I didn’t plan to read these two books right after one another. And I didn’t originally intend to compare them to each other, but really, I couldn’t help it.
Stephen King’s sons are both fine writers, and they each have a certain gift for storytelling. Joe has proven in his earlier works (Horns, 20th Century Ghosts, and Heart Shaped Box) that he’s practically a chip off the old block –he takes some horror, mixes it with real life, and often has trouble wrapping it all up in the end, just like dear old dad. But I didn’t mind, because usually (although I must admit, I barely remember Heart Shaped Box) the first 2/3 of the story was worth it. Owen was more of a mystery to me, as I hadn’t read his previous book of interconnected short stories.
Both books had one thing in common: a main character who proved themselves VERY difficult to like or care about. But other than that, they completely stand on their own.
I think of the two, I slightly preferred Double Feature. DF is the story of Sam Dolan, son of B-movie actor Booth Dolan. Sam has lived his entire life resenting his father and attempting to step out of his shadow and make his own name in film. As the story begins, young 20-something Sam writes and directs his first movie. Its a terrible experience for Sam, one that ends up changing his life forever in many ways. I wasn’t too invested in this part of the story, and when King suddenly jumped plots and timeframes, I welcomed it. The book continues along, telling the story of Booth and Sam’s mom, Sam’s childhood, and Sam’s life 10 years after his disastrous film project. We meet a cast of outlandish characters: a crazy (literally) assistant director, a construction contractor who can’t stop adding on to his own house, Sam’s insane step mother, Sam’s teenage half-sister, his sloth-like roommate who won’t go outside the apartment, a lunatic catcher for the NY Yankees, a former college girlfriend, and a college janitor who becomes famous for all the wrong reasons.
The book was well written and I enjoyed the time and POV changes. While it wasn’t a laugh-out-loud book, there were parts that made me smirk and smile…I might classify it as a satire.
On the other hand, we have NOS4A2, Hill’s huge vampire novel. I didn’t dislike it, but was surprised that I kept putting it down and wondering what else I had to read instead.
Teenage Vic McQueen has a special bike that takes her to a magical bridge that doesn’t exist. When she crosses the bridge, she can find things. Her mom’s bracelet, her friend’s cat, or even answers to the questions she’s beginning to have about her sanity. On one of her final trips across the bridge, she comes across Charles Manx, an ageless monster who has a magic trick of his own. Manx uses his Rolls Royce to drive to Christmasland, where children live forever in complete innocence. He abducts them from their parents (who are then usually raped and murdered by Manx’s lackey), and drives them to Christmasland on the roads of his imagination. Vic and Manx cross paths and she becomes the first child to ever escape from him, which he doesn’t forget — even after he’s dead.
Of course, Vic grows up and has a child of her own. Vic battles addiction and sanity, always wondering if the trips she took over the bridge in her youth ever actually happened. When she finally feels she’s getting her life back together, Manx comes looking for her and her son, so that he can take him to Christmasland. And finally, that’s when the book started moving for me. Too bad that it was about 2/3 of the way through. And the ending was great, too (unlike Horns and many of daddy’s books).
Hill is a great storyteller. But I think his little brother is a better writer. And I’ll keep reading whatever the family writes (I just got Joyland and will be reading that soon) to see how and if they continue to influence each other.
You can read more of my reviews on my blog.