Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Gerald’s Game” by Stephen King

Unless you’ve been deprived of all movies and books your whole life, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the man, the legend, the award-winning and best-selling American author, Stephen King. Even if you’ve never read any of his novels, it’s likely you’ve seen, or at least heard of, films based off his works such as The Green Mile, The Mist, or The Shawshank Redemption.

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to admit, but Gerald’s Game is actually the first Stephen King book I’ve read. As a twenty-five-year-old supposed book lover, this isn’t what you might call ideal, but there you go.

Many authors who are supposed to be geniuses are really difficult to read; I bought a Hemingway book not too long ago and really struggled to get through the first few pages. I suppose I felt that any of King’s books would be the same. I was wrong, of course; King’s writing is beautifully smooth and I zoomed through the 468-page paperback in a couple of days.

First, the cover.

I’ve no idea if this is the first edition from 1992, though I’ve a feeling it isn’t. I love this cover. By today’s standards, some may say it’s too garish, too simple, but it perfectly covers the glaring horrors that lie with in along with 1960s nostalgia that becomes relevant once you know the story. I actually adore this cover.

“Once again, Jessie Burlingame has been talked into submitting to her husband Gerald’s kinky sex games – something that she’s frankly had enough of, and they never held much charm for her to begin with. So much for a “romantic getaway” at their secluded summer home. After Jessie is handcuffed to the bedposts – and Gerald crosses a line with his wife – the day ends with deadly consequences. Now Jessie is utterly trapped in an isolated lakeside house that has become her prison – and comes face-to-face with her deepest, darkest fears and memories. Her only company is that of various voices filling her mind . . . as well as the shadows of nightfall that may conceal either an imagined or very real threat right there with her . . .”

This psychological horror is the nightmare of “what-if” scenarios. The laughably unlikely happens, leaving Jessie in a terrible situation, her own thoughts and suppressed memories only making her experience more dire.

The story has layers upon layers, making it much more than a simple survival horror story: deep and dark memories which she is forced to relive and may ultimately help her in its own twisted way; events that make us question Jessie’s reality itself, and events that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. King delivers an expertly crafted exploration of mental and physical anguish and unlocks Jessie’s sad and horrific past, which despite being a long time ago, still clings to her in the present day.

There is a great movie based on this book, though there are several big differences. It’s a Netflix original, much faster paced than its book equivalent but still great. I won’t go into the differences right now as this review is spoiler-free. I recommend reading the book first for the full effect; you’ll feel your stomach dropping like a stone at the last few pages.

After reading Gerald’s Game, which thrilled and legitimately terrified me, I now consider myself a Stephen King fan! Better late than never, yes? An easy five stars for this fantastic novel.

Recommendations of more great King books are welcome! I’ll definitely get round to reading 1408 and The Mist, since I love both of those movies.

(Links aren’t working right now for some reason, but I’ll provide a link to the book on Amazon when I can.)

Thank you for reading! Please recommend your favourite Stephen King novel on my Twitter or in the comments below.

A Re-Read of “The Saga of Darren Shan” Horror Series

While I was waiting for my copy of Insurgent to arrive, I delved back into a classic series that all ’90s kids should know: The Saga of Darren Shan.

The Saga of Darren Shan is made out of twelve books, each relatively short at about two hours per book. Every three books serves as a “trilogy” and  They carry on from each other and cover a span of about eighteen years. *Please bear in mind that this article contains spoilers.

The First Trilogy: Vampire Blood (Cirque Du Freak, The Vampire’s Assistant, Tunnels of Blood)

Still one of my top books of the series, the first story, Cirque Du Freak, kicks off with Darren as a child, around twelve years old. Enough completely original things happen in this story to suck you in – an enthralling freak show, vampire lore that challenges the stereotypes, odd creatures, and a venomous spider that Darren can’t resist stealing, which is where it all begins.

I remember reading this book when I was around eleven years old and loving it, but didn’t have access to the rest of them. A few years later, a friend let me borrow the rest of the books in the series. We learn a bit about the world in which Darren lives and learn about him as the flawed yet likable character he is.

We follow Darren as he follows Mr. Crepsley through adventures involving monsters and death. The author, the real Darren Shan, said that he wanted to deliver something as chilling to read as a Stephen King novel but as easy to read as Goosebumps. I think he did really well with that. The first three books are just fantastic and we get to know more about Darren, Mr. Crepsley, and other characters who make appearances.

The Second Trilogy: Vampire Rites (Vampire Mountain, Trials of Death, The Vampire Prince)

Darren leaves his humanity behind and his relationship with Mr. Crepsley also improves. We find out a lot more about vampire culture and customs, and are introduced to more brutal twists. I personally think that Trials of Death is one of the best books of the series – Darren faces challenges involving escaping a maze flooding with water, crawling through a cave filled with spiked rocks, and, most memorably, a room filled with fire.

He is traumatised by his near-death in a room of flames which really stuck with me for a long time. We see Darren grow into a warrior, and although his vampire blood makes him still look like a child, he is an adult on the inside who has seen and experienced too much in his young life. New friendships are made and when he brings to light a betrayal, he is made into a Vampire Prince.

The Third Trilogy: Vampire War (Hunters of the Dusk, Allies of the Night, Killers of the Dawn)

Although action-packed and essential to the story, I feel like this is the weakest of the four trilogies. We visit the city in which we spent a lot of time in Tunnels of Blood, reunite with old characters, and chase the Lord of the Vampaneze. However, I found myself quickly reading through them, eager to reach the final trilogy. Killers of the Dawn is also the book in which Mr. Crepsley, now Darren’s dear friend and father figure, dies, which devastated fans!

The Fourth Trilogy: Vampire Destiny (The Lake of Souls, Lord of the Shadows, Sons of Destiny)

The Lake of Souls is arguably the most memorable book in the whole saga. We finally find out the identity of Harkat, Darren’s friend and one of Mr. Tiny’s Little People. To do this, they venture into a dangerous world full of monsters.

The beasts and the world itself are impossible to forget and completely blew the minds of children and adults alike. Even years later, I could still remember the Grotesque! Re-reading it was just as enjoyable as the first time and I could really appreciate Shan’s talent for the original and the shocking.

We also see the fate of the Lord of the Vampaneze (Steve, Darren’s best childhood friend turned insane evil psychopath) and Darren. Upon warnings that Darren would be the one to destroy the world even if he managed to defeat Steve, he rejects his destiny to become the Lord of the Shadows and lets Steve kill him. They die together, severing the destiny that was tied to them since birth.

I really liked how the series ended. Darren becomes a Little Person and travels back through time to stop his childhood self from ever stealing Mr. Crepsley’s spider, thus making it so that he never became a half-vampire. His diaries, which were cleverly mentioned throughout the saga, are then given to Mr. Tall, who then agrees to send them to the child Shan when he grows up. The way the last few pages are written, it is made to sound as though all of the events really did happen with Darren speculating whether his story will be fictionalised and sold around the world. Although some fans said they were disappointed with the “it was all a dream” style ending, I thought it was delivered beautifully and tied everything up really well.

This series is a must for teenagers who love horror. The prose is a little choppy – there are long paragraphs of action-interrupting description, a lot of adverbs, and over-explaining (things that would never be allowed if he had written them now). However, the book was perfect for its time and a great read for my twelve-year-old self. It is still a great read for kids today and a fond throwback for adults who read it in the early 2000s. There is also a movie, but it wasn’t good at all. There is a petition for a Netflix series, which would be great! I give the series five stars for entertainment, originality, and nostalgia.

Get the first book, Cirque Du Freak, on Amazon US
Get Cirque Du Freak on Amazon UK