February 27, 2017

The Waste Lands by Stephen King

Title:  The Waste Lands
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  422
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Plume, 1992
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 3

...the voice of Yes; the voice of White; the voice of Always.

Synopsis:  With The Waste Lands, the third masterful novel in Stephen King's epic saga The Dark Tower, we again enter the realm of the mightiest imagination of our time.  King's hero, Roland, the Last Gunslinger, moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares -- as he crosses a desert of damnation in a macabre world that is a twisted mirror image of our own.

With him are those he has drawn to this world, street-smart Eddie Dean and courageous wheelchair-bound Susannah.  Ahead of him are mind-rending revelations about who he is and what is driving him.  Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of fiendish foes both more and less than human.

And as the pace of action and adventure, discovery and danger pulse-poundingly quickens, the reader is inescapably drawn into a breathtaking drama that is both hauntingly dream-like....and eerily familiar.

"YOU ARE KA-TET; ONE MADE FROM MANY. SO AM I. WHOSE KA-TET IS THE STRONGER WE MUST NOW PROVE."

Review:  I really need a new copy of this book.  It's in even worse condition than the The Drawing of the Three, which I thought was just about impossible.  It's got a slit in the middle of the front cover that goes all the way through the pages, all the way to page 105.  I have no idea how it happened, but at least it's small enough that I could still read the words on the pages.

Jake, a child from New York City in 1977, has been drawn.  He and his new-found friend, Oy the billy-bumbler, are a great addition to the ka-tet.  I love Oy.  He's something like a large, smart racoon creature with golden eyes....and he talks, sort of.  

The group continues to follow the beam to find the Dark Tower and they must pass through the mostly-destroyed city of Lud to get there.  It's a harrowing tale.  I love this story almost as much as I love the previous one.  It's full of great quotes and high adventure and really horrible bad guys and monsters.  It's pretty much everything I love and I'm giving it a perfect rating because it's kept my interest each and every time I've read it.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 22, 2017

The Final Day by William R. Forstchen

Title:  The Final Day
Author:  William R. Forstchen
Pages:  348
Genre:  Dystopian Thriller
Publisher:  Tom Doherty, 2017
Series:  John Matherson, Book 3

"I'm quit now, quit forever.  This is the final day."

Synopsis:  Since the detonation of nuclear weapons above the United States more than two years ago, the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina has suffered famine, civil war, and countless deaths. Now, after defeating a new, tyrannical federal government, John Matherson and his community intend to restore their world to what it was before the EMP apocalypse. For the most part, they are succeeding.

This period of relative stability doesn’t last long. A new, aggressive government announces that it’s taking over and ceding large portions of the country to China and Mexico. The Constitution is no longer in effect, and what’s left of the U.S. Army has been deployed to suppress rebellion in the remaining states. John fears he and his town will be targets.

General Bob Scales, John’s old commanding officer and closest friend from prewar days, is sent to bring John into line. Will John and his people accept the new, autocratic regime? Or will revolution rip the fledgling nation apart at the seams?

"Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow."

Review:  This author has an uncanny ability to write a fictional story that leaves you believing that what he portrays is *exactly* what would happen.  The first novel in this series, One Second After, left me chilled and horrified.  The second book, while very good, didn't touch me in quite the same way.  This final novel left me angry.  Really furious.  And I believed every bit of what he described was absolutely what would happen if our government ever had a crisis like this one take place.

It starts out about 2 1/2 years after The Day, the day the EMP hit the United States, and ends exactly 3 years after the first novel begins.  For such a short period of time, there is so much happening and it's exciting, terrible, incredibly sad and a little hopeful, too.  While this story didn't quite have the impact of the first novel, it was very good.

This series is far and away the single most important set of books I've read.  They opened my eyes to the fact that I'm not safe.  Nobody is.  And it made me realize that I am responsible to make myself safe and to prepare for what could happen.

Rating:  9 / 10

February 15, 2017

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

Title:  The Drawing of the Three
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  399
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Plume, 1987
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 2

The gunslinger had no idea what tooter-fish was --- only that it was delicious.  That seemed enough.

Synopsis:  In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead. Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope - crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts - the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

 And the tower awaits....

To pay hell is one thing.  But do you want to own it?

