I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I was thirteen and read Carrie, but I didn’t realize it until a year later when I read The Shinning one night when I was babysitting. I picked it up after my charges were asleep and I was looking for something to read, and I couldn’t put it down. I called my mom and woke her up at four in the morning, because I was too scared to read more, but I didn’t want to put the book down. I finished it the next day, and after that, I soaked up anything by Stephen King that I could get my hands on. I’ve read The Stand through three times, including the “Special Edition” version with all the cut chapters and scenes. I’ve seen the original mini-series twice, so it was in great anticipation that I awaited the coming of the new mini-series on CBS All Access. I woke up analyzing this s new version of an old favorite, so I knew I had to write this review.
Let me begin by saying that I think they made a huge mistake by starting this mini-series after Captain Tripps has devoured humanity and placed the survivors into the two camps in Boulder and New Vegas, and only allowing us glimpses of the pre-Captain Tripps world, instead of letting us get to know the characters as the story unfolds, as in the book and the original mini-series. By eliminating what was basically the first half of the book and reducing it to flashbacks, we miss out on vital character development, not to mention many of the very intense scenes that occur there.
Now, I know we shouldn’t judge this version by those that have come before, and I’ve tried not to, but in my defense, I know this story inside and out, and it is very difficult not to draw on previous knowledge. But, I’m on episode 5 and I still don’t feel connected to any of the characters. That connection, the feeling of knowing and relating to the characters, is one of the big appeals of this story. Without it, I doubt anyone would keep turning the pages of this massive novel or continue watching, because without that feeling of connection, readers or viewers have no reason to care. And I have to admit, I’m hard-pressed to keep viewing the 20-21 version for this very reason.
But the method of storytelling is only one problem. I have difficulty buying-in to this new cast. There’s already been controversy over the Randall Flagg of the first mini-series and this one, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard, who doesn’t come off as being evil enough in my opinion, but this could go back to the lack of character developement. Although I could get used to Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Gabreille Rose as Judge Harris, who are opposites of their original counterparts, I feel Whoopi Goldberg misses the mark totally with the character of Mother Abigail.
While I like Whoopi as Guynan on Star Trek Generations, and I loved her as Oda Mea Brown in Ghost, she is not the right actress for this part. Mother Abigail is old and frail and determined to carry out the Lord’s work as long as she is able, and everyone loves her and is devoted to her. Whoopi is none of these things. Goldberg is not old enough, and she’s not frail in any way. In previous versions, Mother Abigail’s strength was established through her determination while she was still alone at Hemmingford Home, (which is now in Boulder instead of Nebraska), which we only see a glimpse of in this version. We don’t see her frailty, or her failing health in the Goldberg character, and it is difficult to buy-in to the character, when I don’t feel as if I know who she is or where she came from in the story.
Overall, I am disappointed in this recent rendition of one of my favorite apocalypse tales. I know Stephen King has writing credits for at least nine episodes, but cutting out half the original story was not a good storytelling decision. Flashbacks don’t offer enough to get to know and connect with the characters. There were also several questionable casting decisions, at least in my mind, which prevent relatabilty of the characters. I honestly don’t know how much more I will watch, because they haven’t made me care about this cast of characters in any meaniful way. I will say that Captain Tripps bears some scary resemblences to the Covid pandemic we’re all living through now, but I don’t know if that is enough to attract viewers, especially without many of the most powerful scenes, such as the journey through the tunnel out of New York, Nick’s time as jailer, and Lloyd’s rat problem, which is alluded to in flashback, but just didn’t carry the same impact. My continued viewing is doubtful. If you don’t already know this apocalyptic story, I recommend the original mini-series, or better yet, get the book.
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing two horror novels written by this month’s author guests; Arcana, by Paul Kane and Cold Black Hearts, by Jeffrey J. Mariotte. I found it interesting that these two authors chose one or two lines that were so similar to begin these very different horror stories. Both beginnings are designed to grab the reader and reel them in, and in both stories, it worked. The hook was instantly set.
Kane begins Arcana with,
“They were all going to die.
But it was for the cause, and they were not only glad to do it – they felt compelled to do it.”
Mariotte starts Cold Black Hearts like this;
“They were dead, all of them dead, and so was she.”
Both authors bring us into the story in the middle of the action at the point of impending death. We don’t know what is happening yet, but we know the speaker in each case is about to die. How does anyone walk away from that without reading more?
