Monday, October 18, 2010

Wednesday 13th

Earlier on this year we went to a ‘bring and buy sale’ at someone’s house in Makrigialos. I purchased various plants whilst Caroline picked up a copy of Stephen King’s Duma Key for 50 cents. A couple of weeks ago I picked up that book and started reading, wondering how long it would be before I put it aside again. King has been a disappointment in recent years; his books steadily suffering from an increasing case of bloat. The last I struggled through was Dreamcatcher, which I finished in the sure knowledge that a Peter Lavery pencil would have excised about a third of it. Yet I remember my enjoyment of those earlier books, like The Dead Zone, and how, in my opinion, some of his short stories are the best I’ve ever read.

It is a shame when writers think they have outgrown their editors, when writers start to think they know more than people who are effectively professional readers. It is also a shame when a publisher gives in to a writer who has grown in power or, alternatively, decides what the hell, the name will sell the book so who gives a toss about editing? We’ve all seen the products of these processes, and felt the disappointment.

Duma Key grabbed me and held on, right to the end. Apart from a bit of unclearly visualized monster silliness I enjoyed it very much and felt that King had returned to doing well the stuff he does. The book had that creepy feel with its ‘heart in the mouth’ moments, its ‘laugh out loud’ moments and its moments of ‘now that would make me cry if I wasn’t so macho – sniffle’. After I’d finished it I therefore picked up a book Caroline had bought on the strength of a recommendation from Amazon, and because she hadn’t read something from him in a while. I had been tending to avoid it, seeing as it was the size of a breeze block.

Under the Dome started well and I liked the idea behind it of a small town being cut off from the rest of the world by a force-field. I was also quite surprised when reading the the high praise from various critics to find only one ‘serious ecological undertow’ comment and nary a reference to global warming. Quite refreshing. I then roared through the first hundred or so pages hoping for a stonking good story like The Stand, which this had been compared to, but started to lose headway through the next hundred pages. Reading the hundred pages after that I began to get that ‘oh get on with it’ feeling, and these pages took me only a third of the way in. Another six hundred pages of this to go.

I began to skip bits. Did I really need to know all those details about that person’s life? Yeah, we’ve established that those guys are nasty, can we move on? Erm, where’s the thread of this story gone? Now entering the last three hundred pages I still want to know what will happen and find that reading about one sentence per page keeps my finger on the sluggish pulse. Another bloater. If Dreamcatcher had been cut by a third that would have been no loss, in fact, a considerable gain. Half of Under the Dome needed big black pencil lines through it, whole sections outlined and scribbled over and a warren of bunny rabbits sketched in the margins.


Graeme said...

The Cell was also in a word "shite". Fantastic start, really scary potential, it caught the idea of a Cell phone based disaster bang on, and then just got incredibly silly, and didn't have an end. Very odd, just sort of lost up it's own rectum.

Mark T Croucher said...

Have to say Neal I have to disagree with you. I read sci-fi 98% of the time. I read any James Herbert as I am huge fan and the occasional fantasy book if desperate. However I read the Dome about 3 months ago and have to say I thought the characters back stories and such added to the interest of a book that was only ever going to have a weak ending. I should state for the record though I run scared of Kings books normally as the shitty films out weigh the good ones so my judgement isn't really based from his written work anyway.

I just finished Dreaming Void by Peter Hamilton and after 3 such tombs I could say the same of his work. Getting very very wordy and at the end of the day the climax just does not hold up to the near 2500 pages you have read previously. Size is not an issue in my opinion (book wise!), the plot has to have a satisfying finale otherwise what's the point?

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the "JK Rowling Effect". Also seen in most Stephen Donaldson books (the only one which I still own does sterling service as a doorstop); reams and reams of pointless verbiage which doesn't really advance the plot but does make the book a bugger to hold and a pain to print and bind.