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

Ryonna’s Wrath by Christian Kallias – 4/5 Stars

Ryonna's Wrath (Trials) by Christian Kallias
‘Ryonna’s Wrath’ (not ‘trials’) is the new name of this novella, as far as I know.

Fundamentally, Ryonna’s Wrath is about Droxian female alien Ryonna’s attempt to break into the maximum security prison Hellstar to save her son Jax, who we can assume has been wrongly imprisoned. However, the story also has a few parallel plots running, where Ryonna will learn about the circumstances that led to the ruination of her family. Along the way, she meets a friend called Alix, a friendly, helpful, and indispensable part of her team. Ryonna’s friendship with Alix is troubled by a vision she had of his death at her hands – visions she sees that are due to her unique ability of foresight that activates when she becomes acquainted with somebody.

It was engrossing reading about the pickles Ryonna got herself in and seeing how she would be able to get out of them. The theme of torture repeated a few times, but was written about in different ways so it didn’t bore. The technologies were colourful and simple to understand, and for this reason it made the action scenes flow seamlessly. More than one action scene reminded me of the video game Metal Gear Solid, which was well adapted.

The dialogue was always engaging, and sometimes a bit of personality leaked through: ‘Now we’re square puke wise.’

Criticism: the ‘voice’ of the story, while a signature style of the author’s, did not vary much between characters leaving the reader with people that sounded the same when they spoke, lending confusion as if the story was a narration; though an enjoyable one.

There could have been more depth to the story. Some of the prose was a bit simplistic and one-dimensional, perhaps because it was from Ryonna’s point of view and because all she wanted was revenge or justice. And crucially, you didn’t get to know how Ryonna breaks her son out of Hellstar, arguably the main point of the story. I don’t think the author left it to the reader’s imagination. Likely, this will be covered later on in his novel series, but throughout I thought I was going to get some follow-up in this novella as to all the plans Ryonna made. As a result of the lack of depth, I didn’t feel justified giving it the full 5 stars, but it was a fine point to make.

Some of the scenes were too similar to Metal Gear Solid, in that I could make a direct connection between characters of the video game moving, fighting, or manipulating others; drop to one knee, shattered glass, battling a mech with a lot of jumping around, and a main character’s fate. Nonetheless, it was engaging and some ideas were new, or new enough, like the light-blades.

Ryonna’s Wrath is like a Star Wars novel, but without the political and techno babble, and fused with fantasy instead. Aside from any preconceptions I might have had about the novella, I found the writing to be exciting, fast-paced, and intriguing. It brings forward the visual technology and the movement of action scenes with clarity. I liked seeing Ryonna in action, and some of her battle scenes and struggles were borderline epic. I did prefer his novel Earth: Last Sanctuary, but I would read from this author again. Ryonna’s Wrath is a quick nugget of thrills and excitement, so if you’re looking for a short space opera read then this should quite easily satisfy your need.

Christian Kallias’ website