I used to be a huge Stephen King fanboy, but I think he was replaced when I discovered Neil Gaiman. I don’t gush over King like I used to; in fact, I’ve stopped buying his books all together, and I used to be first in line at the bookstores when he had a new book out. I still enjoy his works, but the era of Misery and Pet Sematary and Eyes of the Dragon are gone. He’s older, wiser, and just as compelling. But he’s also a lot less interesting.
The book is about Lisey, who lives in Maine, and is the widow of one of the most popular writers ever. So, yes, this book is pretty autibiographical. I don’t know how much of it is truth, and how much is fiction, but consider this: King writes that Scott Landon, the deceased writer, never wrote from an outline, and he described writing a book as like finding a string in the forest and following it to its end — sometimes you could find treasure at the end, and other times the string would just break. I get a real sense that this is how King has written every book since Misery.
Lisey Landon has been mourning her husband for two years, and she’s finally come to the point where she feels she can start cleaning out his study. While opening the boxes and sorting through all of the materials there, she also opens up memories of her past with Scott, including some things that she had blocked from her memory. She’s sent on a “bool hunt,” orchestrated by Scott, and featuring her catatonic sister and a psychotic stalker.
In retrospect, everything in the novel is set up to come together properly, without too many loose ends. What bothers me, though, is that the entire story seems so insubstantial. There’s the plot of remembering her past with Scott, the plot of dealing with her catatonic sister, and the plot of her trying to outwit her stalker, but none of it really rings with the sort of presence that I expect out of a Stephen King novel. I’ve always admired his characterization skills, and while they’re still present, there’s simply not much to the story. The plots seem too thin, and too forced, to gel into something that feels interesting.
I really wanted to like this novel, but I feel like it’s lacking in all of the areas that I’ve always liked about King. It’s not compelling, it’s not suspenseful, and it’s just not interesting. There was a moment near the end of the book where King described something with a clarity that made it stand out in disturbing clarity, but that was the only point in the story where I felt he reached that point. Reviewers are saying that this is one of King’s best books, but I just don’t see it.