Book Review: "The Stand" by Stephen King

"The Stand" by Stephen King is an epic novel that follows the survivors of an apocalyptic plague through their experiences before, during and after the event. While this is a major plotline of the novel, the eponymous stand is a face-off between good and evil in a battle for what remains of the United States. It is hinted that, in the time to come, the battle will spread to other countries and become a worldwide struggle for power.

The novel progresses from the story of a young soldier who manages to escape a U.S. Army facility when a then unknown disaster occurs there. As the young man, his wife and child make their escape, they touch the lives of several others. Soon, the reader learns that the young man and his family are carrying a highly deadly virus -- a manufactured strain of the flu. Gradually, characters from across the country fold into the story seamlessly as almost everyone around them gets sick and dies while they are left to traverse the broken country in search of a place where society can reconvene.

In true Stephen King style, "The Stand" addresses deep fears that would be quite realistic in such an event. A pregnant woman fears her child will not be immune to the virus. A number of survivors realize that the loss of most modern medicine means their lives are still at risk. The loss of law and order leaves survivors wondering what will happen when someone inevitably gets violent. On top of all of these, there is the supernatural evil that one expects from Stephen King. In "The Stand," this evil comes in the form of a creature known as the Dark Man, the Walking Dude, Randall Flagg, Walter o'Dimm  and possibly Andre Linoge. This one single creature is the ultimate bad guy in Stephen King's fictional universe and he has come for the world in this story.

This is one of Stephen King's best works. It is terrifying, uplifting, sad and, best of all, it is one of the ropes that ties into the best horror series of all time -- the Dark Tower series. It touches on religion, while distancing itself from absolutes as to the existence of any deity. King carefully interchanges the words magic and miracle so as to leave an ambiguity that I have always appreciated in his work. Anyone who has some time to kill on a book that is bigger than the Bible should pick up "The Stand."

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls opens her memoir stuck in traffic in New York City. As she looks over to the sidewalk, she sees a homeless woman digging in the trash. A homeless woman that she recognizes as her own mother. Instead of leaping out of the cab to embrace her and bring her home, as we would expect, she instead leans back and hopes her mother doesn't see or recognize her.

 Back in her Park Avenue apartment, Walls deals with her feelings of guilt on one hand and helplessness on the other. She rehearses in her mind the number of times she has tried to help her parents before, and their insistence that they are quite content and in need of no help from their children.

 Read more of this review by Kathleen Krueger here.

So, I Wrote a Book

Copyright Michelle Barclay

Dear Cracked Spines readers,

Well, it is about that time. You may have noticed that since December of last year there has been a NaNoWriMo winner badge on Cracked Spines. During November of last year, I wrote a book. It is a short book, but I did what many others do not do and gave myself only the month to complete it. Of course, editing was to come later, but the story itself was wrenched out of me in November of 2011. I continued writing here and elsewhere at the time as well. In short, I am mighty proud of myself for finishing it.

Fast forward six months and I have made the epic decision to edit and publish what is now known as Morrigan's Shadows. That was harder work than writing it, I think. It was somewhat scary. Nonetheless, within a few months of that decision, my first full-length horror novel was for sale in print and electronic format. Surprisingly enough, I have sold a few copies too. Here I am, in the second month of sales, a few tens of dollars richer and working on a sequel.

I was not going to write about it here, as this is not so much a personal blog as a place for people to go to read about books. After thinking about it for a while, I realized this is about creating books and selling them, so I decided to tell you guys a bit about it. Morrigan's Shadows is no epic masterpiece, but it is something I am proud of. Its sequel will be longer, more epic and hopefully even scarier. I will let you know when I finish. For now, you can keep up with my progress on my website.

Shelly Barclay (Michelle Barclay)

Book Review: "All My Crimes" by Tal Valante

Cover Photo courtesy of Riptide
Publishing -- all rights reserved
"All My Crimes" by Tal Valante is a fantasy fiction story with adult themes. It is set in a world where humans have just defeated the race of the elves in a fell swoop that is soon revealed to have been nothing short of a massacre, but whose fault is it? The story is told from the perspective of Lord Teregryn Eve, a former lover of the human king and former prisoner of the elves. He is recovering after a respite of two years following the war. He cannot remember those two years and might just be better off that way.

In a very short span, Tal Valante manages to conjure a story that could easily be called an epic with just a few tweaks. It sweeps across years and even generations if one looks deeply at the story. Tal whips up magical lore that most authors take many chapters and sometimes even many novels to create. By simply displaying the powers that some characters have and using her narrator's memories, she skips the lengthy descriptions and dialogue that would have transformed "All My Crimes" into a 1,000-page novel.

Perhaps the best thing about "All My Crimes" is the way this single novelette encompasses so many themes. Most short stories will focus on one or just a few things. Fear, grief, anger and revenge are just a few of the themes that can drive a short plot to a satisfying end. Tal Valante incorporates magic, war, revenge, genocide, love, friendship, fear, murder, anger, sorrow and even more. Maybe another reviewer will find something negative to say about "All My Crimes" by Tal Valante, but having just read it and thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, I simply cannot. Tal Valante is certainly one to watch.

Shelly Barclay