Review:  I still have the over-sized paperback version of this story that I bought sometime in 1989.  It's dog-eared and worn out.  The pages are stained and the covers are bent.  The edges of the cover are peeling and the spine is crinkled.  It's in horrible shape.  I keep promising myself a new edition, but somehow.......somehow, I can't seem to quite let this one go.  It's my very favorite of all of the Dark Tower stories and this is the book I read it in first.

I love Eddie, drawn into Roland's world from 'our world', where he was hopped up on heroin and living in New York City in 1987.  I love Odetta / Detta, the rights-activist with a split personality from New York City in 1964, who was drawn next.  And I really love Susannah, the woman she becomes after she is forced to face her problems, making her the third of 'the Three'.  The third door, which does not (thankfully!) bring another person, is filled with a man I absolutely do not like.  But, Roland takes care of him so it works out in the end.

I really, really love how Roland views our world.  There is so much of everything!  The waste, the huge number of things available in stores, and the sheer number of people are more than he can believe.  Paper, bullets, drugstores, and police officers fill him with equal measures of awe, scorn and confusion.

I love the whole series.  But I love this story best.  It's just so good and so funny in places and so horrible in others.  In other words, it draws me in and drags me along.  Even after having read it so many times, I still can't put it down once I've begun.  And I still eat tooter-fish sandwiches.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 13, 2017

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

Title:  State of Fear
Author:  Michael Crichton
Pages:  580
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Harper Collins, 2004
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: The undisputed master of the techno-thriller has written his most riveting -- and entertaining -- book yet.

Once again Michael Crichton gives us his trademark combination of page-turning suspense, cutting-edge technology, and extraordinary research. State of Fear is a superb blend of edge-of-your-seat suspense and thought provoking commentary on how information is manipulated in the modern world. From the streets of Paris, to the glaciers of Antarctica to the exotic and dangerous Solomon Islands, State of Fear takes the reader on a roller coaster thrill ride, all the while keeping the brain in high gear.

Review:  Wow.  This book is not just thrilling.  It's terrifying.  The thought that the things described in these pages could happen just scared me to death.  And they could happen, so easily, if the right powerful people decided they should.

The main character, Peter Evans, isn't particularly likable at the start of the story, but by the end he's grown to the point that you see him for the better person he is becoming.  Come to think of it, none of the characters are all that likable.  They all have their human vanities and preconceptions, just like normal people.  There are the people trying to do wrong and the people trying to stop them, but none of them are people you'd probably consider lovable.  But, that just made the story more realistic.

I've been hoarding this book for some time, mostly because I'd read all of this author's works except two novels.  Michael Crichton is dead now, so I know there won't be any more.  I was saving them and now I'm down to just one more.  That makes me incredibly sad because none of his novels have been anything but wonderful.  Some are better than others, but all of them are far above the average novel.  This one rates high because it was just so darn good.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 6, 2017

Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper

Title:  Beauty
Author:  Sheri S. Tepper
Pages:  463
Genre:  Historical / Fantasy
Publisher:  Bantam, 1992
Series:  Stand Alone

"No forest, no prairie, no birds, no fish.  It all went to Fidipur."

Synopsis: With the  critically acclaimed novels The Gate To Women's Country, Raising The Stones, and the  Hugo-nominated Grass, Sheri Tepper has established herself as one of the major science fiction writers of our time.

In Beauty, she broadens her territory even further, with a novel that evokes all the richness of  fairy tale and fable. Drawing on the wellspring of tales such as "Sleeping Beauty,"  Beauty is a moving novel of love and loss, hope and  despair, magic and nature. Set against a backdrop both enchanted and frightening, the story begins with a wicked aunt's curse that will afflict a young woman named Beauty on her sixteenth birthday.  Though Beauty is able to sidestep tragedy, she soon finds herself embarked on an adventure of vast consequences. For it becomes clear that the enchanted places of this fantastic world--a place not unlike our own--are in danger and must be saved before it is too late.

Review:  This book has it all; time travel, fairies, magic, love and even horror.  It combines fairy tales and reality to create a magical past and a horrible future for the world.  The main character travels between 1347 and 2089 with a few side trips in between.  It's fantasy, romance, science fiction and portions of it are dystopian....and some of it is almost too terrible to read.  It isn't an easy combination to pull off, all these very separate story types in one novel.  This author manages it, but I found myself only liking certain portions of it and not others.  There were just too many themes, although the main one is that we are ruining our world and the beauty of nature.

