Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Shining

by Stephen King
500 pgs

It's been about 25 years since I first read The Shining. It was one of the first books by King that I read and it's one of the main reasons why I believe he's one of the greatest authors ever. I don't usually reread books, even his, but before reading the sequel that came out last month, I wanted to have the true story fresh in my mind, and not have my memory of it muddied by the story that Stanley Kubrick told with his movie.

Reading the book again was like returning to the home I grew up in after having been away for a couple of years. As soon as I got there, my mind was immediately flooded with many fond memories. This time though, the memories were of five-year-old Danny Torrance, and his parents Jack and Wendy. They were of Dick Hallorann, the Outlook's chef who share's Danny's gift for shining and senses the dangers that the Torrances could face during their months of seclusion high in the Colorado Rockies. But the fondest memories to come flooding back were of the animal-shaped topiaries down by the Outlook's playground, and of the roque mallet, Lloyd the Outlook's bartender, Tony, and of course . . . REDRUM.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Black Hills

by Dan Simmons
453 pgs

Paha Sapa is a Sioux warrior who was born with a gift, one that he eventually comes to think of as a great curse. When he physically touches someone he is often able to see into that person's future, and past. His supernatural gift also may allow the spirits of the dying to enter into his body where they reside and communicate to him as a voice in his head.

At the age of ten, Paha Sapa was "counting coup" (proving his bravery by touching enemy soldiers) following the Battle of Little Big Horn when he unknowingly touched the dying General Custer. Custer's ghost entered Paha Sapa that fateful day and for the next sixty years of his life, Paha Sapa was forced to live with the voice of the dead General in his mind.

Later in his life Paha Sapa signs on as a powder man on the blasting team carving the Mount Rushmore memorial into a mountain sacred to Paha Sapa's tribe. His intentions are to one day destroy the memorial in a spectacular fashion and to do it on the day FDR visits the site to see its progress.

The book jumps back and forth in time--sometimes telling the story of Paha Sapa's life before working on Mount Rushmore, sometimes telling the story of his plans and attempt to destroy Mount Rushmore, and sometimes telling the story of Custer's life as told to Paha Sapa by his ghost

Black Hills is the fifth book by Dan Simmons that I've read. I thought the previous four were all outstanding and I consider him a fantastic writer because of them. This one missed the mark a little for me. Of the three different stories being told in the book, the only one I found interesting was Paha Sapa's life as a powder man on Mount Rushmore, and his quest to destroy what those who had destroyed his way of life were now carving into the mountain so sacred to him and his people. I thought that the story of Custer's life, as told by his ghost, was unintentionally hilarious. I don't know whether this is a direct result of research Simmons did on the man or not, but he writes him as a sexually-obsessed man who has little if anything left to occupy his thoughts but the memories of his sexual adventures with his wife.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Twelve

by Justin Cronin
568 pgs  (The Passage trilogy #2)

The Twelve is Justin Cronin's second book in his post-apocalyptic vampire trilogy that he began with The Passage. In the first book, twelve virals were created when the military, experimenting with creating a super-soldier, injected death-row inmates with a virus that enhanced both their mental and physical capabilities. Unsurprisingly, the virus had unintended consequences and the twelve men were also transformed into vampire-like creatures who subsequently escaped and brought about the end of America.

In The Twelve the story bounces back in forth in time, alternating between the present, shortly after the virals escaped and spread the virus to millions called dracs, and a hundred or so years into the future. In the present, people are trying to learn how to cope with the decimation all around them and the nightly threat of the dracs. In the future, a group of survivors is trying to hunt down the virals in order to destroy them and hopefully all their minions along with them.

I enjoyed The Twelve just as much as I did The Passage. Both books are written with a level of sophistication that is often missing in the genre. I've seen some reviewers make comparisons between these books and Stephen King's The Stand. I wouldn't go that far; in my opinion comparisons like that verge on sacrilegious, but I can see why some would try to compare the two. The scope of the story Cronin is telling here is quite large, so large in fact that at times I regretted having waited so long between reading the two books. I found it hard to keep track of who the characters were from the first book, and what they had done in it, even with the glossary of characters provided at the back of the book. I still highly recommend the series.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

To the Rescue--The Biography of Thomas S. Monson

by Heidi Swinton
588 pgs

As a member of the LDS church, and as an avid reader, I'm more than a little ashamed that I don't read more church-themed books. Even this book, which I was anxious to read when it came out three years ago, has sat on my bookshelf, or in a box, as a couple hundred other books leapfrogged ahead of it on my to-be-read list. I have no justifiable reason for it, but I'm resolved to do a better job of incorporating more of these "best books" going forward.

Part of the reason I decided to finally open this book when I did, was I wanted to come to know more about President Monson as an individual, and not just as one of the leaders of the Church. He has served as an apostle in the LDS church for more than 50 years now, which means every General Conference I've been able to listen to his messages and feel the Spirit that accompanies one with his calling. But I wanted to know more about the background and history of the man who today leads the LDS church.

President Monson truly is a remarkable man. He's a man whose love and respect for everyone is the same, regardless of whether they're members of the Church or not, heads of state, or an otherwise forgotten widow. His entire life's experiences have shaped him into the type of man he is today--the specific man chosen to lead the Lord's church on the earth today.

His biography was inspirational and motivational to read. It increased my love and respect for President Monson and all who consider him the Lord's mouthpiece on the earth today should read it.