4 Horror Books To Read This Halloween

“What do you usually read?” is a question I often get whenever people find out that I like reading. And when I reply that I like horror, there’s always this funny expression on their faces, as if I have just committed social suicide by daring to admit this in public lol.

I mean, I get it. Horror movies and books have always been considered ‘low culture’. They’re popular and they have mass appeal, but they rarely talk about contemporary social problems and issues, and seem to serve little purpose except to entertain. Even if there are moral values, they’re often expressed on an individual level eg how a protagonist beats the odds to outsmart a bloodthirsty killer, or how a priest overcomes his doubt to find faith and strength to banish demons.

But even though many horror titles might not be as ‘groundbreaking’ as books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin or To Kill a Mockingbird, I still feel that horror offers value. Perhaps not in the sense that it highlights social issues to invite discourse and change, but in that it recognizes something primal within ourselves : our sense of self-preservation as a species, and how we cope with ideas and things we cannot fully control or understand. Just as our ancestors used to tell fantastic stories about mythical creatures, demons and things that go bump in the dark as they huddled around campfires or in caves for protection, so do we as modern humans retell these stories and think of our mortality – even when we’re safe and snug in our comfy beds.

But I digress.

Since it’s spook season, I’ve rounded up a list of my favourite horror books to get you into the Halloween mood. Some of these are classics which have been made into films, so you might already have heard of them – but they’re worth reading to see how different they are from the depiction on the silver screen.

It by Stephen King

With King’s novels, I was a late bloomer: I only started reading his books when I was in college and had access to a public library. Which is just as well, because I don’t think a younger me would have been able to deal with the dark themes and mature subject material in many of his books.

My first King book was It, and it remains my favourite to this day, alongside Misery, The Dead Zone and Desperation. As kids, my brother and I had coulrophobia (I still have an irrational fear of clowns actually lol), and the idea of an alien clown that feeds off the flesh of young children and has shapeshifting powers is just … terrifying. That aside, I think It was peak King – it is well written with great pacing, and the villain and characters are well developed. More than just kids banding together to fight an ancient evil, it’s also a brilliant coming-of-age-story and a heartwarming one (when you’re not being scared shitless by Pennywise popping up everywhere) about the power of friendship.

Ring by Koji Suzuki

Here’s an online review which encapsulates how I feel about Ring by Koji Suzuki:

‘one.. you really can’t bear to read and want to lock away and bury away as far as possible, yet at the same time each word is enticing, putting you in a trance, making you read on.’

I have watched the Ring films (both the Japanese and the American versions), and while they’re creepy, they can’t hold a candle to the book. Despite being a grown ass adult when I first read it, I still found it hard to fall asleep as my imagination ran wild with thoughts of Sadako popping up at the foot of my bed, or standing just behind my curtains lol. I did something really childish too: I put the book underneath a pile of books, because I had this silly thought that if I left it on top, the ghost would somehow ‘come to life’ hahahaha. 😛 I guess that’s the mark of a good horror novel… (or maybe I’m just chicken). There’s very little gore or violence in the story, but Suzuki is so adept at playing with the psychological aspect of horror, you can feel the tension and creepiness ooze off the pages like miasma.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blaty

Do you believe in demons? Demons exist in various cultures and faiths because like the concept of yin and yang, where there is good, there will always be evil. The Exorcist is a classic that deals with themes of demonic possession – that of 12-year-old Regan, whose family is dragged into a nightmarish hell as they attempt to rid her of the evil. It is horrifying to read about the abuse that the young girl suffers as the demons torment her. I can’t help but think that it is a literal and figurative representation of the ‘demons’ within humans that drive people to do truly evil things, even without demonic possession. The story has a classic good vs evil plot, and you can’t help but cheer when the big-guns priest – him of the staunch faith and the back-up power of god – comes to smite evil.

