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Author Topic: Any BOOK readers out there?  (Read 3174 times)

C. Shawn Smith

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Any BOOK readers out there?
« on: November 09, 2011, 08:04:00 pm »

*Warning: WALL OF TEXT!!!*

Everyone who's a regular here knows I dabble in writing (I should have something "preliminary," maybe just a couple of chapters, in an Outerra game novella I can post, soon).  But I'm also a prolific reader, or used to be when I was much younger and my eyesight and attention span was a lot better than it is now.  Old age and a son can do that to you.

Regardless, although my tastes run a variety of genres, I used to have a passion for the early Stephen King novels.  I don't know when my love affair with those books ended, but there was a day I "woke up" and realized that every single book that he published after about 1988 was a rehash of every other book he'd ever written, especially when he got into the "Derry" and "Bangor" novels.  Although I still enjoyed them, I was less than pleased about his trite plots and cliches that kept happening over and over again, not to mention him adding characters from one novel into another that was completely unrelated.  I consoled myself to the fact that he was setting up a mythology of "King's World," but it always rubbed me the wrong way.

Until now.

His latest book, 11/22/63, is in a completely different style and genre than he's done previously, and I've actually been impressed by it (so impressed, I read half of it last night, in one sitting).  It's about a man who is able to travel back in time to 1958, and who is tasked with preventing the Kennedy assassination.

While his writing style is somewhat the same, there's a certain difference to it that reminds me of the differences between Carrie and The Shining, two of his best works if you like this sort of novel.  But in 11/22/63, it's so different it's like I'm reading a different author at times (although the King-ness leaks through in a couple of spots, especially when he revisits Derry and introduces two of the characters from his book IT).

Regardless, there's a certain charm in the language of his novel, and the main character.  Yes, he still has tons of trite prose and cliched subplots (a teacher turning into a cold-blooded murderer inside of one chapter????  Give me a break!), but the story is there, and I'm enjoying it.

He has portrayed the Texas of 1958-1963 only marginally successfully (his biggest mistake is the Don't Mess With Texas reference, which didn't come about until about 1985 or 1986, during the anti-litter campaign, but it rears its ugly head in the late 50's in the King novel).  But some of his descriptions of the cities of that era (and how they currently are) is just about spot on.  Only his characters and their language are a bit over-the-top.

Not to say I'm a lover of Texas and Dallas.  I'm not a Texan, I only live here.  And I certainly have my issues with the state as a whole, but this is where I am at the moment, and enjoy a few of its charms when I can.

Bleh, got side-tracked there a bit.

Anyway, I've found his historical facts and the basic plot interesting, even though I don't currently like the author as a whole anymore.  I'd definitely recommend it if you're into King and haven't read it yet, or if you're into the whole time travel/scifi/alternate history kind of thing.  There's a couple of interesting spins he has that smacks of Deus Ex Machina (I know Cameni just closed his browser after I said that ... Angrypig probably shut off his computer  :P ;D), but on the whole I've been enjoying it for a change of pace.

Anyone else read it?  I'd be curious to know your thoughts.

An excerpt from his description of Dallas, which I find both amusing and begrudgingly accurate:

Quote
I spent August and September of that presidential election year driving the Sunliner around Dallas, apartment-hunting (even after all this time sorely missing my GPS unit and frequently stopping to ask for directions). Nothing seemed right. At first I thought that was about the apartments themselves. Then, as I began to get a better sense of the city, I realized it was about me.

The simple truth was that I didn’t like Dallas, and eight weeks of hard study was enough to make me believe there was a lot not to like. The Times Herald (which many Dallas-ites routinely called the Slimes Herald ) was a tiresome juggernaut of nickel boosterism. The Morning News might wax lyrical, talking about how Dallas and Houston were “in a race to the heavens,” but the skyscrapers of which the editorial spoke were an island of architectural blah surrounded by rings of what I came to think of as The Great American Flatcult. The newspapers ignored the slum neighborhoods where the divisions along racial lines were just beginning to melt a little. Further out were endless middle-class housing developments, mostly owned by veterans of World War II and Korea. The vets had wives who spent their days Pledging the furniture and Maytagging the clothes. Most had 2.5 children. The teenagers mowed lawns, delivered the Slimes Herald on bicycles, Turtle Waxed the family car, and listened (furtively) to Chuck Berry on transistor radios. Maybe telling their anxious parents he was white.