I'm not overly fond of novels that grind an ax quite so loudly as this one did.  I agree with her ideals.  I just don't agree with her beating the readers over the head with them, not to this degree and not in fictional literature.  I was determined to finish because I fully expected "and they lived happily ever after" at the end, but it wasn't that way at all.  I'm giving extra points for originality though.  There was certainly plenty of that and it's always refreshing to find.

Rating:  5 / 10

January 30, 2017

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Title:  The Gunslinger
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  231
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Viking Penguin, 2003
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 1

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Synopsis:  Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange single-mindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse - left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond...the Dark Tower.

"Go then.  There are other worlds than these."

Review:  I read this story for what I estimate is the 11th time - 8 times in the original format and three times in the 'remastered' edition.  I found the original in 1989 and fell in love.  I purchased the sequel, The Drawing of the Three, almost immediately.  Then I waited.  Three years for book 3.  Six more years for book 4.  Another six years for book 5.  Then, the last two books came out one right after another several months later.  A companion novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole, came out eight years after the final book in the series.  Nearly every time a new novel came out, I started back at the beginning and read them all over again.  And sometimes when the wait was too long, I'd dust this one off and read it again - just because.

I've tallied it up and I waited a whopping 16 years to find out what happens at the end....and another 8 years after that for the additional book, for a grand total of 24 years.  Twenty-four years.  To be fair, the author did spend over 40 years (with some long breaks) writing the eight novels that make up The Dark Tower series.

That being said, even now I learn new things.  I didn't remember that in the introduction, Mr. King makes reference to the fact that he got his idea for a western backdrop from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starring Clint Eastwood.  That explains why I've always pictured The Gunslinger as a man very much like some of Mr. Eastwood's characters.  And why, even though this is obviously a fantasy novel, it always also felt like a western to me.

I last read this novel in 2015, when I finally got my copy of the newest book.  I couldn't re-read the entire series.  It just seemed like too much work at the time.  I think I was a little miffed that the author had written another story, after I finally thought I'd read them all.  Today, I want nothing else than to delve right into book two and keep right on going, all the way through.  But, I am going to space them out this year.  Or, that's my plan at least.

This remains, even after all the times I've read it, one of my favorite books.  It is also the beginning to one of only three series that have a permanent place in my collection.  I quite simply love these books and never, ever get tired of them.

Rating:  10 / 10

January 26, 2017

Trouble Magnet by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Trouble Magnet
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  280
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2007
Series:  Humanx Commonwealth, Book 23

Synopsis: In this dazzling new novel, Flinx confirms his status as the galaxy’s greatest magnet for big trouble.

Wandering out there in some remote region of the galaxy is a gargantuan sentient Tar-Aiym weapons’ system. All Flinx has to do–while his pals look after his injured love Clarity Held–is find the hefty object and persuade it to knock out the monstrous evil that is hurtling through space to waste the entire Commonwealth.

A no-brainer, really, especially for Flinx, who is never without his loyal entourage of official snoops, crazed zealots, assorted goons, and the occasional assassin. Indeed, the boy wonder and his mini-drag, Pip, are eager to commence their heroic task . . . just as soon as Flinx visits Visaria–a dangerously depraved planet–to convince himself that humans are indeed worth saving.

The chances of stumbling across high moral values and utopian ideals don’t look promising–what with Flinx playing a lawless Pied Piper to a gang of lying, thieving juvenile delinquents. But prospects really go south when Flinx runs afoul of the corrupt planet’s ruthless crime king.

Still, life is full of surprises, and Flinx is about to get smacked by a passel of them–by turns devastating, heartening, and positively jaw-dropping. For although Flinx came to Visaria to plumb the enigma of humankind, there’s another mystery waiting here, a shocking clue about his own shadowy past.

Review:  This series is one of a very few that I can read one book, take a break, and pick the next book up later without worrying about forgetting what's going on.  It's an original story line with very unforgettable characters.  The main characters have remained the same throughout the series and each book introduces new characters that, most of the time, you never see again.

So, each story is complete unto itself, but also adds a little bit to the larger, more important story of Flinx and his efforts to save the universe......or at least his part of it.  There are only 5 books left in the series and I'll be sorry to be done.  It's been a great ride, starting back in 2013 when I read the first book, Nor Crystal Tears, which remains one of my favorite stories from the series.

Rating:  8.5 / 10
Back to Top