An Arthur Dent waiting to happen (beldar) wrote in trubookreviews,
An Arthur Dent waiting to happen

A good bool

A few weeks back I finished "Lisey's Story" by Stephen King. I won't say I read it, because I listened to the unabridged audiobook, read by Mare Winningham. (I listen to audiobooks during my commute to and from work.)

So, it's like I've read the whole book, but not. Winningham does an excellent job in performing this story, and I can only imagine what strain it put on her mind considering the affect it had on me while listening. The thing about hearing a supernatural-horror novel rather than reading it is that you can't look away from the text, the voice keeps coming at you with the next paragraph, the next passage. You could stop it by hitting "pause" but you don't want to do that, you just want to slow the pace of your absorption of the story, but you can't. The audiobook producers set the pace, and you must deal with it, with the movie running in your head.

That's the thing about King when he's on his game. He so ably puts the images into your head that when the inevitable film comes out, it's like a remake, a rerun at best. And King is mostly on his game here.

A good novel affects the reader, but for a while this one set my mind off-balance like a mis-loaded washing machine. It doesn't take long to get into the bad gunky. While King has promised he wouldn't have a popular horror writer be the central character anymore (hey, write what you know, eh?), he fudges a bit and makes the central character the popular horror writer's wife -- or to be accurate, his widow, set a few years after the writer's death.

(It could be argued that the author character is central throughout anyway. But as the end of the book strives to prove, this is her story. It's even printed on the front cover.)

But to the bad gunky: Not far into the narrative, we dredge up a memory that reveals the origin and importance of the silver spade. Its importance grows throughout the book, until its final use becomes not so much predictable (and it is, this isn't all positive critique) as inevitable.

Then we encounter the quiet madness of Lisey's sister, and as we are processing that, there comes the dead cat in the mailbox. The sender will eventually show up, a character reminiscent of the baddie in "Secret Window."

To save herself and her sibling, Lisey has to do a lot of traveling through her memories, taking the reader along. We find that her world, once it becomes fused with her husband's, has aspects in which insanity is the norm, especially when looking back to his disturbing childhood. To understand these places we must experience them for ourselves, up to and including the dangerous alternative reality to which one must escape when caught in a blood bool.

You may notice odd words dropping in. That's part of the madness. Language gets altered until, before you smucking know it, you are sucked into that reality with the characters. It's the method of the madness -- by the time you are introduced to the secrets of Boo'ya Moon, it's concept doesn't seem so silly. It becomes, for the time you are immersed in the pages or audio, as real as anything in the story.

I think this counts as one of King's better novels. It's far from perfect, though. One flaw to me was that his fractured writing style, which often helps the flow (writing whole conversations without a "he said" yet you follow perfectly) was used for a jarring effect that didn't always work. Sometimes it felt...

Sometimes it felt like he was just padding things out. Perhaps he was going for a greater sense of suspense. But suspense can be tricky.

Suspense can be tricky, especially when it feels like a gimmick. When it did work, was usually when the perspective time-shifts. At one point the story goes through three eras at once, with a flowing juxtaposition that would make Tom Stoppard blush. Lisey would have a memory of saying something.

Then Lisey is saying it, but this time in present tense, as we see the scene from the past play out. Eventually something is said.

And that something pops us back to a  more recent time, when the memory becomes important to what's happening now.

Another weakness is that things tend to get predictable toward the end. But actually this predictability helped me as I felt once again on solid ground mentally. I've trod these horror-book paths before. Everything will be OK. Fortunately, the inevitables were fairly well written.

But there is a surprise -- once you have finally resolved the big-bad, there's still some book left! That's when you get to the final surprise (which many reviews and comments have spoiled, so I join them), that this novel is a love story. You finally see how this is all her story, and the story of a love that surpassed time and death. And it's worth all the madness to find it.

Bool. The end.

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