Tagged: Dark Tower

Game On

I reckon about a third of my life is dedicated to books and another third to my toddler but that last third is taken up by gaming. I’ve always had a console, my mum got me a Sega Megadrive when I was tiny and I haven’t been without a console since. I’ve never considered myself a gamer as growing up it was always a mild interest but in the past few years I’ve fallen in love with RPGs. I love the epic sprawling ones that take way too much to complete like the Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, Bioshock and the Tales series.

This week I finally caved and got Persona 5. I’ve played the others and I avoided getting this one as I knew it’d take over my life. I only started Persona 5 a few days ago and I’m already nine hours deep, it was while I was playing I was mulling over why I got so absorbed in these types of games and it’s obvious: they’re great stories.

The story writing and editing of these types of games parallel the best novels out there. Bioshock Infinite for one left me shook and years on I’ll still go back and watch the ending on Youtube just to fathom it once more (and tbh I’m still trying to get my head round it). More recently I’ve devoted a large portion of my life to Final Fantasy XV. I bloody love everything about this game, I haven’t been as emotionally invested in a FF game since FFX which left me in bits by the time I got to the end. The fact that each part of the game is divided into chapters says that you’re not just playing a game, you’re taking part in a story that a team have put their heart and soul into.

If like me you love a game for it’s story you might find these books right up your street.

Lyonesse by Jack Vance – I read the first book in the Lyonesse trilogy about six years ago. I picked up a copy purely because the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks edition has a stunning front cover and I wasn’t expecting much from what sounded like a paint-by-numbers fantasy novel. This book is very epic considering it’s the first in a trilogy, it’s a heady mix of fantasy, fairytale, myth and legend. I’ve not made it round to books two and three yet but I managed to get copies with the original 1986 cover.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Taylor’s previous series was wonderful escapism so obviously this new novel was going to be just as ace. Strange the Dreamer starts with Lazlo running away from his abusive life and he takes refuge and solace in a library where he becomes to inhabit. Lazlo’s love of books is so beautifully written and as he starts to discover that there’s a strange truth to the books he considered as fairytales you find yourself being sucked into an emotionally deep fantasy. It’s got really brilliant characters and some wicked cool Gods, have a read.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King – OBVIOUSLY THESE BOOKS WOULD BE MENTIONED! I think everyone should read them, not only has King created an epic intricate world that could rival any Final Fantasy game, he also gives readers an amazing journey. Seven books (and Wind Through the Keyhole) which leave you wanting so much more and a cast of characters so rich you can’t help but agonise that you hadn’t read them sooner. This is must for Bioshock fans, the complexity of the story is outstanding. Most of The Dark Tower books read like really cool RPGs and there’s so many chapters and fights that you can’t help but think “this would make an amazing video game”.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – It’s magical realism at it’s finest. 1Q84 is a book made up of three volumes and from the start you feel your world changing around you as you become so completely involved in Aomame and Tengo’s story. When her taxi becomes stuck in a traffic jam Aomame is warned by the driver that getting out of the cab could change reality the world, not wanting to be late for her meeting Aomame gets out of the car. 1Q84 is one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read. It’s long, it’s complicated but it’s as close to perfect as a novel gets. It’s David Mitchell meets FFXV.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – Now this is a bit of a life-ruiner of a book. It’s weird, really weird and mind bending and amazing and just head-shattering. I finished Annihilation about three months ago and I’m still numbed by the ending. I can’t bring myself to even consider book two in the Southern Reach trilogy yet. The story follows a nameless biologist and her companions as they set out to explore Area X. That’s all you need to know about Annihilation, just go and read it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – This is one of the best road stories out there. After being released from prison Shadow ends up travelling across the States with a ‘man’ only known as Mr Wednesday. American Gods is beautifully written balance of travel, mystery and mythology. This is a must read and I’m about to re-read this as I first finished it about five years ago. I just finished the television show (which was brilliant) and after watching I had the strangest sense to play Devil May Cry for the billionth time.

Honourable mention – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

I hope you enjoy these recommends for gamers and give me a shout if you know of a stand out RPG I must play!

An Unexpected Journey

I’ve been away for a long time. Not too long after March I took an unexpected hiatus from blogging, reading and life in general.

I had just finished Sarah Lotz’s chilling latest novel Day Four when the I got caught up in the woes of moving house. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of moving you’ll understand how truly horrible it was. Add in the hassle of setting up broadband in a new home, I knew I wasn’t to get much reading or blogging done. After I had settled into my new home I picked up Stephen King’s Wind Through the Keyhole. I wanted more than anything to become lost once again in Mid-World.  Roughly 30 pages into The Wind Through the Keyhole something very unexpected happened… my baby arrived a whole two months early. Thus to say I did not finish this final dip into Mid-World.

