In order to qualify these shorter entries in Stephen King’s oeuvre for CBR5, I decided to read and review them together. I’m a big fan, so I had nice time.
Stephen King, the novelist and gun-owner, wrote Guns in the media landscape shaped by the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings last year. Unlike many other commentators, he attempted to bring a measured view to the gun control debate. As an English pacifist, widespread gun ownership is anathema to me, but I appreciate our cousins across the Atlantic have a very different view. King avoids both the scare-mongering of the anti-gun movement and the outright insanity of the NRA to build a fair case for preserving an American’s right to bear arms while limiting the ownership of automatic weapons. Interesting statistics on America’s taste in TV shows, movies and compter games debunk the pat ‘culture of violence’ argument, whilst you can’t argue with the fall in gun crime seen when laws restricting the possession of assault weapons were passed in Australia. This intelligent and considered essay could be the most thought-provoking yet reasonable piece you could read on the subject.
When asked to write a story exclusively for Kindle, Stephen King agreed, on the condition he could write it about a Kindle. UR was born. As with 11.22.63, the story deals with the slippery question of if one could change events, whether one should. Following a seeming computer glitch, the sinister device in this novella falls into the hands of Wesley, an English teacher at a college. In true Stephen King form, Wesley is an ordinary (even weak) man, who find himself tested by extraordinary circumstances. You see, the Kindle Wesley receives is a portal to myriad alternative realities where Hemingway wrote more novels and the Cuban Missile Crisis ended the world. When faced with an unpalatable version of their own future, Wesley and his friends decide to make a few small changes. As I would expect from one of the greatest living English-language writers, the tone builds from casually amusing to tense to downright anxiety-inducing. The characterisations are inevitably brief, but no less compelling for it. I love Stephen King.
I’ve really enjoyed the two Joe Hill novels I’ve read, and as we have established above, I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so what could go wrong with a collaboration between the two? Not much. In the Tall Grass is every bit as unsettling, gruesome and frightening as you’d hope. The story opens with a brother and sister on a road trip across Kansas. She’s pregnant and going to stay with their aunt and uncle, he’s sharing the driving. When they hear a child calling for help, they stop, and are soon lost in the long grass by the side of the highway. What they lose – each other, their way and ultimately their minds – may have been explored better in other King novels (The Shining or Pet Sematary perhaps), but this is a great example of the art of short-story telling, and the inevitable bleak ending is predictable but no less awesome for it.