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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Green Mile by Stephen King | Book Review

I really liked this book. It was great from start to finish. I listened to the audiobook which was masterfully narrated by the late great Frank Muller. He's the king and when he reads King magic happens in your earphones. Whenever I find myself typing these words: I was never bored, I know that I'm reviewing a book I'll cherish and probably read again someday because it is that good. If you just think about it for a second, it wouldn't be easy to write a story about a death row section of a jail with characters that you fall in love with. I mean really? A bunch of jailers as the heroes of the story? But it works so well. John Coffey is a character you'll never forget if you read this book. Characterization. That's where I think Stephen King shines and why he is one of the best writers of fiction of our time. He writes characters you feel for. You worry about. You love getting to know. You understand. They become like your friends even though in most cases, at least for me, they would never be your friends in real life.

This story had terror and it had heart. I'm not a big fan of horror and believe me there are some gruesome scenes in this book, much more so than the movie if you've seen it, but most of it is real heart. You really root for characters and love to hate others. The characters stand out so well from each other. They're each their own person, not just stand ins to fill out the story because it requires them. I could read on about other times in the lives of every one of the characters in this book they were all that interesting and real to me.

I'd seen the movie a couple times long ago before having read the book, but it in no way ruined anything for me because the book was so much better. Ever since I saw the movie I've been saying "I should read the book," and now I finally have. I really liked the movie and think they did an outstanding job at telling the tale but you just can't get as down deep into the characters in a movie as you can in a book. I keep saying book, but I learned in the forward that this was actually a story that Stephen King wrote and published serially in installments instead of as a complete novel. I wouldn't have been able to tell that just as I can't tell when I read a Charles Dickens novel which is partly where Stephen King got the inspiration to write in such a way. But it makes the story that much more impressive.

Stephen King is not a plotter or outliner. He's a seat of the pants writer as they call it. He just sits down and writes the story as it comes to him, discovering it as he writes it. I don't think most writers can do this and craft as fine of a tale as Mr. King can. I also think the skill of writing with no outline helped him to succeed so tremendously in writing it serially. It makes it much harder to write - even compared to writing it without an outline but then not being able to say go back and rewrite parts in the beginning of the story to make later parts make sense. You know what they say writing is rewriting. I'm sure he rewrote and had the parts he was working on edited before publishing them, but it makes this book all the more impressive still that he couldn't go back and fix things after the fact. I wonder how many drafts he wrote of each section before it was published as the next installment.

I wouldn't be surprised if I revisit this story as I have with Stephen King's "The Body," which is probably my favorite book. The story really was that good. It held onto me the whole time. Instead of looking to see how far along I was until the end I didn't even notice how many chapters had gone by and only wanted there to be more story so I wouldn't have to stop hanging out with the characters in this book. Five stars without question!

The Green Mile on Amazon
Stephen King's Website

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