on 18 June 2013
This is a story written to be read and I must admit it reads pretty well, even though there is only one reader. There is no sound track behind the story, hardly a musical jingle at the beginning and at the end. You will never know the color of the wind nor the sound of the setting sun or of the rising moon. Stephen King has had a lot of his short stories read like that over the decades, though I must admit read that plain sounds slightly cheap in a way. But then we only have the story, the words, and the intonations of the reader. You have to block your vision not to see the words and your audition not to hear the noises and the various voices of the grass, the moon and the black rock. When you are there in the heart of this solo voice with no surrounding environment you can start enjoying the story and nothing but the story.
This story takes Stephen King back to the time when he was Richard Bachman, when he was writing stories that had no redeeming element at all and redemption is the core of this story, a redemption of some kind indeed. A brother and a sister, the sister pregnant, not from the brother but from a discarded male that has no importance at all, are driving to San Diego for the delivery and are presently crossing Kansas. They come to something that may look like a village around a church, but there is no one apart from a few cars on the parking lot of the church. The church is dedicated to the Black Rock of the Redeemer. And there is redemption attached to that Black Rock. And this Redeemer is reminding us of the Black Man that has appeared so often in Stephen King's stories. And redeemed you are going to be.
The brother and the sister, plus the bun in the oven hear a boy calling in the grass and that's the first step of the redemption coming with the desire to help this boy calling from inside the tall grass on the other side of the road, not heavenly redemption with angels and seraphim, but the other type of redemption, black, bleak, blunt and sinister. You just have to pay homage to the Black Rock and then you will survive in that under-grass kingdom. If you don't you will forever stay there but you will become food for the survivors or for worms and other blackbirds or crows, another symbol of the devil in Stephen King.
Does Joe Hill, the son of the father, in other words Stephen King's son, one of Stephen King's sons, pulls his father back to the bleakest strand of his imagination? Yes for sure but it is no destitution, no backward movement but definitely a step forward into the dark side of the nightmare, if there can be a darker side to this nightmare than the nightmare itself. And we are kind of glad to come back to these stories that led to total destruction. Stephen King under his own name always left a door slightly ajar at the back of the end of a story through which we could imagine there was an epiphany even if it was starting all over again like in The Dark Tower. But here nothing, absolutely nothing. Enter this story and die.
And die we will, with pleasure and enthusiasm, till the last or rather final chime tells us the story is finished.
Yet there is something perverse in this story. The perverse element is Becky, the sister and her bun in her oven. She imagines her miscarriage as being her delivery, the delivery of a girl, if it is a girl, and there we can wonder if there is not something shameful or guilty in this unwarranted pregnancy out of wedlock, especially since they find an under-grass world in which a father has torn apart a dog first, then his own wife, the kid's mother, only to survive and feed on something, anything, why not your wife and your child's mother, and he would not hesitate one minute if he could catch his own son, Tobin. Is Stephen King settling accounts with his own father, though he seemed to have been raised by his mother and no one else, or is it Joe Hill who is settling some accounts with his father, or is it Stephen King who is settling accounts with his own son, Joe Hill, or is it Owen King?
Difficult to know in this world tyrannically dominated by a father who is hunting and eating anyone he can see, starting with a dog, then his wife, the mother and then who knows what, leaving behind a son without a father he can coddle to, leaving a pregnant girl delivering the miscarriage of her fatherless child and they are just expecting to survive long enough to have a new batch of newcomers, a large family if possible to have some stored food in the fridge of the under-grass world for the winter.
Better forget loving anyone and making children and marrying. It will anyway end up in blood and cannibalism under the authority of a heartless black stone that will edict itself the redeemer of the cosmos.
I loved that story in a way and I just enjoyed the accounts it helped me to settled with a father long dead by now but whose recollection is and will always be painful, till death finally us part for ever and ever in the centuries of centuries in the world of nothing at all. If it is not cathartic for you, just let yourself slip into the fright of a nightmare or the fear of a dream.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
on 31 December 2012
Having only paid a small sum for this ebook I would certainly consider it to be more than worth the price of admission. I've read 'A Heart Shaped Box' - one of Joe Hill's few books - and, of course, many things by Joe Hill's father Stephen King. The writing feels familiar, and sits well with the output of both writers, rather suggesting that it was a real collaboration.
There are a few things to bear in mind if you are thinking of reading this little story.
1. Don't expect to be told everything. There is clearly a substantial background, yet you simply don't find anything out about it. Your imagination will have to tell you what the Church, the Rock and the Grass are all about.
2. The story is too short for you to really get to know the characters. You'll need to set this issue aside if you are going to enjoy the book, at that will be difficult for some.
3. There is plenty of Stephen King's grusomeness throughout, all on a familiar level and all adding to the intrigue.
4. There is one piece of gore that will stop some readers from continuing. I'm not going to tell you what it is - believe me you won't miss it - and the implications are shocking. I am not easily upset by this kind of thing, but the idea was not likely to take any prisoners! If you can get past this it will raise more questions about the nature of the whole background than will ever be answered.
5. I've written number 5 at the end because it might be consider to be a 'spoiler'.
So if you are happy with all of the above you'll be left with an interesting story that bascially amplifies the idea of a childish fear. Kind always think that they are going to sink in the smallest pool of mud, they always think that they are going to be chased through the dead of night......and they all notice that they seem to walk in circles In the Tall Grass. This story takes that last fear to an extreme and leaves it there.
5. Spoiler. The story never ends. It clearly starts to repeat at the end of the book. A little self-contained loop.
on 28 November 2012
I read this in a couple of hours and was mightly impressed- welcome back Steve, its been a long time!.
It really is like Stephen King's return to his roots of horror , ably assisted by son Joe Hill .
I have been a King fan for nearly 30 years and I recognised King's style instantly, what drew me to his work initially all those years ago. The usage of popular culture references , most obviously the reference to 'an old folk song' by Bob Dylan , and the Merry Pranksters psychedelic bus from the 60's. The ordinary people living their ordinary lives until the intervention of the horror. Its evident in the folksy limericks voiced by the character Becky (which reminded me of the rhymes from 1987's 'The Tommyknockers' -'I was crazy and Bobbi was sane , that was before the Tommyknockers came', and 'All Work and No Play makes Jack a dull boy ' in 'The Shining' ) .The general descriptions of rundown rural America where we 'Constant Readers' have visited many a time, and the characters who are always believable and in the main always characters we can engage with. Yes folks we're in King Country and I suppose , Hill Country!
Joe Hill's style provides the gorier moments in my opinion , though I may be wrong . I was surprised that Peter Kilrue from Hill's '20th Century Ghost' didn't make an appearance as he would have been well at home among the cannibal denizens of the 'Tall Grass'.
Initially , I was reminded of 'Children Of The Corn' , but it is different, more of these times and more visceral.
Compulsive stuff and well worth a look!