Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CBR5 #12: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I entered into this book with a little hesitation -- sequels are always difficult, particularly when the original story is as iconic as The Shining. However, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Years after the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel, Daniel Torrence's life has gone off the rails. He's a drifting, aimless alcholic, spending his days drinking to try and dull the nightmares of his past. He uses his unique gifts to help ease the passing of hospice patients, earning him the nickname "Doctor Sleep." As it turns out, though, the universe has a plan for Daniel, and despite his efforts to resist, he will once again have to stand and fight an ancient evil. This time, however, he will have allies, some of whom are even more powerful than he is.

While this story doesn't necessarily have the terrifying power of its precursor, it's a good, solid story with likeable, sympathetic characters. Daniel Torrence is a wonderful protagonist, and Abra Stone has a special charm. The villain could have been fleshed out a little more, and I would have be interested to know more about the history of "Rose the Hat," but on the whole I was pleased. And the ending wasn't stupid, which for Stephen King (as much as I love him) is not always a given.

This is definitely not a stand-alone book--you really need to read The Shining to truly understand Doctor Sleep--but I recommend it for fans.

CBR5 #11: The Black Cathedral by L. H. Maynard

This started out as a fairly promising "Psychics investigate a troubled house" book, but the beginning was a bit slow, and bogged down by a lot of completely unnecessary personal issues. A lot of time was spent unravelling some of the history between some of the characters, but for all the time taken, I felt like I got very little real feeling of most of the personalities. The photographer is sarcastic, the psychic is naive, the extra psychic is (maybe?) jealous? There is some history between them all that is never fully explained, but just agressively hinted at. 

Eventually, things started to get good, only to take off at the speed of a runaway train. The house being investigated really starts rocking, flapping its plastic and setting off some spooky effects. Even then, there was less information I wanted (once again, the house's history was hinted at, but not detailed the way I would have liked.) The finale felt rushed and unfinished, and a lot of the carefully laid-out sub-plots seemed to go nowhere or ended totally unsatisfactorily. It feels like this book ended halfway through, and I liked it just enough to wish that it had been completed.

CBR5 #10: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

(So clearly I am not going to manage a double Cannonball this year. Or a full Cannonball. Or even a half Cannonball. But BY GOD I will at least complete the quarter, so at least I have not totally failed.)

Joyce Carol Oates's tale of Quentin P___ is unpleasant. And I know it's supposed to be that way--after all it's a dip into the mind of a serial killer--but it's more than that. He is the antagonist of his own story, making the reader into the protagonist. You spend your time reading his diary, and begin to get the creepy feeling that this is something you should never have seen. Quentin is not likable. You don't root for him as you do with Dexter or Hannibal Lector or even Patrick Bateman. Quentin is all the violence but none of the charm. I found myself rooting AGAINST him, rather than for him, and spent most of my time completely revolted. I suppose that's an indication that Oates did her job in making this character so real that he overwhelms the reader, but success doesn't necessarily lead to enjoyment, and this book left me with the strong desire to take a hot shower and never open it again.