Stephen King biography and books reviewed

Stephen King, the American author of horror and fantasy books was born in Portland in 1947. His first writing steps were taken when attending the University of Maine, he wrote a column for the school's newspaper.

Although chiefly know for his horror books he has also written several fantasy novels, The Dark Tower being his magnum opus and the fantasy work that he is currently best known for.

... on the Dark Tower series

King's magnificent uberstory is finally complete... King's achievement is startling; his characters fresh... his plot sharply drawn... It is magic. Daily Express

Stephen King reviews

Joyland by Stephen King

College student Devin Jones took the summer job at Joyland hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart. But he wound up facing something far more terrible: the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and dark truths about life - and what comes after - that would change his world forever. A riveting story about love and loss, about growing up and growing old - and about those who don't get to do either because death comes for them before their time.

"Joyland is a coming of-age/murder-mystery that will appeal to both teenagers and teenagers-that-once-were. There’s a lovely pulp-fiction feel to the book and the characters are ones that are easily recognisable to us from within our own lives."

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Under the Dome by Stephen King

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as 'the dome' comes down on it, people running errands in the neighbouring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. Dale Barbara, Iraq vet, teams up with a few intrepid citizens against the town's corrupt politician. But time, under the dome, is running out...

"Under the Dome will appeal greatly to fans of King’s The Stand and there is no doubting that it is a compelling read and a significant improvement on some of the work he has released recently." Floresiensis

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The Talisman: Road of Trials by Stephen King

At all times when reading this story (dialogue) pay attention to the details in the artwork: the tattered shadows, reflections in the blood, and where the eyes are looking. Originally this novel was published in six parts, the cover art for which is included in the book. As a series it would have been near the front of the queue waiting for each issue, as it is I’ll have to go and get the next part.

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11.22.63 by Stephen King

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11/22/63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless... King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life - a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

"11.22.63 finds Stephen King on top form. A compelling tale of alternate history and time travel showcasing King’s skill as a storyteller as he effortlessly weaves together fact and fiction, highlighting the benefits of meticulous research." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

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The Stand by Stephen King

If you call yourself any kind of reader of speculative fiction and can appreciate a truly rich and complex book, The Stand is a must read. Even if you’ve never read Stephen King before, even if neither horror nor post-apocalyptic are your usual genre choice, you won’t be disappointed. The writing is excellent, the imagery horrifying and the atmosphere hypnotic. After the first few pages you will either find yourself hooked or repelled… it’s that kind of book. But if you want to read one of the greatest examples of dystopian fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy thrown in then look no further.

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It by Stephen King

It is the children who see - and feel - what makes the town so horribly different. In the storm drains and sewers "It" lurks, taking the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. As the children grow up and move away, the horror of "It" is buried deep - until they are called back.

"As an exploration of childhood, growing up, friendship and facing both real and supernatural fears I still hold It up as a great book. But the ending, and the book’s length in general, will be unpalatable to many readers."

One of the greatest storytellers of our time - The Guardian

A writer of excellence... King is one of the most fertile storytellers of the modern novel - The Sunday Times

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The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

While evidence is gathered, and the land of Delain mourns, Flagg the King's magician, unscrupulous, greedy and powerful, plots. Soon the King's elder son, Peter, is imprisoned in the needle, the top of a high tower, for his father's murder. And Thomas inherits the throne. Only Peter knows the truth of his innocence, and the true evil that is Flagg. Only Peter can save Delain from the horror the magician has in store. He has a plan, but it is rife with danger. And if he fails, he won't get a second chance...

"The Eyes of the Dragon includes one of the most infamous, notorious villains in fiction. One of Mr. King's lesser known creations that is definitely more Tolkien than Tommyknockers."

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Needful Things by Stephen King

There is a new shop in town. Run by a stranger. Needful Things, the sign says. The oddest name. A name that causes some gossip and speculation among the good folks of Castle Rock, Maine, while they wait for opening day. Eleven-year-old Brian Rusk is the first customer and he gets just what he wants, a very rare 1956 Sandy Koufax baseball card. Signed. Cyndi Rose Martin is next. A Lalique vase. A perfect match for her living room decor. Something for everyone. Something you really have to have. And always at a price you can just about afford. The cash price that is. Because there is another price. There always is when your heart’s most secret, true desire is for sale…

"While I agree with those who regard Needful Things as a fairly run of the mill King novel, that doesn’t stop it being a pretty wonderful run through a magnificently malevolent mill, and thus a trip definitely worth taking."

