read, write, ramble

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A menagerie of Things

At some point in the recent past I was struck with an urge to read Who Goes There?, the John W. Campbell novella that inspired one of my favourite movies, The Thing. I can’t recall where that urge came from—maybe it was nothing more than a desire to read something new and yet also familiar—but it was suddenly very important that I read it. Unfortunately it turned out that I did not, in fact, own a copy of Who Goes There? nor could I find a sufficiently cheap copy online that would arrive quick enough to scratch the itch.

What I did have, I soon remembered, was an ebook of Frozen Hell, the original version of Campbell’s novella which I had picked up through Kickstarter several years earlier. This version had been discovered among Campbell’s papers some years after his death. By all accounts it is largely the same as the eventual published version, the inclusion of three introductory chapters being the major difference from the novella.

Reading this triggered something of a descent into a rabbit hole during which I read almost everything Thing-related that I could get my hands on and—because this is how things work—my thoughts on all of them are below!

Frozen Hell

Frozen Hell book cover

You can read more about the backstory to this version of Campbell’s novel here. My completism doesn’t quite extend to needing to read the published version as well, so I consider it to be an acceptable substitute for Who Goes There? By all accounts it’s essentially the same piece of work: just a little longer and lacking a handful of edits. 

It was an interesting experience reading something hailing from the ‘Golden Age’ of American science fiction and I came away with two main thoughts:

  1. People really don’t write like this anymore (duh), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  2. Given the huge stylistic differences, there is a surprising amount of commonality with John Carpenter’s movie here.

On the first point this is really about the way that narrative styles have evolved over the last hundred years or so, veering away from a sense of artifice and drama towards something more naturalistic. Campbell’s characters are, nevertheless, very human—they react in predictable ways to the fact that there’s a creature among them that might not only kill them but destroy the entire world—but there were still moments that I found odd. Characters would often laugh or giggle, which seemed jarring given the situation they’re in. At other times they would come across as almost too blase. 

Furthermore, while Campbell’s descriptive writing is superb, there was an awful lot of talking—and I’m talking primarily about expository dialogue here. Despite the brevity of the tale, and the leanness of the plot, the narrative is very dense and I had the sense of having to wade through it to get to the end even though this is really a very short and enjoyable read.

Given the above, it was a pleasant surprise to discover quite how much Bill Lancaster had taken from the original novella when writing his screenplay for Carpenter’s adaptation. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but a lot of the tentpoles are already in place—the blood test; the doctor going insane; the shape-changing. While Lancaster undeniably used Campbell’s blueprint and turned it into something fresh and new, it’s immediately clear that he took far more than just the basic concept from the novella.

The Adaptations

I’m not going to talk much about the 1982 version of The Thing; partly because there’s already so much written about it out there, but also because it’s such a part of my cinephile DNA that I’m not sure I can say anything objective about it at this point.

The Thing From Another World 1950 movie poster

What I can talk about instead is the Howard Hawks 1951 movie The Thing From Another World (which I will note was directed by Christian Nyby, but almost everyone considers it to be a Hawks movie). I had seen this movie before (as in several decades ago) but I purposefully rewatched it before writing this blog post because I am at least that much of a completist.

It’s a pretty good movie, albeit not one I would personally regard as essential viewing. It’s a surprisingly loose adaptation. Again, there are moments from the book—the discovery and subsequent blowing up of the spaceship; the creature’s first encounter involving dogs—but it mostly goes off in its own direction. One major change is the monster which, due to special effects limitations of the day, is just a man in a suit rather than the shape-changing terror of the novella. This is a shame in my view: I think the very same limitations would have produced a truly tense drama had they opted to retain the ‘trust no one’ foundation of the novella. One thing they did do, however, was work in a pretty clever way to ensure that the alien (despite being reduced to a simple monster) still posed a global threat.

Characterisation was once again interesting. A lot of work had clearly been put into the interpersonal relationships between some of the (large cast of) characters, but this again resulted in some unusual moments of levity. There’s a clear excess of joviality in some scenes given the likelihood of death and global extinction lurking around the corner. I’m not sure if this was a holdover from the novel, or simply the film-makers’ choice. 

One final thing that stood out is the frequency of scenes where characters would talk over each other—a naturalistic choice that was likely heralded by Orson Welles with 1941’s Citizen Kane, but which wouldn’t become a common dramatic choice for many more years to come. (Note: I have since been advised that it was His Girl Friday, released a year before Citizen Kane, that introduced overlapping dialogue. Given that was also a Howard Hawks’ film, it makes perfect sense that the technique would also be used here.)

Short Things

Short Things book cover

One interesting companion piece included within the Frozen Hell Kickstarter was Short Things, a short story collection inspired by the original novel (not, I repeat, not by the Carpenter movie or its 1951 predecessor). Most of the stories were pretty good fun, especially the opener by Alan Dean Foster which efficiently undoes the ‘happy’ ending of the novel. There are various direct follow ons and some more tangentially related tales. Most baffling was a story by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro which offered some fascinating ideas but seemed to have no relation to The Thing, and then simply stopped. Whatever that one was supposed to be, I’d love to read the rest of it! 

I wouldn’t say this collection is an essential read but it’s definitely a fun one so long as you’re familiar with the John W. Campbell inspiration.

The Return Of The Thing (TV Miniseries)

The Thing 1982 poster

What TV miniseries I hear you ask? Well, in 2005 there was lots of buzz around a proposed TV sequel (to John Carpenter’s movie) to be aired on the Sci-Fi channel. This eventually evaporated into nothing but through my Thing rabbit-hole I found a copy of the script!

… which was not great.

Had it been made it would have possibly been entertaining, but it would more likely have been terrible. The script reads as though the one takeaway the writer got from the 1982 movie was the idea that the creature can change into other lifeforms. The logic surrounding when and why the creature would do this is barely thought through and mostly seems to be there as an excuse to have a special-effects set-piece or action scene at regular intervals. There’s the kernel of a good story revolving around a remote US town succumbing to alien possession but with this setup there’s always the risk of simply repeating the Carpenter movie, or ending up retelling Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. In any case, any opportunity to recreate the paranoid dread of Carpenter’s movie is undermined at almost every opportunity by relatively illogical twists for the sake of having a twist.

A fun read, but I’m generally relieved this didn’t get made.

