How good is Stephen King as a writer?

rai

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The Stand :)

Yes that was quite a long book and was a bit boring at the beginning but was really good once you got into it. I just read the dark tower books and a few of his other works and I've been pleasantly surprised, I'm actually starting to like him even though horror isn't my thing. Oh and his book On Writing which is supposed to give tips to upcoming writers was supposed to be really really good. Im going to give it a look soon.
Well 'The Stand' is one of my top favorite books, it's not high literature but it's totally great. Right in SK's wheelhouse and mine as a reader.

I suppose it's well known that initially it was a much shorter book like 700 pages as his editor cut out a third. Later he got super popular and released the un-cut edition with like 1100 pages plus he updated to a bit more modern time.

I think it's quite hard to find the original version of The Stand now maybe some people would prefer that.

In all I've read probably half of SK books and liked some and loved others, even the worst Rose Madder or Needful Things were good once I got into them.

Pet Sematary scared the bejesus out of me.

11/22/63 was a great time travel story

The Shining and Dead Zone are off the hook good

IT probably one of my favorite books along with The Stand

His stature IMO is up there or above GRRM as SK probably has 20 movie/Tv shows to his credit
 

althea

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Although many SK books are too horrible for me,I have read several of his books.I think he is a great story teller.
I have read The Stand and think it is a timeless classic.I did enjoy Dolores Claiborne,though it was hard to read.
I have started several SK books and given up on them because I like to sleep at night.
 
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I mentioned on another thread about how I found his novels tend to be incomplete, with endings that seem more open-ended than all issues rounded completed.

Yet his characters are fairly engaging - even if they do tend to be early middle-age Bob Dylan & soft rock fans. :)

How does Stephen King compare as a writer in general? What would you say are his strengths, and which are his weaknesses?
I've always found his shorter works sometimes show him at his best. The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon was brilliant. It was very short and while it did how some supernatural elements, probably unnecessary ones, the core story was about the natural world.
 

Matteo

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I like long books. I like a book that I really get into, immersing myself in the story and engaging with the characters. The type of book that I start reading in the morning and "suddenly" look up to see that night is closing in, my bladder is bursting, and I'm hungry.

But to be that type of book, it has to (a) tell a good story, and (b) be well-written.

A lot of Stephen King's work ticks both those boxes - particularly his early stuff. Some are also long books. Unfortunately, in recent years (actually, the last ten or fifteen) those longer books have not particularly ticked those all-important two boxes. The man needs a damn good, and ruthless, editor. Under the Dome was a nice (though not particularly unique) idea but there was far too much "filler". The Stand was not improved by his reinsertion of the stuff his editor cut. Compare that to one his longest books, It, and there's a world of difference.

I can go back to his early work time and time again but his "recent" work has been lacking. To name a few: Duma Key dragged, Under the Dome could have easily been half its length; 11/22/63 had a lot of filler and the concept was weak; Revival didn't really seem to know what it wanted to say (and had a lot of filler). Don't get me started on the Dark Tower series; the first was interesting, the next two good, the fourth OK, but the last three were bloody awful. Mr Mercedes was good and I've not read Dr Sleep or Finders Keepers.

In general, the man can tell a good story (which isn't necessarily the same as being a "good writer" I suppose) but sometimes the resulting book is too stretched. I've always thought his short stories were his finest work - the Skeleton Crew collection is exceptional - and this is where you can see how he has an idea (often a very warped idea) and succinctly tells it. It's when he fills out that idea to 1000 pages that he often fails. Ah well, I'll keep buying his books (I own them all apart from Cycle of the Werewolf and the two above) and hope that the next one will be better.

Finally (yes, I realise I may be guilty of using a bit of filler myself) if I had to pick a single book, it would be It. If I had to pick a single story; The Monkey.
 

Toby Frost

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I think he's very good when he's on form. Personally, I like his non-fiction even more than his fiction, although there are probably half a dozen excellent early novels and some pretty decent middle and later ones.

I disagree with the idea that his stories are strong but his prose only average. I think the lack of artifice in his writing fits the small-town settings very well, and has a clarity that's probably harder to achieve than it looks.

If he has a great flaw, I think it's a tendency to ramble. Insomnia seemed to be three different books that merged into one another. It was very difficult to say "What is this really about?" As MWagner says, King does have a limited range of minor characters, most of whom were probably formed in his mind before 1980. That said, there probably are still plenty of parochial towns inhabited by people just like that.
 
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I used to watch the movie versions of IT and Pet Sematary over and over when I was a teenager, thought they were awesome. How on earth that never made me pick up one of his books I just don't know. However, I feel now is a good time to try Stephen King, so it has been very interesting reading this thread, people seem very divided on what his best is, but I guess that's a lot about personal taste also.

I had to start with what I know, so I got IT for my kindle... thought I would read it before the movie re-make and because people tend to say it's so much better than that awful movie I used to love :) Either way, I'm looking forward to it, might try some more SK if I like my first one!
 

Cathbad

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With King, I learned to look at the Acknowledgements: If he's thanking his grandmother, wife, best friend, etc., it's likely a crap book. If he's thanking Dr. Smith of the Whatever Institute, or Professor Whosit of Denver University for his help on identifying plotidea, he's done his homework, and it's likely a great read.

In recent years, however, he's resorted to re-writing previous stories. The Cell is The Stand, reduced in size and grandeur. From a Buick 8? Christine.

Eh... he's getting up there in age, after all.
 

Matteo

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With King, I learned to look at the Acknowledgements
Interesting theory...

In recent years, however, he's resorted to re-writing previous stories. The Cell is The Stand, reduced in size and grandeur. From a Buick 8? Christine.
Didn't spot the first of those (and thought The Cell was mediocre) but the second is pretty obvious. That said, I liked both Christine and From a Buick 8.
 

steffthecat

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Steven King is a legend! I've really enjoyed most of his stories. However, there are a few of his novels that I've had a hard time finishing.
 
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Long-winded prose, which would be fine if he was actually a master of descriptive writing. His books have some really solid moments, but you get big chunks of meandering exposition between them that threatens to derail the story.
 

AE35Unit

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The thing I get most from reading IT is not the horror element, tho that is very good, it's the sections where they are kids in the 50s. You get that King really understands what it is to be a kid growing up in a world where everyone is out to get you. I get that because I was picked on and bullied a lot at school and so I can easily identify with the 'Losers' .
It's just so good. A bit like the movie Stand by Me.
 
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Cathbad

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The thing I get most from reading IT is not the horror element, tho that is very good, it's the sections where they are kids in the 50s. You get that King really understands what it is to be a kid growing up in a world where everyone is out to get you. I get that because I was picked on and bullied a lot at school and so I can easily identify with the 'Losers' .
It's just so good. A bit like the movie Stand by Me.
In Stand By Me, I felt the kids were kids, in a rather believable element. The friendships were great, and reminded me of my own youth (less any bodies).

But the children in IT were in an extraordinary situation, and I felt the presentation of their experience was a bit... perverted.
 

Randy M.

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In Stand By Me, I felt the kids were kids, in a rather believable element. The friendships were great, and reminded me of my own youth (less any bodies).

But the children in IT were in an extraordinary situation, and I felt the presentation of their experience was a bit... perverted.
For anyone interested, Grady Hendrix has been writing up his Stephen King reread and posting the results at tor.com. This link goes to his take on IT.

For the most part, I agree with his take.


Randy M.
 

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