Have you ever watched a TV show or movie and thought, “This feels very Stephen King-esque”? It’s probably not a coincidence! If anything, it’s a testament to how the master storyteller’s influence is so prevalent and long-lasting; after all, 40 years prior, King laid the groundwork for so much of the media we consume nowadays. In honor of Stephen King Day today, here are six chilling, unnerving, imaginative Stephen King novels paired with the TV shows that will keep you immersed in similar worlds just a little bit longer…
This one’s a given. Stranger Things has always borrowed part of its influence from King’s darker, more adolescent-focused works (IT, FIRESTARTER, THE BODY), but this latest season of the Netflix juggernaut reinforced the connection. As the hit series has gotten older, it’s also gotten darker, and leaned more heavily on violence and bloodshed—two things that THE TALISMAN has in surplus. At the end of the show’s fourth season, *redacted* is shown reading the book to a comatose *redacted,* a subtle nod to the book’s forthcoming TV adaptation from Stranger Things creators, the Duffer Brothers, but also potentially a hint at what’s in store for the residents of Hawkins in season 5. Both Stranger Things and THE TALISMAN embrace fantasy and the terror of diving head-first into frightening, unexplored worlds . . . when you’re not even old enough to drive a car.
The iconic, “extraordinary” (The Washington Post) collaboration between bestselling authors Stephen King and Peter Straub—an epic thriller about a young boy’s quest to save his mother’s life.
Jack Sawyer, twelve years old, is about to begin a most fantastic journey, an exalting, terrifying quest for the mystical Talisman—the only thing that can save Jack’s dying mother. But to reach his goal, Jack must make his way not only across the breadth of the United States but also through the wondrous and menacing parallel world of the Territories.
In the Territories, Jack finds another realm, where the air is so sweet and clear a man can smell a radish being pulled from the ground a mile away—and a life can be snuffed out instantly in the continuing struggle between good and evil. Here Jack discovers “Twinners,” reflections of the people he knows on earth—most notably Queen Laura, the Twinner of Jack’s own imperiled mother. As Jack “flips” between worlds, making his way westward toward the redemptive Talisman, a sequence of heart-stopping encounters challenges him at every step.
An unforgettable epic of adventure and resounding triumph, The Talisman is one of the most influential and highly praised works of fantasy ever written.
Part of the thrill and dread of watching a show like Squid Game is slowly coming to terms with the fact that not all your favorite characters are going to make it to the end. You know the rules of the game, and you understand that the odds are in nobody’s favor, but you still can’t help but have your heart ripped out of your chest when your fave “buys their ticket.” That slow deflating of hope and macabre curiosity to see who’s left standing by the end is the exact experience of reading Stephen King's THE LONG WALK. Unlike Squid Game, this harrowing novel takes place in a dystopian society, where a hundred teenage boys are randomly selected to put on their best pair of sneakers and participate in an annual walking contest—with life-or-death stakes. King so meticulously parcels out information about the boys and the unforgiving, militarized world around them, that you can’t help but follow the trail of bread crumbs until you’re walking right alongside the contenders. If you tore through Squid Game, as most of the world did, then King has you right in his crosshairs for another round of deadly games.
In this #1 national bestseller, “master storyteller” (Houston Chronicle) Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, tells the tale of the contestants of a grueling walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives.
“I give my congratulations to the winner among your number, and my acknowledgements of valor to the losers.”
Against the wishes of his mother, sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty is about to compete in the annual grueling match of stamina and wits known as The Long Walk. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles per hour without ever stopping...with the winner being awarded “The Prize”—anything he wants for the rest of his life. But, as part of this national tournament that sweeps through a dystopian America year after year, there are some harsh rules that Garraty and ninety-nine others must adhere to in order to beat out the rest. There is no finish line—the winner is the last man standing. Contestants cannot receive any outside aid whatsoever. Slow down under the speed limit and you’re given a warning. Three warnings and you’re out of the game—permanently....
Once Upon a Time
ABC’s Once Upon a Time always shifted the viewer between two worlds: one much like our own reality and one filled with all the fantasy, whimsy, and darkness of a fairy tale. Now, Stephen King is stepping foot into his own fairy tale world...and boy, it could not be more exciting and expansive. FAIRY TALE captures a feeling that Once Upon a Time captured at its best; it lets the reader live within the seemingly endless bounds of its creator’s weird, twisted imagination. That’s the magic of fairy tales: a full immersion into a world unknown, filled with brave heroes and terrifying villains, and every goblin, mermaid, and centaur in between. FAIRY TALE follows 17-year-old Charlie and his dog Radar, as they are thrust into an age-old war of good vs. evil in a reality parallel to their own. Both an homage to, and subversion of, the fairy tale genre, it provides further proof that after all these years, the King is still at the top of his game. And if after this luxurious 600-page read you’re not ready to return to the real world just yet, Once Upon a Time has seven seasons and can extend the dreamy allure of living in a fantasy.
Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.
Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.
Early in the Pandemic, King asked himself: “What could you write that would make you happy?”
“As if my imagination had been waiting for the question to be asked, I saw a vast deserted city—deserted but alive. I saw the empty streets, the haunted buildings, a gargoyle head lying overturned in the street. I saw smashed statues (of what I didn’t know, but I eventually found out). I saw a huge, sprawling palace with glass towers so high their tips pierced the clouds. Those images released the story I wanted to tell.”
Barry Berkman and Billy Summers are two men cut from the same cloth: they’re both traumatized war veterans whose chosen line of work—killing people—keeps getting in the way of their art. In fact, they would probably be fast friends...assuming there isn’t a contract out on the other one’s head. While Barry’s an aspiring actor, Billy is a budding writer and proxy for King to explore his own thoughts and musings on the profession that has made him world-renowned. Much like Barry’s rollercoaster of a narrative, moving from one unexpected plot development to another, every time you think you’re a step ahead of BILLY SUMMERS, King pushes you to the ground and kicks dirt in your face. It’s a dazzling crime thriller that lulls you into a false sense of security with its slow, methodical build and then unwinds in interesting and unpredictable ways. P.S. I’m taking bets on who would win in a one vs. one showdown: Barry or Billy.
Master storyteller Stephen King, whose “restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained” (The New York Times Book Review), presents an unforgettable and relentless #1 New York Times bestseller about a good guy in a bad job.
Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?
How about everything.
This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.
You won’t forget this “noirish, unputdownable thriller” (People), and you won’t forget Billy.
The Umbrella Academy
Time travel is a tricky, tricky beast—not just in terms of its history-altering implications, but its divisiveness as a storytelling device, too. Some time-travel stories feel half-baked or violate their own internal logic, while others use time travel as a Trojan horse of sorts, to explore other more fascinating, even philosophical, and moral questions. The Umbrella Academy’s second season and 11/22/63 are both, thankfully, of the latter mindset and concerned with using time travel to prevent one of America’s defining moments: the JFK assassination. While the two works take wildly different approaches to that mission, history hounds and JFK conspiracy theorists will get plenty of mileage out of both narratives and their immersive visions of the early 1960s. In fact, 11/22/63 isn’t just a work of historical fiction. It’s a low-key romantic read and stealthy tearjerker, reminding us that Stephen King always delivers what he promises (time-traveling, period fun), but also leaves room for surprise. If I ever stumble upon a time machine, you can trust that I’ll do the sensible thing...and walk right in the other direction. I’m not messing with time and accidentally writing myself into one of Stephen King’s cautionary tales.
One of the Ten Best Books of The New York Times Book Review
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Now a miniseries from Hulu starring James Franco
ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, THREE SHOTS RANG OUT IN DALLAS, PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED, AND THE WORLD CHANGED. WHAT IF YOU COULD CHANGE IT BACK?
In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King—who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer—takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
There’s no one who can terrorize a quaint, idealistic small town quite like Stephen King...well, with the exception of Wanda Maximoff, of course. UNDER THE DOME sees a large, city-sized dome being dropped on the unassuming, seemingly harmless Chester's Mill, Maine, leaving the residents more than a little dome-founded. I repeat DOME-founded, for those in the back. It’s an intriguing setup on which King follows through, making the reader feel as trapped and vulnerable as each of the residents—never missing an opportunity to fill you with every question and feeling of dread that would manifest in such a situation. It’s an engrossing mystery that confidently reveals itself, much in the same way that Wanda’s Westview hijinks eventually become less non-sequitur and more clear, the longer you stay in her fictional town. WandaVision is like eating candy, compared to King’s disturbing and spellbinding account of a rural town unraveling, but nonetheless, the two make for complementary companion pieces!
Don’t miss the “harrowing” (The Washington Post) #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from Master of Horror Stephen King that inspired the hit television series, following the apocalyptic scenario of a town cut off from the rest of the world.
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens—town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing—even murder—to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.
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