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Novel review: "Double Feature" by Owen King

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Having talked about the works of Joe Hill, I think it's only fair that we talk about the work of Stephen King's other son, Owen. As it turns out, he too is a writer and recently ( and at this point I think it's safe to say I"m using the term "recently rather loosely) wrote his debut novel called "Double Feature".

The first thing you'll notice is that this book takes a very different tone compared to either his dad or brother. Where they both deal with dark, spooky, supernatural elements; this book delves into realism and is more lighthearted and comedic. This is beneficial on two fronts as not only does it help him to stand out, but bringing more funny to the table can also be refreshing for the reader. I, myself, was looking forward to reading it for that very reason.

So, the question is, is the book funny? Humor's a funny thing (see what I did there?) as it is very subjective. What is hilarious to one person may fall flat to another. I'm sure some readers have had this problem with my column. They may come expecting hard hitting literary analysis and I'm throwing stupid puns around like they're candy and shoehorning in "Ghostbusters" references in every chance I can get. Yeah, I'm amused by it, but someone else coming in would just be very confused.

You know how whenever someone doesn't like something, the fans immediately respond by pulling out the old snobbish line that you "don't get it"? Well, you're about to witness criticism history as I'm about to invoke that line...on myself.

There are a lot of parts in this book where I can see why it was supposed to be funny, but it just didn't click with me. Part of it is due to the fact that a lot of it is played rather straight. It isn't so much "haha" funny as just very peculiar. That's not to say that it's completely devoid of humor, but for a book that hypes up the comedic aspect, you may find it lacking.

Speaking of lacking, I wasn't too gripped by the story, largely due to the fact that it didn't really feel like there was one. The first fifth of the book has the most focus as Sam tries to get his movie made, but once that's done we just sort of roam from incident to incident. Flashbacks are thrown in for good measure, but it didn't feel like it amounted to anything.

It isn't until the last 7 percent of the book where you really start to see what sort of story King the younger was going for. It was one of the better parts of the book, when Sam's life finally starts to come together, but even that is harmed by the fact that all of the events are frantically tied together to try to wrap everything up. Part of me thinks the story would have worked better if they had just been random incidents. It seemed like that was what King was going for as not everything in life is a Chekhov's Gun or foreshadowing for some future event. It just makes the last minute wrap up that much more jarring. Oh, speaking of jarring wrap up. This book just kind of stops.

One awesome thing about this book, though, is Booth. Sam's father is the best character in the book and he carries this thing. The guy leaps off the page in a way that few characters do and he's the one that is the most engaging. He's not a perfect father, by any stretch, and Sam's resentment is justified, but it's really hard to hate the guy. To Booth's credit, he does seem to try and do right by Sam. He tries to bond with his son over movies and imparts wisdom, albeit through unorthodox rhetoric. I feel like he'd be an awesome uncle. One of my favorite parts of the book is when it flashes back and we see him when he was courting Sam's mother.

On the flip side of that, this book goes into politics, which irritated me to no end. It's weird, the soapbox preaching is nowhere near as prevalent as it was in "Under the Dome" (which is also a lot thicker than this book), but this bothered me a lot more. At least there, it was justified in advancing the story. Here, the characters are hijacked and used as mouthpieces so that they can espouse, validate, and glorify King's opinion. It's Seth McFarlane level. It's lazy and a little obnoxious. Does it advance the plot or contribute to it in any way? No. Does it develop the characters in any significant fashion? Not really. It amounts to political auto-eroticism. I don't care what your views on Obama or the Tea Party are; if you want to pontificate, fine, go on Tumblr or Twitter. It's unnecessary here and, more than that, very unwelcome. If nothing else, do a better job of justifying it. Brad Thor is guilty of this too, but at least he makes sure that it's plot relevant.

As for the other characters, none of them really clicked either. Tess and Allie, Sam's love interest and mother respectively, come close, but that's about it. For all the quirks and neuroses that these characters display, they felt flat. I never really felt like any of them had any sort of distinct personality and they would do things that made no sense whatsoever. You may have been able to chalk it up to rule of funny, but the humor didn't really work for me, so that doesn't work either.

I didn't like this book. I wanted to, but it never connected with me. From what I can gather, the book has been very well received. So, I seem to be in the minority on this, but it is what it is. As awesome as Booth is, he wasn't able to carry this book for me on his own.


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