Both Arcana and Cold Black Hearts are horrific stories of evil and death, but they each present horror stories of distinctive and different flavors. Although each presents the battle of good versus evil, the resulting stories are very different, yet each has the ability to captivate their audience and satisfy whatever it is inside of us that makes horror such an appealing genre to us.
Arcana, by Paul Kane takes place in an alternate universe with a future where magick is very real and has survived through the Arcana culture, despite repeated efforts to exterminate them from the planet. It’s a world where torture is still used to extract confessions from those suspected of using the the ancient arts, and Callum McGuire is an orphan who bears a hatred for the magick communities responsible for the terrorist attack that left him alone, to be raised in an orphanage with a brutal matron. As a young M-forcer, dedicated to stopping Arcana after a recent series of terrorist attacks carried out by the group. The viciousness and brutality against Arcana is broadly directed, and as Callum watches innocent children fall prey to it, his own morality tells him that something isn’t right. When he guesses that his friend and neighbor is secretly Arcana, he is swept into the Arcana culture as he tries to protect her from being apprehended by his fellow M-forcers. This tale is cleverly crafted to let the story unfold in a series of discoveries which lead Callum to think that things are not the way he’d been lead to believe, even as more terrorist attacks take place, and his friends in Aracana try to convince him that he is the savior of their prophecy. Savior or destroyer? The power is in Callum’s hands and only he can decide.
Arcana takes readers on a hero’s journey beyond death and back in a world where anything is possible. That, my friends, can be a very scary journey. I give it five quills.
In Cold Black Hearts, by Jeffrey J. Mariotte, evil stirs the ancient legends into reality. When Annie O’Brian is caught in a bust gone bad and the resulting explosion, she loses both her hearing and her job, but she gains an uncanny sense of empathy for the people around her. So, there’s nothing to stop her from taking a job investigating a four year old murder where the original investigation was botched, and working to free the convicted man, even though he gives her the creeps and is probably guilty of numerous crimes, if not this one. Her investigation uncovers not only the evidence needed to free Johnny Ortega from prison, but also evidence that there is something much more sinister going on in Hildalgo County than a simple cover-up, but when Annie manages to put all the pieces together and tries to stop the return of an ancient demon, it could cost her her life, or worse.
Filled with sacrifice and betrayal, Cold Black Hearts will chill you to the core of your soul. Lots of unexpected twists and turns to this story. I give it four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
I’m a huge history lover, so anything old has always sparked my interest. I imagine that an old building can tell me the secrets of the past. If I walk through its ancient doors, I’ll be transported back in time. I’ll be able to experience everything that came before.
It hasn’t yet, but I’m still hoping.
One day I was bored, probably tired from work, and decided to look at abandoned buildings online. I was scrolling through Pinterest and voila, there was a beautiful, crumbling resort. The image showed an old pool. Vines crept up broken windows and ferns fought their way through cracked cement. It was beautiful and haunting. I clicked to learn more, and discovered it was a resort from the Catskills.
In their heyday (1920s through the 1960s), the Catskill Mountains were home to numerous fancy resorts. People came from all over to experience the thrill of the mountains. Many New Yorkers left the city to experience the calm of the country. The popular movie, Dirty Dancing, takes place at a resort in the Catskills.
Overtime, interest waned. From articles I read online, it seems that the readily people could travel on airplanes to distant wonderlands, the less they wanted to travel upstate. There are still some resorts left and I hope to vacation there someday. I must admit, though, the abandoned resorts fascinate me more than the ones still standing.
While looking at more pictures of those abandoned resorts, a story idea came to me. The world ends and the remains of civilization are holed up inside a crumbling hotel. Thus was born my post-apocalyptic novella, BUNKER BOY. If you decide to read it, let me know what you think! I’d love to know if it has inspired you, too, to check out the old memories of the Catskills.
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author. She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
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God’s Body, by Jeff Bowles has one of the most masterfully crafted openings that I have read in a long time. By the beginning of the second paragraph, he had placed me in the setting, I knew this was like no other story I had ever read, and I was hooked, which is what a great opening should do. It impressed me so, that I asked the author’s permission to reprint it here.
