Review of Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

November 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
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skeletonSkeleton Crew
By Stephen King; Narrated by Stephen King, Matthew Broderick, Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Will Patton, Norbert Leo Butz, Lois Smith, Dylan Baker
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 5 July 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 22 hours, 37 minutes

Themes: / short stories / horror /

Publisher summary:

The master at his scarifying best! From heart-pounding terror to the eeriest of whimsy – tales from the outer limits of one of the greatest imaginations of our time!

In “The Mist”, a supermarket becomes the last bastion of humanity as a peril beyond dimension invades the earth.

Touch “The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands”, and say your prayers.

There are some things in attics that are better left alone – things like “The Monkey”.

The most sublime woman driver on earth offers a man “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” to paradise.

A boy’s sanity is pushed to the edge when he’s left alone with the odious corpse of “Gramma”.

If you were stunned by Gremlins, the Fornits of “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet” will knock your socks off.

Trucks that punish and beautiful teen demons who seduce a young man to massacre; curses whose malevolence grows through the years; obscene presences and angels of grace – here, indeed, is a night-blooming bouquet of chills and thrills.

Review:

I’m not generally a fan of short stories, but I am a big fan of Stephen King. I’ve read two collections by him prior to this one: Hearts in Atlantis and Different Seasons. I thought both of them were stronger collections. The main difference is those contain fewer, but longer stories I think.

This one has been on my radar for a long time, in particular because of The Mist, which is the first (and longest) story. It’s actually a Novella, where the rest are short stories. It’s supposed to have “major” ties to his Dark Tower series, and one of the few in that category I haven’t read already. Personally I found it being a “major” connection to be a stretch, especially compared with most of the others. So if like me, you’re wanting to read all the associated works, I personally think you can skip this one without much issue.

There are 3 stories worth calling out for this collection of 22 (although calling 2 of them stories is overly generous). The best story was probably Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut. I thought it was fantastic. I also really enjoyed The Monkey and Gramma.

Paranoid: A Chant and For Owen round out the bottom. I guess if you have little fragments of writing you think are interesting, sticking them in such a large collection is the best way to publish them, but I think the collection would have been stronger without them personally.

As to the rest you can consult my list of ratings below.

Audio
This book has 13 unique narrators, some of them reading several stories. Will Patton, Frances Sternhagen, Paul Giamatti, and Norbert Leo Butz were the best narrators of the group. None of the narrators were bad, but most of them were unmemorable. You can see my full ratings below for each performance.

Ratings
StoryStory RatingNarratorNarrator Rating

The Mist – 3 – Will Patton- 4.5
Here There Be Tygers – 2.5 – Kyle Beltran – 3
The Monkey – 4.5 – Matthew Broderick – 3
Cain Rose Up – 1.5 – Kyle Beltran – 3
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut – 4.5 – Dana Ivey – 3.5
The Jaunt – 3 – Robert Petkoff – 3
The Wedding Gig – 2.5 – Paul Giamatti – 4
Paranoid: A Chant – 1 – Will Patton – 3
The Raft – 3 – Stephen King – 3
Word Processor of the Gods – 3.5 – Norbert Leo Butz – 3.5
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands – 2 – Paul Giamatti – 4
Beachworld – 2.5 – Michael C. Hall – 3
The Reaper’s Image – 2 – David Morse – 3
Nona – 3 – Norbert Leo Butz – 3.5
For Owen – 1.5 – David Morse – 3
Survivor Type – 2.5 – Norbert Leo Butz – 3.5
Uncle Otto’s Truck – 3 – David Morse – 3
Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1) – 3 – Dylan Baker – 3
Big Wheels: A Tale of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2) – 3 – Dylan Baker – 3
Gramma – 4 – Frances Sternhagen – 4.5
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet – 3.5 – Michael C. Hall – 3
The Reach – 2.5 – Lois Smith – 3

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Finders Keepers by Stephen King

August 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Finders Keepers by Stephen KingFinders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2)
By Stephen King; Read by: Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 2 June 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours, 5 minutes

Themes: / suspense / thriller / horror /

Publisher summary:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Despite a bit of a slow start, I think I liked this one slightly better than Mr. Mercedes. It’s hard to put my finger on why. Morris Bellamy isn’t nearly as terrifying as Brady Hartsfield, but he’s still a fascinating character. I really enjoyed Pete Sauberg as well.

It might be the premise of this that I think is better. It all centers around reading, and obsession with fictional worlds/characters. That is something I can understand to a lot more than a crazy person with mommy issues.

The first half or so focuses largely on the new characters. For me, things really stepped up once we get back to Bill, Holly, and Jerome. I especially love Holly. She might be one of my favorite characters than Mr. King has written.