The Beaver Book of Horror Stories – edited by Mark Ronson

Image via ebay because I don’t know where I’ve put my copy…

Okay this one is kind of a cheat entry because it isn’t a novel per se, but rather a collection of short stories. I found this gem in a 2nd hand bookstore and even though the cover was super campy, flipping through a couple of pages was enough for me to fork out five bucks. BEST. FIVE. BUCKS. SPENT. EVER.

There are 10 stories within written by different authors, including Mark Ronson himself, and they cover a wide range of horror subgenres including body horror, monsters and the paranormal. Most of the tales are from 19th century authors, which lends them a gothic quality. Some of my favourites are Pickman’s Model by HP Lovecraft, which talks about an artist whose monstrous paintings are so brilliant and terrifying one wonders where the inspiration comes from – and The Seed from the Sepulchre by Clark Ashton Smith, where explorers discover an ancient man-eating plant after stumbling upon some ruins in the jungle.

And there you have it! If you’re new to horror, these are my recommendations – but the world of horror fiction is a vast one, and there are still plenty of terrifying stories to unearth.

What are some of your favourite horror titles? Share them with me so I can look out for them.

Happy Halloween!

Book Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Hey guys!

Been a minute since my last post – been busy with life and stuff.

I recently went for a close friend’s traditional wedding ceremony, and it was not only great fun but also an eye-opening experience. I realised that I know so little of my own culture lol.

I was also in SG a couple of days ago for a work meeting with the SG team – there are major changes coming and I’m not sure how I’ll cope, but the only way is to soldier on I suppose. I’m not going to kill myself over it because my anxiety charts are off the roof lately.

I’ve also been working on some part time projects; these will come in handy if my (day)job suddenly goes tits up – so even though they’re eating into my time at the moment, I’m trying to keep them going.

I also found some time to finish Salem’s Lot (finally!). Trying something different this year in that I want to upload more videos, so here goes the review. I still don’t like appearing on camera, so for now voice will do:

If you don’t like my nasally drone-y voice (ha)!, here’s a summary –

Fans of horror should definitely read Salem’s Lot, one of King’s earlier novels (I like to call it his ‘Renaissance’ period). The horror titles he produced between the 1970s – 1990s are some of my favourites, the likes of Carrie, Cujo, Pet Sematary, The Running Man, It, The Shining and The Stand. To put it simply, Salem’s Lot is about vampires – the kind that rips your throat out and sucks you dry, not the sparkly lovestruck kind.

The horror in Salem’s Lot is less about what people do to others, but goes back to a more primeval fear, of evil personified as monsters lurking in the dark. It’s the fear you get while entering a damp and dark labyrinth full of unknown creatures, rather than the fear of walking home at midnight looking out for muggers. (does that make sense?) The characters are well developed with good story arcs, and you can’t help but root for them to overcome dangers thrown their way. The climax of the novel is a bit of a letdown, however, and I feel that it lacks that oomph in its resolution. Still, I think it’s a great horror novel and a great introduction to King if you are not yet familiar with his work.

Fun fact: Stephen King has had 83 novels published. Which one is your favourite?

 

Movie Review: Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Every time anything with Stephen King’s name stamp on it comes out, I get super excited (He is, after all, one of my favourite authors!), so I was super psyched to watch The Dark Tower movie.

As a self-professed King fan, I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read any of the Dark Tower books in his behemoth 7-titled series – but only because it was hard to find earlier titles in bookstores, and I didn’t want to start in the middle. This was a blessing in disguise. I went in to the movie with only the tiniest notion of what the books were about (a gunslinger in a fantasy world where forces are out to destroy The Dark Tower, which links all the worlds together), so I had none of the ‘baggage’ or expectations of a reader. And guess what? I liked the film, despite its abysmal 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe it would have been different if I had read it (case in point: The Hobbit – which Hollywood utterly destroyed) but I thought it was a nice, solid film with good casting and a well balanced dose of action.

Synopsis:

11-year-old New Yorker Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has recurring dreams of a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), who forces children with psychic powers to channel their energy into destroying a Dark Tower. He is aided by monsters, dressed in human skin suits. There is also a gunslinger who opposes him.

