If It Bleeds by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There really is nothing like a collection of King novellas. They’re almost always amazing, and we have a winner with this one. Ever since the COVID 19 quarantine started in April of this year, I’ve shied away and/or procrastinated reading current titles or physical copies of books. It’s been the reading version of eating mac & cheese inside a burrito – absolute comfort. Apart from a few exceptions, I’ve either been re-reading Stephen King stories or at least thinking about re-reading them. If It Bleeds was VERY WELCOME. Let’s break it down by story:
1. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone – classic Stephen King. Creepy and nostalgic.
2. The Life of Chuck – a bit strange and kooky. I enjoyed the first segment more than the second but appreciated the actual Chuck and his motivation.
3. If It Bleeds – this was my favorite of the four. I barely remember Holly Gibney from Mr. Mercedes and haven’t read The Outsider yet, but the television version of the character, brilliantly played by Cynthia Erivo, immediately made her one of my favorite characters. A solo story for her was excellent. Bravo, Uncle Stevie!
4. Rat – Well, despite the title, that came out of nowhere and I loved it. You’d think my favorite author would write another tale about a struggling author and it would be lame and predictable. You’d be incorrect.
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My last book club selection (that I read anyway – yeah, I’ve been a bad member lately) was Doctor Sleep, by my favorite author of all time, Stephen King. I had had NOS4A2 on my to-read list for a while, so when it ended up on our book club future list, I skipped ahead and read it. Why? Well, firstly, Joe Hill happens to be Stephen’s son, and I’ve really enjoyed his last two novels, Heart Shaped Box and Horns. Secondly, there were connections to Doctor Sleep. I was intrigued.
Victoria McQueen is special. She can create a psychic path, or inscape, in her head to help her find lost things. She hops on her bike and will always find a covered bridge that takes her where she needs to go. She’s not the only one with this talent that shows up in different ways. There’s Maggie, who can discover stuff with her bag of Scrabble tiles. And then there’s the monster known as Charlie Manx. He can stay young by kidnapping kids and transporting them to the terrifying Christmasland in his spooky Rolls Royce Wraith. These three come together in an intensely creepy journey. Holy crap, Christmasland is creepy. Oh, look, there’s a cute snowman! Why does it have an axe? AAAAGGGHHHH!!!! Thanks, Joe, for creating this wild saga. Vic was such a wonderfully flawed hero, as was her dude Lou. And Manx? Ewwwwwww.
I saw Stephen King do a talk at George Mason University back in 2011, and got the surprise of a lifetime (for a King fan, anyway) – he read a snippet of his sequel to The Shining! And now I’ve FINALLY read the whole thing. I loved his return to the world of the Torrance family. How in the hell would Danny be dealing with his experience at the Overlook as an adult? Would he still be seeing “pictures in a book”? Oh yes, and then some. The themes of friendship, family, the mentor and the student, alcoholism, and using powers for good are covered brilliantly. Life is a circle, King says, and everything comes back around. Of course there is the scary stuff too. Uncle Stevie knows how to bring it. The group known as the True Knot, vampire like beings that feed on the “steam” of gifted children – extremely creepy and formidable. I’ll never look at recreational vehicles the same way. King’s writing is so familiar to me. Reading this novel was comforting, in some weird way. Tears were shed at the end, not gonna lie.