Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review #5 - Finders Keepers, by Stephen King

Synopsis (with spoilers)

When you cracked open the pages of Stephen King’s sequel to Mr. Mercedes were you surprised that it didn’t immediately start out with Bill Hodges & Co? Yeah, me too. In fact, were you surprised that it took about half the book until they finally appeared? Yeah, me too. Were you also surprised that you enjoyed this book quite immensely all the same?

Nah, me neither.

John Rothstein was a genius author during the midway of the 20th Century. He wrote several novels starring Jimmy Gold, an American hero of a character in Morris Bellamy's eyes; in fact, Morris’ infatuation with the character Jimmy Gold takes such a turn for the absolute worst that he decides to steal the books from the author himself. Then he steals something else. You see, Morris believes that Rothstein sold out in his final book before going dark to the public for the remainder of his life.

Finders Keepers picks up where the events of Mr. Mercedes left off… in a way. The first section of the book uses a back-and-forth method between two people: a young Morris in the 1970’s and a young Pete Saubers in the present day. This first section deals with several horrific crimes Morris committed during those earlier days, and then shows Pete’s blessing/curse that came of it decades later. To the chagrin of Morris’ dark obsession with Rothstein, however, he is never able to enjoy the rewards of his crimes; he goes to prison, sentenced to life for the rape of a woman.

Fast forward to present day and Pete is a young high school student only now getting to the age where he not only enjoys reading, but he appreciates the why of why he enjoys reading. His is a mind budding with academic potential.

After finding a certain unknown trunk in the ground, after finding it filled with thousands of dollars as well as unpublished Rothstein works – not to mention to entirely new Jimmy Gold novels that never saw the light of day – Pete uses the money to slowly fund his struggling parents who are on the midst of divorce. Pete’s father was severely injured in the City Center Massacre that took place at the beginning of the first book, and his paychecks were what stabilized the family.

This goes relatively well, and at the time the money (roughly $20,000) finally runs out over the course of the next handful of years Pete’s dad even has a job again. Despite that, there is now a new obstacle: Pete’s sister, Tina, wants to go to a better school than the one she is currently attending. Pete senses a lull in her, so to speak, and he thinks that if she were able to go to a better school it would disappear. It’s disappointing that the money is gone.

However, there are still the books.

Pete goes to a shady bookseller, and this precise event – one could argue, however, that finding the truck and taking its contents were the real trigger – sets off a chain reaction. Because when Morris is granted parole, rides back home, and discovers that his prized possessions that were buried decades ago are now missing?

Review

Part of me doesn’t want to discuss Bill Hodges & Co. at all. They do make their appearances – including Holly and Jerome – but they are such a minuscule part of this story. This is Pete Saubers’ and Morris Bellamy’s story. Well… I take that back. Holly’s character really comes into her own (she might be my favorite character of the books at this point), but aside from that? To me they’re there just to keep them in the picture, because this is dubbed the Bill Hodges Trilogy after all. If Holly wasn’t so quick-thinking and stubborn they really wouldn’t have played much of a role at all. You could have taken them out of the story and nothing would have changed. This is, however, my only complaint. I feel like, for the most part, they're just... there.

Nevertheless,Finders Keepers blew me away in the best way possible. It is a haunting tale that also acts as a literary biography of an author WHO I REALLY WANT TO BE REAL. I want to read the Runner books, dammit! I want to read about Jimmy Gold, dammit! Why aren’t these books real???

*waits for beating heart to slow down*

I really enjoyed the fake literary biography aspect of this story. It was something different, you know? I think the best part about it is that it showed the obsessions of two different people who came to infatuate over the same author; and the best part about that is that it showed how these infatuations are both chillingly similar and absolutely different at the same time. It certainly shows shades of King's Misery, which also happens to be one of my favorites.

Whereas in Mr. Mercedes I thought the middle of the book lagged, in Finders Keepers I thought the exact opposite. Perhaps part of this is because that is when Hodges & Co. finally made their appearance? If that’s the case, maybe I should eat my words. I won’t, though. Mostly because the trilogy isn’t a, say, direct, trilogy. Or, rather, it is, but not how Lord of the Rings is a trilogy. You could read Finders Keepers and be mostly okay, aside from looking up the synopsis of Mr. Mercedes and finding out why Brady is such a dick and why he’s in the hospital.

