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Lisey... review - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Lisey... review
Okay, I stayed up late reading it. Before I go into spoilery review mode (though the book's been out for a few months; I've been waiting for it in the library), I just have one question: Is there some King book I've missed along the line, or a mention I've missed in a book I've read, as to why Andy Clutterbuck isn't dead? I read this on the heels of Needful Things re-read, and I was distracted the whole time waiting for an explanation of what happened to his "fatal plunge through the ice" that was supposed to happen two years after NT, which would have been thirteen years before this book. And there was also, of course, the lack of mention of the destruction. (Yes, I mostly got anxious to read it when I heard it was set in the Rock, and I wanted to tour the damage!) Most be some Tower-inspired alternate Castle Rock.

To start with the verdict: Meh. Didn't hate it, didn't love it. It kept my attention enough to read it in a day, but not enough to make me miss subway stops, and if I don't write the review quickly, it may slip out of my head altogether.

I'll get the bad stuff out of the way. First, like I mentioned briefly yesterday, the language was incredibly clunky toward the beginning, where King was trying to intruduce the vernacular of the marriage between Lisey and Scott. I got to the point where I started thinking, "If I read the phrase 'blue-eyed wonder' again"--it appeared twice in one paragraph, for criminy's sake, and not as the climax of a carefully staged introduction--"I'm going to put it down." Thank heaven, about halfway through, he seems to have stopped laboring with that particular device.

It's set in the Rock and mentions Derry without any of the Castle County mythos? While not technically a flaw--though Scott and Lisey were supposed to have lived there for a long time, maybe they took no interest in town gossip--it was still a disappointment. Not even a brief mention like, "The new municipal building" or the bridge that had replaced the Tin Bridge. Nada.

I just didn't care about Lisey's sisters at all.

Worst flaw: None of the characters is particulary memorable, and Scott Landon, in particular, is... well, annoying. Not a good thing in the character we're supposed to think of in Lisey's fond light. I don't mean his overblown back story, which works in context--hey, when you bring demons in the mix, it's going to be overblown--but his verbal habits, which are so much a part of the book. Slipping back into childish talk all the time, then, when supposedly an adult, talking like, as Twain put it, an "illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven- dollar Friendship's Offering." King, who's always had a pretty good ear for the way people genuinely talk, seems to have been wearing ear-plugs, or maybe listening to some loud podcast from Mars when it came to writing this guy's dialogue. There are writers from whom I'd take this with a philosophical nod--Card comes to mind; he's written many interesting characters, but good dialogue is thin on the ground--but King is not one of them.

The meh: The non-linear storytelling is handled a little clumsily; King doesn't really get in gear until he has Lisey break Manda out of Greenlawn and really start working on a plan, which is more than halfway through the book. It's not that either the present sections (which are written in past tense) or the past sections (which are written in present tense) are bad or uninteresting, just that the transitions between them are handled in a way that I can practically see Mike Myers and Dana Carvey doing their Wayne's World "break to flash back"--squiggly fingers while both say, "Doody-oodly-oo, doodly-oodly-oo..." With a transition between worlds, and of the worlds largely formed from Scott's imagination, I can't help but think that there could have been a more effective way to get the back story across. Still, not awful. Just meh, could have been better, could have been worse.

The plot was standard enough King, though it meandered more than he usually does (which, for those who read him, yes, does mean, "It comes damned close to forming oxbow lakes from time to time"). Lisey gets out of trouble a little too easily, but nothing to get in a twist over. The front story is obviously just an impetus he uses to tell the back story, so whatever. Threads get strung out and then either resolved too easily (Manda's escape from Greenlawn) or just dropped with a cursory explanation (what the hell was going on in Bremen?).

The good: I loved the pool in Boo'ya Moon, where sometimes people just get caught looking into it, and where others go to fish for the big, dangerous things that swim in the deep water. That's well-rendered, and the thread is well-played.

