The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

Finders Keepers by Stephen King (Book Review)

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
Finders Keepers is the second volume in a trilogy focusing on Detective Bill Hodges, following Mr. Mercedes. The book is about the murder of reclusive writer John Rothstein (an amalgamation of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J. D. Salinger), his missing notebooks and the release of his killer from prison after 35 years.

My Thoughts:

I found the first book in this trilogy, Mr Mercedes, very enjoyable (I reviewed it HERE). Stephen King managed to create some of his most likable characters in that book so I can see why it became a trilogy as I was, and I’m sure a lot of people were, happy to continue reading about retired detective Bill Hodges and his odd assortment of friends & now colleagues. I’ve heard good things about the final book and someone hinted that it goes a bit more supernatural, which is much more my kind of thing than a straightforward crime novel, so I’m really looking forward to reading it this year. However, I found this second book quite weak compared to the first one and slightly disappointing overall for a King novel.

I’m not going to do an in-depth review since one of my blog goals this year is to keep my book reviews short. King is easily my favorite author so, when I find a book of his slightly disappointing, it’s still likely that I enjoyed it more than a lot of books that I’ve read from other authors. That’s the case this time – I enjoyed the book but it’s certainly not as good as Mr Mercedes and is one of the more forgettable King novels compared to his other work.

I found I didn’t care about the characters in this one (a young boy, who finds the notebooks & money stolen from a murdered author, and that boy’s family). The boy’s family is struggling with money thanks to the dad being hurt by the Mercedes Killer in the first book. The Finders Keepers murderer himself is uninteresting and it takes quite a long time for Bill Hodges & his friends from the first book to even make an appearance. I kept reading & thinking “When do we get to see the Mr Mercedes characters?!”. I did like the idea of a famous author having so much material hidden away from the world and it may have been nice to actually learn a little more about this author before he was murdered at the very beginning of this novel. He seemed more interesting than the other new characters in this book.

Oh well – it’s a decent story, we get to see Bill Hodges & his friends again, and we get to now move on to the final book (which I’m hoping will be as good as the first one and doesn’t make the mistake of straying from our favorite characters too much).

My Rating: 3/5

My Top Ten Books Read In 2016

Welcome to Day Two of my annoying End-Of-Year Lists! Today I’m ranking the thirteen books that I read in 2016 (but it’s still a Top Ten as I didn’t really like the bottom three very much). As always, I rank things according to my own personal taste. For example, number 13 is a far better & more well-written book than 12 or 11 – I just enjoyed 12 & 11 slightly more. I’m also quite proud that I somehow managed to review them all (poorly, though – I suck at book reviews even more than movie reviews) so I’ve included the links to what I said about each.

So now, counting down to my very favorite, these are all the books that I read in 2016:

Three Not-So-Great:

13. Straight White Male by John Niven

12. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

11. The Death Cure by James Dashner

Top Ten Much-Better-Ones:

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

9. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

8. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

4. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

3. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

2. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

1. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Can I just say that, while I highly recommend at least my top seven, I want to give a special mention to Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. I’ve now read several of his books after wanting to find out if he was as good as his father (Stephen King). I’ve really enjoyed all his books so far but, finally, 20th Century Ghosts is one that I really loved. As with all short story collections, some stories are much stronger than others. But the best ones are fantastic!

**See you for two more end-of-year lists over the next two days. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 then will end on Friday with My Top Ten Movies Released In 2016 (going by UK release dates). 🙂

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King (Book Review)

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
The stolen Mercedes emerges from the pre-dawn fog and plows through a crowd of men and women on line for a job fair in a distressed American city. Then the lone driver backs up, charges again, and speeds off, leaving eight dead and more wounded. The case goes unsolved and ex-cop Bill Hodges is out of hope when he gets a letter from a man who loved the feel of death under the Mercedes’s wheels…

My Thoughts:

Mr Mercedes was a very enjoyable read but I have to say that, for some reason, it didn’t exactly feel like a Stephen King book to me. I do always prefer when King’s books stick more to the strange & supernatural stuff as “crime” fiction really isn’t my thing. However, this was a quick and thoroughly entertaining read with some of the most likable characters he’s ever written so I definitely plan to read the remaining two very soon.

This was just, in a way, a far less intense novel than most of his other weighty tomes. King is and always will be my favorite author so I don’t mean this in a bad way but I have to be in the right mood to start his novels as they’re such a huge commitment & tend to leave you emotionally exhausted by the end of them. Actually, that’s a good thing – it shows what a talented writer he is! But Mr Mercedes almost felt more like a light read along the lines of authors such as Dean Koontz. Don’t get me wrong – I have a weird & frustrating love of Koontz books but you always know what you’ll get from them: likable characters, predictable but fun stories (usually with a supernatural twist), and more often than not a “happily ever after” ending.

Mr Mercedes is still much darker & less predictable than a Koontz book but King has certainly written these characters in a different fashion than usual. I really liked that – the characters are memorable & easily some of my King favorites. They’ll work fantastically in a TV/film adaptation (is one still going ahead after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin? He’d have been great as Mr Mercedes). Okay – I guess I can just Google that myself! Looks like this will be a 2018 mini-series & Yelchin has been replaced by Honeymoon’s Harry Treadaway.

The central character (and star of this series of books, so he clearly survives the first two at least) is retired cop Bill Hodges. The Mercedes Killer case was never solved & still haunts him after his retirement and blah blah blah – your usual retired cop story setup. Very mainstream for King! When he receives a letter from the killer, he decides to do his own investigation without getting the police involved. The one & only thing that bothered me in this story is that he secretly works on the case with a friend of his – a teenage neighbor boy who helps him with his computer & mowing his lawn. I thought that was putting the boy in too much danger, though Hodges was always mindful of trying to keep him safe. I won’t get into spoilers too much but there are two female characters that worked really well, including one that really grows on you by the end. As for the baddie, he’s a psycho but not totally over-the-top, which often annoys me (like Negan in The Walking Dead at the moment. Okay – you’re a bad guy. We get it!). Damn – Yelchin would’ve been fantastic playing this character.

Well, I won’t say much more about the plot for those who haven’t read this yet. This is a King novel I’d recommend to those who aren’t necessarily fans of his as well as those who are. It’s a pretty straightforward crime thriller that should make for a very good mini-series. People love the retired cop crime story thing so I would think it’ll be more successful than Under The Dome, which even I got bored with & didn’t finish. I watch all King-related stuff! But Under The Dome was one of very few King books that I really didn’t like very much, due to there being so many disgustingly hateful characters. I want to like a book’s characters, so it was great to get that from Mr Mercedes. They may (so far) be a little less complex than some of King’s other characters but I’ll happily read more stories involving this unconventional group of friends & crime investigators.

My Rating: 4/5