3. The Shining
It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; … and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation.
But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.
A. Poe – The Masque of the red death
Stephen King is the master of the modern horror novel, author of more than forty novels, almost all being screened. The Shining is the first book written by Stephen King that I can get my hands on and I can say that I did not want to let it down since I began to read.
The book surprised me from the first page, the decor around which the action takes place, making this a whole haunted house hotel, secluded in the mountains, which is brought back to life, each room wearing in its own story. Behind these doors we will meet the Torrance family: Jack, a former professor, was kicked out because of a conflict with a student, aspiring writer who tries to leave behind the lost years because of alcohol and rebuild his lives, which is why he accepted the post of guard at the Overlook
Hotel, where he has to spend the entire winter season, along with his wife Wendy and son Danny, a boy endowed with supernatural powers, a “shiner.” The narrative flows, characters develop their everyday routine, the story is a simple one to start with until the snow blocks every route of movement, the three remaining izolated inside the hotel.
From here come even more stranger and terrifying experiences that find their place in Overlook Hotel, now regarded as a character who takes part in the action, whose story (history) is not far from an ordinary and it is waiting to be discovered.
Jack Torrance‘s story attracted the attention of producers, the book was filmed in 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick, known as one of the most celebrated filmmakers of the twentieth century. Jack Nicholson starring in the title role, the film became one of the most popular films directed by Kubrick. But the director’s vision was not on the same wavelength with the author’s vision, King considering the film adaptation of his novel a failed idea.
Next adaptation, TV series produced in 1997, preserves more of the action of the novel but fails to capture much of its atmosphere.
I return to the book, that I liked more than any filming, because in the book the dark side of human nature is much better captured, which Stephen King highlights through his characters that are marked by strong dramas. King’s characters can distinguish the intensity of their feelings, although a small number of characters appear, but each is very well thought out.
When you read “IT” you do not expect something so scarry that your blood gets cold of horror or you cannot sleep at night, even though I spent a few evenings thinking about what I was reading. But ask for a horror novel and then not be impressed about “IT” seems impossible …
The basic idea, as in almost all other novels written by Stephen King is the fight between good and evil, but his style is different from any other that I’ve tried. Simply have something that makes you try that book of his, and another, and another – not kidding. But back to “IT”.
IT takes place on two levels. The first is the story of seven main characters – Bill Denbrough stuttering, Richie Tozier, bespectacled, Eddie Kaspbrak, asthma, Ben Hanscom, obesity, Beverly Marsh, face, Mike Hanlon, black and Stan Uris, Jews – the children, and the second occurs over 27 years, with the same characters, this time adults. The two plans revolve around a mystery that may need some pages to be found.
The plot consists of the disappearance of the inhabitants of the small town of Derry, Maine, most of them children – some are found dead, others are not found at all. The new cycle is open by the death of Bill’s younger brother, George Denbrough.
The death toll increases once every 27 years, each cycle ends with a massacre. Although deaths are statistically more numerous in large cities such as Chicago or New York, the press is kept aside and no one realizes it. Guilty of this is the monster, presence of an evil coming from space many millions of years ago, which may take various forms when depict itself, each of the characters seeing it differently: mummy, vampire, leprosy, spider or a large eye, but most often taking the form of a clown, Pennywise or Bob Gray.
What makes you exclaim “WOW” at the end it is hardly influenced by the heart rate at the scary parts. “IT” is the amazing evolution of the seven characters on the verge of puberty, their history, how they met and the friendship between them. Because “IT” is a novel of childhood and friendship.
The chapters are full of humor and the characters are believable. Each is taken apart and analyzed, turned on all sides, dissected, presented as only Stephen King knows and even villains like Henry Bowers and his bully friends, Victor Criss and Belch Huggins, have the same treatment. Much of “IT” consists of story characters.
The seven children join together and form a club led by Bill, The Loser’ Club, which is actually living in the resistance against the monster in Derry.
