Definitely one of my favorites. Stephen King's "Dolores Claiborne" is hard to beat as a literary tour de force, but this one really made me *feel* something, quite apart from the horror and suspense. It caught the idyllic and unique beauty of this time, place, and the people inhabiting it -- this world -- which made you feel the loss like a physical blow when someone destroyed it all.
And, as mentioned in the Afterward, the loss resonates with the loss we all experience when we hit adulthood, and the world of our childhoods starts to be inexorably dismantled, plank by plank.I'm really glad I gave it chance, even though the premise -- oh, not the Evil Twin thing again, ho-hum -- struck me as a cliche, and one not particularly interesting to me. I thought it was going to be "The Bad Seed," Brian De Palma's "Sisters" and King's "Dark Half" all rolled up in a packet with a pretty bow.
And I'm glad I gave it a chance -- and thoroughly enjoyed the story -- even though I did see some aspects of the plot twists coming. But a friend had told me he thought I'd really like it, and I'm glad I took his advice. I look forward now to reading some of Tryon's other novels, at least "Harvest Home" and "Lady."
Also, I grew up in Connecticut, and I can also attest that Tryon captured the place perfectly, unlike, say, Rick Moody's horrid, meretricious "Ice Storm," which gets Connecticut, and specifically Fairfield County, all wrong from top to bottom. (As if it were Marin County, on the wrong coast entirely.) Parts of CT are still the same as they were in the 1934 setting of this book, while of course much of it is gone, all gone, subdivided and turned into big-box stores, McMansions and strip malls.
The atmosphere. The haunted feeling it left me with.
Actually, it rather irritated me in the beginning, although part of that was also due to the narrative style, which especially in the prologue and first few chapters was far too mannered for my taste, riddled as it was with asides, exclamations, direct address and a kind of breathless syntax. I also thought it was going to be very dated. But by the fourth or fifth chapter, both the narration and Dufris's performance settled down into a more transparent form of storytelling, and seemed to gain a more natural rhythm. What had seemed dated turned instead into a period piece. Then I found Dufris's performance to be just right, expressive without emoting.
I don't want to create spoilers, so I'll be vague. The scenes with the mother after an incident on the stairs were so heartbreaking they almost made me squirm with discomfort. And then there were the truly horrific parts. The bit with the wine cask. The bit with the coffin. The bit with the "changeling" doll lamp.
Stick with it! It definitely rewards the effort. One of those books that you'll keep thinking about, reinterpreting events that occurred in the beginning, and discovering multiple ways to interpret the story. It's also structurally brilliant, and shows a great deal of artistic control. A total mastery of the story. I might even read it again, just to see how he manages his sleight of hand at each step.
Also, to the reader who couldn't deal with the cruelty to animals -- come on, it's fiction! It's not even a movie; it's words on a page! It's not as if any animals were actually "hurt in the making of this book," etc. I'm about as tenderhearted as they come when it comes to animals. I "rescue" daddy long legs, lady bugs, flies and spiders that get stuck in our house; I adore my tuffy fish/red rosy minnows, which are considered (ouch!) "bait" by many. And forget about it when it comes to dogs, cats, guinea pigs, wild birds (especially hummingbirds! bluebirds! owls!) and all the wildlife in our yard and woods (beaver, skunks, foxes, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, possums, coyotes, even a bobcat). But the whole *point* of the animal cruelty was that the person inflicting it was a psychopath and a monster. The incident with the animal rather effectively, dramatically and immediately got that point across. It nailed the characterization right there. In any event, the cruelties inflicted on the humans in the story end up being far worse, or at least the suffering far more long-lasting.
That it was continually surprising. It starts out almost like a Hardy Boys novel, with four young people and a college professor equipping themselves with flashlights, hardhats, etc., to go exploring inside an abandoned and dilapidated once-grand hotel in Asbury Park. But it turns into anything but -- and then it turns again, and again. Very inventive plot, with no dei ex machina and only a few elements that stretch credulity. I also really appreciated how -- unlike most thrillers -- it avoided being formulaic.
SPOILER ALERT: I liked the three guys from "Joisey." They weren't exactly nice or anything, but they were well-drawn, and acted with perfect logic in accord with their own agendas and characters. Also liked Amanda because of the way she kicked butt.
