Horror

Book Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

With the recent release of The Dark Tower (2017), I became interested in the book series that inspired the movie. I already knew the books would likely take a different direction from the film, and I was prepared for them. Up until now, I’ve enjoyed many of King’s other works, including The Shining, On Writing , and The Green Mile. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Gunslinger; it’s more that most of his books have not been part of a larger series. I still want to know what happens in the next book of the Dark Tower series, so The Gunslinger certainly succeeded in that aspect.

Stephen King’s talent for description is in high form here as he crafts a world unlike our own but still linked to it via the wandering boy, Jake. Considering King’s background in describing all sorts of evil creatures and villains, the calm and calculating “Man in Black” is more terrifying than any violent antagonist, mostly with how psychological he is in his assaults against the eponymous Gunslinger. I also found following the main character of the Gunslinger led to an exciting journey as he overcomes the hurdles that prevent him from accomplishing his goal.

I understand that the first book in a series has a heavy burden to bear. It must introduce the characters and enough of their backstory to understand their motivation. It must also have a hook and be interesting enough by itself to warrant further reading. I probably could have done without some of the flashbacks and/or hallucination/memories, as they almost distracted from the action. I also felt this book didn’t necessarily cover enough ground, but I suppose that’s what the next books in the series will do: flesh out the conflict between the Gunslinger and the Man in Black.

A good foundation for a series that I hope improves over time; I give The Gunslinger 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Green Mile

The Green Mile
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

While most people might not realize Stephen King wrote The Green Mile, I was completely unaware that the original version of this book was released serially—much like Charles Dickens used to do with his books. The novelty of experimenting with this format is somewhat lost now that the volumes are collected together to create a whole narrative. Even so, King is still the master of his craft, even if there’s minimal “horror” contained within the walls of this prison. At least, it’s an expected horror through the system of capital punishment, and not tied to the terror of the unknown.

Even though I enjoyed this story for its characters and plot, one element stuck out like a sore thumb: the framing via the retirement home. Sure, there’s a neat twist involved near the end, but so often the narrative would pull away from the time period in the prison to show some parallels to retirement living in a distracting way. I don’t think this added much to the story and it seemed to be more of a diversion than a benefit to the plot as a whole. Either way, these moments are few and far between, which helps move the action along.

Overall, King’s descriptive writing brought much of the book to vivid life. His imaginative ideas and foreshadowing give the reader just enough information to figure out the real culprit of the crimes mere pages before the characters themselves were able to. Each of the characters is unique and has their own qualities that causes you to either love or hate them—depending on who they are. Even if you’re not a fan of Stephen King’s other works, I highly suggest you read The Green Mile, regardless.

A fantastic non-horror Stephen King novel, I give The Green Mile 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres: 

Book Review: Ganymede

Ganymede
Author: 
Priest, Cherie
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Now that I’ve read the first three books in the Clockwork Century series, any hope I had of some cohesive narrative is essentially gone. While following a new character for each book helps to provide a different setting of the steampunk alternate universe, when I know these characters won’t matter outside their own books, I kind of stop caring about them. Even previous heroines are relegated to cameo and minor character status as the persistent series of somewhat pointless events drags on. And don’t even get me started on the zombies, which are a distraction to any actual story in my opinion.

I think the main problem I have with these books is the fact that things happen without much lead-up or foreshadowing. Sure, there are some fascinating factors involved with making a submarine work in the Civil War era, but the resulting battle and conclusion went exactly as I expected them to. This isn’t foreshadowing as much as it is conforming to clichés. There doesn’t seem to be much at stake in any of the character arcs, which is made all the more prevalent by the relatively uninteresting characters themselves. Some have distinguishable quirks, but they all feel flat in a world that could be that much more interesting.

As for the “twist” near the end involving one of the characters, I feel it was poorly executed, let alone unnecessary. Considering the medical techniques at the time, even in an alternate universe, the individual in question probably didn’t have the necessary “assets” to convincingly pull this deception off. If anything, it was only hidden via clothing, but since there were no hints or foreshadowing about this surprisingly minor character, I had no way to even know if anything was off to begin with. I can believe that some of them might exist in that timeframe, but it just felt like a cheap add-in for the sake of “inclusion.”

Another steampunk book in a series that isn’t going anywhere, I give Ganymede 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Cask of Amontillado

The Cask of Amontillado
Author: 
Poe, Edgar Allan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This isn’t a full length book but rather a short piece of writing - the first I read of Poe’s but by far the most entertaining. The piece is set in an unnamed Italian city during the Carnival season and depicts the protagonist, Montresor, inviting Fortunato, a former friend, to a wine tasting in his cellar. Fortunato previously insulted Montresor and this invitation isn’t one of forgiveness, but revenge. The language isn’t difficult to understand as most pieces from the 1800's are and there isn’t any research needed to be done beforehand in order to read this piece. The Cask of Amontillado possesses a dark, morbid theme which is entertaining depending on the audiences interests, for example, if increasingly horrifying character behavior is something that surprises you. I felt a range of emotions from suspicious to terrified throughout the piece and if there are any audiobooks you can get your hands on, that definitely assists in terms of establishing a more realistic setting. When I listened to the audiobook, echoes of their voices and droplets of water dripping from the ceiling of the damp cellar were included to contribute to an overall eeriness.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella W.

