#REVIEW: THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King

9781501180989_p0_v4_s550x406I didn’t want to buy or read this book at first.  That’s not my normal approach with Stephen King; the man has written approximately 5000 books, but I have damn near all of them.  I can only bring two of his books to mind that I know exist and have not read yet: his novel about the Kennedy assassination, which rubbed me wrong from the beginning and which I never started, and the third of his three Finders Keepers books, which I cannot explain why I have not read yet.  I’m gonna get to it eventually!  I promise!

So, yeah: I’m a fan.  I have been a fan since I was, I dunno, however old I was when Misery came out and I found my grandmother’s copy when staying the night at her house and managed to read most of it before she realized what I was doing.  Honestly I don’t remember if anyone tried to stop me or not, but it wouldn’t have done any good if they had; nobody was ever any good at keeping books away from me.

But I didn’t want to read this book.  The main reason?  The premise, as explained by most of the pre-release stuff, is white dude is accused of heinous sexual assault, turns out to be innocent.  And if I’m being honest, white dude turns out to not be a sexual abuser after all! is not really something I’m super interested in reading about too much right now.  There are entirely too many white men getting away with sexual assault and rape right now– some of them being elected fucking president, no less– just put me off the book for several weeks.  My wife read it in the meantime, and told me to go ahead and read it anyway, and I did.

Which was the right call, because once I started The Outsider I had the damn thing finished in two days– a hundred pages the first night, another hundred the second, and then I picked it up when I got home from work yesterday and didn’t put it down until I was done with it.  And it’s a big damn book.  Stephen King, after all.  The reason I wrote such a short post last night?  I got caught up in reading and didn’t want to put the book down to write a post.

So, a couple of things: this is King’s darkest work in years, if not in his career, to the point where I’m not even sure right now what I’d suggest its closest competition is.  The book begins with a man being arrested for an absolutely heinous act of rape, sexual torture, and murder, and despite his innocence being such a plot point that I can’t even honestly call it a spoiler to mention it, the book keeps you wondering what the fuck is going on anyway, and then at about the 200-page mark it throws a massive curveball at you and runs off to be an entirely different book than the police procedural you thought you started with.  And even before that curveball, King does an outstanding job of whipsawing you back and forth between this man is absolutely guilty and this man cannot possibly be guilty, sometimes in the same chapter, and the cops don’t always make great decisions on how to prosecute the case and when the book finally does tie everything together and explain what’s going on I feel like it earned its ending in a way a lot of books– including a handful of other King books– really don’t.

This is also his scariest book in a long, long time.  I will admit that being the father of a young son didn’t exactly help me with that, and if you aren’t a parent your mileage may vary a bit.

One gripe, though: I have always thought that one of Stephen King’s greatest gifts as an author was his ear for voice and for dialogue, which makes it weird that this book has such really weak dialogue throughout.  There are so, so many sentences in this book that no human being has ever uttered before and never will.  He does this thing at the end where he sort of thanks the people of Oklahoma and says that if he got anything wrong, he’s sorry?  And I feel like maybe he’s doing this weird thing where he’s trying to capture something he thinks is Oklahoma Folksy and instead he’s landing on Abraham Simpson:

This is especially bad in the earliest parts of the book, where a fair part of the text is interview transcripts, meaning that they’re nothing but dialogue and people telling stories.  The various cops in the book generally aren’t prone to rambling, but any time someone else is talking– again, especially in that early part?  God.

But yeah.  If you can push past that one rather notable weakness, this is excellent King and a great recovery from Sleeping Beauties, which I didn’t really like much at first and has not climbed in my estimation since then.

STATION IDENTIFICATION: Infinitefreetime.com

I’m Luther Siler.  I’m a writer and an editor.  Welcome to my blog, infinitefreetime.com.

I’ve written several books you might be interested in, ranging from short story collections to near-future science fiction to fantasy space opera to nonfiction, all available as ebooks or in print from Amazon.  Autographed books can be ordered straight from me as well.

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Prostetnic hi-res cropped

 

In which the Internet replaces my bad ideas with good ones

It has been about ten years since my last tattoo.  I have six of them right now, two of which are invisible under normal lighting, so maybe I should just say I have four.  I have been thinking about the next tattoo for a decade and still don’t have it.  I want a new tattoo, dammit!  My arms are bare!

The problem is I’m really picky and I need an idea to be great for a while.  I’ve turned on a lot of ideas that I thought were good at first.  Most of my tattoos are literary in nature, so variations on these have come up.  One of them I’ve even talked about in a previous post:

Hunter Thompson is one of my favorite authors, but lots of people have that tattoo already– which, I admit, didn’t stop me with my Lord of the Rings tattoo.  But two tattoos that I know I’ve already seen on other people?  Is kind of a problem, which makes the Hitchhiker’s Guide image an issue as well despite the fact that that book has also been a favorite for nearly my entire life.  And the one with the pencil is a nice mix of a politics tattoo and a writer tattoo, which I like, but I’ve been thinking about something similar to that image for over a year and I haven’t pulled the trigger yet so I don’t think I ever will do it at this point.

