Thursday 21 June 2012

Devouring Stephen King: Four Past Midnight

I know that I'd read Four Past Midnight before this time round, but I had some real trouble remembering anything that happened in any of the stories, except for Secret Window, Secret Garden; clearly because I've seen the film based on it (Secret Window) more than once (Johnny Depp, people! Also, it is quite good.) In many ways this was awesome, because I really didn't know what was going to happen in any of the other stories, which is always an advantage when you're reading... unsettling stories, cause, you know, jumping about 10 feet if anyone tries to speak to you while you're reading? It's AWESOME.

I'm going to sort of mini-review each story, but before I do, a note about how they fit together. Because I think it would be really easy to read these and like them (or most of them... You'll see) but to be kind of like 'but... why aren't they all separate books?' I mean, firstly it's because they're not quite long enough to be full novels (except maybe The Langoliers) but on the front of my book, there's a little tagline: 'Right time, wrong place', which seems like a mostly nonsensical little statement BUT it actually ties all the stories together really well, in a way that's kind of difficult to explain. Maybe I can do it with each story individually, let's see!

The Langoliers
The problem in The Langoliers is that of being in the right place at entirely the wrong time, and looks, in a really interesting, and freaky, way, at what happens to the past when we're finished with it. Any elaboration on that is going to be a spoiler, I think, so let's just say that this starts off as a sort of mystery, 'why are we the only people left on this plane' story, and evolves into something that I was not at all expecting, even though I've apparently read it before! It's really tense and odd and interesting, if maybe a little bit over-long.

Secret Window, Secret Garden
As I've already said, this is the story in the collection I'm most familiar with, just because I've seen the movie quite a few times. And, as an added non-bonus, I saw the movie before I read the book, which is a real disadvantage because 1) they have the same twist at the end, and you can only really be shocked by it once, and 2) they have radically different endings (in spite of the same twist) and I happen to like the one in the film better because I think it's braver, although a totally non-Stephen King way to end proceedings. This has always been a problem for me with this story, BUT if you haven't seen or read either, then I'd definitely recommend doing so because it's a good story! I just... prefer the film. ALSO, having said all this, this story also operates along the same lines of The Dark Half, only in a much better way, so definitely read this rather than that, if that's a decision you're making.

The Library Policeman
Worryingly, I remembered the most disturbing aspect of this story (can't tell you what it is, because it's at the crux of the story) which I still don't know if it's because it's sort of hinted at quite a bit, or because I'm just creepy and gross. Jury's out on that one. But anyway, The Library Policeman is blooming terrifying, and there's this one chapter that's basically just a big description of THE library policeman that's about the scariest thing I've read for a while. I was slightly underwhelmed by the real identity of the real villain (mainly because she doesn't have a proper one) but still, this was really creepy, and probably had a couple of my favourite characters of all four stories in it. Also, this book very much comes into the 'right place, wrong time' category of stories.

The Sun Dog
Ugh, this story wasn't great. I could have really done without it, actually, because, whilst it started off with a mildly interesting premise (a camera that doesn't take photos of what's in front of it) I really got bored with nothing actually happening, and then by the time that the thing that was clearly going to happen happened, I was just like 'mehhhhh' and really couldn't be bothered with it anymore. So yeah. I would honestly advocate skipping this story, except that I think it might have something to do with Needful Things, which I haven't read yet, so... maybe not. But also, maybe. It wasn't very fun at all. Oh, except for this:
"'Why are they doing that, Mom?'
Mrs Delevan said, 'Because they have penises, dear. Go hang up your coat.'"
Made me laugh, anyway! This story very much goes along the right time, wrong place thing. So that's another thing going for it...

So yeah. Not a bad bunch of stories at all, although if there was something I was going to say about all of them, apart from the 'Right time, wrong place' thing, it would be that they're all slightly too long. Like, if they were any longer then they'd be waaay too long, but I think King really pushes the topic as far as it will go in each case, and juust manages to keep them readable (apart from, maybe, The Sun Dog, because ugh. Although it is the shortest story, I think!) But then I also don't think they should be short stories either, but... I don't know. I just think they all could have been slightly shorter, and in being so, slightly better. But only slightly, because really, they are pretty good. Except for The Sun Dog, because BORING. Yeah.


  1. It's getting weird how similar our opinions are on King's works recently. I'm going to have to take a left turn sooner or later to spark some debate.
    Unfortunately, seeing as you've caught me up and will no doubt charge ahead, I'm going to get a bit behind on reading your reviews until I've read the relevant books. I know you're spoiler-free but I like to be as much in the dark on a book as I can. Gutted (because I like reading your reviews, that is.)

    The comedy line you mention from The Sun Dog also made me laugh out loud and was the probable highlight.

    1. I know, it's freaky right! Even with like each story in this collection, we have pretty similar thoughts- great minds, obvs! Also, saaad times not reading my reviews, although I pretty much do the same thing in not wanting to know basically anything about the books (I read yours if I've read the book before, otherwise I steer clear until I'm well into the book!) soooo I understand. Although all you need to catch up is to be unemployed for AGES, not sure if you're into that plan? Hehe.

      Definitely the highlight of The Sun Dog. Just... boys are silly!

  2. Four Past Midnight! There was a TV movie of The Langoliers and if memory serves, it wasn't awful.

    I can't believe you don't like The Sun Dog! Maybe it's just because I love how King weaves characters from other stories. Since this is a Castle Rock story, you've got characters from Needful Things, The Dark Half, The Body (Stand By Me), Cujo, etc. Did you notice that Naomi Higgins from The Library Policeman shows up in The Sun Dog?

    1. A non-awful Stephen King film? That's just crazy talk! (with apologies to The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me)

      You know, I DO really like it when King sticks in references to other books, and I LOVE it when he makes some crotchety old Maine resident go 'you don't write *horror* books like that writer up in Bangor do ya?' But even that couldn't save The Sun Dog, I'm afraid. Although I did enjoy the fact that Ace Merrill was in prison, so. Yeah. Also I TOTALLY DID NOT NOTICE THAT NAOMI SHOWED UP IN THE SUN DOG! WHAAAAT?!

  3. "It's really tense and odd and interesting, if maybe a little bit over-long."
    I like King, but I feel like this can be used to describe like 99% of his stuff. Except "1408" which I love as is and don't want to change.

    anyway, more King to add to my TBR because almost all the stories sound so so good.

    1. Ooooooh, thems fighting words! I feel like IT is the perfect length even though it's ridiculously long, but maaaybe The Stand is a bit overlong..? But then I do have the uncut edition. But anyway, noooo I don't think that's true!!!!! Except for most of these, and also The Dark Half. And The Tommyknockers should never have happened. This wasn't a prime King time, I'm going to have to say.

      But yeeees, read it! Just skip The Sun Dog, cause MEH.

  4. I know I've read this before, but I'm having real trouble remembering any of it apart from The Langoliers, which is one of my favourite ever King stories. Time for a re-read I think!

    1. I was the same, except I could only remember Secret Window, Secret Garden! Clearly it's not really a 'sticks with you' kinda book haha. It's odd as well, cause I really liked The Langoliers AND The Library Policeman, so I don't know what that's all about!