Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Almost Coherent Time Travel: 11/22/63 by Stephen King




11/22/63 may be one of my favorite Stephen King novels now. It's almost a coherent time-travel story (I have a few nagging doubts I'll work through below), but there's also intrigue, adventure, and romance.  It's like three or four novels in one, but running at the same time, harmonizing with each other at key points.

I'll get to the time travel business at the end (with spoilers), but first a few spoiler-free remarks about the novel overall.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Memory, Identity, and Endings: Thoughts on IT Chapter Two



IT Chapter Two was one of my most anticipated movies this year.  I enjoyed the first one, and I've developed an unexpected obsession with Stephen King in recent years.

So, what did I think?  Two main points: First, I was surprised that most critics seemed to like Chapter One better than Chapter Two, because I feel exactly the opposite way (this review is a bit more nuanced).  Maybe critics preferred Chapter One because it works better as a standalone movie apart from the book, while Chapter Two preserves one of the deepest themes of the novel about the relation between who we are as children and as adults.  My second main point: Chapter Two has a running meta-commentary on endings (also a nod to a frequent criticism of Stephen King's books), which is funny because my major issue with Chapter Two is precisely its ending.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Who Started the Fire?: Firestarter by Stephen King



Firestarter was the next stop on my tour of classic Stephen King novels, partly because I've developed a strange obsession with Stephen King's work in the last few years after hardly reading him at all for 20 years, and partly to get ready for his new one, The Institute, which is supposed to involve The Shop, or something a lot like it (The Shop is also featured in the miniseries Golden Years).  Firestarter is also one of King's more straightforwardly science fictional tales (if psychic powers can be science fiction... I guess some people have them on Star Trek).

So, how'd it go?  I took a few days to kindle a review.  Hopefully I can control the burn.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hugo 2019 Results: My Ballot versus Reality



Today I watched the 2019 Hugo Award Ceremony, which was streaming on the Hugo Awards website.  (I watched from home in Chattanooga. The ceremony took place in Dublin.)

Last month I wrote some posts about my Hugo ballot (here, here, and here).  So, how did I do picking winners?

Not too great.  You can see the full list of winners here or, if you want the full math nerd version, see here.  Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

My votes for the #1 spot only matched the actual winners in two cases: Best Novel for The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal and Best Art Book for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Is Toni Morrison's Beloved a Horror Novel?


Every summer I make a point to read one work of "Capital-L Literature" (the kind of thing I would have read if I had taken more English classes).  This summer I had decided to read Beloved, and in one of those coincidences that probably don't mean anything, the very day I was planning to start reading it, the world got the news that Toni Morrison had died.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Castle Rock as a Buddhist Hell Realm: Needful Things by Stephen King


My delightfully tattered used copy of Needful Things.
(Think of this next time you see the opening credits of Stranger Things!)

Needful Things (1991) is not my favorite Stephen King novel, but it's... engrossing and fun and well, Stephen King.  There are obvious Christian overtones about making deals with the devil, not to mention some sort of critique of greed and capitalism or maybe even contemporary resonances about Russian interference in US elections by pitting Americans against each other or how having a lot of guns around makes all of this more deadly.  These are all interesting lenses through which one might look at the novel (feel free to steal any of them if you want to develop them... I won't even charge anything or expect any nefarious favors in return).  But as I read it I started working on another angle.  What if we understand the novel as depicting a kind of Buddhist hell realm where desire, delusion, and suffering roll on in a seemingly infinite feedback loop?

Monday, August 5, 2019

Random Thoughts, Part 5


Made at: https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/

A while back I started posting collections of my random thoughts.  You can see the latest collection, Part 4, here.  You can see Part 5 right here, right now, right below!