01/01/2009. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: St. Martin's Griffin Press. 512 page enlarged paperback. Price: $21.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-312-32490-1.
check out websites: www.stmartins.com
Stephen King is one of the most influential writers of horror fiction alive today and his output is often compared with that of H.P. Lovecraft. Both writers set their stories in a semi-coherent universe that feature places and characters that cross from one book to the next. Both are writers of distinctly American fiction. Not necessarily because of the way they write, but because American culture and the American landscape are integral to much of their output. While Lovecraft usually haunted New England, for King it is small town America that sets the scene.
Prolific as he is as a writer of horror and dark fantasy, King has written many books in other genres as well. Some of these have inspired movies that the casual cinema-goer might never know were based on Stephen King novels or short stories. Films based on King novels therefore range from well-known horror flicks such as 'Carrie' and 'Misery' through to more mainstream dramas like 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'Stand By Me'.
The job facing anyone intending to chronicle the diverse literary output of such as major writer is a daunting one, but King aficionados will be pleased to know that Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden and Hank Wagner have handled the job eruditely and efficiently. Their 'Complete Stephen King Universe' is certainly complete, but there's no lack of depth. Every novel, short story, film and television show based on his work is thoroughly outlined and dissected. The book is arranged partly temporally and partly thematically, with the entries put into sections based on the geographical location with the King universe. There are eight sections altogether; six for the main locations within the main 'prime reality' and two for those tales taking place in other, apparently unconnected realities.
Within these sections the stories are arranged by publication date. There's a contents list at the front so that the reader can quickly zip to features on a particular story, while the comprehensive index will allow the scholarly reader to cross-check facts and characters to their heart's content. Entries include a detailed summary of the plot, biographies of the main characters and an interesting trivia section.
The book also includes detailed chronology of the life and works of Stephen King, alongside appendices that include a full bibliography, literary criticism and relevant websites of interest to King readers.
Does the book have any shortcomings? Nothing serious; it's a relatively cheaply put together book using a typical trade paperback binding and paper, no doubt chosen to keep the selling price down. There aren't many photographs and those that are present are fairly low quality. There are no 'official' photographs at all. For example, there are no stills from movies or copies of dust jackets.
Otherwise, this is an excellent reference book and an essential purchase for anyone interested in Stephen King or horror fiction generally. It's scholarly, well presented, and above all easy to read. Highly recommended.
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