Is BL actually working again? Wow.
So many books, so little time
Is BL actually working again? Wow.
Synopsis: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
This is a book about hope, redemption, and darkness in the real world. It's a brutal read, and it made me cringe more than once. Not because of bad writing or unbelievable characters or forced dialogue — no, Colton Whitehead has created an almost perfect novel in The Underground Railroad, a work I am sure will soon enough be deemed a modern classic. Hell, it's even an Oprah's Book Club book. That's, like, everything.
This is the story of Cora, a teenage slave who runs away from the plantation in Georgia she's been sold to. She embarks on a journey of highs and lows, of wonder and terror. Whitehead does an astounding job of conveying her confusion and awe once getting off the Railroad (which, in the book, is an actual train — a nice touch, I thought) the first time. The reader knows that once Cora has a taste of freedom, she will never go back.
I'm going to keep this review extremely short, because I can't even begin to put into words the profound impact The Underground Railroad had on me. The author carved out a gem with this one. He handles a touchy, horrific subject such as slavery (and, with that, rape and murder) with great care and skill. Young Cora's journey to the north is one I will not soon forget. I really can't recommend this one highly enough. Check it out if you're into historical fiction or just a really good story populated with well-drawn characters. I will be checking out more from this author!
This book is my 'diverse author' selection for Halloween Bingo. (I slacked off on Halloween Bingo during September. I will remedy that in October.)
I'm finally finished with this atrocity. I won't be reviewing it; I don't even want to remember reading it. Kudos to Scout Press for shinin' up this turd enough to trick me into buying. Every character in it is awful, there is almost no real 'mystery' and the reveal is lame. But it's over. It's done. And I will never read another book by this author.
This fulfilled my 'mystery' square in Halloween Bingo.
As some of you have probably noticed, I've been largely absent as of late. I've been writing fiction like a madman. I'm in a writing phase, not a reading phase.
I've been working on a series of twelve short stories about a small town in Alabama — a town not unlike where I live. I've been doing extensive research into the history of my town, which has helped shape some of the strongest fiction I've created. I've never been more excited about a project than I am about this one.
The stories will span decades in this small town. The earliest year represented is 1941; the latest is 2023. Some of the stories are about major ideas, like the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Some are about friendship, sexuality, nature, et cetera. I am working diligently on the fifth story, which is quickly turning into a novella. Not that I mind!
Anywho, I thought I'd post a small snippet from one of the stories. It's an excerpt from a rough draft, so grammar issues might be present. I'm putting it in spoiler tags so those who don't care to read it don't have to. Feedback is welcome and appreciated! I'm only twenty, and despite writing for fun all my life I am new to writing 'professionally' (which means I'm working hard and hoping against hope that I'll find a publishing platform someday).
Synopsis: In this brilliant collection of twenty-two stories, Stephen King takes readers down paths that only he could imagine….
A supermarket becomes the place where humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction…a trip to the attic turns into a journey to hell…a woman driver finds a very scary shortcut to paradise…an idyllic lake harbors a bottomless evil…and a desert island is the scene of the most terrifying struggle for survival ever waged.
I finished Skeleton Crew with tears in my eyes. I thought I'd read "The Reach" — the story that closes out this collection — before, but I guess I hadn't. It was an entirely new experience for me, and it packed quite the emotional wallop. As I write this review I'm still trying to mentally recover from that one, so pardon me if my thoughts are a little scattered. My Fornit died, and I'm stuck doing the job myself.
By the time this collection was published in 1985, Stephen King was a bona-fide literary rock star. His fame was gargantuan, beaten in size only by his addiction to dope and alcohol. According to the man himself, his study was the site of nightly parties for one, where the beer flowed and nose candy was always available. Yeah, King wasn't in a great state of mind for most of the eighties. He warns the reader in this book's introduction that the act of writing short stories hadn't gotten easier for him over the years — instead, it had gotten harder. Novel deadlines made it difficult to carve out time for shorter tales, and everything the man put into his Word Processor of the Gods wanted to be six hundred pages in length. If this reviewer is being honest, that's painfully apparent with this collection. A handful of the tales presented here should've never made it off the cutting room floor and several others could have been trimmed a bit. Most of what the reader is presented with is great (hence the four stars), but King overwrites like crazy here. That's my problem with a lot of his output from this decade — excess verbosity.
After the reliably folksy, mood-setting introduction to this collection from Sai King himself, things get rolling with "The Mist," the first (but not last) story in Skeleton Crew about ordinary people stranded and facing likely death, due to out-of-this-world circumstances. "The Mist" is a novella, and I always enjoy every word of it. Yeah, King overwrites in several places in this book . . . but this story ain't one of 'em. I have quite the fear of mist, thanks to this story. Other favorites of mine include "The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet," a delightfully paranoid story King could have never written before or after cocaine; "The Raft," which was my very favorite in this collection for a long time; The Monkey," a story that doesn't get as much love as it deserves; "The Reach," the previously mentioned story that moved me to tears; "The Jaunt," which, for my money, contains King's most haunting story ending yet; and "Cain Rose Up," a story that other reviewers like to rag on but I can't help but dig.
All that said, there are several stories here that should have gotten canned. "Here There Be Tygers" makes no sense and is downright gimmicky; the two "Milkman" stories also don't make much sense and go nowhere. "Uncle Otto's Truck," a story about (you guessed it) a haunted truck, feels worn out and old — King has touched on this theme so many times in his career. I also don't like "For Owen" at all, and "Paranoid: A Chant" should have been folded into "The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet" where it belongs. It's a shame this collection is somewhat weighed down by so many DOA entries, because there are several genuine classics here. This one just isn't very consistent, and if that's what you're looking for might I recommend Night Shift or Just After Sunset?
All in all, this is very much a collection worth checking out. It was released during King's "classic" period, so of course it's worth a purchase. The theme of external isolation and humanity's will to save itself is done really well in "The Mist," "Beachworld," "Survivor Type," and "The Raft." I also like this book's "Do you love?" motif — it makes this collection hang together much better than it probably should. This is definitely a strong read, and I will come back to my favorites for years to come.
(I tried to take actual notes for this one, as I knew there are connections to the King universe all over the place. I know I missed some, but here's what I caught while reading. Sorry my notes are a little scattered.)
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut"
"The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands"
This one could be could be seen as a spiritual successor to "The Breathing Method," even going so far as to reference that earlier novella. It revoles around the same, strange story-telling club that we first met in Different Seasons.
"Uncle Otto's Truck"
Both Derry and Castle Rock play an important role in this one.
"The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet"
Least favorite story:
"Big Wheels: A Tale Of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2)"
“I sit on the bench in front of Bell's Market and think about Homer Buckland and about the beautiful girl who leaned over to open his door when he come down that path with the full red gasoline can in his right hand - she looked like a girl of no more than sixteen, a girl on her learner's permit, and her beauty was terrible, but I believe it would no longer kill the man it turned itself on; for a moment her eyes lit on me, I was not killed, although a part of me died at her feet."
(from "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut")
It's everything you ever were afraid of. It's . . . IT.
(Also, this book was my free space selection. Two spots down in Halloween Bingo!)