But really, me complaining about a lack of real role for Hodges is mostly petty; I’m mostly trying to be objective instead of gushing on and on! I enjoyed the characters and dialogue, but then I always enjoy that in a King novel; it’s why I adore him, after all, and also why characters and dialogue is what I feel is most important in my own writing. If I find a story with a poor plot but awesome characters that’s fine, but if I find a story that features a good plot but characters I don’t care about? I likely won’t finish that book.

Thankfully, Finders Keepers has both a stellar plot and stellar characterization.

Another thing I enjoyed was the lack of a romantic interest (but am I the only one who ships Bill and Holly???), because – though I failed to mention it in my last review – I thought that was the biggest thing that annoyed me in Mr. Mercedes. The whole romance with Janey Patterson felt so forced and unrealistic and fake. Although, I spoke with a friend and she thinks that there’s a chance that whole cheesy romance could be a stab at an established, uber popular mystery novelist. And, when thinking of it that way, I can totally see that.

And that final chapter? Ohhhhhhhh man. I cannot wait to begin End of Watch, the conclusion to the Bill Hodges Trilogy. I wonder if Pete will show up or if he was a one-off.

What else should I say? Read this book. It’s another bestselling King page-turner and that’s really all you need to know. Who doesn’t love a story about literature and lunatics, amirite?


Read it and love it, and then read End of Watch alongside me!

Friday, July 1, 2016

My Future Plate: Books and Interviews

What I first want to say is that I am overjoyed to announce I'll be interviewing author L.J. Cohen for my next Author Interview next week! *confetti falls from the rafters* Cohen is the creator of numerous stories, including the Science Fiction books from Halcyone Space: Derelict, Ithaka Rising, and Dreadnought and Shuttle. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to talk with her. We’re gonna get real nerdy and shit and talk about space and whatnot. 

Now, for what's on my plate of reading...

To be honest, I'm in more of a fantasy mood than I am reading something set on good old Earth, but I figure I may as well read Finders Keepers and End of Watch because they follow Mr. Mercedes as the last two books of the Bill Hodges Trilogy (I've also found that, if Mr. Mercedes is a good example, I really dig the Mystery genre). After that, you ask? Well, take a look:

1) Finders Keepers, by Stephen King 

2) End of Watch, by Stephen King

3) The King’s Sword, by C. J. Brightley

4) Fall of Light, by Steven Erikson   

5) UNKNOWN SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL I THINK, by YEAH PROBABLY :D

If you’ve any science fiction, post-apocalyptic specifically, or fantasy recommendations (particularly of the Indie category), please let me know! I'm leaning toward a Post-Apocalyptic classic – The Stand or Swan Song, anyone? – even though I try to do new(ish) books but I'm always up for recommendations.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review #4 - Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes



Book – Mr. Mercedes

Author – Stephen King

Published – June 3, 2014

Pages (Hardcover) – 436

           

Intro

I should start by mentioning how much of a fanboy I am of Stephen King. I’m totally okay with using the word “fanboy” because I couldn’t care less what others might think! Admittedly, I haven’t read half of what King has written, but I fell in love after reading The Tommyknockers during my senior year in high school, and then fell madly in love after reading the Dark Tower novels *massive heart throb* King is the sort of fellow you read and think “Well got dang, that fella’s a real tootin’ sort of writer!”

He calls himself the Big Mac and fries of literature, but that doesn’t do him justice. Sure, I guess you can say he’s pulpy at times, but he’s still a fanfuckingtastic writer. Like… a really, really good writer. I don’t understand the critics. I think either 1) they want to compare him and his writing to people like, oh I dunno, literary giants like Dostoevsky or Edgar Allan Poe or Jane Austen – who would be like the filet mignons of literature, amirite? – or 2) they’re just straight up jealous. I am envious, but never jealous. I think jealous people are bitter people. So either way, the comparisons aren’t fair. Stephen King doesn’t write literary fiction and Stephen King can’t help it if you’re jealous of his skillz.

