My Top 3 Stephen King Novels

This week has seen the release of a sequel to his novel The Shining – a book that divides fans firmly between “prefer the film” and “I hate the film for missing the point”. Is it possible for me to sit on the fence of this issue and say that I appreciate both productions for different reasons? For the record, King hates the Kubrick film – and as much as I enjoy it, I fully appreciate and accept his reasons for doing so (number three on the list).

Stephen King
wikimedia.org

He talks to The Guardian here about his sequel to the book. Called Doctor Sleep, it follows little Danny as an adult – a drunk haunted by the events in the Overlook Hotel and using his powers (the titular Shining) to help people die in peace. But of course he is haunted by those powers and he is an alcoholic, as well as being the son of an alcoholic. Many of King’s books have a theme that is personal to him (King himself is a reformed alcoholic).

Anyway, I’m not going to regurgitate this article and I want to tell you about my top 3 favourite King books (this may be revised after I have read 11.12.63)

3. The Dark Half

There’s something unnerving for a writer in getting tooooo sucked into a character. Every writer could probably think of at least one character that has run away with himself/herself and taken on a life of their own. In this King novel, that takes a sinister turn when writer Thad Beaumont retires his thriller-writing persona “George Stark” to focus on his love of literary fiction – something that had never paid the bills. He has a mock funeral for the persona… but George Stark has other ideas and comes to life to go on a killing spree. His victims are those responsible for ending Beaumont’s thriller-writing career. I love the idea, King’s work will appeal to most readers but this one feels as though it is aimed at fellow writers.

2. Needful Things

If King was British, this would feel very much a critique of Thatcherism. He isn’t, but that doesn’t mean that the book lacks social commentary (it doesn’t, click the link for more details). A small town is curious at the arrival of a man who is opening a knick-knack/antique shop. Funny thing is, he seems to have the most curious objects. Some of them are rare and are worth a fortune and Leland Gaunt (the proprietor) is asking mere pennies for some of them… well, that’s the cash cost anyway. Because he also wants something else… a favour. Throw mud at that lady’s sheets. Let his tyres down… and they get more extreme. The thing is, he is playing on the prejudices and paranoia of the townsfolk. The downfall of the townsfolk is their greed though, showing to what lengths people will go to for material possessions and forget their humanity.

1. The Stand

*YAWN* I hear you say. Isn’t it everybody’s favourite? Well no, I’ve come across some haters but they are few. Very few books over 1000 pages flow as well as this. Few books have a deeply ingrained sense of unease. Very few books make you not want to be one of the survivors surrounded by all that death. Very few books make the villain such a philosophically reasonable character. Very few books about a disease manage to create a killer virus that feels so grounded in realism yet so deadly at the same time (Captain Trips – a genetically enhanced form of influenza). This is really three books in one. Book 1 is the disease as it escapes a Nebraska lab and spreads across the world to kill 99.5% of the human population. The second book is the two sides coming together – groups of survivors either drawn to Mother Abigail (presumably by God through visions and minor miracles) or compelled to work with Randall Flagg (an apparent demon). The third and final book is the confrontation. Concerned about the enemy “over there”, the side of the good is finally forced to play its hand to prevent Flagg’s people from using nuclear weapons. An ultimate tale of good and evil and for King, this work has some of the most incredible characterisation. There are good people on Flagg’s side and some pretty intolerable people on the good side. They are simply trying to get by in a post-apocalyptic world.

So that’s mine, what are your favourite King novels? Are you looking forward to reading this sequel to The Shining? Or do you just want to nag me to read 11.22.63?

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