Jake’s visions coincide with increasingly frequent earthquakes in the city. When he relates these to his mother, stepfather and psychiatrists, they dismiss it as trauma from his father’s recent death. His stepfather, who wants him out of the house, eventually convinces Jake’s mother to send the boy away to a hospital – but when the alleged facility people come to take him away, he recognises them as the monsters from his dreams because of the seams under their necks. Fleeing, he eventually locates an abandoned house from one of his visions and discovers a portal, where he travels to a parallel dimension dubbed the Mid-World. There, he encounters the Gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last of his kind from a line of medieval knights, sworn to protect the Tower. Roland is seeking the Man in Black, Walter, as revenge for killing his father who was also a gunslinger. Jake learns that the Tower is all that is protecting the universe from ‘outside’ monsters, hell bent on invading and destroying reality as we know it – and that the Man in Black wants to let them in by harvesting the powers of psychic children.

Meanwhile, Walter investigates Jake’s escape and the portal breach; coming to the conclusion that Jake’s psychic powers are far beyond anything that they have seen so far. And so the hunt for Jake begins… can Roland protect him and save the world?

Verdict 

I don’t know why there’s so much hate for the film. Maybe I have low standards (?) but I quite liked it. Of course, it’s not mind-blowingly good, but with a run-time of only 96 minutes, it was short, sweet and entertaining. The Independent called it ‘wildly unfaithful and simplistic to fans of King’s books’. Maybe so, but how do you condense a mammoth 7 books into one short film? Even Peter Jackson had to stretch out the Hobbit into a trilogy. I felt that Nikolai Arcel did a pretty decent job, considering.

The plot is simple enough that newbies should be able to understand without having to read an encyclopedia of King lore, and the cast is stellar. If nothing else, critics all agree that Idris Elba makes an excellent Roland. His world-weary portrayal of a Gunslinger who has lost his way and purpose, only to find it again through an optimistic, never-say-die young boy, is inspiring. Elba is effortlessly cool and scenes where he draws his gun and shoots baddies are awesome. I especially liked the Gunslinger’s Oath (which, in my mind, when recited by anyone else would appear almost cheesy and comical).

Jake is also very likeable; coming across as courageous and quick-witted. Some critics have panned the way the movie focuses on Jake more than the Gunslinger, but I felt it was a good way to build up the story without taking away from Roland’s role. Action sequences are choreographed well, and I enjoyed picking out the little Easter eggs from King’s other novels throughout the film.

The weakest link among the cast is, sadly, The Man in Black. Matthew McConaughey’s slick, snakeskin-oil salesman persona lacks real menace, and for a sorcerer who can make others stop breathing with just a few words, he seems rather mild and tame compared to some truly disturbing villains.

While I wouldn’t say it’s a great film, I felt it wasn’t as awful as critics made it out to be. Definitely watchable, especially on a lazy weekend.

Score: 7/10.

 

 

Book Review – Joyland by Stephen King

Stephen King may be known as the Master of the Macabre, but many people forget that he can be equally skilled when it comes to drama and crime fiction: I’m talking The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption (from his Four Seasons series). There have been a couple of hits and misses, like the lacklustre Mr Mercedes, but I’m happy to declare Joyland, which I picked up recently, a good read.

Synopsis: 

The year is 1973. Fresh out of school, 21-year-old Devin Jones takes on a temporary summer job at the Joyland Amusement Park in North Carolina while attempting to get his mind off his ex, who recently dumped him after moving away for her studies. Jones befriends two other summer hires, Tom and Erin, and settle into ‘carny’ life. Devin is piqued by the mystery of a purported haunting in the Horror House – that of the spirit of a young girl who had her throat slit while in  the ride with her ‘boyfriend’, suspected to be a serial killer who had preyed on several victims. He befriends the psychic resident fortune teller Madam Rosetta, who tells him that he will meet two children that summer who will change his life, and that one of them has the Sight. Shortly after, Devin rescues a girl with a red hat, as per Rosetta’s prediction, from choking, and is lauded as the local town hero. This bolsters his decision to remain at Joyland as a permanent employee after the rest of the summer hires are gone.

