“End of Watch”

end-of-watch

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

The final book in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, published in 2016. I read a first edition hardcover.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

The plot: Retired Detective Bill Hodges has his final showdown with mass murderer (and supposedly vegetative) Brady Hartsfield, who is somehow instigating suicides from his hospital room.

End of Watch is a lackluster end to a so-so series, introducing outright magic to what was once a relatively centered reality. In the first book (Mr. Mercedes), I enjoyed watching King work through a plot without the help of the supernatural. No more. The villain’s main tools are telekinesis and astral projection and characters make important leaps of logic because, well, they’ve got a feeling, man.

On a technical level, King’s writing is as good as always. Pacing, sentence structure, rhythm – it’s all there, all great. End of Watch switches between present and past tense, which makes it easier for King to clearly go back and forth in time without making his description of past events seem like heavy-handed flashbacks. He utilizes this very well in all of the Bill Hodges books.

The plot is where End of Watch fizzles out.


 

[1] Reference:

He once read a science fiction novel called The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

(p.16)

A 1966 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, about a Lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth.

[2]

Dead people never look more dead than in police photos.

(p.31)

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“Ghostwritten” (Post 4/4)

ghostwritten-4

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/4

Post 2/4

Post 3/4


 

Clear Island

Mo Muntervary is a physicist on the run from the American government. She returns to her home, knowing she will be found but wanting a final visit with her husband and son.

“Clear Island” is the most bloated story in Ghostwritten. Mo’s confusing jumping-around-in-time narrative doesn’t pay off (other than giving us hollow Easter eggs for earlier stories). It’s especially frustrating because of its similarities to Quasar’s story in “Okinawa”: Someone hiding on an island, waiting to be caught by authorities. We immediately know how it’s going to end. The plot in-between doesn’t justify the fifty pages it takes to get from A to Z.

And while Mo isn’t unlikable, she’s not very interesting, either.

[182] References:

St. Fachtna cleared the crosscurrents between Illaunbrock shoal and Clarrigmore rock, rounded the west cape of Sherkin Island, and my black book and I, after a trip of twelve thousand miles, could see the end. Clear Island moved into view, my face felt crusty as the seawater dried, and here was home.

The lonely arm of Ardatruha pointing out to the Atlantic.

(p.313)

Illaunbrock Townland is an island in County Cork, Ireland.

Clarrigmore may be an invention of Mitchell’s.

Sherkin Island lies southwest of County Cork in Ireland alongside other islands of Roaringwater Bay. It has a population around 100.

Cape Clear Island lies south-west of County Cork in Ireland. It has a population of over 100. It’s nearest neighbor is Sherkin Island, 1 mile east. It is reputably the birthplace of Saint Ciaran of Saigir (Ciaran the Elder) (Post 3, note [132]).

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“Ghostwritten” (Post 3/4)

ghostwritten-3

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/4

Post 2/4

Post 4/4


 

Petersburg

Margarita Latunsky works at an art museum in Saint Petersburg while planning a heist.

[119] Reference:

Who is he, you ask, holding forth in a loud voice about what Agnolo Bronzino really meant to say half a millennium ago in Florence? He is a lecturer, exposing his erudition like a flasher in Smolnogo Park.

(p.200)

Agnolo di Cosimo (1503 – 1572), usually known as Bronzini, was a Florentine Mannerist painter. He was mainly a portraitist but also painted many religious subjects, and a few allegorical subjects.

I can’t find Smolnogo Park.

[120] Reference (and another reference to a “big black Zil,” see Post 2, note [112]):

Where many years ago I used to drive with my politburo minister, sipping cocktails in the back of his big black Zil.

(p.201)

noun – the principal policy-making committee of a Communist Party.

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“Ghostwritten” (Post 2/4)

ghostwritten-2

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/4

Post 3/4

Post 4/4


 

Hong Kong

Neal Brose is struggling through a divorce, a money laundering deal, and sharing his apartment with the ghost of a young girl.

[45] Reference:

The moon, the moon, in the after

(p.65)

 

The moon, the moon, in the afternoon.

(p.101)

I can’t find the source of this. It seems like a song or poem or rhyme. Anyone know?

[46] Reference:

There’ll be a white shirt hanging in the closet, where she hangs them up every Sunday, every one the skin of a gwai lo shagged and fleeced.

