Which of Stephen King's supernatural tales do not need the supernatural elements?

As I posted in this thread, I think Rose Madder would have been a much better book without the painting. Just have Rose kick Norman’s ass.

OTOH, the supernatural elements are absolutely vital to works like * Carrie, The Green Mile & The Stand*.

So let’s de-supernaturalize some of King’s works for the better.

Spoilers, ho! For The Dark Half and the short story N..

Actually, I don’t mind a hint of supernatural or unexplained supernatural, but when he gets too descriptive, it often ruins it (like the ending of *It.) For example in The Dark Half I didn’t mind that a character from a book had come to life. How did he come to be? Doesn’t matter, it was just creepy to know that somehow he became real. But all the birds pouncing on him and a portal opening up in the sky? Too much.

Same with N. which is a brilliantly creepy tale. But I would have been happier if poor N. saw something so indescribably terrifying that no words could express it, rather than the description of the monster. Then there would also still be some ambiguity of whether it was a kind of contagious crazy.

I don’t think it was really necessary in The Stand, although the Walkin’ Dude is fun. But the story could stand just fine with just the flu.

Cujo. In fact, I’m not sure if the supernatural element is supposed to be metaphorical. I take it as literal, though.

I stopped reading King after he recovered from alcoholism and he had his car accident. After that, his writing became much more realistic and psychological. I think the last King books I read were On Writing and Gerald’s Game.

Imho, I think nearly all his books except The Stand could work as psychological thrillers, where the “supernatural” elements were the product of psychosis rather than bogeymen. The Shining, for example, could have taken place completely in the father’s mind (and much of it does.) The other supernatural element, “the shining” power, was barely a blip before the groundskeeper was killed. Needful Things is another one where the supernatural elements are merely a way to expose the evil that already lurks in the hearts of the townspeople. In Needful, if the main villain was just a clever serial killer, the book would have the same effect.

I must be in the minority, because I love it when King gets to the supernatural. Rose Madder would not have been nearly as good (or nearly as King) if it hadn’t had the painting. Those are my favorite parts of the whole book! You take it out, and its just a story about bad person does x, good person gets revenge. Yawn. Give me something new and different to think about. I don’t read to find out about people, I read to get the hell off this boring level of the Tower, and explore more interesting levels where crazy shit happens.

Granted, the ending to Under the Dome was a little deus ex machina, but I didn’t particularly care for that book anyway. It was a book about people showing that they can be sadistic and evil - hooray, I can read that in the news.

I generally have a hard time putting down any of his books, because his imagination and creativity are astonishing. Do the plots always work out smoothly, well no, and sometimes the endings are lame. But the stuff inside that man’s brain blows my mind sometimes. And that’s when he’s good.

I don’t understand; there’s nothing supernatural about the flu. I think that’s what makes the book most interesting: what would happen if most of the people died and how those left would behave.

I was thinking the same thing, but it’s been so long since I have read the book or seen the movie that I wasn’t sure which one even had a supernatural slant.

About halfway through the book it becomes clear* that the flu survivors are gathering in two places, one for good people, the other for evil, and that there are deity-level forces driving events.

  • it took that long to become clear to me, anyway – there were clues earlier on.

My first thought, too. I could never tell if it was meant to be metaphorical or not either. There was all that stuff with Tad and the monster in the closet…but then that tied in with the cop character from another book, I think? It sort of came off a little heavy handed, which is a problem I tend to have with King–there’s a lot of, “THIS IS REALLY SCARY, AND LIFE FOR A LITTLE KID IS HELLA INTENSE.” I mean, I remember being a freaked out little kid but I don’t think I had any monster in the closet/under the bed issues. And certainly not to the degree Tad did. Maybe I missed out.

As just a general rabid dog story and story about a couple of families dealing with their own problems, it worked really well for me.

That’s my point - the flu and how people reacted after was the more interesting part; the endgame where the bad people are in Vegas and the good people are in Boulder not because they’re different communities but because the Devil lives in Las Vegas, that wasn’t really the heart of the book IMHO. The best parts of the book require nothing supernatural.

Agreed…remove the supernatural elements, and only fairly minor details change until the end, and even then the general nature of the ending could be preserved.

The two groups could be recruited through natural means - Flagg’s walking, recruits some directly, others are gathered by them, and Abigail is either more active, or contacts people through other means (I always thought a radio relay would have made sense). People would still gravitate toward the city that fits their temperament. The two cities would still come into conflict - it would just be a conflict between a dark tyrant and a free city, and end simply because…Trashy is Trashy. Without the God vs Satan thing, you…still end up with essentially the same story.

I’m sorry; I just realized I misread your post. I thought you said “without the flu.” :smack:

I totally agree with you there. The bit at the end where Norman goes into the painting is just completely wrong. He doesn’t belong in Rose’s fantasy world, because there is just too much gritty realism in his character. It would have been far better, in my opinion, if the whole thing with the painting had simply given Rose the strength to deal with Norman once and for all. Then the question about whether any of it was real could have been left up in the air.

I disagree with you about The Stand, though. My favorite parts of that book were in the beginning, where we saw different people trying to deal with the after-effects of the plague. But all that god stuff at the end completely failed to grab me. I’d be just as happy with it if he’d simply lopped off the whole back part of the book and went for a much simpler ending, showing the good guys succeeding at putting a new society together and the bad guys destroying themselves because they’re too clever for their own good.

Why, though? To me, the whole confrontation between the two sides at the end was a bit weak. The good guys march off to meet the enemy only to get killed when the enemy manages to blow himself up with his own nukes – it doesn’t sound too smart to me. I think the error in The Stand was in thinking the two sides had to be bought together for a big old showdown. That goes against the general feel of the book, which is a more general, sprawling thing where we follow the stories of many different characters as they deal with the plague. Incidental conflict (e.g. the bomb in the closet thing) would have been sufficient in itself to keep the dramatic tension bubbling along until the two cities succeeded and failed on their own merits.

Then of course, there’s the matter of many of his novels (Under the Dome, Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, It) being effectively science fiction rather than supernatural per se. Even many of the supernatural ones kind of skirt sci-fi and vice versa. Although most of these would be hard to turn into fiction that doesn’t involve some kind of fantastical element, whatever it’s source.

And there’s plenty that already have no fantastic elements as far as I can remember - Roadwork, Apt Pupil, The Body, Shawshank, Misey, Dolores Claiborne, Gerald’s Game, Colorado Kid leaves it up in the air.

I think the Stand was more interesting in it’s post-virus bits and not as interesting in it’s attempt at supernatural epic, so that’s an easy one.

I didn’t even realize Cujo had supernatural elements. Did the film?

Needful Things might have been more interesting without the supernatural elements, although it would have taken some sharp writing to make the titular needful things as psychologically addictive.

Low Men in Yellow Coats could have been done just as ex-CIA guy on the run bonds with kid.

I don’t disagree, but that’s a different argument than whether the supernatural elements are necessary for the book as written to work. Which, barring some minor changes to replace the prophetic dreams, they aren’t.