The Thing (2011)

The Thing 2011 movie poster

I’m likely in a minority of people who think that the 2011 prequel was not bad, although I’m far from alone in finding it almost completely ruined by the needless inclusion of CGI effects (which were used to replace the practical effects painstakingly created for the film in honour of its 1982 inspiration).

I chose not to rewatch the film on this occasion, but I did find a copy of Ronald D Moore’s original script. Now, my main complaint with the movie is that the occasions when the Thing reveals itself don’t always make sense. There’s a certain logic to Carpenter’s movie (and Lancaster’s script) wherein the creature will only expose itself if it either has an opportunity to imitate someone new (i.e. they’re alone) or if it’s threatened and the game is up. This logic is sometimes followed in the 2011 movie, but there are also several moments where it seems the creature is shown purely because the script demanded a set-piece.

To the best of my memory, the first half of the script is somewhat different than the movie, but once the Thing shows up it’s effectively the same plot, which is disappointing since this is where most of the issues are. Unlike Return Of The Thing, there is a good sense of paranoia and distrust which drives the latter sections of the narrative, but it is somewhat hobbled by needing to work as an authentic prequel to Carpenter’s movie.

I did not reread the Dark Horse comics for this. I recall being quite excited about them when they were first announced in the early 1990s but lost interest in them quite quickly due to the same lack of narrative consistency that plagued most of the attempted sequels described above. I understand there’s also a sequel novel to Who Goes There? in the works but I don’t plan to rush out and read that. I suspect The Thing is best left to rest (having already produced a genre-defining novel, a science-fiction classic, and an iconic sci-fi horror movie) but given the obvious franchise appeal I’m sure we’ll see more stories or movies sooner or later.

One more Thing

Actually, two more things. 

First, I wanted to give a quick plug to the awesome short story The Things by Peter Watts, which tells the story of The Thing (the 1982 version) from the perspective of the creature. A great read, which was nominated for a Hugo among various other accolades.

Also, in the process of reading all of the above my mind inevitably started pondering various other narrative threads and I found myself thinking “how does a creature like the Thing come into being?” Well, if you want to read what I came up with then check out my short story Imitations Of Life, which you can read for the high price of nothing over on my Slightly Odd Tales site.

Kingterval: Into Thin Air

(12-19 September 2022)

Despite having ‘owned’ Into Thin Air on Kindle for several years, and despite the heavy acclaim surrounding it, it’s taken me until this year to get around to reading Jon Krakauer’s account of his fateful Everest expedition. What ultimately prompted this was a recent episode of Tim Harford’s very excellent Cautionary Tales podcast—not an episode about Everest, but rather a short series of episodes covering Scott’s infamously doomed expedition to the Antarctic. I came away from that fascinated by the extremes some people put themselves through and keen to read more. While I was unable to find a book about Scott and the Antarctic that sufficiently appealed to me I did eventually stumble across that copy of Into Thin Air waiting patiently in my library and thought ‘ah!’

Now, mountaineering and/or climbing is not something that’s ever appealed to me. Not even a teeny bit. I’m not a particularly physical person and I also have what may be either mild vertigo or a realistic fear of falling to my death from a great height. So, yes, climbing is generally off my hobby list. I can sort of understand how some people get satisfaction from pushing their limits and conquering the unconquerable, but the thing that genuinely surprised me while reading Into Thin Air is how absolutely fucking miserable it all sounds.

That said, the author does make it reasonably clear that climbing Everest is unlike most other climbing expeditions he’s embarked upon. There’s a long journey simply to get to the base of Everest (not base camp: just the bottom of the mountain). There are huge costs involved, starting with the visa you need to buy before you will be allowed climb the mountain. Then there’s the acclimatisation, which takes place over several weeks and, judging by its depiction in this book, is among the more gruelling and debilitating processes one can voluntarily put one’s body through. Finally, there’s the climb itself, which judging by this account seems like a constant gamble against time. Can you make it to the top before the weather turns on you? Can you make it back down again before your body grows too frozen and exhausted to move?

The origin of this book comes from a journalist (and experienced climber) being commissioned to climb Everest for a magazine article. The reason it ended up being a book at all is because of the events that took place on the mountain during that particularly brutal expedition. There is some element of retrospect, but this book mostly puts us in the midst of an unfolding tragedy and introduces us to many of the people that it will claim. The author outlines a lot of contributing factors (and doesn’t avoid pointing the finger at himself at times) but at the end of the day this is another strangely compelling story about humans challenging nature and losing.


While not an adaptation of this book, the 2015 movie Everest depicts the same events. I could probably do with watching it again as I recall it being a perfectly competent movie but maybe I’ll get more from it a second time around, having now read an alternative account.

Oddly enough, though, reading this book makes me want to rewatch a completely different and, admittedly, pretty terrible movie about mountaineering: Vertical Limit. It’s dumb and it’s good fun. I hate it and I love it.

One movie I did end up checking out in the wake of reading Into Thin Air was the documentary Free Solo, which follows Alex Honnold’s bid to climb the 3,000 feet vertical rock face of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park, without the benefit of ropes or safety equipment of any kind.

As one of the reviewers on IMDB accurately states: “by far one of the best horror films I have ever seen.”

The Reading

Considering this was an impulse read, it was an agreeably swift and engaging one. Jon Krakuaer delivers some fine writing to help convey the experience and the narrative comes with the grim compulsion to keep turning the page and find out what terrible thing is going to happen next. If it’s your sort of thing, then it’s an easy recommendation.

Kingterval: Doctor Who novelisations

(July 2 – 12)

If you were a Doctor Who fan in the 1970s or 1980s there’s a near 100% chance you’ll be familiar with the Target novelisations that were, back in the dark ages, the only way for fans to revisit older Doctor Who adventures. As a major Who fan I used to collect and read these pocket sized books endlessly, and some of them remain imprinted on my memory even now. When one of the series’ most prolific authors, Terrance Dicks, died a while back it’s not for nothing that many people talked about the impact he had on children’s literacy back in the day.

Cut ahead to 2016: the newly revived TV series has been going strong for more than a decade already and BBC Books make the awesome decision to revive the old Target brand and reissue a select handful of seven of these original novels complete, in an essential step with the original artwork. Several more reissues followed over ensuing years and we eventually started to see novelisations of some new series stories, which was tremendously exciting.

