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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

A Christmas with Stephen King

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Everyone knows of him, the mythic King of horror who’s been terrifying readers and twisting reality since the seventies. He is the American shaman of nightmares, but if you only know him for his thrillers, you don’t know half the story. For decades of his career, the general public has seriously underestimated Stephen King’s storytelling prowess. Reading King is like immersing yourself in a conversation larger than life. His ability to conjure memorable characters in such palpable emotional narratives is what makes his stories, and especially his horror, phenomenal. Nothing is cozier than settling into your favorite reading nook and opening a new read. So here are four Stephen King recommendations to sink into over Christmas break.

“Different Seasons”

“Different Seasons” is King’s first and arguably most memorable novella collection in which each of the four stories emulates the aura of a season. The cinematic classic “The Shawshank Redemption” is in fact based on this collection’s first novella, subtitled “Hope Springs Eternal.” Accountant Andy Dufresne is falsely convicted of murder and sentenced to life in Shawshank State Prison, except he won’t rest until freedom is his again. After this heart-wrenching journey, King twists your expectations with the second novella, “Apt Pupil.” Subtitled “Summer of Corruption,” this nail-biting tale follows the parasitic relationship between a voracious young boy and a former Nazi hiding in plain sight in American suburbia. This collection wouldn’t be King’s without a gritty coming-of-age story, which he delivers in “The Body,” subtitled “Fall from Innocence.” Four childhood friends venture out to uncover a dead body in the dense Maine woods, only to face their personal challenges head-on. Rob Reiner’s adaptation of “The Body,” renamed “Stand by Me,” stands the test of time as a cult classic of the eighties and a perfect capsule of childhood nostalgia. The last novella to make it out of the vault is “The Breathing Method,” an ominous “Winter’s Tale” of a woman determined to give birth no matter what tries to stop her. The odd one of the bunch, this final tale reads like a dark, unrelenting winter night that you can shut your windows to, but only after you peer outside long enough to feel safe … or spooked.

“The Green Mile”

If you’ve experienced “The Shawshank Redemption,” King’s got more up his sleeve for you. Behold “The Green Mile,” King’s younger, shier prison story that, for some, evokes even stronger, conflicting feelings of hope and despair. Stepping back into the 1930s, we follow Cold Mountain Penitentiary’s Death Row Supervisor Paul Edgecomb and his miraculous encounters with inmate John Coffey, a freakishly huge Black man convicted of murdering a pair of twin girls. Coffey’s gentle and compassionate heart contradicts everything Edgecomb believes about good and evil people, but time ticks immutably for all on the green mile. “The Green Mile” is a unique side of King, a study of raw empathy in our societal place of damnation. It’s a truly unforgettable story that constant readers and new fans alike will not want to skip.

“11/22/63”

King is known for neither historical fiction nor romance, but he’s thrown his hat in the ring more often than people realize. The grandest of his efforts (and a beast of a book at 850 pages) follows high school English teacher Jake Epping as he travels back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK and, possibly, the inception of the Vietnam War. During his time post world-war America, Jake wavers between his perceived duty to bring about a brighter future for humanity and his growing love for librarian Sadie Dunhill of this past. King pulls you into the perspective of Jake, feeling lost in the present and at home hidden in the past. King’s extensive research creates an authentic time-traveling experience to JFK’s presidency, but Jake and Sadie’s romance takes the cake. The story’s pacing and vast coverage make it a cozy, prolonged read or a thrilling page-turner, but I found it most enjoyable as a mixture of both.

“The Langoliers”

Last is an underrated gem, the first novella in King’s 1990 collection “Four Past Midnight.” Imagine yourself on a red-eye flight, droning, uneventful silence, on the brink of sleep, then total silence. Nearly everyone on the plane, including the pilot, has vanished into thin air, literally, and the plane seems to be stranded in the skies and on the radio. What happened to the other passengers, where are you flying to, and will Earth be the same as when you left it? “The Langoliers” unravels itself at a deliciously slow pace, allowing you to stumble in the dark before plummeting into cold, ghastly reality along with the remaining passengers. Not all hope is lost, though, if you cling to what you hold dearly. Despite its eerie facade, “The Langoliers” ultimately shines with hope in the good nature of humanity, imploring us to never abandon each other nor back down against the maws of extinction. Much like the stellar cast of characters, you’ll emerge from this story ready to spring into a new year of life.

Image courtesy of Medium

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About the Contributor
Gabbi Basa, Staff Writer
Gabbi is a 1st year neurobiology student, hungry reader, and metalhead. Talk to her about anything Stephen King or peruse her blog, The Geeky Gauntlet.
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    MalinkyZUbrDec 4, 2023 at 3:18 pm

    I love stephen king too!

    Reply