On Stephen King

I’m reading Pet Sematary right now. God help me, but it’s one goddamn scary book.

I read a few King novels about ten years ago but none of them affected me the way this one has. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been in a contemporary lit. reading phase forever and forgot about horror, but this book is giving me serious heebie-jeebies. In fact, the only reason I’m posting is to get away from the book awhile.

King is a very good story-teller, isn’t he? The whole recount of Gage’s funeral, the conversation Jud has with Louis about the Micmacs…excruciatingly real. Draws you in, makes you want to read ahead, gives you a cold feeling in the pit of your stomach because you just know what’s going to happen next and you don’t want to see the words that’ll confirm your thought. Page after page, I’ve felt the dread grow.

How do you feel about this book? His other novels? Any questions, comments, opinions to share?

This is what I thought about the first half of The Stand. I was able to put myself into the book, think about what I would do in that situation, and it totally freaked me out. Then, the book went on to “fantasy” horror with a magical antagonist which is not nearly as frightening as the realistic scenario that opened the book.

From reading some of King’s non-fiction essays and such, I think that he said he went for the “gross-ouot” in Pet Semetary instead of trying to build a scary monster (like he did with Pennywise in It.) That might be why it’s affecting you differently than the other books you read.

The other King book like that is “Rose Madder.” The story of Rose fleeing her psychopathic, but very clever, husband, and his attempts to find her, are a real page-turner. Then it gets into this magical painting bullcrap with a King-standard Mystical Negro <TM> and other supernatural idiocy and goes right to shit.

King’s very hit or miss in his later stuff, but he’s written plenty of good ones - The Dead Zone is my favourite.

The best thing about King is that he is a phenomenal story teller. The worst thing is he sometimes choses to tell the wrong story.

His two nonfiction books “Danse Macabre” and the semi-autobiographical work on how to write “On Writing” are both a very good read. The latter has a final chapter about the horrendous accident when a van struck King. He is a man living on borrowed time.

I personally think Pet Sematary is one of his creepier books, although Gerald’s Game wins out for me. You spend thirty pages thinking “Oh my god, this isn’t going to happen!” and then it does, and it is worse than you had imagined. Since I enjoy a good, creepy feeling, that really works for me. As far as my favorite novels by King, I’ll have to say The Stand, Lisey’s Story, The Talisman, and Black House in no particular order. He wrote the last two with Peter Straub, who is another excellent writer. While I do have my favorites, I still have to say I’ve never picked up a work by King and been disappointed.

His general problem (one AIRC not evident in Pet Sematery) is his inability to figure out what happens at the end. I understand why it must be really hard in horror, but he’s let me down quite a few times with it. It’s a given, though, that whenever you write yourself to the end and now you have to show the monster that it’s probably not going to be as scary as when everybody was making up the monster in their own heads.

Spoilers for It and the last Dark Tower book:

A giant spider AGAIN? Jesus, man. Come on.

To be fair, the second spider is smaller.

The first part of *The Stand * got me too- that one was so real I could put myself into it. In general I am more scared by the books that trap ordinary people by virtue of circumstance (like the short story, The Mist- scariest SK ever) than stories about haunted/creepy specific places (like Salem’s Lot) that would only get you if you happened to live there.

However, Bag of Bones scared/disturbed me to pieces.

Scarier than The Moving Finger? That story gave me nightmares.

I love King. Some of his later stuff (From a Buick 8, Lisey’s Story) were boring and predictable, but the majority of his stories are winners for me. Short stories are, IMHO, his strength, but Needful Things and The Stand are excellent, too.

I think that the only King I haven’t read (and have no intention to) is the Dark Tower series.

The Mist scared the living shit out of me. I read all his works. When I was reading The Mist, the ending where they are driving South on the Maine Turnpike and stop at the Kennebunk Rest area for food and gas, really struck home! It’s only a couple of miles from my home and his descriptions are precisely accurate. Every time I stop in for gas I find myself looking North to see if anything is approaching.

I’m in the Dark Tower now (finished at 4 and holding until I can get my hands on 5, 6, and 7). I loved Pet Sematary and it creeped me the hell out when I read it many years ago. It’s one of the few that did and I do believe it’s how he tells the story because the actual plot is not as frightening to me as some of his other material.
Bag of Bones was creepy to me as well.
From a Buick 8 was stupid and predictable, and Cell was so bad that I almost caused an in-flight disaster. No really, I liked it better when it was called The Stand, and, what’s that word for “not written by monkey that’s gone insane with the syphillis”?
I love Stephen King. Love the whole Stand/Dark Tower/Talisman/Black House story. I’ve read them so long they are “real-ish” to me. But he does have too much love for the Mystical Negro and the Mystical Retard (and before anyone gets their panties in a wad, that’s just the best way I could think to say it).

Frank Darabont is finishing a movie version of The Mist right now. I have high hopes for it.

Oh, god. Please let it be good…

With regards to the Dark Tower - stay where you are. Seriously.

I’m thirding the lameness of From a Buick 8. I got about half way thru and returned it to the library. Yes, yes, I get that it is an Evil Car from Another Dimension. What happened? And, if the cops are trying to help the kid understand what happened with his father, why the hell do they stop telling their stories the minute it gets to the punch line? Buick might have made a decent short story, but a novel? Please.

Come to think of it, most of his later stuff would benefit from substantial cuts. I read the extended version of The Stand, and came to realize that King needs a lot stronger editing that he gets.


Pet Semetary was actually never supposed to be published. It was a book that was just too effective. His wife told him to put it away and never bring it out again (something she’s never done before or since). He swore he’d never release it, then did (perhaps from pressure).

That book is a kind of torture, really, in that it is serated and highly effective at railing against your nerves, filling you with a pure and burning anxiety. The other problem is that after you’ve thrown it across the room, you are likely to go and pick it up again.

It really should never have seen the light of day.

Mine too, and the movie as well.

My least favorite is Insomnia, but I suspect that if I tried again, knowing about the Dark Tower connections, I might like it.

I gotta admit to liking Buick 8. It felt like a “mood piece” (whatever that is). There was a lot of love in that story. It might have helped that the copy I read was illustrated. There should be more art in books.

I would have to say King is one of my favorite authors. It took me by surprise, because I don’t generally expect prolific writers to be good writers, necessarily. But his stories are so character-driven… it kills me the way he can make you care about the protagonists. The true horror in Pet Semetary isn’t the supernatural stuff, it’s the funeral scene, it’s the horror that could be/has been reality for many unfortunately people.

I’m not crazy about the way he ends his stories. I was also dissappointed by Rose Madder. Plots are not his strong suit, but at least that’s a writer’s flaw we both share.

The all time most meaningful work I’ve read by him is Gerald’s Game. I had no idea what I was getting into when I read it, either. I kind of just bought it for the kinky sex angle.

I’m also a big fan of his Richard Bachmann stuff, especially The Long Walk. Richard Bachmann is like a more sociopathic version of Stephen King. The ending of that book will probably stay with me forever.

And of course, I gotta love Christine because it’s the first book I ever read by him.

The truth is, I most enjoy all of his short stories. I think his most haunting and freaky short story is That Thing, You Can Only Say What It Is In French.

Which reminds me:
Is anybody else totally psyched for 1408? I’m going to see it tonight!

A fantastic short story. So, of course, is 1408.

King is famous for his novels, but he is one of the best short story writers in history, IMHO.