During this time he becomes close to a standoffish woman named Annie and her terminally ill son Mike – the second child in Rosetta’s prediction, who is gifted with the Sight. Mike wishes to go to Joyland for the first and last time before he dies, not just for himself but also to ‘free’ the spirit of the trapped ghost in the Horror House – a wish that Devin managed to grant, thanks to him being in the good books with the park’s bosses. Mike’s presence helps free the ghost. Devin, who still had an interest in finding out the truth of the murder, returns home and pores over evidence and research presented by Erin, whom he had enlisted for help earlier to investigate the case. It then hits Devin who the killer is – but of course, the latter is always one step ahead…

Verdict

Joyland isn’t your typical horror novel. It leans toward drama, albeit with supernatural elements – a ghost, a boy with the sight, and a serial killer. It is also very much about young love and the vagaries of youth. Devin was in love with his ex, convinced that he was going to marry her someday and have kids with a suburban job and a happy life, but it was not to be. How many times have we, ourselves, been let down by people we thought we loved and who loved us? The way Devin spiralled into a depression, throwing himself into work during the day while listening to suicidal songs at night, reminded me of my own experiences. The slow way he finds joy in his newfound carny work, the support given by his friends and the way he discovers his sense of purpose is beautifully written and evokes a feeling of nostalgia. His interactions with Annie and Mike are particularly touching: the way a simple desire to do good by two people he met on his way to work blossoms into a friendship. How the Mother and Son opened their hearts to him, and vice versa. It was all a wistful read, until the grand finale of catching WhoDunnit. At that point, the reader is pleasantly surprised by the twist in plot, but it would have been good enough on its own without the horror plot thrown in. That being said, I felt the story was too slow at times, which isn’t what I’m used to with a King novel. For that reason, I’d give it a …

Score: 7/10. 

 

Book Review – Under the Dome by Stephen King

At a whopping 1100+ pages, Under the Dome by Stephen King is gargantuan.  It’s so lengthy they even divided it into Parts I and II.

I finished it within a week. It has been a long time since I read anything that fast – mainly coz with so many things to do these days, I get easily distracted. That’s the thing about King novels though: it’s hard to put down once you pick them up, coz you’re constantly wondering and anticipating what comes next.

Under_the_Dome_Final

Synopsis: 

A mysterious barrier/dome has descended upon a small Maine town called Chester’s Mill, trapping its inhabitants within.

Things get chaotic. The town’s chief of police, Duke Perkins, approaches the dome, causing his pacemaker to explode. With his death, most of the power goes to Second Selectman ‘Big’ Jim Rennie, an egomaniac who, unbeknownst to many townspeople, runs a drug lab in the outskirts of town. He proceeds to sow fear in order to keep his hold on the town and hide his secrets, using any means necessary…even murder.

He orchestrates a food riot which he uses as an excuse to double the new police force, a dangerously trigger-happy group of his son’s Junior’s friends. He murders the local reverend who was in the drug operation and was on the verge of spilling the beans, as well as Perkins’ wife who had found evidence that her husband was investigating Rennie. To make matters worse, we discover that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree as Junior  himself has murdered two friends in a fit of rage… and that he’s also suffering from a brain tumour that causes violent behaviour.

Trapped along with everyone else is former army lieutenant turned short order cook, Barbara ‘Barbie’. Because the army plans to establish him as their inside man, Rennie frames Barbie for the murders and throws him into jail. He makes Barbie into a ‘boogeyman’, blaming him not just for the murders but for everything else – the drug lab, the food riot, etc, further sowing fear among the population so that they are too scared to think straight. Looting, shootings and chaos ensues.

A small group of people are not buying Rennie’s lies, and are trying to expose him and break Barbie out of jail before Rennie can conduct a public execution. They include the town’s physician assistant and his wife, Rusty and Linda, the local journalist Julia, kids Joe, Benny and Norrie (there are always kids in King’s novels: the kind that are smart, resourceful and often overlooked by the adults to their advantage), Reverend Piper Libby and grocery store owner Ed Calvert.