The complex situation in the Landon family was disturbing (of course, the father is violently insane, and the older brother is possessed before he dies, and Scott, in his only non-annoying scenes, is involved in a lot of violence no little kid should have to be), but well put together. I get the feeling that wanted to be a book of its own.

Shrug. I guess that's all I really have to say about this one. Worth the time if you're a regular King reader, but if you're just curious, I'd sadly have to suggest going to older books.

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Comments
ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: December 28th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
hmmmm not read that one, though I love you take o King's uhh meandering *LOL*

I can either read a King book in a matter of weeks cause I only want to put it down if I absolutely must (Insomnia), or I get half way through and realize I don't care and pick something else up (Black House, and as Tailsman is another I couldn't put down, it wasn't the collab).

Anyway, I was actually wondering what you thought of Needful Things. Thus far, it's been one of my favorite King books. I loved the portrayal of the demonic force and how it preyed on the weakness of the town's folk, and I actually felt that the ending held up (endings are an issue I often have with King books).

Also, do you read his short stories? I often find I enjoy those more ^__^
I'm a sucker for a shrot stoires though.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 28th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Needful Things grew on me. The first time I read it, I wasn't really impressed, but it kept coming back to me, because it really is so well put together, and so true to the way people act about those "totally useless things that they think they need," to paraphrase Polly. I've read it several times now, and appreciate it more each go around. This particular time, I was paying a lot of attention to the Rusk family, and how very ordinary it is... but Gaunt takes two of them, through interests that are perfectly innocent (in Brian's case) and harmless (in Cora's), and poor little Sean...!

I got through Black House, but it was a rough slog, and, like you, The Talisman is one of the can't-put-it-downs for me. The way they wrote Jack's depression at the beginning was astounding, and the cross-country trip with Richard... awesome. But Black House? Dudes, the narrative experiment did not work, the story wasn't suited to it, and why take Jack in such a pedestrian direction?

I'm often not big on the short story as a form, but some of them have worked spectacularly. "Strawberry Spring" is one of my favorites, and the one with the doctor on the desert island who starts eating himself (the name slips my mind) totally creeped me out.
ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: December 28th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've re-read Needful Things a few times too, and amoung other aspects, something I aprecciate a little more each time is the title.

It's one of his more clever titles, I think.

I think that book really appeals to me because, for me, it's one of the more honest to god conceptually horrific pieces he's written.

I think it really touches home too because just about everyone I know collects something that in the end . . is really semi pointless, myself included, and I can think of some dumbass things I've done or considered doing to get something that in the end, I don't really need.

And of course there's news items like someone getting shot over a PS3!
I think he did a really good job of playing off that horror and showing jsut how easy it was for these people to self-destruct, which I think the fragility of civilized society always makes for good writing (look at Lord of the Flies!)

With The Black House it just seemed like they were trying too hard to produce Horror from . . well nothing. I don't know, I think it might almsot have been too supernatural for me to care.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 28th, 2006 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was actually prompted to re-read it after a wank over on f_w involving someone who collected Coke cans, and it turned into something emotionally vindictive, and all I could think was, "Whoa... that's a complete Mr. Gaunt moment." Because that's the way people are. Cora and Myra with their Elvis fixation aren't much different from the bunch of us with our various Snape or Lupin or Harry fixations. Can't you just imagine him selling a diary like Tom's, which would give the owner a direct link to talk to, say, Snape?
ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: December 28th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh man *exactly*

And that's what made it so scary. It was so unsettelingly normal!
Heck I collect doujinshi and I have to admitt I've been honestly angry when I lost bids and I have to check myself and think about, seriously, what have I lost? Not much, if anything.

You can look around and see how easily all that could happen because it does happen, and with no demonic outside influences!

I really can't think of another King book that played that well off human flaws, except maybe parts of The Tailsman and Carrie.

I think he might have been going for that kinda "look what we can become" connection with Tommyknockers, but that story fell apart under it's own weight.

I've also always been irked that they werne't real Tommyknockers *L*
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