I have a modest collection of about 80 of the original novels, so naturally I’ve been adding these new releases to my collection as they emerge. However, it wasn’t until recently that I thought maybe, perhaps, I could consider  reading some of these books that I keep buying. Radical idea, I know, but bear with me. To be honest it was more out of idle curiosity than a genuine commitment that I picked Dalek, by Robert Shearman, off the shelf. This one drew me on account of Robert Shearman being a writer that one of my good friends rates highly so it seemed a good place to start. 

Obviously I’d already seen the episode that the novelisation is based on, so I was pretty impressed to find that the first chapter bore absolutely no relation whatsoever to anything I had seen on screen and, adding further intrigue, it wasn’t immediately clear how it would eventually tie into the story. I needed to read more!

In keeping with the original Target novels, Dalek was an enjoyably swift read. However, unlike those old novelisations which often skewed very close to the televised story (sometimes to a fault) Shearman makes a few changes here and there and, perhaps most impressively, gives a detailed backstory to almost every speaking character in the story.

I enjoyed Dalek so much I decided to pick another one to read right away and went with Stephen Moffatt’s novelisation of his own 50th anniversary story Day Of The Doctor. This was a chunkier book than Dalek, but it’s one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had in years. Moffatt does some incredibly clever and funny things with his story and gives it a whole new lease of life in written form. I could write about this one for reams, but rather than do that I will urge you to read it if you have even the vaguest interest in Doctor Who. It’s like reading a Douglas Adams novel, but one with an actual plot.

For my final reading choice (because things always have to come in threes) I went with Russell T Davies’ novelisation of his triumphant first episode for New Who, Rose. Of all the books this one is closest to the original Target style, but still adds depth and backstory that you would rarely find in those old novelisations. Released 15 years after the episode first aired (15 years!! What even is time???) one of the most entertaining features about this book is how Russell T Davies manages to include all sorts of callbacks (call forwards?) to events and characters that would appear much, much later in the series. It’s a lovely way of tying this (re)introductory story into the glorious future that Davies would shepherd the revived series towards.

Adaptations …?

So this section is a bit backwards this time given that the books themselves are adaptations of the original TV episodes. However, in keeping with the house style I still feel obliged to include brief mentions of the televisual counterparts here.

Clearly Dalek was one of the more exciting debut episodes of the new series (new Doctor, new series, and the Daleks were back!). It’s a solid episode. I remember at the time thinking how strange it was hearing a Dalek that was more than a monosyllabic monster but, of course, it didn’t take long for them to fall back into their old ways.

Even more hyped was Day Of The Doctor. At the time I was a little underwhelmed; perhaps I was expecting more fan service. Over subsequent rewatches I’ve come away thinking it’s easily among the best episodes that New Who has delivered.

Finally, Rose. Could there possibly have ever been a more anticipated episode of Doctor Who. Rose, in my view, absolutely nailed it. It’s a vision of Doctor Who that never could have happened in the original run, but was absolutely what the show needed to bring it up to date and make it work for both new and old audiences. I have my gripes with some of Davies’ later episodes, but I will forever bring him credit for bringing Who back and making it work.

The Reading

Not a whole lot to add here. I read Dalek over two nights. Day Of The Doctor took a bit longer (perhaps four nights) but was one of those books I only reluctantly put down when sleep beckoned. Rose, I think, was a three-nighter.

And all were thoroughly enjoyable!

Revisiting King: Needful Things

7 March – 8 May

I fittingly reach the end of my current stage of Stephen King rereads with a novel that marked the end of a certain phase of Stephen King’s career—or, specifically, the end of a certain home for his tales. Needful Things, first published in 1991, was heavily marketed as being the final Castle Rock novel: the tale in which he would destroy, once and for all, the small American town in which many of his novels and stories had been set. Cinephiles may also recognise it as the name of Rob Reiner’s production company (Reiner having directed Stand By Me, which is chronologically the earliest Castle Rock tale if I’m not mistaken).

For me, the most interesting thing about Needful Things is the position it takes in Stephen King’s life and career. As such, both the start and end points for the second stage of my Revisiting King reread project were carefully selected and encompass the following five novels.

Right here we have what would have almost certainly been the most tumultuous phase of Stephen King’s life had a certain van driver not been paying more attention to the road a few years later. It’s no secret anymore that King was an alcoholic, and also had the money for a decent cocaine habit. Given this framing, it’s fitting that one of his earliest Castle Rock novels, Cujo, is the one that he famously has no memory of writing. However, we’re jumping ahead of ourselves a little here. Or maybe backwards.

You see, Stephen King never set out to be a horror writer: he just happened to end up writing horror stories that sold really, really well. He broke the mould to an extent with his Dark Tower series, but his first mainstream attempt to dabble in another genre, The Eyes Of The Dragon, was (reportedly) not well accepted by fans. King promptly followed this up with Misery, a story about a writer who endures horrific abuse after trying to end a popular series of novels so he can concentrate on the less popular works that he actually wants to write. Along the way he becomes addicted to painkillers. It doesn’t exactly sound unfamiliar.

His next novel, The Tommyknockers—a tale of insidious alien invasion—seems something of an outlier … until you read it and realise that it’s all about the people of Haven becoming hooked on a form of alien influence and losing their sense of responsibility as they become more and more powerful, and wreak more and more damage on those around them. As an analogy for being drunk it’s pretty on the nose.

It was in the wake of this novel that King’s wife, Tabitha, intervened and King finally sought help for his addictions. I’ve read conflicting reports on whether The Dark Half or Needful Things is the first book he wrote while sober, but both bring a deep sense of purging with their narratives. The Dark Half (as you’ll almost certainly be aware) echoes Misery in its story of a writer trying to rid himself of a far more successful pen-name / alter-ego. Like Paul Sheldon, Thad Beaumont finds that some facets of his life are not so easily buried. Literally. Symbolically, this reflected some of King’s experiences surrounding the decision to finish off his own pseudonym, Richard Bachman—yet another aspect of King’s life and career that had recently been excised.

So finally we come to Needful Things (which acts as a slight continuation of The Dark Half in that it features one of the main characters from that novel and refers back to its events on occasion). In Needful Things, the citizens of Castle Rock are beset upon by Leland Gaunt, a devilish figure who offers each person who visits his shop the thing they desire most in the world … all in return for a simple favour. It is the nature of these favours that eventually tears the town apart, but only because of the obsessive, hypnotic—and, one would say, addictive—effect these objects of desire have on their owners.

