Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Dead Zone, Hollywood Crows

Two books that I'm almost done with, though not quite...

I feel pretty confident writing about Hollywood Crows, by Joseph Wambaugh, even though I'm not done listening to it, because it feels like the Dilbert of police stories.  Wambaugh collects incidents from cops, then spices them up a bit and strings them together around something resembling a plot, but the main attraction is the anecdotes, not the plot surrounding them.  Most of the incidents are pretty funny, but I think I'd have preferred to read them individually -- with no real drive to the plot, they don't feel so funny piled on top of each other.

Stephen King's The Dead Zone is a different kettle of fish.  King takes his time developing the story (the major conflict doesn't even begin until about 2/3 of the way through), but it's very focused, more than usual for him.  We follow Johnny Smith as he develops the power to see people's present and future by touching them or objects that they've touched.  It turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing, and King does a great job of developing Johnny believably.  As I mentioned above, the actual plot moves at a glacial pace, but it all feels compelling in any case.

It's got a few touches that make clear that this is an early novel, particularly the incredibly overt symbolism.  (Just for example, the first time we see the adult Johnny, he's wearing a Jekyll and Hyde mask).  On the other hand, there's a direct line between Greg Stillson, the villain of the book, and Daniels, the villain of Rose Madder, but Stillson is the much better-drawn character.  Daniels is almost completely insane from the first time we see him (certainly a sadist with no other character traits than his sadism), whereas Stillson is more believable.  Yes, he's a sadist, but one can also see why he's so appealing and how he can rise up in politics.

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