I started reading Mr. King’s works only after graduating from university (yet I remember somebody bringing in the novel “Cell” as far back as when I was in high school!). The reason for that is simple: ghosts, zombies and randomly moving objects don’t excite me and I don’t like to be scared. And since Mr. King is unanimously described by reviewers as a master or king of horror, I just stayed away from what I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy much.
So how did I end up reading his books?
After rereading “Technics of the Selling Writer” by D. V. Swain (I think it was my third time around), I felt the need for at least one more book on writing. And — surprise! — Mr. King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” turned out to be a highly recommended one. I thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’. Given that he’s a commercially successful modern writer, one can definitely learn something from him. So apart from getting some good tips on writing I’ve also learned that: a) he writes rea-a-ally well (in English that is); b) turns out he has a good deal of sci-fi works which is a genre I like.
Upon finishing his book “On Writing” I was eager to try out some of his fiction. I started with the short stories (as of now I’m through with reading “Everything’s Eventual” and “The Nightshift” collection), gradually moving on to his novels. And now he’s become one of my favorite authors. So, here’s a list of his books I would recommend to check out.
4. “The Langoliers”, 1990: This is a gloomy fast-paced novella from the “Four Past Midnight” collection with a surprisingly happy ending. In this story ten passengers of Boeing 767 flying to Boston wake up and find out that all other people disappeared from the plane. They manage to land in Bangor only to discover that something’s deeply wrong with everything but them and the plane.
3. “The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition”, 1990 (1st edition was published in 1978): It’s a very long novel (1152 pages) where focus of the story continuously switches between the numerous characters. If you aren’t into that sort of thing, don’t even try it. It actually seems that initially the author was going to write a completely different book — more focused on mysterious superflu and government conspiracies — but he wound up with a novel about how accustomed we all are to the benefits of modern living and how desperately we need others, no matter how much we tend to complain about crowdedness of the cities. In the book “On Writing”, Mr. King admits that after writing 500 pages he got stuck but luckily managed to finish this fantasy-epic later.
2. “The Running Man”, 1982: This is one of the books published under Mr. King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman. According to him the whole book was written in a week. It seems to have been inspired by modern obsession with absurd reality shows, as well as such flaws of our society as high unemployment rates and ineradicable differences in access to medical care and unpolluted goods between the rich and the poor. The protagonist decides to apply as a contestant to a violent TV show to make money for his family, yet he doesn’t seem to win much in his little war after all.
1. “From a Buick 8”, 2002: This is a book about a mysterious artifact of alien nature acquired by police officers and kept in a hangar. Despite the fact that most events happen within one locale — police barracks — it is the most engaging Stephen King’s novel I’ve read so far. After finishing the first draft, Mr. King had an opportunity to talk to real State Police cops from western Pennsylvania and add in some police procedure details. In “On Writing” he describes this book as a “novel about how we hand down our knowledge and our secrets; it’s also a grim and frightening story about an alien piece of machinery that sometimes reaches out and swallows people whole”.
That’s about it. I’m going to read more of his books in the future, so this list may undergo some changes. Though I wouldn’t expect it to happen anytime soon since I plan to read a couple of books by John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up), who was terribly undersold during his lifetime.
Book covers are from Goodreads and belong to their respective owners.