For me Needful Things represents King tearing down one of his final crutches: a familiar, cosy setting for his stories—a place that needs little establishment or introduction. A home. We’ve already seen him attempt to move away from the financially secure trapping of the horror genre. We’ve seen him put a less successful pseudonym to rest. Off-screen, as it were, we’ve also seen him overcome his addictions. 

While I have no experience in this area, I gather it’s a thing that those recovering from addiction will often excise parts of their life from before their recovery—I guess it’s the mental equivalent of starting from a clean slate. King kept his marriage, but apparently fired his agent as part of this purging process. The destruction of a small fictional American town might be small-fry in comparison to the real-life events going on, but it surely marks a final step in Stephen King’s transformation towards the next phase of his career.

The Adaptation

There is one movie adaptation of Needful Things that was released in 1993. Like many King adaptations of this era it comes with the non-essential feel of a TV movie, as if the latest King adaptation was just something that had to be done and gotten out of the way. That’s really just my way of saying that I’ve never felt any urge to watch it.

That being said, the casting has some elements of perfection. Max Von Sydow as the sinister shop owner Leland Gaunt probably couldn’t be topped, while I can absolutely see Ed Harris as Sheriff Pangborn. Without going too far into spoiler or plot territory, Amanda Plummer and J.T.Walsh are both well, if a little predictably, cast according to their screen personas. The other notable cast member is Bonnie Bedelia, who I can well imagine delivering the strength and independence, but also the vulnerability, that her character would require.

But I’m still not gonna watch it.

The Reading

I have to admit I found this a pretty tedious read. I’m fairly convinced there was potential for a great novel here—the setup of Gaunt coming to town, giving the citizens what they most desire, and then using his hold over them to pit them against one another and destroy the town could provide the basis for a remarkable novel. Unfortunately, King’s structure, which mostly devolves into scene after scene of this person plotting in increasingly paranoid fashion against that person quickly becomes repetitive. As a quick read this could still work, but this is one of the those novels where King gets a bit carried away and consequently the build up to the climax proves excruciatingly slow.

Up Next: I’ll be taking a break from King for a while (most likely to read Jeff Vandermeer’s Area X trilogy) but I’ll be back eventually with Gerald’s Game which, at the very least, comes with an excellent film adaptation.

Revisiting King: The Dark Half

(Jan 17 – Feb 20)

The Dark Half is an interesting read, and arguably one of King’s most personal novels. Written in 1989, it concerns an author of literary novels, Thad Beaumont, who secretly writes violent (and far more successful) pulp novels under the pseudonym of George Stark. When his double life is discovered, Beaumont chooses to kill off Stark rather than be blackmailed. Unfortunately Stark, who proves to be every bit as violent and unpleasant as the novels he writes, doesn’t want to stay dead.

Most people who know Stephen King will know that he also wrote a handful of novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. And that King was eventually found out and  also decided to retire his alter ego—a process which went far more gracefully for him than it did for Beaumont. Nevertheless, this event clearly provided the spark for The Dark Half.

(Intriguingly, King was writing Misery as a prospective Bachman novel when he was found out. Given the subject matter of Misery and that it was written as a response to the negative audience reaction after King ‘dared’ to step beyond his genre confines with Eyes Of The Dragon, this adds a fascinating layer to an already exceptional novel).

The other aspect of The Dark Half that draws heavily from King’s personal life is that of family. This was the last book King wrote and released before he went sober (he started going to AA meetings the same year that The Dark Half was published). I’m not across the timeline of King’s personal life, but my understanding is that his wife, Tabitha, staged an intervention at some point after the writing of The Tommyknockers—and with that novel’s themes of addiction and loss of control, there’s a reasonably valid reading of it as a cry for help. Equally, The Dark Half can be read as a manifestation of King’s fears about what could happen if his addicted self—his own dark half—got out of control, and how his family would contend with and suffer from that.

So, The Dark Half belongs to a long tradition of King novels that feature a writer as the main character (Salem’s Lot, The Shining, etc). However, very few of those come as close as this one does to featuring Stephen King as the main character. With no pun intended, it’s one of King’s darkest novels. Things turn out ok by the end of the story (oh: spoiler!), but in later works we eventually find out that not only did Thad Beaumont’s wife leave him following their encounter with George Stark, but that he later killed himself. Yikes! Luckily things turned out far better in King’s real life. He’s still writing, still married and, one assumes, still sober.

The Adaptations

There’s one adaptation of The Dark Half (filmed in 1991 and released in 1993, which I haven’t seen). Despite it boasting George Romero as director, I remember being a little deterred at the time by the casting of Timothy Hutton in the twin lead roles. I had generally liked Hutton in the few films of his I had seen (at the time) but he seemed a little too ‘light’ for this one. Given the film didn’t exactly get the box office or critics very excited, I mostly forgot about it. However, having more recently seen Hutton in the very excellent Haunting Of Hill House I’m now considering putting aside my misgivings and giving The Dark Half a watch sometime.

In a fun bit of trivia, The Dark Half introduces the character of Sheriff Alan Pangborn (played here by Michael Rooker), who also appears in the movie of Needful Things (played by Ed Harris) which was released in the same year. Alan Pangborn’s predecessor as Sheriff of Castle Rock was George Bannerman, who also appeared in two films (The Dead Zone and Cujo) released in the same year (1983, exactly a decade earlier, in fact) and played by two different actors (Tom Skerritt and Sandy Ward). I should have a residency on IMDb with this sort of stuff …

The Reading

As you will deduce from the dates at the top, this wasn’t a particularly swift read for me (and there were a couple of big pauses early in February). It started off well, but then I hit a bit of a narrative wall. See, the plot can be roughly broken up into three acts. There’s Act One, with George Stark coming to life and causing all sorts of mayhem—this is the sort of thing that narratives thrive on; you can have all sorts of things happen and, because it’s Act One, there’s no need for any sort of payoff, it’s all just build up. Act Three is the inevitable confrontation between Stark and Beaumont; the resolution. The problem here is Act Two, which can be mostly summarised as follows:

Beaumont: “George Stark is going to come for me.”

Stark: “No, I’ve had my fun now—I’m not coming for you.”

Beaumont: “I think he’s lying. He’s still coming for me.”

Stark: “Guess what? I lied: I’m still coming for you.”

