A little over a week ago, since I’m now close enough to actually be able to get there without bumming a ride, I renewed my card at the public library and checked some stuff out for the first time in about 40 years. It felt a bit strange and a bit wonderful at the same time. But one of the problems with living in a place that is basically Mayberry with a state college annex is, the local library doesn’t have a very wide selection (no John Scalzi or Tim Powers? None??). I could special-request some things, of course, but I doubt I’ll do that too often; I’m one of those people who thinks they’re being a bother even when they aren’t.
Nevertheless, I made do, and here is my “book report” with spoilers relegated to the links, in the order I watched or read them. Because I’m bored and you guys are a semi-captive audience.
Top Secret! (Paramount, 1984), ASIN: B00005UPO2
This was the only good Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie I hadn’t seen yet. It did not disappoint. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a spoof of Cold War spy dramas and Elvis movies at the same time. It isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as Airplane!, but some of the sight gags will still damn near make you spit your beverage of choice. There aren’t as many celebrity cameos, either, but you’ll still be surprised by a few of them.
The musical numbers are all pretty great (damn, Val Kilmer could sing!). Oh, and even though it’s set in ‘50s or ‘60s East Berlin, the French Resistance is in it, because of course they are.
And Nick Rivers is just dreamy.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner, 2013), ISBN:978-1-4767-2765-3
First, a confession:
I like Stephen King. I like him a lot. Even a sort of crappy King book is still better than three-quarters of the other stuff published, in my opinion. At his worst, he’s still comfort food, familiar and entertaining.
Doctor Sleep is not King at the top of his game (like, to give a few of my own personal examples, Hearts in Atlantis or The Green Mile or most of the Dark Tower books). But neither is it crappy King, not by a long shot.
I’d been reluctant to read it, because I’d heard it wasn’t very good. I think now that a good deal of the bad reviews were just disappointment that it wasn’t The Shining II. It’s not, and I don’t believe that’s what King meant it to be, not really. What it is, simply, is: This is what happened to Danny Torrance when he grew up. And on that level, it works rather beautifully.
Oh, there are callbacks to The Shining, of course, there have to be, and some of them are scarier than the new book’s spooks (the True are not nearly as frightening as King seems to think they are, but they’re well-drawn and sufficiently threatening). Admittedly, he uses the idea that “there are no coincidences” to whitewash a lot of suspiciously synchronous plot devices; but at least he winks at the reader as he does it, and for the most part he makes it work. There was a development right before the book’s climax (hint: it plays on the usual King reader feeling of, “Okay, I’m four-fifths of the way through this thing, who are you gonna kill that I love now, you heartless bastard??”) that felt really and truly pulled straight out of his ass. But it turned out I just hadn’t been paying enough attention. I should have known. And one point at the very climax of the story (you’ll know it when you get to it) is just pure, unadulterated sappiness. But I think it works, because it had to be there.
No, this isn’t The Shining II. It’s an unlikely but no-less-thrilling adventure yarn, with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a very long while. A friend whose life didn’t turn out anything like either I or he had hoped (and some of that was his own fault, but none of it was fair), but who finally finds exactly where and what he’s meant to be. The ending actually surprised me into a few tears, because it felt just exactly right. But I am an admitted and unrepentant sap, so your mileage may vary.
But, all things considered, I think you turned out just fine, Doc.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow, 2013), ISBN:978-0062255655
I don’t think I’m going to say too much about this one. If you like Gaiman, you’ll probably read it. There are themes in it you’ll find familiar, if you’ve read him before. But it’s mostly about childhood, and the things we forget when we grow up. It’s wonderful and frightening and exhilarating and mysterious and sweet and funny and heartbreaking. Just like childhood.
You should read it.
Caveat lector: I hope you got some small enjoyment out of this. Because, time and levels of boredom permitting, I may do a sequel or two.