Which brings me to this, an image I know good and goddamn well no one else has:

Azamoeg

That’s the symbol of Azamoeg, and it shows up a lot in the Benevolence Archives books– I actually use it as a section divider in the print versions of Sanctum and BA Vol. 1.  I designed the damn thing myself, so I know nobody else has used it.  And I can have an actual artist jazz it up a bit too, if I want to.

But I’m not in love with that idea either.

So.  Internet, do your thing.  Find my next tattoo!

This Book is Good and This Book is Also Bad: a #review of Autumn Christian’s CROOKED GOD MACHINE

41rQ16mZceLA quick programming note: my wife is in Boston all week for a work thing; I drove her to the train station at midnight last night, so while I am technically on vacation for a week  once my shift ends at 6 tonight, I’m also on solo daddy duty all next week and I have a couple of full-day training things for my new job, plus at least one other life-related excursion for each day next week.  So I’m gonna be kind of busy!  I’ll be using my spare time to work on Book Stuff but it’s gonna be an interesting week and there may not be a ton of time for bloggery.

Which means a 2000-word post every day, obviously.

Anyway.  I’m on Warren Ellis’ newsletter, and he pointed out this little indie-published (!!!) novel called Crooked God Machine, and I’m tempted to just quote his entire brief review because he’s Warren Ellis and he’s better at this than me but instead I’ll just link to it.  At any rate, the review doesn’t need to be complicated: in some ways this book is one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever read in a deliciously good way; it’s about a world that is ending but is not in any hurry to do so, and what growing up in a world like that is like, and God yelling from you inside of a television, and people deliberately turning themselves into brain-spider zombies so that they don’t have to deal with their own existence any longer– the sales pitch for the brain-spiders is literally you don’t have to experience the next ten years.  The writing is uniformly gorgeous throughout– Autumn Christian wrote this between the ages of 19 and 21, which is unbelievable– this is A Confederacy of Dunces-level Evil Young Genius writing going on here.  If you are a fan of dark and really creepy horror I recommend it unreservedly.  If you aren’t, be aware that the subject matter is deeply fucked up throughout– a dead infant gets fed to a monster in a swamp at one point, and the monster torments the main character for the rest of the book, and that’s just that one thing, so maybe assume a trigger warning?  Ellis calls it “young, raw work” in his review and he’s absolutely right– there is a certain immaturity here, and it’s very clearly the product of a preternaturally talented young person who is very, very angry with the world she has been handed, and that’s something you probably need to be aware of about it, but it’s definitely worth reading and is gonna stick with me for a while.

That said.  I bought this book in print because I try to buy everything in print, and also honestly the cover is compelling as hell and I wanted it on my shelf.  Notice how the title on the cover omits the definite article?  The name of the book is The Crooked God Machine, according to everything on Amazon and everything inside the book.  It is perhaps a sign of how carefully the print manuscript is edited that the book gets the title wrong on the cover.  You will look at this and know immediately that it is an indy title, unfortunately– everything from the print size to the font choices to little things like chapters starting on the left-hand page once in a while screams that this was put together by someone who 1) had no experience in book design and 2) did not take the time to carefully look through the books in their possession and pay careful attention.  It is also, unfortunately, riddled with the types of errors you get when you are depending on spellcheck as your primary source of editing– in other words, there are next to no misspelled words, but there are lots of errors– nearly every chapter– of omitted words, autocorrecty sorts of errors where the word used is a real word so spellcheck won’t catch it but it is nonetheless completely the wrong word, and sentences where some editing took place but the editing itself introduced a second error that didn’t get caught.

I have seen from reviews that the ebook is not prone to this, but the print version will drive you crazy if you are the type to notice this.  It’s still absolutely worth reading but it cost the book a star in my Goodreads review because indie authors have to be better than this.  Then again, Warren fucking Ellis reviewed her book positively so maybe what the hell do I know.  Warren Ellis sure as hell isn’t reading The Benevolence Archives, right?

Sigh.

 

In which I’m baaaaaaaaack

istock-499343530I officially restarted my career as an educator today, with a leadership team meeting at my new school.  I’d only really ever been in one small part of the building before, so I took a while and wandered around, trying to get a feel for the place.

We, uh, may have a roach problem.  It was one of the first things my new boss said to me when I walked in.   She’s kinda horrified, so there’s gonna be all sorts of exterminators out between now and school starting.  I’m fully aware that every old building this size has some roaches but I saw two of them that were both over an inch long while I was there and that’s gonna be a problem.

That’s all I’ve got to complain about, though.   You can usually identify the bad seed in any group of educators within a couple of minutes of the start of a meeting, and as far as I know there wasn’t one, which is pretty damn exciting.  Everyone seems really dedicated and hyped about the school year starting, and it got infectious fast.  I just wish I had a better handle on what my actual job is going to be like on a day-to-day basis, but that’ll come sooner or later.

I also had a moment about halfway through the meeting where I realized that it looks like the places where I disagree with my new boss about things all seem to be places where she has more faith in the kids than I do.  I don’t know that I’m going to unpack that any more than pointing it out, at least right now, but it was an interesting thing to take note of.


I haven’t sold a book on Amazon since a day or two after I got back from Indy Pop Con, which was an embarrassingly long time ago.  Somebody out there has to be looking for something to read, right?  My books are inexpensive and delicious, check ’em out!