You can probably guess that Act Two commits that very worst of all narrative crimes: it’s lots of people sitting around waiting for something to happen. Because it’s Stephen King it’s highly readable nothing, with lots of great character work going on. However, given the excellent setup of Act One it’s hard to sustain the tension; indeed, this is most likely King trying to give us a breather before ramping things up again. Sadly, it didn’t quite work for me.

Outside of that, however, there is still a lot to recommend in The Dark Half. Legacy King fans will appreciate the regular bouts of violence and gore, as well as the simmering menace that George Stark provides throughout. Stark himself is a fantastic character; brutal, terrible and perversely charming.

Overall a perfectly fine novel, but one that somehow falls short of essential King for me.

Next time: there’s a new store opening in town …

Revisiting King: The Tommyknockers

(Nov 16 – Dec 20)

The Tommyknockers may be a much maligned book among King fans, but turns out to be a very significant book in the life of the man itself. On the surface, it’s a story about a group of people who get exposed to a toxic substance and start turning irretrievably into monsters. It’s also a story about a globally successful author whose addiction to booze and cocaine finally reaches crisis point.

There have been a number of King’s other novels that have reflected his addictions (Cujo, for one, springs to mind) but few as explicitly as this one. In this story, the inhabitants of the town of Haven know that they are losing their humanity, but are too hooked on the process to do anything to stop it. In several scenes it’s made pretty explicit that there are voices talking to them, telling them why to do, urging them to continue letting themselves get corrupted.

On the other side of the page, there’s reasonable speculation that this novel was King’s ‘cry for help’—a potentially final message that his addictions were consuming him and threatening to transform him into one of the monsters he typically writes about. The narrative goes that King’s wife staged an intervention, King finally went dry and it was a couple of years before he was able to get writing again.

Fittingly, for a novel that played so significantly into King’s future, The Tommyknockers is intriguing for how much it looks into the past. It is very clearly inspired (and ‘inspired’ might even be an overly generous term) by two classics of the sci-fi/horror genre: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Quatermass & The Pit (with various generic references to the works of Lovecraft also thrown in). Structurally it also harks back to King’s own earlier works. The overall concept of a town falling prey to a great evil brought back fond memories of Salem’s Lot, while the introduction to our main protagonist, Gard, would have slotted very nicely into the early chapters of The Stand. If nothing else, The Tommyknockers reads a lot like a man trying to escape his past by taking one step after another into an uncertain future; one where there’s no guarantee that the demons won’t eventually claim his soul too.

The Adaptations

There is one adaptation of The Tommyknockers; a 1993 TV miniseries which I have never watched. TV in the early 1990s was capable of producing good stuff, but was still mired in a world of budget constraints and broadcasting standards which meant adapting Stephen King novels, especially ones as visually demanding as The Tommyknockers, was a bit of a fool’s errand.

If they were to do an adaptation now, I think there’s fantastic scope for a “limited series”, as they call them now. However, I suspect the novel isn’t sufficiently well regarded to make it worthwhile.

The Reading

Unlike most of the other King novels I’ve previously read, I vividly remember my first reading of The Tommyknockers. It was while on a holiday in France, and my girlfriend of the time was (rightfully) put out that I was spending much of my time glued to the pages of this book. I literally couldn’t put it down; I had to keep reading to see what would happen next. It’s possibly the fusion of sci-fi and horror that so grabbed me back then, because the narrative isn’t really a classic page-turner.

I believe this is my third reading of the novel (when and where the second reading took place is a lost memory) and I really enjoyed it. There were bits I remembered vividly, and bits I had totally forgotten were in the book at all. There were also a number of references to It, and even a reappearance of the sinister government outfit The Shop, from Firestarter.

I can’t really get on board with the criticisms of this novel. Yes it’s bloated and indulgent, but so is It and various other King novels that get otherwise lauded. Yes, it’s derivative, but King wears his influences so openly that you have to be quite the curmudgeon not to take some delight in it. It’s true that the plot is a bit thin (it’s mostly about the gradual disintegration of the town of Haven, and the looming yet questionable potential for salvation of our main character), but King has frequently focused more on the way horrific events affect his characters than on building a solid plot structure around them.

In short, while not one of his best, The Tommyknockers is an archetypal Stephen King novel, and if you’re like me you may well have a lot of fun with it.

Up next: sometimes alter egos come back …

Revisiting King: The Eyes Of The Dragon

(Nov 1 – 15)

A fantasy book? For kids?? By horror maestro Stephen King??? Jeez, no thanks!

Yep, that more or less summed up my thoughts when approaching this outlier in King’s canon (both in my days of yore and somewhat more recently). It also reflects the thoughts of legions of King’s number one fans, many of whom were reluctant to let their favourite author leave his horror-shaped cage.

In itself there’s nothing particularly deep or interesting about The Eyes Of The Dragon—it’s simply a lovely little fantasy tale (almost a fairy tale, in fact) that you could sit down and read with your kids. It’s got princes, kings, an evil wizard, and various heroic characters, alongside others who touch darkness and may or may not get their shot at redemption.

What’s perhaps more interesting about The Eyes Of The Dragon is that the reception of this novel is what prompted King to write Misery (probably one of his best novels). Something I’ve learned from my research during this project is that King never intended to become a horror writer: he just wanted to be a writer. Carrie, the novel that kickstarted his career, more or less happened by accident (it was a short story that ended up running long and was only published after King’s wife pulled it out of the trash and saw its potential). By the time King approached his third novel, he was already conscious of being labelled and considered writing something different. He was eventually persuaded to stick with horror by his publisher and released The Shining. Several years later, When The Eyes Of The Dragon came along, that horror key was firmly in the lock.

Ironically, for King fans one of the most intriguing elements of The Eyes Of The Dragon is a link back to one of his most iconic and arguably horrific novels: the use of Randall Flagg as the villain. He’s a very different character here than in The Stand but it’s still fun to discover a new (or maybe older) facet of this.

The Adaptations

Tellingly, there are no adaptations of The Eyes Of The Dragon. I can only assume that people are not up to the marketing challenge (and also wary after the failure of The Dark Tower). It has been optioned a few times, and most recently came close to being adapted for Hulu, who eventually backed out due to budgetary concerns.

I’m not totally sure an adaptation would work—there’s a narrative structure in the book that would be challenging to present onscreen—but there’s possibly scope for a Princess Bride style retelling.

Who knows. Maybe one day.

