Saturday, 14 April 2012

A full set of Kings

On the first day of May, 100 teenage boys meet for a race known as "The Long Walk". If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, what happens is absolutely terrifying...

After reading The Hunger Games, and hearing everyone compare it to this book, it dawned on me that I had never actually read The Long Walk. I hastily fixed that oversight, and am glad that I did. First of all, let me say that - apart from the whole idea that this is a contest of some sort, with kids invariably dying along the way - there's not much else similar about the two novels. The latter is terrifying in its drabness... "Walk, walk, walk, walk... oh my god, I just can't take it anymore..." whereas the former has a different twist every time you start a new chapter. Secondly, The Hunger Games also involved little choice in the matter. What made The Long Walk so much more horrifying IMHO is that the kids CHOSE to sign up for this thing. That in itself, and the fact that I'm a sucker for King's style of writing, is what made me give this tale a four out of five, even though the story paled in comparison to Suzanne Collins' novel.    

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when -- or if -- it will go away.

 Here's another book that can be loosely compared to The Hunger Games, simply because there's a dome involved - a controlled environment, and a Lord of the Flies type outcome - this time with a mainly adult cast. Not only did I love the overall idea, but I found the end rather fitting. There's a reason I hate used car salesmen... Full five stars.

   Six months after a crane crushes his pickup truck and his body self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle launches into a new life. His wife asked for a divorce after he stabbed her with a plastic knife and tried to strangle her one-handed (he lost his arm and for a time his rational brain in the accident). He divides his wealth into four equal parts for his wife, his two daughters, himself and leaves Minnesota for Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily remote stretch of the Florida coast where he has rented a house. All of the land on Duma Key, and the few houses, are owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, an octogenarian whose tragic and mysterious past unfolds perilously. When Edgar begins to paint, his formidable talent seems to come from someplace outside him, and the paintings, many of them, have a power that cannot be controlled. 

Though The Long Walk made me shudder, and Under the Dome made me think, Duma Key had me glancing at shadows in the wee early hours as I gobbled up one gruesome chapter after another. Pure classic, grotesque, scary King at his best. I'll never look at art the same again. Another five stars.