FSFH Book Review

Site Navigation
The Best
The Worst
Abnett, Dan
Adams, Douglas
Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto
Allen, Roger MacBride
Allie, Scott
Allston, Aaron
Anderson, Kevin J.
Barclay, James
Barnes, Steven
Baum, L. Frank
Bear, Greg
Bendis, Brian Michael
Bischoff, David
Bisson, Terry
Blackman, Haden
Bova, Ben
Bowen, Carl
Brooks, Terry
Canavan, Trudi
Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
Clarke, Arthur C.
Clarke, Susanna
Clemens, James
Collins, Paul
Crichton, Michael
Crispin, A. C.
Cunningham, Elaine
Daley, Brian
David, Peter
DeMatteis, J. M.
Denning, Troy
Dick, Philip K.
Dickens, Charles
Dietz, William C.
Dixon, Chuck
Donaldson, Stephen
Eddings, David
Edginton, Ian
Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
Goodwin, Archie
Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
Harrison, Mick
Heinlein, Robert A.
Herbert, Frank
Herbert, James
Hine, David
Hobb, Robin
Howard, Robert E.
Jacques, Brian
James, Charlie Hamilton
Jenkins, Paul
Jeter, K. W.
Johns, Geoff
Jones, J. V.
Jordan, Robert
Jurgens, Dan
Karpyshyn, Drew
Kennedy, Mike
Kerr, Katharine
Keyes, Greg
King, Stephen
King, William
Knaak, Richard A.
Kube-McDowell, Michael P.
Lawhead, Stephen
Layman, John
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Lewis, C. S.
Lieberman, A. J.
Loeb, Jeph
Lorey, Dean
Lowder, James
Luceno, James
Lumley, Brian
Macan, Darko
Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
Marz, Ron
Matheson, Richard
McCaffrey, Anne
McIntosh, Neil
McIntyre, Vonda
Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
Miller, John Jackson
Miller, Karen
Milligan, Peter
Moench, Doug
Moesta, Rebecca
Moore, Alan
Nicholls, Stan
Nicieza, Fabian
Nylund, Eric
O'Neil, Dennis
Ostrander, John
Paolini, Christopher
Perry, S. D.
Perry, Steve
Pratchett, Terry
Pullman, Philip
Quinn, David
Reaves, Michael
Reed, A. W.
Reed, Brian
Rice, Anne
Richardson, Nancy
Roberts, Adam
Rowe, Matthew
Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
Shelley, Mary
Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Stewart, Sean
Stoker, Bram
Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Traviss, Karen
Truman, Tim
Turtledove, Harry
Tyers, Kathy
van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
Whitman, John
Williams, Sean
Williams, Tad
Williams, Walter Jon
Windham, Ryder
Wolverton, Dave
Woodring, Jim
Wurts, Janny
Yeovil, Jack
Zahn, Timothy
Collaborations A - F
Collaborations G - M
Collaborations N - R
Collaborations S
Collaborations T - Z
Anthologies A - R
Anthologies S
Anthologies T - Z
Still to come
Reviewing Literature
The Books of Stephen King

One of the most popular and prolific horror writters around, Stephen King's works have become a part of the public consciousness thanks to the many of his works that have become successful films, not least 'The Shining' and 'The Shawshank Redemption'.  Since he began writing, however, one series has been his magnum opus and fantasy/horror fans the world over have been enthralled by 'The Dark Tower' series.  He lives with his novelist wife Tabitha in Bangor.  Bangor is in Maine, where a frankly ridiculous number of his books are set (and if it isn't ridiculous, then Maine must be a very scary place).