The Reading

This was easily one of my favourites reads so far (leaving me kicking myself for ignoring it for so long; and also determined to read the Dark Tower series at some point). I had automatically slid right past it while compiling my reread list—for no reason other than it didn’t ‘fit’—but reading the background to Misery prompted me to backtrack and give it a try. So, for chronology’s sake: The Eyes Of The Dragon was released before Misery, but since I was late to the party I ended up reading it afterwards.

I read it over two weeks (which seems to be my standard reading window) and it quickly became one of those books that I looked forward to curling up with every night.

It might not be for everyone, but if you like the genre and/or if you like King I urge you to at least give it a try.

Next time: Quatermass visits Maine …

Revisiting King: Misery

(Oct 19 – Nov 1)

Another excellent “Halloween edition” cover

It’s possible that Misery might be Stephen King’s best book (so far). Sure, it gets its fair share of acclaim, but it tends to sit there a little overshadowed by King’s more attention-grabbing works—you know, the ones with killer clowns, or possessed hotels, or apocalypses. And right there is the thing that sets Misery apart: it’s King’s first novel with absolutely no supernatural element or inhuman monster involved (we’ll conveniently ignore short stories and novellas).

It’s also one of the rare King novels that’s largely free of what I’m going to call KingWuffel from now on: that being King’s propensity to waffle on in directions that have zero impact on the plot. The premise and structure of Misery has a lot to do with this, featuring just two main characters, a captor and a captive, only one of whom allows us inside their head. Furthermore, the plot, such as it is, mostly revolves around the psychological state of our two characters: as such, whatever KingWuffel there is ends up enriching the proceedings, rather than distracting from them.

Perhaps another reason Misery works so well is because it’s both metaphorical and deeply personal. It’s King responding to the trauma of being compartmentalised as a horror writer by his legions of fans. The novel was written in response to the negative reception towards King’s previous title: Eyes Of The Dragon, an all-ages fantasy novel (which I will be writing about next). From the very start of his career, King was wary about being typecast as a horror writer, and Eyes Of The Dragon demonstrates that he wasn’t necessarily wrong. Even his most recent attempt at the Great American Novel (It) did little to change that categorisation.

Another, perhaps more accurate reading (and this is by King’s own admission) is that Misery deals with the author’s own addictions (King was a huge alcoholic with a taste for cocaine thrown in for good measure). In this interpretation, King is still the imprisoned author, but Annie Wilkes is the spectre of his own addiction, isolating him and foiling his every attempt to break free.

Trauma may be a strong word to use when discussing one of the world’s most successful authors, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) Misery is absolutely steeped in trauma; so much so that I started looking into whether Misery was true or a problematic representation of such. After all, on the one hand, we have the monstrous and terrifying ex-nurse Annie Wilkes as the villain of the piece; on the other, we have a deeply troubled woman with long-term psychological issues. One thing I’ve found in King’s novels is that (accepting the times in which his novels were written) for every attempt he makes at inclusion, we’ll typically have a character doing a mock Southern plantation voice, or a casual use of the word ‘retarded’.

I’m not sure I’ve reached a definitive conclusion on Misery, but I do recommend a podcast called Freaks and Psychos, a series which discusses representations of disability in horror movies. After listening to their episode on Misery I’ve got a better appreciation for the range of trauma and disability that Misery represents (noting that the main character, following a near-fatal car accident, is also disabled) and that, while there are limits in King’s representation, he does draw deeply on his own pain and trauma to provide something that may actually give the able-bodied among us a bit of valuable insight.

The Adaptations

There is one adaptation of Misery. And also a sort of additional one.

The main adaptation I’m referring to is, of course, Rob Reiner’s excellent 1990 movie starring Kathy Bates and James Caan. I did not feel the need to rewatch this one as it’s pretty close to the novel (barring a few changes, most notably with the ‘hobbling scene’). Perhaps I also came away from the novel satisfied and not needing to see the same story told again (whereas other movie adaptations of King’s novels are often sufficiently different that it’s interesting seeing the story told in a different way, with different choices being made).

The other adaptation I mentioned is season two of the TV series Castle Rock (which I have not seen). This season revolves around the character of Annie Wilkes and serves as a prequel to Misery, providing (by all accounts) a sympathetic depiction of her descent into the terrifying character we meet in the novel.

The Reading

My reading of Misery got off to a slightly rocky start. The novel jumps right into the action and it took a chapter or two for me to adjust to the narrative style. It’s also a really, really grim book in parts. That said, I quickly went from “I can’t bear being locked in this room” to “I have to go back”.

In a lot of ways this is very reminiscent of Cujo: it’s an excuse to explore some deeply troubled characters in a literal life and death situation. While I eventually developed an admiration for what King did with Cujo, the novel (at the time) didn’t really work for me; it was too grim and I didn’t really like any of the characters. With Misery, both the characters and the situation are compelling enough that you find yourself wanting to go back, despite the horror of it all.

It’s one of King’s shorter novels, which also helps a great deal. It does what it sets out to do and doesn’t linger. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in an alternate reality, there’s a version where King chopped 300-400 words off the start of a much longer novel in order to plunge us, jarringly, right down to business.

I had read Misery before (no idea when) but I’d marked it down as a decent novel, one of King’s better known works, but nothing remarkable. So, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this reread, and it was probably the first time I’ve put one of these novels down and immediately started looking forward to the next time I get to pick it up and read it again.

The Top Ten

With a new King novel read it is, of course, time to revisit the Top Ten. And here’s what it’s looking like now:

  1. Cujo
  2. Carrie
  3. Different Seasons
  4. Pet Sematary
  5. Salem’s Lot
  6. The Dead Zone
  7. It
  8. The Shining
  9. Misery
  10. The Stand

Yes, Misery has landed pretty high there. There’s an argument to be made that it’s a better book than The Stand, but it’s going to take a lot to knock that favourite off the top spot. I considered dropping it below The Shining, but I think it just edges that one out.

The more interesting stuff is going on at the lower reaches there. Seeing that a new title has landed in the list, those of you who have been following this project might have reasonably expected Cujo to lose its coveted number 10 position. But there it is, hanging right in there!

So what got dropped?

Sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to that mid-tier early entry, Firestarter. It’s an enjoyable book, but I have to say it’s also proving a fairly forgettable one. The more I think about Cujo the more I wonder if I judged it too harshly. Either way, I’m still thinking about it, which means it gets to stay there. For now.

