Novels


the_dead_zone

A good friend in high school told me I had to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I was incredibly skeptical, I just knew King as a horror author, and horror was not very high up on my list of things I wanted to read. Well, he wouldn’t leave me alone so I finally picked up The Gunslinger and read through it. I was immediately hooked on Mr. King. I quickly learned that the stereotype about King, that he is strictly a horror writer, was a misconception. He is one of the few popular novelists who is actually a good writer (in my opinion at least).

I have a ton of King novels that I haven’t read because I pick one up just about every time I see one cheap in a used bookstore. I picked up The Dead Zone a few weeks back and for some reason decided I wanted to skip the other books I haven’t read and go ahead and knock it out. As with King’s other novels, it’s incredibly compelling. The characters feel real, however, I do have a problem with the main character being named John Smith with no middle name. The novel is one of the more theologically and philosophically rich that I’ve read of King’s. John Smith’s mom, Vera, is your stereotypical extra-crazy Christian cultist who believes that heaven exists in the stars and UFO’s piloted by angels would swoop down and take the faithful beyond the stars to heaven, or that heaven is actually under the ground in Antarctica. There’s also other interesting tidbits throughout the book, Johnny’s observations on God and his mothers faith, things that actually cause you to think. There’s also an interesting moral dilemma about murder. Johnny wrestles with the question of whether it is ever morrally right to murder someone. For example, if you could go back to 1939 Germany and kill Hitler, would you? It definitely causes the reader to think. Another ethical/philosophical aspect of the book is not nearly as prominent as some of the other problems presented, the problem of when is a person actually dead, when is it okay to take someone off of life support, does brain death constitute actual death etc. The Dead Zone leaves you with plenty to chew on and think over, and King doesn’t offer the answers, he lets the reader draw their own conclusions.

So while the story was well written, the characters were well developed and believable, and the story was compelling, I had a problem with some of the plot points, and I had a major problem with the ending. As always, I won’t spoil anything, but the ending is much like the moral and philosophical dilemmas in that King doesn’t give you many answers but leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. The Dead Zone kept me up late because I couldn’t put it down, I had to know what happened next and I did enjoy it, and it also kept me up late thinking about the dilemmas presented within.

Don’t be too quick to write off Stephen King as just another bestselling author who won’t be remembered, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some meat to chew on and digest in his novels.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

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I was wandering through Barnes & Noble my first day home from school looking for some good reading. I wanted a novel, something that was decently long and had a gripping plot and was well written. As I was wandering through the fiction section, I noticed they had about twenty copies of The Raw Shark Texts. I knew from my days working at Books A Million that this many copies of the same book means one thing, it’s a high seller. I picked it up and read some of the reviews, most of which said it was a great thriller that grabbed you and didn’t let you go. One called it a mix between The Matrix and Jaws. I was intrigued. I read the first few sentences and discovered that it was indeed well written. This seemed to be the book I was looking for. I started reading it two days later. I finished the book a day after that.

The title The Raw Shark Texts is a deliberate play on the words Rorshach Test. Steven Hall wanted every reader to walk away with a different experience, with a different theory as to what happened in the book. From page one we’re taken into the world of Eric Sanderson, a man who just woke up and can’t remember anything. I don’t want to ruin the many well executed twists and turns the plot takes from there. The plot is wonderful, the writing is superb, the characters are well developed. It’s everything I want in a book.

Every once in awhile a novel comes along with something new to offer to the genre. This is that novel. It incorporates multiple different literary styles into the narrative. It uses letters and symbols to create pictures of the creatures in the story. It defies all boundaries and becomes something of a monster itself. Is it perfect? No. I do have a few qualms with it. There was a 100 plus page section with a flip comic style picture of a shark coming closer to the reader. I wanted 100 more pages of narrative instead. So this 428 page book is actually somewhere in the ballpark of 328 pages. That’s my biggest problem, there were a few other small literary nerdy things I could nitpick at but since most people aren’t literary nerds like me, I’ll spare that part.

It’s been 3 weeks since I finished reading The Raw Shark Texts and it still haunts me, I still think about it every day and formulate my theory a little bit more. I will more than likely end up reading it again before summer is over. So do I recommend The Raw Shark Texts? Heartily so, if for no other reason than I really want to discuss it with someone. So if you do read it, let me know, I’ll buy the coffee if you supply the discussion.

Overall rating: 8.5/10