Sholio (sholio) wrote,

Books read lately

The Missing Ones, by Edwin Hill - This is the sequel to Little Comfort, which I really liked. I wasn't so fond of this one and took awhile to get through it, because there's not nearly enough of the found-family vibe from the first book, and way too much of people I don't particularly care about making terrible life choices on a vaguely Nantucket-ish island. I remember mentioning that I liked how the first book reflected the general irrationality of human behavior, but that terrible-decision-making thing is cranked up to 11 in this book; I've gone from appreciating it to wanting to yell STOP BEING FUCKING STUPID at the characters half the time. Especially when they keep repeating the exact same mistake that got them in trouble the last time.

It's particularly aggravating because once it becomes obvious that there's a killer and most likely a gang of drug smugglers running around on this island, the characters continue to behave as if everything is perfectly fine, doing things like ... going for walks in the woods alone! Not locking your door and hanging out on the porch after midnight OH HEY WHAT WAS THAT NOISE DOWN IN THE GARDEN oh well I guess it's nothing because it's not like THERE'S A KILLER 'ROUND THESE PARTS. Also, there is so much aimless wandering around this island, oh god, so much aimless wandering; I swear the characters spend most of their time deciding they need to be on a different part of the island and moseying over there. It doesn't help that we're repeatedly told that the island is really tiny, and it seems to be possible to get from one part of it to another in 10 minutes or less, yet the characters are constantly missing the ferry or failing to hear gunshots or not yelling for help despite almost certainly being within yelling distance of at least one other person at any given time.

But I continue to be charmed by the characters even while wanting them to MAKE BETTER DECISIONS and also both charmed and amused by their tendency to pick up strays. At one point the protagonist and her boyfriend have gone off to do separate Plot Things, and I swear they're only apart for a few hours, but in that time she acquires an orphaned four-year-old and he manages to adopt a dog. This was one of my favorite things about the first book; they just tend to adopt the lost and unwanted, and I think I may cautiously return for the next book in the series (these are all that are out right now, but I expect there will be more) and hope for more of the found-family thing and less of people on islands being too stupid to live.

The Institute, by Stephen King - This, on the other hand, was delightful. His recent books have been very hit-or-miss for me, but this is probably my favorite thing he's written since sometime in the general vicinity of Duma Key and Under the Dome. It's classic King in the best way, and it has all the trappings: plucky kids, psychic powers, relatively ordinary things becoming absolutely horrifying in context, misfits banding together against evil, a somewhat banal/loony premise that is so full of details and grounding that you're willing to buy into it wholesale. I devoured it over the last couple of days - I was bribing myself to get words written by promising another chapter or two of the book - and definitely recommend. This book also reminded me more of Stranger Things than any other specific book he's written, which is hilarious since Stranger Things is so obviously inspired partly by King's books, but this is like things have looped around full circle and now the Stranger Things influence is showing up in his new books.

There was a post that crossed my Tumblr dash yesterday along the lines of (heavily paraphrased) "we need more protagonists who save the world by being nice/kind/decent", and having just finished this book, it occurred to me how often that's a recurring thing in King's books, that people win through basic decency. They might not survive it, but I think one of the things that keeps me coming back to his books is that, despite the high body count, they're the exact opposite of hopeless. There's a general faith in people, and a general liking for people, and sympathy for people, that shows up in his books over and over again; in fact if there's a single overall theme to his work, it's basically "Be kind. It's worth it." Even if it ends up not benefiting you personally, in the sense that the monster gets you, the books of his that have good outcomes (which most of them do, more or less) are that way in direct response to characters choosing to do the kind, decent thing.

One other spoilery comment, though not book-breaking spoilers:

Ethical considerations aside, my single favorite scene in the entire book is the one where the government agency men in black roll up to this little rural Southern town to retrieve their escaped experimental subject, with their guns and their standard-issue government-agency vans, and all the local gun nuts and conspiracy theorists are like "It's all real! OUR TIME HAS FINALLY COME!" and it begins to dawn on the feds, as armed locals start coming out of the woodwork, that they have made a Very Serious Mistake.

I think one of the recurring features I really enjoy in King's books is a sort of genre-savviness of this type. A similar instance is the characters in Dreamcatcher immediately calling the authorities as soon as things go sideways instead of trying to handle it all themselves. I mean, it doesn't help them, but I appreciated that they realized right away that they were in a monster movie and tried to get out of it.

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Tags: books:misc, books:stephen king
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