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Rose Madder by Stephen King

Roused by a single drop of blood, Rosie Daniels wakes up to the chilling realisation that her husband is going to kill her. And she takes flight – with his credit card. Alone in a strange city, Rosie begins to build a new life: she meets Bill Steiner and she finds an old junk shop painting, ‘Rose Madder’, which strangely seems to want her as much as she wants it. But it’s hard for Rosie not to keep looking over her shoulder. Rose-maddened and on the rampage, Norman is a corrupt cop with a dog’s instinct for tracking people. And he’s getting close. Rosie can feel just how close he is getting...

"In many ways Rose Madder represents my personal ideal of any work of speculative fiction, an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation doing the best they could against the darkness. This is one King classic which gets sadly overlooked."

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Desperation by Stephen King

Welcome to Desperation. Once a thriving copper mining town in the middle of the Nevada desert, Desperation is now eerily abandoned. It's the last place that travellers like the Carver family, bound for vacation, and writer Johnny Marinville, astride his Harley, would expect to be stopped and charged. But Desperation still has a local cop - a unique regulator who patrols the wilderness highway. The secrets buried in Desperation are as terrifying as the forces summoned to encounter them. A terrifying transformation is taking place and the travellers will soon discover the true meaning of desperation...

"Despite a minor disappointment with one of King’s more likable female characters, one particularly egregious arsehole, and a slightly slower last third, Desperation is still vintage King at his best with a nicely theological undertone, and definitely one I’d recommend."

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The Long Walk by Stephen King

In the near future, where America has become a police state, 100 boys are selected to enter an annual contest where the winner will be awarded whatever he wants for the rest of his life.
The game is simple - maintain a steady walking pace of four miles per hour without stopping. Three warnings and you're out - permanently.

"For fans of dystopian fiction who want to get into the heads of some wonderfully flawed characters being put through the ringer in genuinely frightening way, The Long Walk is definitely worth taking."

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Gerald's Game by Stephen King

A game. A husband and wife game. Gerald's Game. But this time Jesse didn't want to play. Lying there, spreadeagled and handcuffed to the bedstead while he'd loomed and drooled over her, she felt angry and humiliated. So she'd kicked out hard. Aimed to hit him where it hurt. He wasn't meant to die, leaving Jesse alone and helpless in a lakeside holiday cabin. Miles from anywhere. No-one to hear her screams. Alone. Except for the voices in her head that had begun to chatter and argue and sneer...

"Unfortunately, the over long ending and less than satisfying explanation caused me to knock a full mark off my rating, which shows just how good the rest of the book actually is, and while I don’t know if I’d personally class Gerald’s Game as up there with the best of King, it is still one I’d recommend."

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Bag of Bones by Stephen King

So, whilst the slow start, and Mike’s occasional tantrums mean this still probably isn’t up there with the best of King, there’s no doubt that there’s a lot here to make you think, feel and wonder, and indeed plenty of meat on these particular bones.

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Duma Key by Stephen King

There is much here to like, including probably some of King’s best drawn together plot and some of his most engaging characters, and likely those with slightly less of an issue with capriciously cruel endings might well very much enjoy this one.

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Salem's Lot by Stephen King

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Firestarter by Stephen King

In my opinion this is not one of Stephen King’s best books, but he set that bar pretty high. I just didn’t connect with the characters and found the story too predictable. So while I never have any hesitation recommending King as an author I would definitely point the reader to another title in his prodigious canon.

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The Shining by Stephen King

Despite its slightly dated setting, some uncomfortably realistic racism, and a couple of minor digressions, The Shining is quite simply a damn good horror story, combining natural and supernatural, complex characters and a fantastically creepy atmosphere into one huge pile of awesome! I suspect that like Jackson's Haunting of Hill House, and Poe's Mask of the Red Death (both of which King references), The Shining will remain a classic for decades to come, and one which (like my lady), I might well return to in the future myself.

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Pet Sematary by Stephen King

This is not the almost familiar, campfire horror Stephen King that fascinates us with tales of shape changing spectral clowns, vengeful ghosts or things that go tak in the night but if you want horror that really will take you off the path, out into the dark wilds where familiar things such as love and family become as uncertain as quicksand, Pet Sematary will certainly not disappoint.