Kingterval: Andy Weir

(Sep 14 – Oct 18)

After spending more than two months wading through IT I decided it was time to take a short break from Stephen King. I’d actually decided right from the start that I would take a break after IT, but it makes it sound more dramatic if I paint things as though reading ITwas a glorious struggle that left me desperate for some literary recuperation. In either case, ITrepresents something of a transition point in the Stephen King bibliography (of which more in my next post) so it seemed a good moment at which to take a Kingterval. Yes, that pun is terrible and, yes, I am also very proud of it.

The Martian was one of my favourite books of [insert year that The Martian came out]. It was one of those rare and beautiful novels that I just couldn’t put down. I missed out on Weir’s second novel, Artemis, due to mixed reviews and general inertia, but when I started reading good things about his latest, Project Hail Mary, I decided I definitely wanted to check it out. And, since it made for a tidily themed trio, I decided why not read all three of Weir’s novels before getting my King happening again.

Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir - Project Hail Mary paperback cover

I acquired a very large paperback copy of this, which sat on my desk for a week or two before I finally finished IT. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot because there are some nice little twists here and there, but I can see why reviewers were comparing it to The Martian: it uses the same basic premise of sticking a person alone in a perilous situation who needs to science the shit out of his various predicaments.

This was a very easy and engaging read, and I highly recommend it. However, the writing did feel a bit thin in comparison to The Martian. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that our main character wakes up with amnesia—it gives us an easy engine to hook the narrative on, but it also means we can’t really get into the main character’s head to the same degree that we do with The Martian. However, because of this device, one of the things I did enjoy about this novel is how much it felt like playing a video game: you wake up not knowing anything, gradually you explore and expand your environment, learning the rules as you go. The longer you spend in this universe, the bigger it becomes. Literally. That said, I suspect that the slightly more fanciful plot is another reason why this one doesn’t feel as real as The Martian.

It’s perhaps not fair to keep comparing this to The Martian—it’s a great read regardless of whether you’ve read that earlier novel—but it has to be said that consciously trying to echo a successful formula will inevitably drive comparisons.

The Martian

Andy Weir - The Martian paperback cover

I read The Martian second, because sometimes I just have to do things out of order. And also because I didn’t have a copy of Artemis yet. This was my third read of The Martian and I was keen to see how a book I had enjoyed hugely on previous occasions added up. The good news is it still holds up (but you didn’t really need me to tell you that). 

Despite reading it twice, and having seen the movie a couple of times, I’d completely forgotten that there was a dual narrative going on: the predicament on Mars, and the efforts back on Earth to get their man home. One of the other major drivers of the book is the main character’s optimism and sense of humour; I’m sure this was a huge contributor to the novel’s success. This, unfortunately, is where Project Hail Mary suffers—it could almost be the same character in both novels (barring a few spoilerific characteristics that I won’t divulge here).


Andy Weir - Artemis paperback cover

I was a little wary of this one due to the mixed reviews. The thing that sold me was reading it described as “as heist movie set on the moon”. It’s not really that, it’s more a of pulp crime novel set on the moon, but it’s still a fun melding of genres. I went in hoping not to be disappointed and ended up having a really good time with it. The general set up is pretty different to Weir’s other two novels, but this is the one where Weir’s real strengths as a novelist become clear. 

You see, Weir follows one of the first rules of crafting a compelling narrative, and he does it really well: he throws problems at his characters and he does it constantly. No sooner have they resolved one crisis than another one appears over the horizon. And the other thing Weir does, which is more or less his Unique Selling Point, is that his characters always solve their problems with science. As such you get entertaining high-stakes drama and science lessons in one easy to read package.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy Artemis if you enjoyed The Martian, but it’s got a lot of the same elements: a funny, resourceful main character and plenty of twists and turns that bring fresh peril. It’s also a different read: our lead character is female, and has an engagingly cynical streak; also the premise revolves rather less around people being heroes, and more around people trying to make a few bucks, or simply to survive.

This one probably doesn’t deserve to get lost under the shadow of The Martian.

The Adaptations

At this point there’s only one adaptation of Andy Weir’s novels: the 2015 movie of The Martian. There is talk of Ryan Gosling producing and starring in a movie of Project Hail Mary (and, I tell you, I would love to see this one visualised) and some presumably stalled attempts to do something with Artemis (an HBO type series would do the job very nicely here I reckon). But let’s talk about Ridley Scott’s version of The Martian.

First and foremost, it’s a very good film. It’s a classic sci-fi drama that sits very nicely alongside the sort of hard science fiction films they used to do before Star Wars came along. But it also loses a fair bit of the novel’s charm. Matt Damon carries the movie faultlessly, but he’s not the character we grew to love from the novel. Ridley Scott, not a director known for delivering the funnies, really scales down the humour which is a shame because, with a script written by Drew Goddard, this should shine with wit.

Outside of those minor criticisms, the film is remarkably faithful to the novel which probably goes to show how tightly crafted the narrative was in the first place. If it ain’t broke, well … Weir will probably break it anyway just to find a fun way of fixing it again.

The Reading

All told it took me about a month to read these three novels, which is pretty good going for me. Two of those weeks were spent with Project Hail Mary, which was a consistently enjoyable read. I then started gangbusters on The Martian and then slowed down, probably because I pretty much knew what was going to happen. As such it worked out quite well that I left Artemis to last, since it gave me something fresh to read before getting back into my King reread.

As I said above, these are very easy books to read—and that’s not meant to be an insult, they’re simply very engaging and Weir does an excellent job of keeping things moving along while doing his science thing along the way.

Up next: time to meet King’s number one fan …

Revisiting King: It

June 30 – September 13)

paperback cover for IT by Stephen King

There’s no denying the fact that It is something of a milestone in Stephen King’s career. However, exactly what sort of a milestone it is remains open to debate. I started my reread of It with the clear feeling that this was King’s masterpiece, and I finished it satisfied but with a sense that I’d had to wade through a lot of words for relatively little story.

Coming to It after reading all of King’s previous works in release order feels like a huge leap forward. It is undeniably a King novel, but one unlike any that he’s written before. Well … that’s not exactly true. One of the delights of reading It was picking up the strands of its DNA from King’s previous works. There’s the group of children on a quest from The Body (and, let’s face it, as excellent as it is in its own right, The Body does feel a lot like a test run for It). There’s the small town vibe from Salem’s Lot (and several other novels—but I pick Salem’s Lot specifically because King labelled it as his attempt to write the Great American Novel, a category for which It is surely a contender).