Average Review Score: 4.2 out of 5 (9 books)

The Eyes Of The Dragon
Now, Stephen King is a talented writer, I can't deny that.  Which makes me wonder if he is really responsible for this particular piece of literary crap.  With this book King has tried to combine his background in horror writing with a lively fantasy tale for children, however, what he achieves is a massive failure on all fronts.  I'll deal with them one at a time:  first, the horror.  The horror element of this book is the sort of dire pantomime evil you'd expect from a B-movie Hammer film.  The villain, Flagg, frankly ridiculous and his evil ways and assertions that he will decapitate the prince will have you laughing rather than shuddering in terror.  Next, there's the target audience.  I'm not ashamed to read books written for younger readers because, in the majority of cases, the author knows not to 'speak' down to the kids and therefore make the books fairly adult and again, here King stumbles.  The prose gives you the impression that the author is trying to communicate with a particularly dull-witted five-year old and lacks flow, imagination, vocabulary and a basic sense of style.  Finally, I come to the story itself.  King hasn't even bothered to come up with a new story, instead using a very familiar-feeling tale about a king who is poisoned by his magician, a prince wrongly accused of the crime and exiled and another prince corrupted into a puppet ruler by the magician.  It's all so deplorably unoriginal that I struggled to read the book all the way through, because I already knew exactly where the story was going.  I urge children, fantasy lovers and horror fans alike to avoid this book like the plague.  For God's sake read King's awesome Dark Tower books instead!
1 out of 5
The Gunslinger
Written by King over the course of sixteen years, 'The Gunslinger' became the beginning of the author's most personal work, The Dark Tower series.  Seamlessly comprised of a series of linked short stories, this book is a stunning piece of literature.  It's genius comes from the fact that the world of Roland the Gunslinger adheres to no rules and nothing is fixed, creating an ethereal dream-like quality that I can't say I've encountered in any other book (except the other Dark Tower books of course!).  In this book we slowly come to know Roland, the last of a noble breed of warrior-guardians, who chooses to give up all other concerns beside the hunt for the man in black, and beyond that his quest to reach the Dark Tower at the centre of all realities.  Roland is a masterfully created character, being both tragic and heroic and, ultimately, something of a monster.  This book mixes Western, horror, fantasy and science fiction creating a book of such character and diversity that I command everyone to read it and shall personally feed those who don't to the Slow Mutants.  And keep your eyes peeled for a crow whose favourite phrase is "Screw you and the horse you rode in on".
4 out of 5
The Drawing Of The Three
The second Dark Tower book begins with Roland being severely injured by lobstrosities (I won't even try to explain).  Knowing that he is dying, he happens across three doorways in reality, opening onto our own world, and sets about trying to draw forth the three who will accompany him to the Dark Tower, as prophesied in 'The Gunslinger'.  The story becomes increasingly bizarre and yet remains completely believable, thanks to King's remarkable talent and vision.  Roland's character deepens as he is forced into companionship with Eddie and Susannah/Detta and their stories are also remarkably compelling, with Eddie's struggle with drug addiction and Susannah's struggle with the vile woman who shares her mind.  Finally, Roland's confrontation with 'Death' is riveting and reveals alot about what happened to Jake in the previous book.  Another stunningly disturbing and emotional story that I found totally engrossing.
5 out of 5
The Wastelands
By now you'll be beginning to wonder about Mr. King's sanity, but by no means will you wan't to stop reading about Roland, Eddie and Susannah as they begin their journey to the Dark Tower.  The story begins with the brilliantly mindbending paradox that threatens to destroy both Roland and the boy Jake, in our own world.  Jake was killed before meeting Roland in 'The Gunslinger' but Roland then prevented Jake's murder in 'The Drawing Of The Three' and this discrepancy is tearing both characters' minds apart (and maybe yours too!).  The only way to save them both is to complete the drawing of the three and bring Jake into Roland's world, but evil forces are turned against them.  Later, the questors (including a billy-bumbler - again, I won't try to explain) enter the post apocalyptic city of Lud.  In the creation of Lud and it's inhabitants King has outdone himself and I guarantee that you will find your sleep haunted by the city's drums (that statement is not legally binding, you know...).  The book ends on a cliff-hanger with the heroes attempting to match wits with an insane genius of a monorail, but rather than leaving you feeling unfulfilled, the ending will leave you thirsting for more!  Things get weirder, but also better and better.