The second plan, the adult one, begins with a call from Mike Hanlon and the new cycle of dead and six characters – six this time you’ll see why – are forced to start from the beginning, to finish what was not finished 27 years ago. Unite in Derry and seeks to remember things forgotten, to know how to defeat the monster this time permanently.
At the end I understood why Stephen King said that IT is “the sum of everything I’ve done and learned in my life.”
1. The Stand
Have you ever wanting to see a movie or read a book that belonged to the horror genre in the true sense? That scares you indeed? That makes you ignore the late hour of the night and the day that you went to school / job because you’re curious to see “what will happen next”? Your mind will remain etched in good time after you have finished reading it, because you attached to the characters so much, that you came to think of them as real people?
Yeah, well, yes. A book like this is “The Stand” and is written by none other than Stephen King.
Stephen King has a gift. The gift that takes you from the real world and puts you right into the action. No author prospers to outline the characters so well, so carefully, but in a way that keeps you glued to the book, and not get bored (no, I do not like too much detail in describing the character) . After a while you think you know him for a lifetime.
Also, the action usually belongs to science fiction, because we all know that the cemeteries where people are raised there, as zombies or cars that come alive are as real as White Moor’s branch. What I mean is that Stephen King is a genius of world literature.
The Stand is one of the longest of his works. I know what you’re thinking now: “1000 pages ?! Are you serious? ” Yes, I’m serious. But once you see through what sort of adventures apocalyptic the characters go, you will fish the book will not end.
As the author himself says, “I wanted to write an epic work like that created by JRR Tolkien ‘Lord of the Rings‘, but in the American manner. Thus was born ‘The Stand.’ So get ready, “The Stand” is a book that will shake you and that will keep you in l that particular spot only for books that have really impressed you.
In short, the action of the novel begins when a super-flu is out of control of a secret military laboratory. It kills 99% of the world population, and those who survive will have to overcome their worst nightmare: Randall Flagg, the servant of the devil, who has no other desire than to annihilate the human race.
The entire narrative is based on the battle between good and evil, but translated into an America that resembles medieval Europe. The landscape is apocalyptic, people dying like flies with only a few streets deserted, haunted souls doomed to death. Empty shops, dozens of accidents, and people raving fools like in the sanitarium, capital of America abandoned … I warned you? Good.
From this landscape four characters “rise”. Frannie Goldsmith, a young pregnant girl, Nick Andros, a deaf-mute who possess a very keen thinking, Larry Underwood, a bad singer searching for his purpose in life and Stu Redman, a simple man who works at a gas station. King follows the evolution of these 4 first, then together after they meet and ally to defeat evil forces.
On the other side of the fence we meet Lloyd, an offender who is subject only to a few printer “shenanigans” that theft and robbery and Trashcan Man, mentally retarded who has a passion for fire and explosion. What the two have in common is loyalty towards Randall Flagg. He is “The Boogie Man” Stephen King’s evil character, who wants to control the world. He is the pure evil servant to the devil and will show how much evil there is in this present evil, here is a quote right from work, which refers to it:
“He was known there, and even the maddest of them could only gaze upon his dark and grinning face at an oblique angle. The women he took to bed with him, even if they reduced intercourse to something as casual as getting a snack from the refrigerator, accepted him with a stiffening of the body, a turning away of countenance. They took him the way they might take a ram with golden eyes or a black dog-and when it was done they were cold, so cold, it seemed impossible they could ever be warm again.”
But these are not only present in the work. There are many others that will influence for good or bad action. Mother Abagail is one of the best characters of this masterpiece. This 108 years old woman will help all people who survived to gather in a given city, using dreams. She appears in their dreams asking them to ignore the call of Randall Flagg and join the forces of good, invitation which many will accept.
The plot is complicated, with many characters, each passing through a series of adventures that will keep you breathless. The Stand is one of few masterpieces in the world of literature, one of the books you should read before you die.
I personally loved it. He did make me shed some tears even at times, so I recommend it with the greatest warmth. And if this book will not impress you… then I give up.