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: 
Wilde, Oscar
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I read this novel on a whim - I had never read any of Wilde before and did not know too much about him as an author apart from the fact he was put on trial and imprisoned during his life. The Picture of Dorian Gray was thoroughly surprising and unexpected. Dorian Gray, at the beginning of the novel, is perceived by Basil Hallward as an individual worth obsessing over, he is infatuated with him and without knowing Dorian yet, the reader is too.
But then the reader is introduced to him physically and I realized he isn't all that. He's almost pompous but somehow clever and he's beautiful. Both Basil and his friend Lord Henry Wotton are influenced to see him more positively by that but I think the fact that Dorian is not tangible to the reader allows us to see him for who he truely is. According to Lord Henry, beauty is worth more than genius is, depicting which friend he prefers over the other. I wanted to sympathize with Basil because he was more sensitive than the others and I felt pity for him as I realized he was not a character anyone particularly cared immensely for. I preferred Basil over both Henry and Dorian because Henry's beliefs appeared rather traditionalist and were more controversial than common and the fact that Dorian was supposed to be a character without any fault was already a warning for me. Honestly, from the title, I did not know what direction the novel was going in from any point during the reading. To clear a few things up, Basil is an artist who paints a portrait of Dorian because he appreciates him in a more aesthetic manner than others who enjoy his company but the portrait appears to change into something more demonic as time goes on symbolizing how awful Dorian was becoming as a person. I mean, I needed to stop reading for a few minutes because I could not believe how little Dorian cared for others but I will admit that the absurdity of it all was entertaining. There is a lot of murder in this book which definitely makes the novel more interesting but then I guess I should also mention not get too attached to some characters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella W.

Book Review: I Am Legend and Other Stories

I Am Legend and Other Stories
Author: 
Matheson, Richard
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

After listening to this audiobook, it became abundantly clear why this story was adapted into a movie on three separate occasions (the most recent being the 2007 movie of the same name). While this latest adaptation didn’t seem to emphasize the “vampire-ness” of the creatures as much as its source material, many of the elements of the story were still present. In fact, I now prefer the original story, as its prose was almost poetic at times in its descriptions of the main character’s struggle to survive. While the ending wasn’t particularly satisfying in either incarnation, the plot development was superb.

I appreciated how the author was able to strip away the superstition that surrounds vampires and look at these fantastical creatures in a more logical and scientific light. Why do vampires hate garlic? Why does a stake through the heart kill them? Do crosses work against vampires who are Jewish or Muslim? His explanations of these well-known trappings of the vampire were as interesting in their revelation as they were in their research. Almost makes me wish that other “horror monsters” had the same treatment since it helps to make their existence somewhat more plausible.

As for the “other stories” included in this audiobook, it soon becomes clear that Matheson is a master of the macabre. Even if the remaining stories don’t necessarily pack the same impact of I Am Legend, many of them are entertaining enough to round out the experience. The narrator’s voice acting certainly added to the characterizations of these other stories, even if seemed a little over the top at times. Overall, these other stories might have been somewhat unnecessary, as I Am Legend can hold its own by itself. Still, the whole collection was entertaining, so I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to read horror.

A poetic and logical examination of a vampire-induced apocalypse, I give I Am Legend and Other Stories 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres: 

Book Review: The Shining

The Shining
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

One of the scariest and most tense books ever written, The Shining is a novel that will grab you by the neck and will not let go until you have turned the last page. The book is about Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who takes a position as the off-season caretaker at a Colorado Hotel. However, he soon goes insane from cabin fever and tries to kill his family. I personally loved this book. The suspense that it is able to build is incredible. The characters are all fleshed out and unique, and the book is truly terrifying. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the best Stephen King book. I would recommend it to Stephen King or horror fans.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C.
Genres: 

Book Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

While Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have had their moments as fantasy epics, I believe that The Gunslinger, and indeed, the whole series, deserves to be placed right next to Tolkien's masterpieces as one of the greatest fantasy books/series of all time. Taking place in a medieval world that is somewhat similar to the Old West, but exists in a parallel time frame to our own, we follow the journey of Roland of Gilead as he travels across this universe in search of the nexus of the universe--The Dark Tower. The novel is filled with adventure, intrigue, suspense, humor, and action that keeps you reading, no matter what. While not a traditional horror novel like King is known for, it is still a worthy addition to the King collection. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great fantasy book series to read, or any Stephen King fan.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Review: 'Salem's Lot

Salem's Lot
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

One of King's most famous books, Salem's Lot is a story about vampires that doesn't exactly rival King's other books in terms of plot and suspense. However, it's still a great book that is very enjoyable. The book is about a vampire that eventually turns the entire town into vampires themselves, and a small group consisting of a doctor, a priest, a writer, and a little boy all fight back against the outbreak. The book does a good job of building up the villain and the characters, but the horror is not exactly the preliminary theme here. Instead, it is more focused on the drama and action, which is fine, but for an author who is famous for his horror novels, this book was slightly underwhelming. However, I would still recommend it to Stephen King fans or anyone looking for a good book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Review: The Stand

The Stand
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

After a super virus wipes out almost 90% of the entire global population, only a handful of survivors remain. That is where The Stand takes place; an America devoid of almost all human life, as the survivors attempt to rebuild their society, all while battling the sadistic Walkin' Dude who is out to destroy them. The novel is long, epic, and deep. It is, however, over 1,000 pages; however, give it time, and you will truly enjoy this journey. I would recommend this book to fans of epics like Lord of the Rings, Stephen King fans, or anyone looking for a good read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Horror