Time is running out, and the survivors struggle in a race against time to figure out the cause behind the dome before supplies run out, and stop Big Jim Rennie from destroying what’s left of town… and them.

Verdict: 

Under The Dome is not King’s best novel, but I think readers are willing to overlook that, simply because it’s King. It has his signature heart-pumping, fast-paced action that gets the reader on the edge of their seat.

While it’s a standard apocalpyse story formula, King has done well by focusing on the human relationships in the story, their behaviour, and how far people will go in order to survive.

There are many characters in the novel. While some are developed well, some seem to have fallen short of fleshing out before they die. Andrea Grinnel, the Third Selectman, for instance. She was a very promising character – being next in line behind Jim Rennie, Grinnel was a drug addict due to a back injury, but had risen from her depression and gotten her hands on documents incriminating Rennie which she planned to expose during the townhall meeting. But alas, before she could  do anything, she was killed, and had not even passed the documents to anyone – thus destroying the evidence forever and allowing Rennie to lead the rest of Chester’s Mill to their doom.

Big Jim Rennie is one of the most unpleasant villains I’ve ever come across – simply because I recognize such characters in the working world and I can imagine how easy it is for people to turn that way in an extreme situation.

There are, however, major plot holes which I didn’t really fancy. How the dome came about, for instance –  and the survivors’ last pitch effort to disable it. It just didn’t seem believable, despite this being a sci-fi/thriller novel where everything is possible.

Overall, Under the Dome is a moderately good Stephen King read, with just the right amount of action and story to keep you turning the pages.

Score: 6.5/10 

 

 

 

Book Review – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

IF you haven’t read this Stephen King novella, you might have at least seen its famous movie adaptation – known as The Shawshank Redemption (1994), starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It so happened that I watched the film for the first time on TV the other day, and barely a week later I found the story in a Stephen King compilation I bought. It is part of a four-story series called Different Seasons, published in 1982.

shawshank paperback stephen king for a year

Synopsis: 

Andy Dufresne is a high-flying, middle-class American banker… until he is arrested and charged for the murder of his cheating wife and her lover. Despite being innocent, he is sentenced to life at the Shawshank State Penitentiary. At the prison, he meets Red, an Irish man doing time for murder. Red is what the others call ‘someone who gets things’ in the prison, and not long after Andy is incarcerated, he requests for a Rita Hayworth poster and a rockhammer, which he convinces Red that he needed for his geology and rock sculpturing hobby from rocks he picks up in the prison’s exercise yard. Over the years, the two develop a close friendship.

In his early days, Andy is relentlessly raped by a gang of predatory inmates, dubbed ‘The Sisters’. He fights back the best that he cans, but often emerges bruised and beaten within an inch of his life, while the corrupt guards turn a blind eye.

While working on a roof tarring project, Andy overhears the guards talking about tax returns, and using his expertise as a former banker, boldly volunteers a solution so that the latter can keep his money. After that, he has the protection of the guards and the Sisters bother him no more. He is also allowed his own cell without having to share with the other prisoners. He continues using his resourcefulness and skills to help the guards and eventually the equally corrupt warden to legally cheat money in the form of taxes and laundering, which earns him benefits in the prison. He is elevated to the position of library keeper, and turns the place into the best prison library in New England.

One day, Andy hears from a new prisoner called Tommy that his former cellmate in another jail bragged about the killing of Andy’s wife and lover – proving Andy’s innocence. Despite the possibility of a retrial, Andy is brutally crushed by the warden, who thinks he is too useful to be allowed to walk free + he has evidence of his wrongdoings. Resigned to the fact that he would probably never get out through legal means because of the warden, he hatches another plan to escape…

The story is narrated through Red in first-person. One thing I’ve always admired about King is his brilliant story-telling skills. While I love his horror novels, some of his dramas are equally riveting.