5 out of 5
Wizard And Glass
Roland and company continue their quest to reach the Dark Tower, but as reality begins to fall apart around them, Roland recounts the story of his early life as a Gunslinger.  The majority of the book is taken up by Roland's tale, which is a mixture of Western and love story.  This core flashback, does admittedly drag at times, but when you finally get through it you will have such a deep and insightful understanding of Roland (who was always a bit of a mystery before) that it will have all been worth it.  King should be applauded with the sincerity of feeling he instills in the relationship between Roland and Susan Delgado and the Big Coffin Hunters are the perfect counterpoint to the three young Gunslingers.  The ending is slightly odder than usual (and that's saying something), with Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake putting on ruby shoes to enter an emerald city to see the resident wizard.  All told, this isn't quite as good as the previous books but is nevertheless an enjoyable next step towards the Dark Tower that haunts readers as much as the characters.  Roll on 'Wolves Of The Calla' I say!
4 out of 5
Wolves Of The Calla
After a wait of a few years, King delivers a book of outstanding quality.  Here, the Gunslingers go to the aid of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a town threatened by the impending attack of the Wolves.  But there is more going on than it first seems, with a new addition to their Ka-tet, the appearance of the most powerful stone of the Wizard's Rainbow and Susannah being plagued by a new fractious personality.  The introduction of Callahan is a masterstroke, allowing King to take an old character (from 'Salem's Lot') and unveil how, after his departure from the original story, he travelled to various levels of the Dark Tower.  Also, the mystery of the Wolves adds both tension and intrigue that ends explosively in the story's finale.  The new characters are all of exceptional quality, being 100% believable, with their own hopes, fears and psychosis.  The old characters also continue to develop as Roland has to deal with increasing decriptude, Susannah comes to realise that she is pregnant with a demon's spawn, Eddie begins to accept the responsibility of being Roland's first and foremost apprentice and Jake becomes a man and a gunslinger at the same time.  (Oy also develops the ability to speak more and also do a Roland impression!).  Comic, tragic, scary, inspirational, dreamlike and harshly real, 'Wolves of the Calla' is a contradiction of ideas that somehow manages to come across coherently and make perfect sense.  I'm only sorry that there's just two books left to come before the series is finished.
5 out of 5
Song Of Susannah
The sixth and penultimate Dark Tower book.  The story is split between two time frames in our own world.  In Maine in 1977 (another one set in Maine!) Roland and Eddie have to track down Calvin Tower and convince him to sell them the rose lot in New York.  This storyline opens explosively with a big shoot-out at a General Store and shows that King can write action as well as horror.  After the meeting with Tower, the two Gunslingers go on to encounter an author named Stephen King.  There follows a scene in which King works out his own psychological demons and reveals a massive God-complex, proving once and for all that he's a total nutter.  However, it's made somewhat plausible by two things, the revelation that King (the character) is merely a conduit for Ka and the fact that in terms of being their creator, he is God to Roland and Eddie.  The other story is set in 1999 New York, where Susannah struggles with the demon Mia for control of her body.  Mia's past is revealed and also gives us some foresight of the land of Thunderclap into which I heroes must go in the next book.  Hot on Susannah's heels come Jake, Oy and Don Callahan who, as they follow her to the 'Dixie Pig' become increasingly aware that they may be going to their deaths.  I absolutely loved this book and found only three things wrong with it;  1) the cliff hanger means we have to wait to see what happens to Susannah, Jake and Callahan; 2) there's a rather bad taste joke about the chances of the World Trade Center collapsing; 3) King seems to have confused the character of Walter (the man in black) with that of Marten (who appears as Flagg in book four).  I'm sure he'll pass it off as part of the story, but it seems a silly mistake to make.