Much like its predecessor, this book is certainly more thriller or mystery than Horror. Often times people see Stephen King’s name on a book and assume horror.

The book geek in me really wants to read the Jimmy Gold novels. Or at least the plot summaries. We get dribs and drabs of it as the book unfolds, but not a ton. They sound more literary than my usual fare, but it would be interesting to see Mr. King do a more in depth write-up on the series within the series.

Will Patton is a perfect fit for this series. He does a bit of voices for some of the characters, but really it’s just his normal reading voice that is just the right tone.

Overall, another solid novel from King that makes for great summer reading, and I’m already looking forward to the final novel in the trilogy.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

September 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Mr. Mercedes by Stephen KingMr. Mercedes
By Stephen King; Narrated by Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 22 minutes

Themes: / suspense / thriller / horror /

Publisher summary:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

I think last year’s Joyland was one of my favorite Stephen King novels in awhile, meaning this book had a lot to live up to. I don’t this one is nearly as good, but I think most fans of Mr. King will find this enjoyable. Most of the novels by Mr. King I read have some sense of the fantastical to them. This one doesn’t. It’s straight up horror/thriller. No supernatural beings or unexplained phenomena here. That might be why I didn’t like it as much.

The premise is pretty straightforward. A decorated retired cop whose depression is suddenly shelved after being taunted by the perpetrator of one his most high profile unsolved cases. The killer murdered a crowd of people, including a baby using a big stolen gray Mercedes. They are a lot of psychological elements as both cop and criminal attempt to out think one another. While the majority of the story is told from Retired Detective Bill Hodges point of view, we are also given numerous chapters told from the killer’s perspective as well.

The story itself is nothing that special. Where this book shines (as usual) is in the characters. Mr. King always seems to write the most realistic and interesting characters. They aren’t necessarily someone you’d want to hang out with or even know, but they are the type that make it hard to look away (or in this case stop listening to the book).

Holly and Jerome are both memorable characters to add depth to the duel between our retired detective and the killer who got away. I especially enjoyed Holly’s character.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but far from a must read.

Will Patton seems to be an excellent fit for this story. His natural reading voice just seems to suit the tone of the book. He doesn’t really do voices, but you can tell his characters apart. I’m not sure how I’d like him as a narrator in general, but for this book, he’s an excellent choice.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

October 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Doctor Sleep by Stephen KingDoctor Sleep (The Shining #2)
By Stephen King; Read by Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 24 September 2013
ISBN: 9781442362390
[UNABRIDGED] – 18 hours, 35 minutes

Themes: / Horror / Paranormal / Thriller / Ghosts / Alcoholism /

Publisher summary:

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

I’m not a fan of sequels. I’m not really sure The Shining needed a sequel. Sure there were lingering questions about Danny and Wendy at the end, but they weren’t critical in my mind. That said, Mr. King’s novels tend to interconnect on several levels, so I was curious to see what he would do in a sequel to one of his most popular books.

Doctor Sleep is a very different book from its predecessor. The shining plays a key role of course, but I would categorize this book more as Paranormal Thriller rather than Horror. I would however recommend you read/reread The Shining before this though.

The first part of the book catches you up with Danny, his mother and Dick Halloran, and then proceeds to catch us up to Danny in the present day.

Unfortunately for Danny, Mr. King is a big believer in like father like son. Danny has become an alcoholic and has the same anger issues Jack struggled with in the first story. It hard to blame him given his traumatic childhood coupled with the horrors being so strong in the shinning has exposed to him.

A good part of this story felt like an advertisement for the Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not sure if that’s how Mr. King got himself sober, but it certainly seems like it, as he talks about it to excess. It does make for an interesting idea of “what might have happened if Jack Torrence sought help?”, but I could have done with less time being spent on that aspect of the story.

Keeping with his themes of the cyclical nature of life, the other main protagonist is a young girl who is even stronger in the shinning than Danny was in his youth.

We are also introduced to the True Knot, a pack of “physic vampires” that are near immortal by traveling the country and feeding on the shinning for their longevity. Can you guess where this is going? I could.

So it wasn’t the most unpredictable of stories, but in many ways I enjoyed it more then The Shining. I’m not a big horror fan. This book explores the shining in much greater detail than its namesake novel. Mr. King introduces some well developed new characters, and doesn’t just retell the same story again with minor changes like many sequels tend to.

Mr. Patton does an excellent job reading this book. He has many distinct voices and accents that adds a little something to the story. I was surprised they used a different reader than the The Shining, but as it turned out to be a fairly different book, I think it was a good decision.

So will you like it? If you’re a big horror fan hoping that Mr. King can scare the hell out of you again, probably not. If you’re like me and enjoy the fantastical nature of Mr. King’s novels then you just might.

Review by Rob Zak.