Misery by Stephen King – 5/5 Stars

Misery by Stephen King‘It was the face of a woman who has come momentarily untethered from all of the vital positions and landmarks of her life, a woman who has forgotten not only the memory she was in the process of recounting but memory itself. He had once toured a mental asylum…’

The sheer terror and suspense of Misery left me speechless with shock during the entire reading experience. Bestselling writer Paul Sheldon has a car accident and wakes to find he is crippled. Soon after he realises he has been kidnapped by Annie Wilkes. From their first encounter Paul sees something amiss in Annie Wilkes’ behaviour and believes she is mentally unstable. His legs are broken, being confined to his bed, and he is addicted to the painkillers she feeds him. In his delirious state, she has him in thrall. Indeed Paul soon sees what happens when he contradicts Annie or awakens the ‘Dragon Lady’. What does Annie Wilkes want? Well, she’s the number one fan of his Misery books, and she can’t wait for him to write another one. This new book will be a single-copy special edition, dedicated to her. After all … she did take care of him, rescuing him from his car after the accident, and of course she loves him, right?

Seeing the breadth of the terror Annie embodied and how it affected Paul was one of the most thrilling parts of Misery. Annie’s sadistic nature and sly intellect grow with each part, and you’re left feeling as helpless as poor Paul. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. Throughout, Paul has to tread carefully if he is to keep his life; she’s threatened to kill him on more than one occasion, and he sees it as dangerous to go against her. All the while he is bringing back to life a character he killed at the end of his Misery series, Misery Chastain, in his new novel Misery’s Return.

In many ways Misery is the story of a writer fighting against fears and paralysing impossible situations to come up with new ideas and find the will to write the story you feel like writing, and want to write.

Stephen King’s website

The Unlucky Man by HTG Hedges – 4/5 Stars

The Unlucky Man by HTG Hedges

I don’t know what my expectations were for The Unlucky Man – I was looking for something dystopian, dark, and that I hadn’t read before – and believe it or not that’s what I got! I’d classify it as an urban dystopian fantasy with supernatural and thriller elements. Ultimately, it’s about ordinary man John Hesker who is talking with best friend Corg when a body smashes on top of their car. They’re questioned by an investigator called Whimsy, who is a man only half-interested in what they are saying and seems to ask his questions ‘on a whim’, so he was well-named. However, it’s not long before the dark elusive organisation called Control will send its most accomplished assassin Wychelo (like a witch with dark unnerving pools for eyes) to kill Jon and therefore hide its secrets. When a disturbing supernatural force is injected into Jon, he goes on the run, over Old Links bridge where there is no law and only savagery awaits.

Well, HTG Hedges has an eye for atmosphere and setting, which places the reader into a three-dimensional world that brought clarity and richness to every description of setting, and was applied consistently throughout. I’d say this was the best feature of his writing, and made me feel as if I was reading something new or rare. The writing from 76% captured me fully, immersing me into complete disorientation, which was the intention, into a graphic hell that was also somewhat pleasant on the senses to witness.

Criticism: it took me a while to remember who the villains were, especially their names and what distinguished them, because they had small parts and mainly from the point-of-view of Jon. Closer to the end there was a touch too much background information on the villains, which though missing before to add mystery, was inserted a little late in this relatively short novel. Third-person omniscient was used to re-shine a light on the villains at 67%, which though I worried the plot was crumbling at this point it did actually put things back into perspective where they had been missing in the car-chases and well-directed action scenes. Third-person and first-person point-of-view was mingled, which lent the story inconsistency and did become more noticeable as it progressed. On that same note, the author was adept at using first-person to add depth, colour, and contrast that I haven’t seen before when reading from first-person POV, but his use of third-person omniscient from 76% was a display of incredible writing. It seems the author needs to decide on where his strengths lie and how to use point-of-view with consistency to deliver maximum impact. I would have enjoyed this more if it was better balanced as well: two-thirds action and one-third background/conclusion didn’t move events forward in a way that I had hoped.

Overall, I don’t think HTG Hedges’ readers will be disappointed by his writing. The atmospheric descriptions, combined with metaphor, worked consistently well throughout. I was often curious where the plot was going, and when things turned chaotic I was utterly absorbed, with mouth agape. Piecing together the sub-elements of the plot didn’t come immediately to me, but when parts did they made sense and piqued my interest. There’s some terrific writing in this.

HTG Hedges’ Website