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The Talisman by Stephen King

Twelve-year-old Jack spends his days alone in a deserted coastal town, his father gone, his mother dying. Then he meets a stranger - and embarks on a terrifying journey. For Jack must find the Talisman, the only thing that can save his mother.

His quest takes him into the menacing Territories, a parallel world where violence, surprise and the titanic struggle between good and evil reach across a mythic landscape.

"Despite a few dated references to homosexuality, a slow start and a slightly damselly best friend, the Talisman was a truly epic journey. Many reviewers describe it as a kid’s book for adults, a conclusion with which I wholeheartedly agree, indeed if you spent your childhood entranced by authors like C. S. Lewis (who even gets a wonderfully offbeat acknowledgement), Susan Cooper or Alan Garner, books where children must journey off alone into mysterious other worlds upon epic adventures, then you should be pleased to know the Talisman provides just the same sort of experience, but with the added punch of being a little darker, a little more poetic, and far less safe."

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Black House by Stephen King

Unquestionably a fantastic ride, with dark humour, pathos, well drawn characters, horror and triumph in equal measure, so even if it didn’t quite cross from being extremely good to excellent, extremely good it still is.

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The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Many who have read and enjoyed the Dark Tower series have found a companion for life. The journey for many has been one of years, if not decades. And many will have found within the series parallels to their own lives: It’s not always gone the way they would have liked, many parts were better than others (though upon re-read these conceptions can change). This is King’s magnum opus, he poured everything into its writing and it is a towering achievement.

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The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, encounters three doors which open to 1980s America, where he joins forces with the defiant Eddie Dean and courageous, volatile Odetta Holmes. And confronts deadly serial killer Jack Mort. As the titanic forces gather, a savage struggle between underworld evil and otherworldly enemies conspire to bring an end to Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower... Masterfully weaving dark fantasy and icy realism, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE compulsively propels readers toward the next chapter.

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The Waste Lands by Stephen King

As a series progresses I find it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid repetition when attempting to put across exactly what it is I enjoy about the books. My reviews for The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three have explained why I am such a fan of the Dark Tower series but I believe that now, for this review of book three, the purpose should be to talk about whether the author has managed to maintain the very high level standards set in previous instalments.

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Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

This book is about Roland, who he is and how he has become who has become. It helps to explain why he is so grim, so haunted. It could be argued that you could miss out most of this book as it serves to give little forward momentum to the series but what it does, and what is does very well, is give Roland the fleshing out he deserves. As the book that follows can be looked upon as King's The Seventh Samurai, Wizard and Glass can be almost read as a stand alone book, as King's homage to Romeo and Juliet.

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The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Today, to my horror, I realised that I had yet to write up a review for Stephen King's The Wind Through The Keyhole, a book that was one of - if not - the best books I read in 2012. Not all that is eagerly awaited meets the expectations but when this book arrived in April (pre-ordered, that's how keen I was) I read it in only a handful of days. It was magnificent and as I write this review I am tempted to say that it is the best book in the series… But I think I should defer that accolade for a later date.

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Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

And so we come to book number five in what I now class as one of the greatest - certainly one of my favourite - fantasy series of all time. In Wolves of the Calla King pays unashamed homage to The Seventh Samurai and The Magnificent Seven as ka finds the ka-tet honour-bound to prevent the mysterious "wolves" from descending upon Calla Bryn Sturgis and taking the villagers' children.

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Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Book six of the seven book Dark Tower series. Song of Susannah. For me, the problem child. Writing this review is very difficult as the book caused real conflict within me. There are interesting developments and we learn more of the Prim, Discordia and Fedic but I am always glad to reach its end so that I can get to the final book, in which King, in my eyes, recovers to give the series a fitting and moving denouement

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The Dark Tower by Stephen King

When it gets to the last book in a series there is very little left unsaid. I hold the Dark Tower series in the very highest regard. Yes, I have slight reservations but when taken as a whole it is the magnum opus that its author, Stephen King, hoped it would be. Over thirty years in the writing, it is a vast, sprawling tale of one man's quest, some may say obsession, and the story is excellent, the characters that populate it amongst that special type that remain with the reader forever.

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