Tag: Grumpy

Stephen King and Peter Straub – Black House | Review

Title: Black House

Author: Stephen King and Peter Straub

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 822

Rating: 3/5

 

Stephen King and Peter Straub - Black House

Stephen King and Peter Straub – Black House

 

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I’ve not been looking forward to writing this review, especially because of the bizarre rules I set for myself where each review has to have a word count that matches the page count of the book. At 822 pages, this one’s a bit of a chunker, and in fact it took me two weeks to read the damn thing because I was on holiday in Spain and mostly getting drunk and packing rubble into construction sacks as opposed to reading. It was too hot.

Still, I made a decent dent on the plane there and back and so I did at least mostly read the book in chunks. The problem was that I didn’t particularly love The Talisman, and this book was basically that but watered down. It had potential to begin with, especially because of the Albert Fish style serial killer aspect to it, but what might have been okay as a 400 page novel just felt long and drawn out.

As if that wasn’t enough, I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, either. Even Jack Sawyer, old TravellinJack himself, was far more boring as an adult than he was as a child. The most interesting thing about him was his job, but seeing as I was expecting more fantasy than police procedural, I found even that difficult to get excited about.

 

Stephen King and Peter Straub - The Talisman

Stephen King and Peter Straub – The Talisman

 

Another problem was that the authors kept on breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the reader with lengthy entries along the lines of, “Let’s leave Jack where he is and go over here to see this guy instead.” It felt gimmicky and pulled me out of the story every time that it happened, and it happened a lot. There was no need to write it that way, either. They could have just continued to write in third person and it would have worked perfectly.

There were some redeeming factors, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have given it a rating as high as a 3/5. We have some great characterisation and some pretty interesting scenes when Sawyer and his merry band of bikers start to approach the Black House and things start to go a bit pear-shaped. I also thought that the ending was pretty good, which is almost unusual for a Stephen King book, but I would have liked to have seen more time spent in the Territories with the established characters and world-building from the first book.

And I think that’s where the problem lies with this one. After all of the hard work that King and Straub put in the first time round, instead of building on it they pretty much just started out from scratch, to the point at which this might as well have been written as a standalone instead of as a sequel. It’s the closest thing to a damp squib that I’ve read of King’s, and I’m about 80% of the way through his back catalogue. After some of the other awesome books that I’ve read of his, I can’t help but feel as though he shouldn’t have been wasting his time on this one.

 

Stephen King

Stephen King

 

It’s still worth reading if you’re a completionist though, and I will admit that the last couple of hundred pages got a little bit better. I’m just not sure whether it’s worth reading 622 pages of substandard work just for 200 more pages that are just okay. I’m kind of surprised that their editor didn’t have a word with the authors to tell them that big swathes of it needed to be cut out or entirely rewritten, not because there was anything technically wrong with them but because they were dull to read and not really necessary.

But perhaps I’m just grumpy because Black House put me into something of a reading slump. I’ve never really understood what people meant when they talked about reading slumps, but it took me two weeks to finish this one and it’s had a knock on effect on the next books that I read. It’s not that I’m not reading, it’s just that I’m not as excited about books as I usually am, and I think it’s because Black House broke my reading streak and messed with my mojo.

All in all then, this definitely isn’t worth going out of your way to read, but for Stephen King and Peter Straub fans then it’s a book that you’ll inevitably get to. Don’t read this without reading The Talisman first though, because The Talisman is both a better book and the perfect introduction to what’s actually going on in King and Straub’s fictitious universe. Try to save it until you’re running out of books by either of the two authors and definitely don’t read this as an introduction to King. It feels like a waste of time.

 

Stephen King Quote

Stephen King Quote

 

Click here to buy Black House.

 


Stephen Fry – The Ode Less Travelled | Review

Title: The Ode Less Travelled

Author: Stephen Fry

Type: Non-Fiction/Poetry

Page Count/Review Word Count: 358

Rating: 2*/5

 

Stephen Fry - The Ode Less Travelled

Stephen Fry – The Ode Less Travelled

 

This book is subtitled “unlocking the poet within”, but I don’t know if I’d agree with that. I personally found it supremely off-putting, not because of the information itself but because of the way that it was presented.

I’ve always considered myself a Stephen Fry fan, and I’ve already read a half dozen or so of his books. My mum always accuses him of being pompous, stuck-up and a little unlikeable, but I’d never seen that before. But here, that side of his personality is out in abundance. I mean, it was to the point at which it was making me angry to read it and I only forced myself to continue because I was planning on reading all of Fry’s books. But after this one, I’m not sure if I want to continue.

It wasn’t a problem with the actual content of the book, because it’s all factually correct and has the potential to be quite a useful little reference book. I mean, it tells you everything you need to know about different poetic forms and also the syllable counts, stresses and rhyming schemes that underlie these forms and make them work in the first place. I had no problem with the information itself because it was always correct as far as I could see.

 

Stephen Fry On Ignorance

Stephen Fry On Ignorance

 

The problem that I had was with the way in which the information was delivered. Fry came across as so smug about it all that it really put me off, especially when he pulled some of his little tricks, like deliberately writing bad free verse poetry and then using that to evidence his belief that free verse poetry isn’t worth reading.

Personally, I prefer free verse poetry, but I used to like rhyming poetry as well. After reading this book, I’m not so sure. Fry kind of makes out as though the two forms of poetry can’t coexist, but I’m betting against him. He seemed like a grumpy old man who’s annoyed because poetry has evolved and he hasn’t.

 

Stephen Fry On God

Stephen Fry On God

 

Click here to buy The Ode Less Travelled.

 


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