So, catching me off guard I found myself so overwhelmed with life, reading had to go on the back burner. Over the past two months I managed to read one book in full and that was Stephen King’s follow up to Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers. Finders Keepers got me through the toughest three weeks of my life. I spent between 10 and 12 hours a day sitting next to an incubator in a hospital waiting for the the fantastic doctors and nurses to let my daughter come home. It felt like I was waiting forever but I passed the time by ploughing through Finder Keepers. The day I finished Finders Keepers I got the fantastic news that my daughter had gained enough weight to come home. That’s when the reading stopped.

Some insane logic had made me think, “I’ll get so much reading done with a newborn baby in tow”. As any parent will tell you, you’ll get absolute nothing done. During her first few weeks home I tried to finished Wind Through the Keyhole but I could only get about 10 pages in before another baby related issue arose. I then came to the conclusion that it wasn’t me, it was the book! I needed something I could be completely swept up in. So I started Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, this was one of the stupidest ideas I’d ever had. At over 700 pages there was no hope of me finishing this book. I then figured I needed to read an author I was more familiar with.

That’s when I started David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, this is a book that’s defeated me before. And it defeated me again.

But yesterday something magical happened…

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Friend and colleague @CatrionaRoseann (follow her, she’s got some great recommendations) told me about one of her much loved reads. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. I could honestly say I had never heard of this book, but this was the book that got me back on track.  This is a dark, dystopic and bleak to boot. The Unit tells the tale of fifty year old Dorrit who is forced to leave everything behind when she becomes a resident of the Second Reserve Bank Unit. For the first time in that felt like forever I devoured this book. I started The Unit just around 3AM as I couldn’t get back to sleep after my daughter’s feed, I finished The Unit at 10PM the same day.

Get a copy of this book! And in short… I’m back!

Up next is The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mothering Sunday is that age old day where we turn to the wonderful women in our lives and say a big fat thank you. So there’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day with a Stephen King book. Here’s my five most maternal reads that prove that King writes some of the most bad-ass ladies in fiction.

5. Frannie Goldsmith – The Stand – All though we don’t see Fran’s mothering skills all too much in The Stand but throughout the novel she’s easily the best mum-to-be in a apocalyptic situation. Not stopping until she finds a community and safe place for herself and her baby, Frannie goes from bolshy teen to a strong adaptable young woman in a matter of chapters. Even with the constant threat that her baby could be taken by ‘Captain Trips’ the moment it’s born or the looming presence of Randall Flagg, fran doesn’t quit.

4. Annie Wilkes – Misery – Technically Annie isn’t a mother but she’s certainly one of King’s most caring and matronly characters when it comes down to it. Yes, she shows her love by keeping her favourite author captive and there’s that matter of the infant deaths when she was a maternity nurse, not to mention the other strange deaths surrounding her, but nobody’s perfect! Annie Wilkes is not only of my favourite characters in King’s back-catalogue but she’s that misunderstood motherly figure who just wanted to keep those dirty birdies in check.

3. Mia – Wolves of Calla/ Song for Susannah – Mia is one hell of a mother and flourishing in the early stages of pregnancy in King’s fifth Dark Tower instalment. Longing for a child Mia finally gets her wish when she makes a bargain with Walter. Mia whilst in possession of Susannah does some down right vile things to feed and nurture her growing ‘chap’. The opening chapter of the Wolves of Calla made me feel physically sick but considering some of the things I went through in my first trimester of pregnancy, it’s nothing really. Pregnancy and motherhood are Mia’s only priority and when she gives birth to that beautiful half-spider child that rips off her breast and kills her, Mia’s work is done.

2. Wendy Torrance – The Shining – Wendy really has her work cut out for her. With an unhinged husband and weird psychic five-year-old, Wendy has a fair amount of stamina when it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Wendy is pretty drippy in the personality department but she puts Danny first and does whatever she can to protect her son. Beaten with a mallet and with the Overlook hotel against them, Wendy still manages to get the better of her manic husband in The Shining.

1. Margaret White – Carrie – Carrie White’s mum is a force of nature. Instilling religious fear and sheltering her already unique daughter, Mrs White is extremely old fashioned in her approach to child rearing but like most mums, she thinks she’s doing the right thing to protect her little girl. The right thing by God that is, certainly not the right thing by any sane person. Margaret White is down right banana splits. Almost as a strict warning to parents out there, King proves that we all surpass our parents at one point or another and it helps if you have wicked cool telekinesis powers.

MD

For the sake of your Father

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Hile gunslingers! Obviously I’m going to spoil everything that happens in the final book, so go back and read them now!

