Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Photo: Hardcover book from its Goodreads page.

Very long fantasy / morality tale, mostly well-written, with a little more craft than usual, which I don't mean in a bad way. The story pace and structure is similar to Under the Dome, as it's more of a series of things that are happening between lots of different characters, most of them not fantastic or scary. As in both long books, there is an underlying mystery behind them (Why is the dome happening? Is it a test? Why are the cocoons happening? Are they a test?) that probably won't surprise you when it concludes, but the reading pleasure is watching it get there.

I wasn't particularly swayed by the sudden change of heart of the other major character, if you will, who is the foil/antagonist to the Clint, the prison psychiatrist. It ends the way it does, and that's fine, but this guy's primary character trait just sort of dissipates. It didn't ruin anything for me, but it didn't jettison me towards the ending, either. Which is fine.

The characters are well drawn and fleshed out, though you wouldn't know one of them was a minority if the book didn't flat out tell you. That may be part of the point of the book, or it may be a fault in character development. You'll be the judge. You'll also have to judge about Evie's character, which is largely and purposely kept in the dark. The authors don't supply too many answers about her, except that she is maybe The Day the Earth Stood Still for the menfolk, I guess.

The premise will keep you thinking the most, I suppose. It's an interesting premise that nonetheless has many flaws. It's very heavy on the idea that most men suck for many reasons, and that women are primarily their victims. You won't get any argument from me on either point, except to say that I have known my share of unthinking and unfeeling women as well, though of course they by and large do not cause as much danger and damage towards men as men have towards women. (Though I'm thinking right now of a couple who were up there, almost manly in their destructiveness.)

I'm not sure it's helpful to broadly generalize like this, though of course there's no argument about the fact that, overall, generally, men have treated women like garbage since the first caveman struck a cavewoman over the head with his club and thought that was love. It wasn't, and it isn't, and men have been pretty stupid about it ever since. But, again, I know plenty of women who have been stupid about love, too, amongst them the women who defend men who are stupid about love. We could go back and forth on this forever, which is the problem with overreaching generalizations. It's not helpful to talk overall, generally, about anything. Every man is not an asshole just like not every woman is a victim. More men, of course, are violent assholes than are women, and more women, of course, are victims of violent assholes than are men.

But it's probably less productive to grossly generalize. It's maybe more productive to single out the assholes amongst the men, rather than insist that all men are assholes. We're not all Harvey Weinstein or O.J. or even much less examples of them. There are some very, very good guys out there who have always treated women well. Probably it's better to single out the major and the minor assholes out there and then simply stay away from them, or give them treatment, etc. This book never presents that as an option, as it paints a broad stroke over all the guys, including the two main characters, who could not be more different in temperament, but who are both painted the same colors anyway.

The book does end on a realistically melancholic note, as things fall apart because the center could not hold for anyone. You may wonder at the ending, and if the decision made at the end would really be made. That'll have to be up to you, as well. Until then you've got a fantasy / morality tale, with a very large dose of Walking Dead as the prison was under siege. In the end, this one is good, not great, not especially memorable outside of its premise, and a quick read despite its large size.

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