King is addicting. Try eating a single gummy worm and then stopping. Pretty difficult, right? You don’t want a single gummy worm. Who does that shit? You want TWO gummy worms, then THREE, then FOUR… You get the picture. Pick up a King book and, if it’s something you dig, you won’t want to put it down. Chances are, in fact, that you won’t. I know I never do.

*PHEW* Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Brief Synopsis

Mr. Mercedes is the first in a trilogy of books (dubbed the Bill Hodges Trilogy), a detective/mystery novel set in modern day America. Bill Hodges is a recent retiree from the police force. His detective skills now laid to rest, he succumbs to the boredom and banality that retirement often grants. Hodges retired from the force with countless commendations and more respect than a man knows what to do with. However, it turns out that what Hodges doesn’t know what to do with is the retirement itself.

Nagging his brain, too, is a case that went unsolved. Success is fantastic but it’s often the failures we remember the most, especially when the uncaught criminal sends you a letter gloating and teasing about it.

Hodges receives a letter from a person who calls themselves Mr. Mercedes, claiming to be responsible for the mass killing via Mercedes Benz that killed 8 people and injured more. A crime that was never solved, the crime that was never solved.

After coming to the conclusion that this self-named Mr. Mercedes is the real killer, a retired detective dons his skills once more to stop the man from killing anyone else. It just so happens that a high school senior and a mentally unstable middle-aged woman get wrapped up in it all – directly and indirectly in their own ways – and become his quasi partners-in-crime. All the while, Hodges must keep his personal vendetta a secret from the police, including his ex-partner Pete Huntley and his new partner in the process.

Review (With Possible Minor Spoilers?)

King, as always, dazzles with his writing. Also as always, his characters shine over plot. I became a fantasy writer because of Steven Erikson and playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but I became a writer to begin with because of Stephen King. His focus on believable characters and superb dialogue is exactly what I feel is most important in writing and movies and really any media (my humble opinion, of course; if you prefer plot over character/dialogue, that’s cool too!). He doesn’t fail with Mr. Mercedes.

The plot itself is fine, although there are some things I had to just ignore and stop fussing about. For example, I understand the personal vendetta – and I understand it even more as the story progress and certain horrible things take place – but if this were a real-life scenario Bill Hodges would have been thrown in jail despite getting the bad guy in the end. He enlisted the help of a high school senior (Jerome) and a mentally unstable woman (Holly); let’s get that out there in the open. He risked both of their lives, especially the boy, on multiple occasions. He even GIVES THE BOY A GUN, AND I WON’T EVEN MENTION THAT THE BOY DOESN’T HAVE ANY GUN TRAINING, NOR WILL I MENTION THAT WHY WOULD YOU GIVE A BOY A GUN TO BEGIN WITH. Hodges often thinks to himself “I really shouldn’t be involving these two,” but does he keep doing it anyway? Of course! Not only that, but he also withholds numerous pieces of evidence from the police department. And not only that, but he also uses his badge to gain information despite already being retired (in case you didn’t know, that is a big no-no). So… yeah… really, Hodges would be in jail right now.

But this isn’t real life, so whatever.

You ignore these nagging details because they aren’t overly important. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t get them out of my head – a lot of “OH MY GOD WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING THIS” but oh well. I read King because his characterization is top-notch and, most importantly, he is by far the best damn storyteller I’ve ever read. There’s a lot to be said about someone who is just really, really good at telling a story. This is where King excels in all of his novels. Even the ones that make little to no sense, you don’t give a damn because he’s that great of a storyteller.

What I give King two thumbs up toward the most is the antagonist. Brady Hartfield is the most sadistic, revolting, vile Bad Guy I’ve ever read in a King novel, and mind you I’ve read the Dark Tower books. Speaking of The Dark Tower, doesn’t Brady remind you of one Randall Flagg? Yeah, he does, doesn’t he? He totes does. As much as you hate Brady, you love reading his parts in the novel. Especially that opening letter to Hodges. MAN what a scene! What a psychotic son of a bitch.

I’m going to stop now because really I could gush about King until I take my final breath. So what I’ll say is read this story and have as much fun with it as I did. Don’t take the detective aspect of it too seriously because that’s missing the point. The detective part of it is the setup – the background, if you will – but the book is just phenomenal storytelling all around.

Score: Highly Recommended!