Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Random Top Ten!!

Random Top Ten!

Top Ten Stephen King Novels

10. The Long Walk--This early Bachman book contains one of King's most inspired "high concepts"--in the near future young men compete in a walking race with a simple, horrific structure. 100 racers, no stopping allowed, no running allowed. Stopping (even to admit to nature's calls) or slowing or speeding too much merits a warning. An hour of no warnings eliminates one. Accumulate three warnings and the men in jeeps following the racers shoot you dead. Last racer alive wins a huge prize. This reality-TV foreseeing book came out in the early 80s, and its impressive not just for the elegant concept, but in how well King etches what such a race would be like for the participants, in how the racers personalities would change as the days of the race wear on.

9. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three--The first Dark Tower book was really a prologue. Here King really starts to get involved in the tale and the characters, and the neat structure of the book, with Roland gathering his new gunslingers, disciplined King into a tighter form than usual.

8. Misery--That rare, supernatural-free King tale, a tightly plotted and not over-long look at the degree to which fans can feel they "own" characters. Another book in which a simple, elegant concept gives rise to some of King's best writing. Annie Bates is one of King's most indelible characters.

7. Rita Hawyworth and Shawshank Redemption--This short novel is one of King's most elegant creations, wonderfully told in the first person from Red's point of view. The period details and the prison details add up to something more than the sum of their wholes here.

6. Bag of Bones--King getting a bit shaggy again, and maybe worth some cuts here and there, but in this ghost story King created some of his most compelling characters, and took a look at writer's block that was wonderful for both its eerieness and mundane qualities.

5. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass--King, seeming to almost be intentionally trying to piss off fans of the series, stops right in the middle of his long Dark Tower tale to tell a long flash-back story of young Roland's first love. And dammed if he doesn't pull it off in spades. This is King trying his hand at opera, at a big, tragic young love story, and he completely nails it.

4. The Shining--Only his third published novel. Amazing. One of the twentieth century's best ghost stories and a definitely not-shabby psychiological study as well. Scary as all get-out and featuring finely etched characters.

3. The Green Mile--This book was originally published in serial form, in short chapbook-style installments. King really seems to find a groove in prison stories. This book features probably King's best ending yet.

2. The Stand--As much as some of King's best books are his most disciplined, when he's on target and focused he can do long epic material with the best of them. The Stand needs its 1,000+ page length to properly tell its story of a killer flu nearly wiping out the human race and the few survivors' epic battle. Grand, big-stage storytelling that uses its canvas to perfection.

1. It--I'm pretty sure I've read 1,100-page book at least five times, it could easily be six, and I plan on reading it again. Again, King's story here needs the scale, what with the dual stories of the main characters', as kids and adults. The intermission stuff with the librarian character chronicling the town's history is necessary as well, invaluable for the texture and sense of time and place it gives. This is really, more so than The Stand to me, King's signature work, especially with its overtly horror slant and its intense focus on children. Just a remarkable, rich, rewarding book.

Until Whenever

2 comments:

tomthedog said...

Nice list. I'd put The Stand at #1, and Wizard and Glass at #2. I haven't reread It since it first was published; I think maybe I should. And I didn't like Bag of Bones at all.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I recommend going back to IT. There are treasures witin . . .

I have to admit to never really disliking a King book, although there certainly are lessor efforts that I've no real compulsion to reread.