Beyond the suburban houses with their whirling lawn-sprinklers were those vast flat tracts of empty. Here and there rolling irrigators still serviced cotton crops, but mostly King Cotton was dead, replaced by endless acres of corn and soybeans. The real Dallas County crops were electronics, textiles, bullshit, and black money petro-dollars. There weren’t many derricks in the area, but when the wind blew from the west, where the Permian Basin is, the twin cities stank of oil and natural gas.

The downtown business district was full of sharpies hustling around in what I came to think of as the Full Dallas: checked sport coats, narrow neckwear held down with bloated tie clips (these clips, the sixties version of bling, usually came with diamonds or plausible substitutes sparkling in their centers), white Sansabelt pants, and gaudy boots with complex stitching. They worked in banks and investment companies. They sold soybean futures and oil leases and real estate to the west of the city, land where nothing would grow except jimson and tumbleweed. They clapped each other on the shoulders with beringed hands and called each other son. On their belts, where businessmen in 2011 carry their cell phones, many carried handguns in hand-tooled holsters.

There were billboards advocating the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren; billboards showing a snarling Nikita Khrushchev (NYET, COMRADE KHRUSHCHEV, the billboard copy read, WE WILL BURY YOU!); there was one on West Commerce Street that read THE AMERICAN COMMUNIST PARTY FAVORS INTEGRATION. THINK ABOUT IT! That one had been paid for by something called The Tea Party Society. Twice, on businesses whose names suggested they were Jewish-owned, I saw soaped swastikas.

I didn’t like Dallas. No sir, no ma’am, no way. I hadn’t liked it from the moment I checked into the Adolphus and saw the restaurant maître d’ gripping a cringing young waiter by the arm and shouting into his face. Nevertheless, my business was here, and here I would stay. That was what I thought then.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 08:06:38 pm by C. Shawn Smith »
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RaikoRaufoss

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Re: Any BOOK readers out there?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2011, 08:21:43 pm »

I've got to say, I love King's sense of humor.  I've never liked the South myself, their mudslinging hit us Midwesterners rather frequently prior to the Civil War.  Plus it's too warm.  As for me, I stick to non-fiction.  I highly recommend Len Deighton's military histories, once you start reading them, you won't be able to stop.
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C. Shawn Smith

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Re: Any BOOK readers out there?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2011, 01:55:31 am »

I agree whole-heartedly on King's sense of humor.  I have that same dark side humor myself (don't get me started lol).

My family is originally from Alabama, and my father was there when MLK walked across the Edmond-Petus bridge.  But despite being from Alabama, my parents were a very progressive couple, liberal any many respects, Southern-Baptist conservative in others.  So I had a very interesting upbringing, in which they taught me to think for myself, much to their consternation at times.

The atmosphere in Texas, as well as much of the South, rubs me the wrong way.  There's reasons I have to stay in Texas at this time, which I won't get into, but there are pockets of Texas, and a couple of other states I'd much rather live in right now.  Austin is progressive, and open, as much as Seattle, WA, and parts of CA.  But as much as despise Texas at times (and King's description nailed it for me), I'm not "unhappy" I'm living here.  There are some cool things here that he didn't touch on.

My brother's an afficianado of the American Civil War.  I can take it in small bites, but it's interesting nonetheless.  He's also a student of military history, so I'll have to ask him if he's read Len Deighton.  I can't take it much because of the Buddhist in me (yet I still play wargames like BF3???  How's that for an oxymoron?).

I just read another 20% or so of King's novel.  It's an alternative history novel, if you have to peg it to a genre, but when my mother called me tonight in a critical moment, the cell phone ringing made me jump out of my boots.  There's a certain horror aspect to it as well that I didn't realize until that very moment.  You're literally reliving a "possible" moment in American history, and one that had wide-ranging repercussions.

I'm still impressed, because this in a lot of ways is NOT a Stephen King novel.  It makes me respect his fictional prowess again, where I lost sight of it once before (probably shortly after reading IT ... the worst book and I think the beginning of his downfall).

Although I have to correct that too ... he did a good novella/short story about baseball that I need to revisit.  That one showed the genius he seemed to have lost as well.
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What we think, we become -- Buddha
There is no spoon -- Neo, The Matrix
The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. -- Carl Sagan
Outerra is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. -- Me :)
- Yes, I'm still around ... just been busy with other projects ;)