The end of last year saw the latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, which was directed by Kimberly Peirce and starred Chloë ‘Hit-Girl’ Moretz as the eponymous character. It wasn’t as scary as it could have been but it was still enjoyable, with one particularly satisfying death scene that we haven’t seen before. It was more of a direct adaptation than the previous two versions, but still not as good as the book… obviously. Stephen King is Stephen King.
For those who don’t know, Stephen King is the closest we have to a modern-day Dickens. Rather than having written one vastly successful series of novels like the J K Rowlings and Stephenie Meyers of this world, King has gained popularity from knocking out a stream of consistently good stories since Carrie was first released in 1974. He now has 50 novels and nearly 200 published short stories to his name.
King’s most famous book was perhaps one of his earliest. Although his first two novels were unmistakably chilling, his third, The Shining, really set the tone for what his writing was going to be like: thought-provoking, character-driven, multi-layered and suspenseful. The horror genre in particular is what King has become the master of, creating tension that you wouldn’t believe possible from a book unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
One year after The Shining came another fan-favourite: his post-apocalyptic novel The Stand. This is his longest work, was praised for its characterisation and was adapted into a TV series. Then in 1982 came the first of his self-proclaimed ‘magnum opus’, the Dark Tower series. Currently consisting of eight novels, The Dark Tower combines fantasy, horror, science fiction and Western genres, and is somehow linked to many of King’s other works through the different worlds it encompasses. While its epic nature may make it quite inaccessible for new readers, the real obsessives live for spotting the connections.
Over the years, King’s work has been adapted onto the screen more times than is easy to count. Some films based on his work that you’ve probably seen or at least heard of are The Green Mile, It, Shawshank Redemption, and of course, The Shining. There have also been TV and comic book adaptations/prequels of many of his stories, including the Under the Dome series which aired on Channel 5 last year and has been recommissioned for a second season this year.
Although I consider his work to have had a significant influence on my own writing, I still feel relatively uneducated when it comes to Stephen King. There’s some real fanboys (and girls) out there who know everything about every story he’s ever had published, and I’m far from being one of them. What I do know is that I’ve enjoyed every Stephen King story I’ve read. I could make it my mission to get through his entire bibliography before I die, but at the rate he’s still getting stuff out there with no sign of slowing down, there’s no denying I’d be swimming against the tide.