I strayed heavily (back) into the writings of King last year. Outside of The Regulators/Desperation in 2012, it’s been 20 years since I read a King novel. Needful Things (1991) is the last work I remember reading prior to the 2012 flirtation and last year’s obsession. I blame Chris Brooks. He recommended 11-22-63, claiming it was a great read. What did I do? I listened. Thanks, mate! ;-P
The Crystal Shard (R. A. Salvatore)
This is only one of two traditional fantasy (and non-King) stories in this group! I read and enjoyed the Dark Elf trilogy (Homeland / Exile / Sojourn) a few years ago. I’ve had the Icewind Dale trilogy (The Crystal Shard / Streams of Silver / The Hafling’s Gem) queued up but never pulled the trigger on reading them. I jumped off the starting block with the first volume last year but still need to crack open the other two volumes. As with the Dark Elf books, I enjoyed reading The Crystal Shard. At the same time, there is nothing new here. It is traditional, straight forward fantasy fare. Fans of the character will enjoy and it fulfills that occasional guilty pleasure of reading a swashbuckling fantasy adventure. Jim’s score: B.
11-22-63 (Stephen King)
This is King’s take on time travel and it is not without merit! What would have happened if the JFK assassination was averted? Read this to find out! 😀 It doesn’t reach the heights of The Shining, The Stand, or It, but it is a good read. Jim’s score: B+.
The Shining & Doctor Sleep (Stephen King)
The Shining is King at his best. I re-read this as a precursor to reading, Doctor Sleep, the sequel. Both are great rides but The Shining is, without question, one of the top three books he has ever published. Yes, there is paranormal stuff going on here but watching Jack spiral out of control as his sanity unravels is an amazing piece of writing. In the followup, we learn how Danny’s life turns out and, while different, is a worthwhile read for fans of the original. Jim’s score: A+ (The Shining), B+ (Doctor Sleep).
The Eyes of the Dragon (Stephen King)
This is one of the first non-horror novels King wrote and received considerable criticism since it was outside what everyone (fans and critics) expected from him. It is a solid, young adult fantasy novel with a very clear good versus evil theme. I read it in my run-up to start reading The Dark Tower series since it features (Randall) Flagg as the antagonist who also turns up as the bad guy in The Stand and The Dark Tower novels. Jim’s score: B.
It (Stephen King)
It was another re-read. This, too, was another reading in preparation for starting down the road to The Dark Tower. Like The Shining, it’s been nearly 30 years since I read this and had forgotten how good his material from the ’70s and ’80s was. Beyond the scary monster, King incorporates a number of themes including the magic of imagination and the power of friendship. Jim’s score: A.
The Little Sisters of Eluria (Stephen King)
A short story about Roland sometime before the beginning of The Gunslinger. Jim’s score: B.
The Gunslinger (Stephen King)
The Gunslinger is the first of The Dark Tower novels and concerns Roland as he chases Walter (aka the man in black aka Randall Flagg) across the world. Just as important, though, is what we learn about Roland through flashbacks and reminiscences as the chase unfolds. Jim’s score: A-.
Thoughts on 2015
Without a doubt, more King. I’ve already finished the second book of The Dark Tower and am more than half done with the third. Based on my Dark Tower plan, I will meander through a considerable amount of related material before I am finished and not all of that will be this year. I may knock out the remaining two volumes of the Icewind Dale trilogy and will probably read The Slow Regard for Silent Things while I await the third entry in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.
That’s all I have for 2014! Drop me a line with your recommendations. I’m always looking for great new reads in science fiction and fantasy!