Not sure he made it that different from reading it would be, but to me that's a good thing. I like an unobtrusive narrator, who doesn't use an overly dramatic voice for the scary bits or thrills, and who doesn't overdo the differences in the characters's various speaking styles. Someone who allows you to approximate the experience of reading the book in print. (I prefer to read in print, but if I limited myself to print books, I'd only have time to do a small fraction of the reading I do via audiobook.) I like how he performed the Professor's voice -- it was well-distinguished from the others' and fit the character perfectly.
I dunno ... tag lines ain't my specialty. Off the top of my head: "Creeping through abandoned buildings at night ... Don't do it alone!"
I really wish there had been a lot more about the history of Asbury Park, and less emphasis on the fictional story and the thrill-a-minute/cliffhanging stuff. I had previously read Morrell's "Murder as a Fine Art," in which Thomas de Quincy becomes both a suspect and a sleuth with regard to a series of gruesome murders, and I think Morrell got the balance right in that book between the "history lessons" (about 19th C London, a series of 1811 murders known as the Ratcliff Highway murders, and 19th C police procedure as well as De Quincey) and the suspense/mystery/thrills. I had expected that "Creepers" would similarly get into all the gritty details of Asbury Park's history, but it was more of a quick survey course in the beginning.
But otherwise, a great story, nice narration -- highly recommended.
Everything. The story was pure formula -- Good versus Evil on a comic-book-superhero level. The ending was a foregone conclusion. Good triumphs over Evil, what a colossal bore.
Also, at one point one of the two principal "Good" characters goes way out of her way to do something ridiculously stupid, without any motivation, obviously just to serve the plot. I guess at least King plays fair when it comes to jerking his characters around like marionettes to serve the plot, though, because later the principal "Bad" character similarly makes a series of unbelievably stupid, dense and unmotivated decisions, apparently for the sole purpose of letting Good triumph over Evil.
Even with the principal "Bad" character playing into the hands of the "Good" characters at every turn (at least in the last 1/3 of the novel), King *still* feels the need to resort to *two* dei ex machina to allow the "Good Guys" to win. First, he trots out one of the most evil, sadistic, corrupt and venal "ghostie people" (uh, you mean "ghosts"?) from "The Shining," and has him, for no logical or any other reason, turn Nice and help out the Good Guys. Talking about the other deus ex machina would probably constitute a spoiler (for those who might for some strange reason care about the plot), so I won't discuss that one.
None of the characters seemed like real flesh and blood -- they were just "Good Guys" or "Bad Guys." I therefore couldn't have cared less about any of them.
Worst of all? Not scary. Not even a momentary tinge of creepiness.
I can't believe the same guy who wrote "Dolores Claiborne," "N," "1922" "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" and "Pet Sematary" wrote this drivel. (In fact, I wonder if King has an army of "ghostie-people writers" working for him now. Either that, or he's already written everything he has to say and now he's just churning out soulless, meaningless words for some reason, maybe just out of habit.) I was never a fan of "The Shining" (not scary), but it wasn't awful, and this worthless piece of hack writing cheapens "The Shining" by association, diluting the impact of its "brand," to use the current business-speak cliche.
Also, in King's afterward, he says that over the years he often thought about "what happened" to Wendy, Danny and Dick Hallorann after the end of "The Shining," and that this book was his exploration of that. That's fine as far as Dan and Hallorann go, but pretty much nothing at all "happens" to Wendy. Oh, well, she was just a Wife 'n' Mom character, who cares about her.
Written something vital and original, not a color-by-numbers exercise that only pays lip service to the notion of "telling a story." If I hadn't needed something to listen to while stuffing the dishwasher or going to the gym, I would've put the book down after the first chapter.
OMG, please excuse me while I howl in pain a moment. ... Okay. It was overwrought from start to finish. Whenever Patton thought he was getting to an even slightly exciting or scary bit, he would descend into this hyper-dramatic, emotionalistic whisper and overemphasize every important (to him) word. It was as if he were reaching through the mike, grabbing the reader by the throat and screaming, "It's scary and exciting, dammit, don't you get it?!" He also has an unfortunate way of speaking (*not* a Southern accent -- a lisp, slight speech impediment, affectation or something like that) that makes him sound unintelligent.
It wasn't quite as bad as "It," "Bag of Bones" or the utterly contemptible "Lisey's Story."
King desperately needs an editor. One who will not only prevent him from running on and on after the climax has ended (as he does here and in every post-2000 book of his I've read), but to tell him when there's a major problem in the very conception of the book. It seems he's been surrounded by nothing "Yes people" for the past 30 years. Too Big To Be Edited. It's done him no favors.
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