Red’s character becomes a real-life storyteller, who is  sitting just next to you and recounting Andy’s life story, and at the same time, some of his own. Through his narration, the reader develops a genuine liking for the aloof but highly intelligent Andy Dufresne, and starts rooting for him to triumph over the evils that are the supposedly ‘good’ forces : namely the prison warden, guards and justice system in general.

For the lazy ones who don’t wanna read😛 there’s always the film, which is equally brilliant. The casting, the incredible acting and the plot is stellar. It’s no wonder the film is considered one of the Top 100 films of all time. There are some slight changes here and there in the movie, but I think it enhanced the storyline instead of impeding it, unlike many films who try to put in a ‘plot twist’ to be different from the book but ending up destroying the book’s original essence.

Highly recommended read! 9/10.

Book Review – Doctor Sleep

 

THE power to read minds, teleport objects and delve into another person’s deepest, darkest secrets. Would you call that a blessing, or a curse?

If you’ve read Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining, you would know that sometimes, it can be the latter. One of King’s brilliant early novels, the premise of psychic powers was made famous by a movie of the same name starring a young Jack Nicholson (remember that deranged ‘Here’s Johnny!’ scene?). A child Dan Torrance and his family moves into the haunted Overlook Hotel, where his ‘shining’ powers amplify the hotel’s malevolent forces and he starts seeing monsters and ghostly apparitions which attempt to hurt the family. As the novel progresses, his father spirals deeper and deeper into madness – culminating in an ultimate showdown whereby Dan, his mother Wendy and an old hotel cook who also has the shining, Dick, escape before the place explodes from an overheating boiler.

So what happened to little Daniel Torrance? 36 years later, King finally wrote a sequel – putting fans back on the edge of their seats with Doctor Sleep.

drsleep

Synopsis: 

The intro chapter reveals a little on young Dan Torrance and the life he has to go through with his now single mom, since the Overlook incident. The old shining cook, Dick, makes a cameo as well. He teaches Dan how to lock away the horrible ‘ghosts’ that seemed to have followed Dan around, in his mind.

Fast forward and Dan has grown up to be a troubled young man. Drifting from town to town and taking up odd jobs, his past with the Overlook haunts him, and he resorts to drinking to drown out the shining. When he comes to the sleepy town of Frazier, something in the place makes him stay and he decides to give up on drinking for good. Landing a job as a hospice aide, he now uses his shining abilities to help patients pass on, hence the nickname ‘Doctor Sleep’.

Meanwhile, a baby girl called Abra is born and she has the most powerful shining ever seen – even more than Dan’s was when he was younger. As she grows older, she reaches out to others like her, forming a telepathic bond with Dan.

The reader is then introduced to the True Knot, a group of immortals very much like vampires – except that they feed on the ‘steam’ from psychic kids like Abra instead of blood, which they get through kidnapping and torture of their victims. When Abra inadvertently tunes into one of their murder/torture sessions, she is discovered – and now the True Knot wants her. Fearing for her life, Abra reaches out to Dan. They must now find a way to stop the True Knot once and for all. It’s not going to be easy, because to do that, Dan has to face his inner demons and ghosts from his Overlook past…

 

Verdict: 

I’ll be honest. As much as I love Stephen King, some of his recent novels haven’t been as great as his early work. I remember reading books like Pet Sematary, It, Misery and just shuddering at the horror of them – which is just as well, coming from the Master of Horror. His newer titles have been slightly more… suspenseful, but lacking the chill factor. It was refreshing to see that King has gone back to his roots of what made him a truly talented supernatural fiction author. Doctor Sleep manages to build up the suspense + a feeling of fear for the main characters and the hurdles they have to face.

The people in the novel fit into their roles perfectly – Abra as a headstrong girl with powerful shining and a righteous, bloodthirsty streak), Dan who has grown from alcoholic to wise mentor, the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat, who relish the steam they get from suffering and have been feeding off it for centuries – powerful but unaccustomed to resistance from their victims. I actually felt slightly sorry for the antagonists here – King makes it that although we know they are evil, we can’t help feeling sympathy with their way of life and how, to them, it is just a matter of surviving.

