There are new Kings on the block, and we’re thrilled.
The prolific Stephen King’s new novel Doctor Sleep—a follow-up to The Shining—is out on September 24. With the success of the TV series made out of his bestseller Under the Dome, the contemporary praise for his son Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, and King’s daughter-in-law Kelly Braffet’s new book—Save Yourself—on the digital bookshelves today, there’s enough horror to go around. And so around we will go, into the lives of a family we’ve coined the true Kings of horror.
The three kings heading this table combine the perfect elements of a blockbuster horror:
Doctor Sleep returns to characters and territory of The Shining with a battle between good and evil and a main character whose haunting past is so chilling, it could freeze the blood in your very veins. In his signature, King blurs a thread-thin line between good and evil with an ever-present yet enigmatic villain.
King’s stronghold on readers is actually through this absence—his villains needs not be present in order to be a part of the story. Is the villain the deadly steam the holders of The Shining produce? Or is the real villain a haunting memory of the past?
King may not have a role in the publishing success stories of Hill and Braffett, but his fatherly omnipresence has undoubtedly helped in their development—particularly in Hill’s knack for character development.
In NOS4A2, Hill’s villain is as inscrutable as he is frightening. This is one reason fans of his father will appreciate him, but Hill offers something distinctive: he shows character. Hill exhibits a certain human element of sympathy that readers may not have found in King’s writing. It’s not that he’s doing something better, but there’s an inarguable change that occurs in their voices from young to old.
In an interview with wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, Hill says, “Horror fiction when it works is about feeling attached to people. You have a character who’s got to face something monstrous, and you feel invested in them and want them to survive that.”
Weaving remarkable personalities through a cliff-hanger plotline, Hill’s characters are all unique, relatable, and simultaneously horrific.
And then there’s Kelly. She brings the double-X chromosome into the mix, and for that, we love her. King and Hill may reel in the readers through their memorable characters and plots, but Braffet roles with the big dogs on these traits while contributing her own element in a genuine lady-like fashion: emotion.
There’s a reason fright has a particular allure—you have to be human to truly experience it. Sometimes, we forget the triggers that make something truly horrific: fear, anger, grief, even love. When you can tap into an emotion to strike a chord with the internal fears of every reader, well then you deserve applause. Braffet does just this in her new dark psychological thriller about two twisted young people on a path to find peace for themselves.
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