There’s the Great Evil lurking in the underbelly of a small town (not a rabid dog, or a bullied girl with telekinetic powers, or a vampire, or a possessed car this time, but something far more metaphorical, and also far deadlier). There’s the rich sense of nostalgia written out as a series of fictional childhoods that no real person would ever have lived. There’s the history: pages and pages telling us more than we ever needed to know about the town of Derry and its citizens. There’s the Bully (represented by a couple of characters here) who gives us both a counterpoint and a parallel to the more supernatural horrors (“Sure, you’ll never come face to face with an intradimensional horror, but here’s someone a little closer to home that you probably will meet one day!”)

For good measure, we also have several direct throwbacks to earlier works, which is always fun. There are mentions of Shawshank prison. There’s an extended cameo for Dick Halloran from The Shining. There’s even an appearance from Christine (or, at the very least, a car that’s a strong contender for being Christine’s sister).

In so many ways, It is the distillation of everything that King has done before, and a hint that this is the closing chapter in a particular stage of this writing career. However, for all that is great and fun about It, the novel is overshadowed (and undermined) by its ending. There’s no getting away from the fact that the novel spends the best part of a thousand pages building up to a confrontation that … just doesn’t really deliver.

And then there’s that scene.

I’m not actually going to talk about that scene. I’ve been part of the head-scratcher brigade over that scene for decades (“Sure, Stephen, yep; you go right ahead and do you … we’ll be here for the next one.”) However, I recently read something that did such a fantastic job of recontextualising that scene and justifying it that I was able to process it in a completely different light for this reread. So I recommend you go off and read this article … and then come back here.

But back to the climax for now. I didn’t remember the ending of the book particularly well. Like the characters in the novel, I found bits and pieces coming back to me, but the ending remained reliably obscure. I figured this was simply because it wasn’t very memorable and I was keen to revisit it in order to give it a proper re-evaluation. 

So how did it go? 

Well, the parts leading up to and away from the ending were like reading something for the first time. There’s some terrific narrative structuring; there’s a great and claustrophobic sense of creeping towards a final confrontation as the group stagger through the tunnels beneath Derry. And then, in the end, they pretty much punch a big spider to death.

Yeah, I know it’s a bit of a spoiler there, but I have to tell it for what it is. It’s a let down, and it’s already slipping from my memory. I guess, as with a lot of stories, it’s more about the journey than the destination, and that’s certainly true for It.

The Adaptations

There are two adaptations of It (well, three, I guess … maybe). First off there’s the 1990 miniseries adaptation. A lot of people love this, but I find it fairly hard to watch. I haven’t watched it in a considerable number of years, but I remember it as a perfectly solid retelling that has some highly memorable moments, but it’s simply too TV for me—and if there’s one thing you couldn’t do in the 1990s, it’s make a convincing adaptation of a Stephen King story on network television.

It does have, of course, Tim Curry’s iconic, immortal and unforgettable portrayal of Pennywise to enjoy, something which pretty much forgives every other limitation herein. In fact, just thinking about it sorta makes me want to watch the whole thing again.

There’s also the more recent film adaptation which was released in two parts; in 2017 and 2019. For my money, It: Chapter One is not only a great adaptation, but one of the best horror movies of the last few decades. It’s properly scary, it makes some sensible choices about how to retell the story, and Bill Skarsgard finds a fresh and equally iconic way of playing Pennywise (which, let’s face it, was always going to be one of the major challenges here). Most tellingly, it also feels like a satisfyingly complete film on its own.

Which brings me to It: Chapter Two. Which is probably one of the most disappointing films I’ve ever seen. It was always going to be a challenge: the ‘adult’ section of the novel is mostly about the characters remembering what happens in the ‘child’ section. In other words, once you’ve told the earlier part of the story, there’s not a whole lot left to really power a proper three act narrative. The writers make what, on the surface, seems a fairly smart choice in dealing with this but somehow it doesn’t pay off. Just as the adults spend much of the novel wondering if the magic that helped them prevail the first time around has been lost, so the film demonstrates that sometimes that’s exactly what happens.

The Reading

I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty excited about getting to revisit It. I’ve read the novel at least twice before, and had something of a stalled attempt following the release of the 2017 film. Hence, it was as much about having a second chance to beat the devil as it was about enjoying a much-loved novel all over again.

And I did enjoy it—very much. I spent the best part of three months treading in these characters’ shoes all over again, enjoying moments that I remembered fondly, and rediscovering the bits I’d forgotten. 

However, the novel is far from a compelling read. Some of the previous King novels I’ve read in this exercise found me quite reluctant to stop reading. Even the ones that were merely enjoyable, I managed a steady rate of around 50 pages per sitting. With It (and this is partly because the print is that much smaller) I typically managed 30 pages before I decided I’d had enough for the night. Consequently it took me quite a while to get all the way through to the underwhelming conclusion.

I still think this is a great novel, and it has plenty of space to breathe, but I do (sacrilegiously) wonder how it would read if a few hundred words were trimmed away.

The Top Ten

Now that I’ve read eleven Stephen King books, it’s time for one to be culled from the top ten. If you’ve been reading my blog posts this far you may already have a good idea of which one it will be.

So, without further ado, here is the new Revisiting King Top Ten:

  1. Cujo
  2. Carrie
  3. Firestarter
  4. Different Seasons
  5. Pet Sematary
  6. Salem’s Lot
  7. The Dead Zone
  8. It
  9. The Shining
  10. The Stand

Yep, though I do (much to my surprise) have some fond memories of reading Christine, it’s still the obvious choice to drop off the bottom. I started It convinced that it would end up at the top spot, but it still doesn’t quite match up to The Stand for me. Meanwhile, it occurred to me that if someone asked me at this point to recommend the quintessential Stephen King novel—the one King novel to read if you were never going to read another—then I would probably recommend The Shining. Hence that classic remains in second place above It.

One other change that comes in the wake of reading It is that I’ve decided to bump Salem’s Lot up a few spots. It has its problems, but it’s a better novel than Pet Sematary and I’ve been thinking about it a great deal as I waded through the 1100 pages or so of It.

Coming up next: … well, I’m going to take a short break from Stephen King … but eventually we’ll meet again in the company of a certain number one fan.

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