It has taken me literally months to finish the final Dark Tower novel. Back in September I caved into curiosity, I had to find out what was going to happen to Susannah and her impending birth, not to mention the death trap that Jake and Pere Callaghan were about to walk into. I was so excited, book six had ended on such a level tension i couldn’t handle waiting any longer.

So first things first; I thought the start of the final book was awesome, the Susannah/Mia chapters were outstanding. I had just started to feel sorry for Mia and I loved how vulnerable she was, as a reader you really start rooting for Mia and Susannah… Until it came down to the birth stuff. When baby Mordred turned up and we came to the end of the Mia arc of the book it was Stephen King writing at his finest, it was sharp, tense and down right horrible.

So while Susannah was off having her chap, Jake and Callaghan had to face off with the low men and humes inside the Dixie Pig. The happenings inside the Dixie Pig were easily up there with my favourite parts of the Dark Tower saga, King portrayed a truly detestable place and I found myself roaring through the pages. This is where we suffered our first casualty, Callaghan’s time had come to a timely end and I for one was extremely disappointed. Even though he’d only been with our ka-tet for a short time I thought he was such a brilliant character and every sentence involving Callaghan made me want to read ‘Salem’s Lot all over again.

After the departure of Callaghan I hit a major reading speed bump and I stalled my literary car. I moved house and work went insane and I put down the last instalment of The Dark Tower for about two weeks.

I managed to get back into the swing of things not too long after my little Dark tower hiatus, King introduced so many great characters in this final part of Roland’s tale, it was a shame to not have them around for longer. John Cullum was a fascinating character and the trio from Devar-Toi perked up the pace of the story. Until King hit with the shocking death of another one of our beloved ka-tet. I didn’t see the death of Eddie coming at all, I was so taken back and his parting words to Susannah and the rest of his allies made you realise this really was the end of their journey.

When Roland and Jake head back to Maine to save Stephen King I was knocked-for-six. The last thing I expected from this part of the story was the death of another main character.

The final leg of the story was brilliant. I wasn’t massively keen on the introduction of Patrick to the story but following up his introduction with the departure of Susannah had me tentatively racing towards the end of the Dark Tower.

I only finished the Dark Tower last night and the ending has left me cold and hollow. I thought I had figured out the ending but I was completely surprised but it. I don’t know whether to start reading the first one again or to sit in a dark room for a long time.

So with that The Dark Tower is a phenomenal fantasy saga and I say a thankya to Stephen King and to Hodder & Stoughton for letting me get so lost in Mid-World.

Phone Crazies

After finishing Colorless Tsukuru I figured it was time to jump aboard the good ship Stephen King again. Cell was on top of one of my ‘to read’ piles so I grabbed the paperback and carried on with King’s never-ending backlist. I always though that Cell would be a straight forward zombie novel. How wrong I was.

One day as event known as ‘the pulse’ causes everyone who is using or in the close vicinity of a mobile phone to turn completely insane. This all happens within all of three or four pages of starting this book.

Cell has one of King’s most escalated and brutal openings. There were two points in the opening chapter that made me feel a bit queasy and I knew this was going to be a tough read. Although the main character Clay is quite isn’t quite up there with some of King’s other leading guys, Clay’s band of survivors Tom, Alice and The Head (Jordan annoyed me, I don’t really know why, he just did) are fantastic and they really get you to commit to the story.

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I found the middle of Cell a little bit baggy but when you get to the main antagonist you find yourself flying through the rest of the novel and I was so impressed with the final act of this book. This is full of gore, action and leaves you glancing uneasily at your phone. Considering this was written in 2006 the outcomes in Cell would have been so much worse if smart phones had been knocking around at the time. Cell reminded me of The Stand a fair bit, there’s a lot of walking in this novel and a lot of tension.

Have a read of this before the film version of this comes out. Finishing this I checked out the cast list of Cell and my goodness… I was not impressed and it’ll probably be a film I give a miss.

I don’t know what King novel to crack next. I can’t bring myself to read the final Dark Tower novel, I really don’t want it to be over when I read that last book. I’m thinking of toughening up and have a crack at Cujo… or I might wimp out and put that one off for a little while.

Mr Mercedes

The 3rd June saw the publication of Stephen King’s latest novel Mr Mercedes.  There has been so much hype about this book because it’s very different to the horror genre that King frequents. Mr Mercedes is a hard-boiled detective novel, but even within that there’s a twist.

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Mr Mercedes starts on a cold foggy morning, hundreds of people are queuing outside the City Centre auditorium. Augie Odenkirk joins the queue behind a young woman holding a baby, Augie’s established straight away as a genuinely good-guy but… well Augie isn’t in this book for very long as within the first few pages a Mercedes is ploughed into the queuing job-seekers.

