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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, March 24, 2023

All hail the regent of horror, Stephen King

Once, I read somewhere that all Stephen King wanted to be from a very young age was scared. His immeasurably active imagination did not disappoint, and he was able to find fear anywhere and scare himself quite easily.

Whether that is the precise reason he has written—and continues to write—over 64 brilliantly chilling books, I do not know for sure. But I do know he is someone who unwaveringly thinks and ponders over what would scare him the most and then translates that horror into words on paper. He has one of the most unique and awe-inspiringly scary talents to ever grace the horror genre.

When NPR asked King what his approach to writing is, he said it is confrontational. He did not, however, just leave it there but went on to describe precisely what reading his books does to me and so many countless others: “My idea is to come up to you, grab you by the lapels and say: I have this story. I want to tell it to you, and when you hear it, you’re not going to want to cook dinner, you’re not going to want to clean the house, you’re not going to want to go to your job. You’re just going to want to read this story and care about what comes next.”

Therefore, paying homage to the month of Halloween once again, I randomly selected four of my favorite books by King that although will still leave behind many of his greatest works—he has never written a bad book, in my opinion—nevertheless represents some of his most iconic work.

“The Stand,” originally published in 1978 but republished in 1990 in a “complete and uncut” edition, is a gloriously terrifying journey that should be experienced in the book’s complete and uncut version, something that’s quite a feat. A post-apocalyptic novel for the ages, we see it begin with a deadly virus and end with an epic battle of good versus evil.

The complete version may be an extremely long book at 1100 pages—think of it as your fall semester project—but the length of the story never causes it to drag or lets you experience even a moment of monotony. It has a wide array of story lines in it that need to be told that span the United States and give you people to root for. Littered with moral dilemmas, this story and everything in it seems eerily likely to happen as does its tackling of issues that could determine our own possible survival one day.

Fame through writing is something many people strive for, and many do go on to accumulate a huge fan base of people absolutely in love with them. But have you ever wondered what happens if your number one fan kidnaps you, keeps you locked and shackled in a room and keeps you at the mercy of her deranged whims until you rewrite your last book and give her the ending she really wanted?

“Misery” is that nightmare—for many famous authors I presume—brought to life by King that lets you experience cringe worthy terror at the actions of the protagonist’s biggest fan. It is a gruesome tale of torture that transcends even what may be considered normal in the realms of torture.

Perhaps one of his most famous and iconic works, “The Shining” more than earns every single praise sung to its horrific brilliance. It may have become a widely known pop cultural reference because of Jack Nicholson’s excellent acting as Jack Torrance, but the movie nevertheless still failed to encompass the heart the book still has.

What King spins for us here is the exploration of one man slowly spiraling down into madness, entwined with the supernatural entities in the hotel where he recently became the caretaker. We witness every single step in the erosion of Torrance’s mind, while his family is reduced to crumbs watching the madness within the hotel unfold.

One of King’s most amazing abilities as a writer is how easily he can deceive you. It a skill so masterfully crafted that even one who has read much of his work and is not a novice within horror cliches, is nevertheless still deceived by him. It’s a deception that is chillingly titillating and one that fans of King don’t shy away from. “Pet Semetary” begins with another such deception, with the story of an sweet and innocent family moving to the countryside. The story builds on many different themes, which is another one of King’s favorite things to do. He poses the most unthinkable and often unbearable “what if” questions to you. Offsetting the darkness of this tale are questions like, “what lengths will you go to fix things, for your family?” and “do you have limits?”

I bid you farewell with words from the ‘King’ himself about what terror really is. “The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

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