESTARTER, Viking, 1980; Really weak.
CUJO, Viking, 1981; Some great characterizations, but ultimately unsatisfying
THE DARK TOWER; THE GUNSLINGER, Donald M. Grant, 1982 (out of print); Effectively written much earlier, I won’t count it in sequence.
CHRISTINE, Viking, 1983; VERY weak
PET SEMATARY, Doubleday, 1983; Better, but not up to par
THE TALISMAN, Viking, 1984, (co-authored by Peter Straub); Took three tries to get through
IT, Viking, 1986; REally big effort, but uneven payoff.
THE EYES OF THE DRAGON and MISERY, Viking, 1987; Dragon is meh, and shows a strong example of the cross-referencing which would hamstring his later work. Misery was a by now uncharacteristic return to great form.
THE DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, Grant, 1987; Pathetic follow-up to The Gunslinger
TOMMYKNOCKERS, Putnam, 1987; As bad as they say.
THE DARK HALF, Viking, 1989; Great sparrow scene… and that’s about it.
THE STAND, THE COMPLETE AND UNCUT EDITION, Doubleday, 1990; Put The Kid back in. Bad mistake.
THE WASTE LANDS, Grant, 1991; Better follow up, but the constant references to the train are a pain.
NEEDFUL THINGS, Viking, 1991; Sad. And Bad.
GERALD’S GAME, Viking, 1992,
DOLORES CLAIBORNE, Viking, 1992; The gimmick of these two books realeased together with their mutual cross-references was just that, a gimmick. Neither story even comes to mind anymore.
INSOMNIA, Viking, 1994 This is where I finally gave up on him.

I can’t believe you gave it up because of Insomnia??? I think Insomnia is King’s masterpiece, and 200 years from now people will read it as a favorite in the “Compiled Works of Stephen King”, Harcourt-Jovanovich-Apple LLC [Light³ Luminus 5 Vol. 23:56-24:31]

I just cannot believe so many people hate Bag of Bones. His finest work, in my opinion, and one of those books I can pick up, flip to any page and happily read to pass the time and enjoy the hell out of it.

Everything else recent of his I’ve given up on, though. Doesn’t mean I love him any less, I just wish he’d retire and actually stay retired.

I think King’s problem is that he simply writes too much. I think he is kind of hit-or-miss, and I LOVE most of his work but some of it just makes you say, “Why, Stephen?” He writes because he knows it will sell and it only has to be marginal at best for sales to bump it to the best seller list every time.

I think much of his work, even the stuff that gets dumped on a lot, is very good. But some of it is just utter crap. Sleepwalkers? Christine? Whatever the hell book that was where all the machines took over the world…I believe it was called Machines, but I have blocked it from my memory. None of these are good, and they are all some of his earlier work. I am just waiting for the next brilliant book while he trudges through the ones that pay the bills.

I don’t think he’s had to worry about paying the bills for a long time. He writes because he has to, I think. He loves to write. It’s not his fault that all of it gets published.

I guess he could hold some of it back if he thinks it’s not good enough, but he’s an industry. His books help keep his publisher afloat, probably. And he still pleases thousands of readers.

That’s an excellent point. Who knows how an author functions at Stephen King’s level of success? Once art becomes a hugely successful business, how does that affect the art and the artist?

You also make a good point about him writing because he has to. I think Stephen King himself has said that at times - a writer writes. Period.

I always thought “Eyes of the Dragon” was when he full-on shark-jumped. I don’t know if it predated Tommyknockers or not. They’re both listed as 1987.

At the time, that was something out of the blue, and right about when I knew I could never convince myself he was actually writing the books his name was on.

Now this is just me, my idea, and it’s probably wrong and totally without merit, but I got the feeling that somewhere down the line they started putting King’s name on things that he didn’t actually write. Sure, he may have proofed them, fleshed them out, expanded on an idea, etc. but the changes in style and the rapid production of newer works have always smelled a bit fishy to me. It’s not totally an alien idea, such as with those books that say “Tom Clancy” but as part of a series title and they’re actually written by someone completely unrelated to the author.

ETA - Beat to the punch by Trunk

I agree with a lot of the points made upthread. I hated Tommyknockers, the first half of Cell was good, etc. But I find that King’s endings always sucked from the beginning. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he knows this, or at least knows lots of people think this, and thus the ending of the Dark Tower series (which I didn’t even read.)

I agree that he just writes way too much.

I think he jumped the shark with the unabridged edition of The Stand. It showed that not only was he editor-proof, but he was retroactively editor-proof. I saw him speak as part of a promotional tour for that book, and I was struck by how personally he took the edits to his book, when most of what got removed was useless bloat that didn’t need to be there in the first place. Since then, that bloat has expanded until it tends to make up the bulk of any book he writes. It’s a pity, too, because with a good editorial hand at the rudder, he wrote some terrific stories. He just doesn’t have any native instinct for recognizing when he’s gone too far.

ETA: By “too far,” I don’t mean “too gross or shocking,” but rather, “too far astray from the plot.”

SK was starting to get ‘old’…but he didn’t really jump the shark until Dreamcatcher.

Tommyknockers was not his best, but he did write good stuff afterward.

He put the saddle on the shark when he kept coming out with ‘authors creations come alive’ kick.

Dreamcatcher, though, was utterly horrible.

That was the book where SK was taken off my ‘if he writes it, I will buy it no matter what it is’ list.

The most recent addition to that list is Jim Butcher. :slight_smile:

Stephen King hasn’t been able to end a story to save his life since the 1970s. Pet Semetery, Salem’s Lot, etc.- those were good endings, but since then-

He’s incredibly talented as a writer- there’s always incredible build-up and wonderful characterization and dialogue, but then it turns out the baddie is a big spider, or a satanic warlock whose ass would have been kicked by Aunt Clara from Bewitched, or it was all a psychosis, or it was a big gooey lumpy parasite, or whatever. I blame it on his releasing 20 meh books instead of 4 great ones.

Oh, Dreamcatcher. scoffs Look, I like horror and gore (in books, not in movies). I like suspense.

What I really do not like is being downright disgusting for the sake of merely being disgusting. There was no reason why the stupid shitweasels had to exit in the way they did except to make it more disgusting and unbelievable. Why not like an Alien, through the belly?

That was an awful, awful book.

Spoiler for It coming up:

When I complain about endings, though, I am chiefly complaining about It, which disappointed me profoundly. I loved the book, I loved the flashing back and forth, I loved the style, and then at the end it was a goddamn spider. It was as though he thought “Hell, everyone’s afraid of spiders, aren’t they? Let’s make it a REALLY BIG ONE!” I know that was supposed to be what we saw it as, but hell, Lovecraft made downright terrifying otherworldly monsters and King failed miserably.