Obviously, Stephen King could have many blogs dedicated to nothing more than discussing and reviewing his books, their ideas and so forth. I am also quite sure that a good number of his works will appear here in the future. However, I have found that many people (especially Christian women) immediately dismiss King as an author obsessed with horror and horrible things and therefore not worth reading. I have two different replies to this belief but for now, I will mention only one. (The other is its own point entirely.)
There certainly are many examples of vile and disgusting books by King, and many more that have so much objectionable content they seem to overflow with it. I attribute this to King having a split author’s personality. You could say that it depends on which King writes the book. Examples of books with nothing good in them, and with nothing true (in the ultimate sense) other than that man is evil, that they are not worth reading. Such titles include Cujo, Gerald’s Game, and Under the Dome. Unless the reader wishes to be revolted by the depths of human depravity and expects nothing more, these books can be safely left at the library. A slightly different case might be Pet Semetary a book so creepy it holds the award for being the only book to ever keep me up an entire night. Certainly the book had little in the way of redeeming characteristics, but it was well written, engrossing, and it showed the result of people trying to fight true evil on their own.
In stark contrast to these books, there are many books that are truly good. (I have not done a census, but I think these outnumber the other category.) In fact, there are books that King has written that really touch deep into the human soul. In his Dark Tower series King puts himself in it in the last book. (Probably to be discussed in its own review.) In it, King writes that his character has to keep writing the stories that the ‘Beam’ sings to him. For those who have not yet read the Dark Tower series, I certainly recommend it, but the beam is what hold all the various worlds together, King’s muse. And there are so very many times when reading King’s works that the reader can hear the song the muse has sung to him. This is an incredible talent and an absolutely amazing experience for a reader: something I would not miss at all. Books that sing the song of mankind, of its greatness, of its tragedy, of its ability and futility are rare, and King has several. Among those I found to be clearest are: The Eyes of the Dragon, The Green Mile, Lisey’s Story, The Dark Tower series (all 7!), Desperation, The Shining, and others.
Of course there are some books between these two sides, and that leads me to my recommendation on how to read Stephen King. Pick up a book, any book, and read the first chapter, by then you should be able to tell which of King’s personalities wrote the book. If you don’t like it, throw it to the floor, if you think it is worth a shot, persist, and listen for the song of the beam!
If you have never read King before, I recommend starting with either The Eyes of the Dragon or The Green Mile. The former is very similar in style to C.S. Lewis, and the latter is deep and moving. Neither show King’s inclination for gratuitous horror or ‘literary elephantiasis’ as I think he put it himself.