I finished reading an old Stephen King novel, The Dark Half, last night. Wow, what a read!
(I’m not sure I’ll have much time for this post … the kids are about to wake up from their nap and I need to take them shopping. So, I’ll try to be brief.)
I love books about moral good versus evil, and I especially enjoy books featuring writers as protagonists. One of the first I read along these lines, years ago, was Mr. Murder, by Dean Koontz, also an enjoyable read, as I remember it.
In this tale, the principle character, Thad, began writing as a pre-teen, but the creative act somehow awakened some tissue that remained inside his body that was the leftover from a so-called fetus in fetu. (The rare, but real, circumstance where one twin absorbs another in fetus, but not completely.) Thad begins getting severe headaches, sees sparrows everywhere, and eventually has a severe seizure, leading to a complete neurological work-up. The resulting surgery removes the tissue, and Thad goes on to lead a normal life for several years.
For this is also a story about evil twins, another genre favorite, and King gives it a nice twist with Jekyll and Hyde psychological overtones for writers. Thad goes on to be a successful author, but his most commercially rewarding books are those written under a pseudonym, George Stark, giving voice to the darker half of Thad’s personality. The Stark novels feature a dark un-protagonist, who stops at nothing to get his money and exact vengeance.
But even that would’ve been relatively okay (if you don’t mind what it does to the writer’s soul) … until Thad and his wife publicly reveal the deception behind “George Stark,” and they publicize a staged “burial” of crazy George Stark. And that’s when Thad’s private Hell breaks loose and Stark enters the world for real, and brings to life the violence that was, before, only on the page.
I’m not entirely sure why I enjoy books written by the likes of King and Koontz. I normally avoid the “horror” genre because I don’t want to treat as entertainment something that should not be taken lightly (the power and nature of true evil). But I feel that both King and Koontz write redemptive stories, and that raises their work to a much higher level than the usual wallowing in the macabre found in this genre.
Evil, true evil, does exist. And fables like this story by King demonstrate how our own choices make a way for evil to enter the world and propagate, and we must take action to conquer it. What’s disappointing about most good-vs-evil stories (and this includes most of the work even by King and Koontz) is that evil is often defeated by mere mortal efforts.
Better, in my mind, is a writer’s awareness that we are fallen creatures touched by evil ourselves, and that we must rely on a goodness outside ourselves to save us. This is why I think I favor Koontz’ writing over King’s. While King’s best stories are amazingly redemptive (for example, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), I think he relies on mythology and the strength of the human spirit too much for my taste. In recent years, though, Koontz has appealed to God more and more in his stories.
In the end, this was a fun read with great suspense all the way up to the very end, though not many real surprises. But while the climax resolves the story, it still leaves me wanting more. The characters are all changed, yes, but none of them have come to a greater moral realization that God is in control or that there is even a benign higher power that they must learn to trust. There is, in fact, little light or hope at the end of this story.
Nevertheless, I’m still glad I picked it up. Maybe you will too?
[tags]BlogRodent, fiction, books, stephen-king, the-dark-half, dean-koontz, review[/tags]