5 out of 5
The Dark Tower
The end of a long road for fans of the series.  King uses this book in an attempt to truly tie together his entire writing career, as it combines elements from a great many of his most famous works, running from Walter's reminiscence of when he laid waste to an Earth under the name Flagg ('The Stand') to a creature that eats emotions and transforms into a clown and an insect ('It') and including characters from ''Salem's Lot', 'Hearts In Atlantis' and 'Insomnia'.  The book has a good many ups and downs.  One of the best 'ups' is where the ka-tet of gunslingers, minus one of their number (I'll let you find out for yourself who's first to die), take on overwhelming odds to free the enslaved Breakers and save the beam that supports the Dark Tower.  However, one of the 'downs' is the Mordred storyline which will leave you thinking, 'okay, just get on with it and have the confrontation!'.  Another thing I didn't like (and which King actually addresses in the text) is the increasing inclusion of made up words.  Ka-tet I could deal with, but here King bombards us with dan-tete, can'ka-no rey, ves'-ka gan and a variety of others, as if he suddenly decided to create a language only his fans understand (a la Tolkien's elvish).  As for the ending, I won't say whether I was pleased or disappointed (I'm not sure I've decided yet - these books certainly leave you pondering), but I will say that it's clever and probably appropriate.  After all, ka is a wheel.
4 out of 5
The Stand
I'll say first off that I read the author's expanded edition of this book (weighing in at a hefty 1421 pages) and had high expectations of what some call King's best book.  I can honestly say that my expectations have never been so dramatically exceeded!  The book begins by revealing the dramas in the lives of it's numerous main characters (although primarily Nick, Stu, Fran and Larry).  One of King's greatest talents is his ability to focus in on the ordinary in order to help us connect with the extraordinary and that is how he plays it here.  Just about anyone reading this book will be able to relate to one or all of it's main characters in some way.  They story moves along, following the progress of a bioengineered superflu, created as a weapon by the U.S government, as an accident rapidly spreads it across America.  Of all the dark themes featured in this book, the most terrifying scenes are where the U.S Army, focusing it's resources on covering up it's involvement and the very existance of the plague, begins summarily executing members of the civilian media.  Originally conceived during the Cold War, this is King's sharp jab at the political attitude that anything goes as long as you're not caught doing it.  The most chilling element of these scenes in the book is the tragic and horrifying believability of it all.  Worse still, and again bringing up Cold War parallels, is where the U.S deliberately spread the plague to China and Russia to ensure mutual destruction.  The few survivors of the plague struggle with the creeping insanity of a world without rules or other people.  Eventually, however, they begin to experience dreams of an old black woman, Mother Abigail, and a sinister dark man, Randall Flagg.  These dreams draw a line in the sand and King separates the good from the evil in the way of classic fantasy.  However, as you can expect, it's not nearly that simple and both sides are filled with individuals who are divided within themselves.  Finally, four men of the Boulder Free Zone head west on a mission from God, to face down Flagg in his own base, Las Vegas.  This book is by turns humourous, depressing, uplifting, terrifying, exciting, intriguing and (always) thought-provoking.  Questions are asked about the nature of good and evil, the structure of society (Glen Bateman's character - a sociologist - is the perfect tool for pulling our own culture apart piece by piece) and King doesn't always see fit to provide answers, quite deliberately.  If ever human nature was condensed into a mere (!) 1400 pages, then this is the book where it happens.  Stephen King is a dark genius.
5 out of 5

If you liked King:
Frankly, the Dark Tower books have no peer (there's nothing I know remotely like them), but fans may be interested by Tad Williams' 'Otherland' series which similarly blurs the lines of reality.  Also, there is a Dark Tower short story (set before 'The Gunslinger') in the 'Legends' fantasy anthology.
As for people who liked 'The Eyes Of The Dragon', I recommend suicide, lest you pollute the genetic stock of the future!

FSFH Book Review - Fantasy - Science Fiction - Horror - Book Review - Hardback - Paperback - Comics TPB - Anthologies - Star Wars - Book Review - FSFH Book Review - Fantasy - Science Fiction - Horror - Book Review - Hardback - Paperback - Comics TPB - Anthologies - Star Wars - Book Review - FSFH Book Review - Fantasy - Science Fiction - Horror - Book Review - Hardback - Paperback - Comics TPB - Anthologies - Star Wars - Book Review