Friday, July 30, 2010

every dog has his day

I do not have the benefit of having just completed the book, thus I'll take a more retrospective view of it.

I think Anthony's conclusion that the book was good, I am happy to have read it, but it never completely pulled me in. I would recommend the book to some, but not universally. I also am not inclined to read other novels by King.

I think in some ways King bit off more than he could chew. It was incredibly long and had a real epicness to it (although grounded by the Jane Doe characters), which can be an ambitious undertaking. Truth be told, I suspect the editor was right to cut out lots of text. There were large chunks of pages that I kind of ground through (like lvl 6 boars) to get to better parts.

I liked the characters a bit more than Anthony did, although there we no Ignatious' to be sure. Although now as I go to list the ones I liked most it was the gimmicky ones - like "the Kid". Unecessarily vulgar to be sure, but his lines like "don't tell me, I'll f*ing tell you" somehow really made me laugh. And I was a huge fan of Trashcan man also.

Aside from the stunt characters though, I liked Harold a lot. He was one character tthat put me under constant suspense. To be fair he had a serious Smeagol/Gollum complex, but it was nonetheless done really well. In fact his demise is one of the parts that I remember most vividly from the story.

One thing I was not impressed with was the ending. The epilogue type thing about how the dark man comes back in another place. I think one of the best parts of the stand is that it most definitely takes place in our world. The characters fondly refer to popular culture throughout and that sets the reader up to think of the book in our own world. But then, of course, an amazing amount of magic is imparted into the world. Now I was willing to give him lots of leeway on this and enjoyed the fantastical nature. But in the end the dark man comes back which lends to the cyclical nature of good vs. evil, which makes me think that in fact the abilities of the dark man have probably repeated in the past, which was a stretch for me. I know of no roving eyes (a la Sauron, as admitted by King himself) or those things that Randall Flagg did to those who weren't loyal and the spies that have occured in the past.

So in all I think it was good, and at moments superb, but I wouldn't put it on the list of books I really like.

thanks Anthony!

I have been missing the book club a lot, and was very glad to see a post. Some good comments from Anthony, which I agreed with, on The Stand.

I think we should pick a new book, and keep going even if we are slow. I always look forward to reading our selections with a view to discussing them.

We also need comment moderation. I will see if I have permission to do this.

What should we read next?


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Stand

I'm reviving this here book club!

As most of you know, I just finished reading our most recent selection, The Stand by Stephen King. It was a long slog at 1140 pages! It was particularly slow because I have been reading myself to sleep each night here at Toolik and sometimes only get in a page or two. :)

All in all I enjoyed the book and appreciated this chance to check out a fan favorite from a prolific modern writer. This book was much easier to read and follow than many of our book club selections, which I think gives it its 'pulpy' feel that many critics scorn, but which also likely contributes to its popularity.

I think The Stand's biggest strength is the plot. I am admittedly a sucker for post-apocalyptic story lines and so I particularly liked the beginning of the book where the plague set in. Later I thought the book went in a different direction with its metaphysical elements. I was personally less excited about that part of the book since I am biased toward realism, but it was an interesting choice and I'm sure a lot of King fans like that twist on the usual post-apocalyptic story.

In contrast to the solid plot, I thought the characters were a little weak. They were not bad, but certainly did not grip me the way a really good character like Ignatius or Balram does. For example, I don't think I would meet anyone in the real world and think, 'oh yeah, he reminds me of Larry Underwood.' His more colorful characters were a little gimmicky and one dimensional like the mentally impaired Tom Cullen, the deaf-mute Nick Andros, and the pyromaniac Trashcan Man.

King writes with a very clear and very plain style, which may also contribute to his popularity. At first I didn't like the writing style, but it grew on me and I came to appreciate the quality of his craft after a while. It's good writing without a lot of unnecessary acrobatics and idiosyncrasies. His really basic character names--Fran, Nick, Larry, Glen, etc--are representative of the style. I did like his occasional use of adventurous metaphors and his effective incorporation of crude language and topics, which I think can be hard to write well.

So, in summary, while I never got totally sucked in to the book, it was a fun read and a solid story and I 'm glad to have read it. Oh, one last thing: it was really fun that the book was set in Boulder! I enjoyed reading about all the locales that I know well there.