One of the first things to come up in a Google search of Stephen King is that he “is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, and fantasy novels.” Now, I’m late to the Stephen King fandom but I always associated the name with just horror, not supernatural fiction, suspense and fantasy. Therefore I assumed he was just not for me, since I am not a horror fan, whether it’s books, movies, shows, etc.
What is it about the horror genre that I dislike so much? It’s not so much the fear it invokes while watching the movie or reading the book. It’s the fear that pops up. For example, during those middle of the night bathroom visits, when it’s pitch black and extremely quiet in my home. All of a sudden, my senses are heightened and my mind begins to think about all the scary things I’ve seen or read about before, making it that much harder to get back to sleep.
You know that famous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho? I never even saw the movie before last year, and that scene haunted me for most of my life. Spoiler alert: it’s not even a scary movie.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, is not only a fan of horror but a huge Stephen King fan, and for the last four years he’s been trying to get me to watch some of his favorite movies and read some of his favorite books…and I finally caved.
I started with the Dark Tower series last year and I zoomed through the first two books. Then I was told how much I’d enjoy The Shining. I’d never seen the famous Stanley Kubrick movie, but after months of convincing I finally trusted that I might enjoy the book.
If you’ve ever read The Shining then I’m sure you remember what an incredible story it is, and not so scary after all, at least not until the last third of the book.
The richness and complexity of these characters, and the development of the plot make you feel like you’re a part of this family, slowly being manipulated by the Overlook Hotel. One of my favorite parts of the book is that you empathize so much with each person; which, by the way, was something I felt strongly lacking in Kubrick’s adaptation, which I saw shortly thereafter, but that’s a discussion for another time. The point is that I was enthralled by the story at every page. I couldn’t put the book down and it led me straight to the sequel, Doctor Sleep.
Now, I don’t want to give away any spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read either of the books, but let me just say this is one of my favorite stories I have ever read. I finished Doctor Sleep in about three days and was left in complete and total bliss. I cried at the end, felt so much joy and perfect closure for a story that I got to experience full circle. I felt like another member of the family I’d just spent so much time with and we just said a long and heartfelt farewell to each other. I highly recommend reading The Shining and then Doctor Sleep, back-to-back to get the full effect.
I finished Doctor Sleep weeks ago and I’m just now starting to feel like I can start another novel. That is the beauty and magic of getting sucked into a phenomenal story, it’s something that stays with you and makes you feel like you were sharing these characters’ experiences because in a way, you were.
I never in a million years would have thought that a Stephen King novel could make me feel like my heart was left wide open in the best way possible. Needless to say, I’m a huge Stephen King fan now, and I can’t wait to read so many more of his books. I’ve realized that the stories and characters are so involved and detailed and that anything remotely scary is really more like an underlying factor.
So on a final note: This my friends, is why you do not judge a book by its cover. Or an author by his genre.
PS: Some Stephen King novels I’m looking forward to reading next are 11/22/63, The Stand, The Outsider and, the scariest of them all, IT. Seriously, who am I?