(p.67)

Gweilo or gwai lo is a common Cantonese slang term for Westerners. It has a history of racially deprecatory use. Cantonese speakers frequently use “gweilo” to refer to Westerners in general use, in a non-derogatory context, although whether this type of usage is offensive is disputed by both Cantonese and Westerners alike.

[47]

Is it possible to worry more than I do and not… not just die from it?

(p.68)

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“Ghostwritten” (Post 1/4)

ghostwritten-1

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 2/4

Post 3/4

Post 4/4


 

David Mitchell’s debut novel, published in 1999. I borrowed a first edition hardcover from the library. 

3 out of 5 stars.

The Plot: Remember Cloud Atlas? Ghostwritten gives us nine linked stories named after their setting (Okinawa, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc.). Each story (except the wraparound) is told in one part, then the ball is passed to the next narrator. At the end, we see the world-changing events that have been orchestrated, sometimes in the background, of the narrative threads.

Mitchell’s technical skills as a writer are already in place in his debut. This is a highly ambitious book and I respect what it’s attempting to do. But Ghostwritten fails to do so many things Cloud Atlas did right: 

-The stories in CA are told in different styles (letters, third person, memoir, interview, etc.) while eight stories in Ghostwritten are first-person tales told in a similarly structured (and often confusing) way.

-Sections in CA are split into propulsive forty-ish page chunks, dividing each story into a compelling cliffhanger and satisfying conclusion. Ghostwritten gives us full stories of fifty-ish pages. Ten page-differences don’t sound like much but every story in Ghostwritten dragged. I couldn’t finish any in one sitting.

-The stories in Ghostwritten do not stand alone as satisfying short pieces. The characters rarely spark to life. Unlike CA, I didn’t care what happened to anyone in Ghostwritten and most of the stories had no on-screen resolution.


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“Rosemary’s Baby” (Post 3/3)

rosemary-03

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 2/3


 

[61]

They drank their coffee, talking of Guy’s quickening career.

(p.118)

Instead of saying: “Guy’s career was taking off” Levin uses a word which, archaically, means “giving or restoring life to,” or “a stage in pregnancy when movements of the fetus can be felt.” The word is also often used in fantasy in relation to the use of magic.

An excellent word choice, since Guy’s career is succeeding (and Rosemary is now pregnant) due to the coven’s black magic.

[62] Reference:

The one message for Guy was from a Rudy Horn.

(p.124)

There is a famous Rudy Horn but I’m not sure if Levin is intentionally referencing him:

Rudy Horn (b.1933) was a well-regarded juggler. He began at the age of 7 and toured around the world, appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show four times. He retired from juggling in 1975 and became a tennis coach.

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“Rosemary’s Baby” (Post 2/3)

rosemary-02

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 3/3


 

[31] Levin often has two people (usually couples) speak in the same paragraph. It’s technically incorrect but it shows the two characters as one entity and/or gives the sense of simultaneous speaking.

“Yes,” Rosemary said, and Guy said, “And the artistic thrill, too.”

(p.9)

 

Rosemary said, “I didn’t know it was owned by a church,” and Guy said, “The whole city is, honey.”

(p.22)

 

“It’s news to me,” Mrs. Castavet said, and Mr. Castavet said, “To both of us.”

(p.40)

 

“Thank you,” Mrs. Castavet said, and Mrs. Castavet said, “It’s nice of you to tell us that. It makes it a little easier.”

(p.40)

[32] Rosemary’s dream sequences mix dream-thoughts with dialogue coming from the outside. In this scene, she seamlessly goes from thinking to sleeping to hearing the Castavets arguing on the other side of their shared apartment wall. Levin will later show us the most incredible event of the book through this dream/reality mix (note [47]).

Rosemary lay awake beside him, seeing Terry’s pulped face and her one eye watching the sky. After a while, though, she was at Our Lady. Sister Agnes was shaking her fist at her, ousting her from leadership of the second-floor monitors. “Sometimes I wonder how come you’re the leader of anything!” she said. A bump on the other side of the wall woke Rosemary, and Mrs. Castavet said, “And please don’t tell me what Laura-Louise said because I’m not interested!”

(p.41-42)

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