It took me all of four days to stream through this novel. Unlike other crime thrillers we know who the killer is from the start. King’s novel switches between the perspective of retired detective William Hodges and the ‘Mercedes Killer’ Brady Hartsfield. Switching between these two characters makes the ‘cat-and-mouse’ sensation feel all that stronger.

About half-way through Mr Mercedes I figured that I knew how this book was going to play out. King spends the perfect amount of time writing Hodges in a way that don’t pity this old fat cop but you’re definitely on the side of this sharp ex-detective. When it comes to Brady we’re only given snippets of who he really is and how dark his past is.

This is a really edgy novel and there’s a fair few twists at the end of this novel that I certainly didn’t see coming. There’s a couple of paragraphs that relish in typical Stephen King gore and they make the novel even more thrilling.

I really enjoyed Mr Mercedes, it’s a refreshing take on the crime genre and the ending really pays off. It’s made me want to read more of the crime genre as this book was such a page-turner but above all I want to read more Stephen King!

In the meantime I intend to carry on with The Dark Tower series until I get my hands on what will be Stephen King’s next epic horror Revival, due out in November 2014.

Sasha’s Last Stand

I’m starting this part of my The Stand review right where I left off and I’ve ploughed through to end.  I’ve finally finished The Stand.  When I started this gigantic novel I didn’t think I would make it all the way. At just over 1300 pages I expected this to be an absolute slog but how wrong I was.

When I finished my second part of the review I had just reached a turning point in the novel and now a lot of dangerous characters started making their way deeper into the story.  The Trashcan Man has been saved from exposure by a kid called ‘The Kid’. At the start of the chapter I thought that the kid would form a rag-tag group with ol’ Trash but things get nasty, quickly. This was one of the most uncomfortable and difficult chapters I’ve had to read, I had the put the book down for a while to compose myself when Trashcan Man had an unexpected bedroom guest. I almost felt sympathy for Trash.

As scary as Flagg’s group was there was no one as dark as Harold Lauder half way through this book. Now in the Free Zone with Mother Abigail and hundreds of others, Harold has become a menacing presence in the community. There was something incredibly shark-like about Harold, he swims beneath the surface waiting to bite… and bite he does. It was about 1AM when I reached the chapter when Larry and his group reach the Free Zone, that’s when I knew there was no chance of me putting down this book.

In my review of the first part of The Stand I stated that I found Larry irritation and he reminded me too much of an early Eddie from The Dark Tower. Booksonthetube had commented saying that Larry would grow on me and that ‘he hadn’t come into his own’ yet. Booksonthetube was completely right, Larry has utterly changed and he’s quickly become one of my favourite characters. His relation with Joe/Leo is lovely to read about, these are both characters that King has nurtured wonderfully. However Nadine has been the most interesting person so far in this saga.

I reached the final stretch of the book, when I hit page 1000 I had to power through and finish. I usually don’t talk about the ending of the books I’ve read but I’m going to go ahead and write about the ending of The Stand. If you haven’t read or if you’re still reading The Stand I’d avoid the next few paragraphs if I were you.

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The last act of The Stand is astonishing, the story escalates gradually but to great effect. The dynamic amongst our main characters have dramatically changed.

When Mother Abigail arrived back in Boulder I instantly thought ‘ooh the shit’s about to hit the fan!’ From then on in the book became a real rollercoaster. Harold became an absolute piece of work, he felt so betrayed and became so sinister when he teamed up with Nadine so it was quite reassuring when he met his demise but I did appreciate that he felt guilt for his actions.  Nadine pretty much redeemed herself in my eyes, her final chapter when she aggravates Flagg to the point that he throws her off a building is a brilliant piece of writing.

I loved chapters regarding Stu, Glen, Larry, Ralph and Kojak’s journey to the West. Their fireside conversations made you believe in the group and rounded out the characters of Glen and Ralph who I hadn’t connected with too much. So it came as a massive slap in the face when Stu slips down a mound and breaks his leg. I spent the next chapter massively pissed off. Turns out I didn’t need to be too pissed off as Kojak came to the rescue. I’m such a massive dog-lover so this made every fibre of my being go “OMG THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!” I also trusted King not to kill off one of his best characters.

Flagg was such an amazing villain. He was everything I wanted from a adversary, he was evil, malevolent and stroked real fear into the hearts of readers.  His unraveling towards the end was so intense and a little stressful to read. The fact that he’s destroyed by poor old Trash who’s trying to redeem himself, is great.

The final chapters of Tom and Nick’s return to Boulder and Frannie’s pregnancy were satisfying and such a relief when reaching the last few pages.

I loved reading The Stand. I was expecting a lot of waffle in this book but this is such a fast-paced epic. I was sad when I closed the final page of this book. There were so many great characters and this is the pure definition of a modern classic.

The Circle Closes, page 1325.  THE END.