All in all, Doctor Sleep was one of those novels that had me reading into the wee hours of the morning, and a satisfying sequel to The Shining. For fans of King’s earlier novels, this is one that you should try for a hit of nostalgia.

 

8/10.

Book Review – Thinner by Stephen King

Horror is one of my favourite genres, and when you talk about horror in  fiction, you can’t go by without thinking of Stephen King. In a career spanning decades and dozens of best selling novels that sent chills down our spines such as It and Pet Sematary, King is… well, king of horror novels.

I recently bought one of his older books, written under the pseudonym ‘Richard Bachman’, called ‘Thinner’, which was published in 1984. It even had a film adaptation, although I have yet to watch it.

Thinner centers around a well-to-do lawyer, William ‘Billy’ Halleck, who has a bank account and a career as generous as his gut. He lives the perfect life – beautiful wife, loving daughter, rich friends and comfortable lifestyle. All that changes when he is charged in court for knocking down an old gypsy woman and killing her, because his wife was giving him a handjob in the car. Thanks to ‘connections’ to a judge friend and the biased attitude of the police in dealing with the victims (the gypsies), Halleck slips off the hook. But not before old Taduz Lemke, father to the dead gypsy woman, lays a powerful curse on Halleck. He touches his cheek and simply whispers one word: ‘Thinner’.

Spooked but initially not thinking much of it, Halleck is merely relieved the whole episode is over. He goes on with his life… only to discover that he has been steadily losing weight. At first, it was a welcome change – he was a fat unhealthy person and shedding a few pounds was great, right? But then the drop doesn’t stop, and Halleck starts to worry that it might be something more sinister after treatments at the local clinic fail to diagnose anything wrong with him. His fears are confirmed when he realises his judge friend and local chief of police (who failed to do a fair and accurate investigation of the case) are suffering from weird ailments as well.

The next part of the story involves Halleck’s desperate race against time to locate the gypsies and get the old man to reverse the curse, before he withers down to nothing.With the help of his friend Richard Ginelli, a former client and mafia figure, they plan to make the gypsy remove the curse, or else…

Verdict

TBH, Halleck is not a very likeable character. He is weak-willed, refuses to take blame for his actions, and vengeful. The saying ‘Misery loves company’ applies to Halleck, because he comes to hate his wife whom he blames for his predicament.

King does write Halleck in such a way that readers are still intrigued to find out what his fate would be – whether he receives punishment or gets away scot-free. I actually found myself sympathising with the supposed ‘antagonist’, Taduz Lemke, and his travelling family of gypsies.

Here King touches on the theme of discrimination, and what we see as ‘good’ and ‘normal’. The ‘good’ folk and upstanding citizens of each suburban town treat the gypsies like dirt, always ready to blame them for any misfortunes. Despite that, they take what they can from the gypsies in the form of fortunes, entertainment, etc.  before unceremoniously kicking them out from town once they got tired of them. Society paints them as thieves, liars, bad men and women, who deserve to be in their place because they were, simply, gypsies.

The entire basis of the novel revolves around revenge and how it will eat us (ha!) from the inside out if we fail to find forgiveness in our hearts. ‘Revenge is sweet’…. but it also comes at a steep price, so to speak. The most terrible thing about it is that it often hurts the ones we love the most. Even unto the end of the novel, Halleck fails to acknowledge the fact that he made a mistake and that it cost the life of a woman. But if you wanna know if he is going to suffer from it, read the novel. 😛

Overall, I’d say ‘Thinner’ is a staple Stephen King novel: full of suspense and thrills. But it is also one of my more favourite novels, because his protagonist is kind of a prick and I found myself rooting for the ‘baddie’ instead. It is also one of his novels which have a deeper message instead of just scaring us shitless – on how society views people they deem of ‘lower standing’, and how, as I mentioned above, revenge brings nothing but hurt on ourselves.

7/10.