“The toe was an ungodly mountain of flesh. As massive as it was inexplicable. It clung to the Earth like a bulbous pink tumor. Enormous, all-encompassing, the height of a skyscraper, the breadth of Niagara Falls. Rain water washed through its thick patchwork of crevasses and cracks. Long vertical rivers lapped at skin-cell canyon walls. There were flesh creeks and tidal waves. The toenail itself was the hanging shelf of the world.
Then Harold looked higher and saw the rest. Lord God Almighty…”
You just can’t read this and not want to know more. It’s obvious this isn’t going to be your average, everyday story, and you must read on in anticipation of what will come next. It’s clear this will be a story of epic proportions, and Bowels does not disappoint. God’s Body is an Armageddon story like no other; a post apocalyptic tale of good vs. evil in the best of pulp fantasy traditions, if such traditions existed. Bowles pulls out all the stops, using humor, irony and contemplation of the human condition to tell his tale with skill and craftsmanship. Everything about this story is of epic scale.
I’m not going to give you a rundown of this story line because the whole thing was such an entertaining read that I wouldn’t want to give out any spoilers, but what I will tell you is that in addition to the wonderful writing talent of Bowles, the artistic craftsmanship of Writer’s of the Future illustrator Pat R. Steiner accompanies this story with some truly awesome illustrations like the one seen here.
A truly original story that puts a new twist to an age-old theme. Written with skill and talent in a literary work of true craftsmanship, God’s Body is like nothing else you’ve ever read. I give it five epic quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
The title is Songs of Earth: A Teller’s Tale, and the author, Eugene W. Cundiff is a story teller in following with the best of the tradition. A well-crafted science fiction post-apocalyptic story, with excellent world building, this book keeps the pages turning. Cundiff captures the imagination and doesn’t let go. I didn’t want to put it down.
Songs of Earth is a tale of an abandoned civilization, left by the Mongers, those who came before them, to fend for themselves in a harsh environment as best they could. On Luna, Elisheva is a Teller’s apprentice until the terraforming technology that enables their existence quits and she is sent with a group of Miners, a Marshall and an Engineer, on a journey into the wastelands, from which no one ever returns, to attempt repairs. In thier quest to save thier people, they uncover the secrets the Mongers never intended them to discover and travel much farther than any of them ever imagined they would have to repair the damaged machinery. And they solve the mystery of what happened to those who went into the wasteland before them, including Elisheva’s brother, but they aren’t the answers Elisheva had hoped to find.
Songs of Earth follows story telling traditions in exquisite form. I give it five quills.
In Zomnibus, by New York Times best selling author, Kevin J. Anderson each case is a short tale in the unlife of a zombie detective. In the world following the Big Uneasy and the return from death en mas, vampires may be victims, ghosts can be discriminated against, zombie’s might be graffitti artists and ogres serve as security guards. Together with his human business partner and his ghost of a girlfriend, Dan Shamble detective agency solves cases for both living and unnatural clients.
These zombie detective tales are carefully crafted to keep your attention and tickle your funny bone. Anderson’s light tone and corny humor guarantee the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. tales will evoke at least a few chuckles. I give Zomnibus five quills.
Rotham Race, by Jordan Elizabeth, is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian YA romance; a crossing of genres that works well for the most part. The story has a good plot with a smooth flow, although the pacing felt rushed at times. The world which Jordan Elizabeth has created, where a nuclear blast annihilated half of country, and the government can’t be trusted, is both believable and thought provoking, and her characters are both relatable and likeable.
The Rotham Race is a tradition where young men and women go out into the wastelands left by a nuclear blast to find a microchip which can return things to the way they were, or so they are told. Each year dozens of racers set off into the wastelands never to be seen again. Troy Vonpackal is an idealistic orphan, determined to find the chip and save the world, and Barbie Chambers is the orphan who can help him achieve his goal. When fate throws them together, they find themselves falling in love, but there are many obstacles which stand in their way. When Troy returns with the chip, they both learn that the government may not have been entirely truthful about the race or the chip, and the truth may change their lives forever.
My only criticism is that there wasn’t enough foreshadowing to suspend my disbelief in certain places. Many of the conflicts are resolved with little difficulty, or in some cases, the solution is just handed to them, making some events seem too convenient for me to buy in. Yet, I can’t say this detracted from my enjoyment of the story, which was quite entertaining overall.
A quick and easy read, with an ending that comes too sudden. I felt like the characters had more to give, so maybe there will be a sequel. I give Rotham Race four quills.