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Our Little Stevie, All Grown Up
am 17. Juli 2000
Poor Stephen King. His books sell millions of copies. They've been banned here and there. They've made him a fortune several times over. They've been made into great movies, classic movies, and amazingly awful movies. Still, they just haven't managed to receive the unqualified admiration of critics. We can't really be too surprised. His books are engaging, fun to read, and relatively novel, but they are not masterpieces of Western civilization. The Stephen King Ending is well-known as a disaster. A good fraction of his books end with the murder of giant space turtles, over-sized spider beasts, or, perhaps worse, a fizzle. His characters are often unbelievable, and his short stories are generally painfully underinspired. I also blame him for spawning "Trucks," "Maximum Overdrive," "Sometimes They Come Back... Again!" and countless other should-have-been-direct-to-video movies.
In Bag of Bones, though, he overcomes a lot of his previous pitfalls. When I liked his characters, liked the plot, and liked the overall feel of the book, I feared that the protagonist would end up fighting a giant planet-eating sponge in the final chapter. When I got to the end, genuinely satisfied, it was great.
Bag of Bones tells the story of a recently-widowered novelist and the dark conspiracy he uncovers when he tries to understand his wife's last few months. The facts of the backstory as well as the story itself are kept wonderfully murky until the end; we are not told straight away by the back of the books that this is one man's struggle against an evil car. It can only be called a ghost story, and a fine one at that.
Running nearly a thousand pages, the book has several plots which touch on each other just enough to pique our interest without merging entirely into one massive jumble. The characters are, for the most part, all individuals. Although one or two seem to be mere "stock villains" or "stock protagonists," their simplicity works, and they're developed at least well enough to make them characters, not objects.
Bag of Bones is not, perhaps, the 'definitive' Stephen King novel. I would not even call it my favourite. (I have a special place in my heart for Running Man.) It may well be his most sophisticated, however, and I am told that it speaks of things to come in his later and future writing. It is certainly worth a small investment of time and money for anyone who enjoys a good ghost story.