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Hearts In Atlantis: New Fiction [Hardcover]

Stephen King
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (533 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 14 1999

Stephen King, whose first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974, the year before the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam, is the first hugely popular writer of the TV generation. Images from that war -- and the protests against it -- had flooded America's living rooms for a decade. Hearts in Atlantis, King's newest fiction, is composed of five interconnected, sequential narratives, set in the years from 1960 to 1999. Each story is deeply rooted in the sixties, and each is haunted by the Vietnam War.

In Part One, "Low Men in Yellow Coats," eleven-year-old Bobby Garfield discovers a world of predatory malice in his own neighborhood. He also discovers that adults are sometimes not rescuers but at the heart of the terror.

In the title story, a bunch of college kids get hooked on a card game, discover the possibility of protest...and confront their own collective heart of darkness, where laughter may be no more than the thinly disguised cry of the beast.

In "Blind Willie" and "Why We're in Vietnam," two men who grew up with Bobby in suburban Connecticut try to fill the emptiness of the post-Vietnam era in an America which sometimes seems as hollow -- and as haunted -- as their own lives.

And in "Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling," this remarkable book's denouement, Bobby returns to his hometown where one final secret, the hope of redemption, and his heart's desire may await him.

Full of danger, full of suspense, most of all full of heart, Stephen King's new book will take some readers to a place they have never been...and others to a place they have never been able to completely leave.

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From Amazon

Stephen King's collection of five stories about '60s kids reads like a novel. The best is "Low Men in Yellow Coats," about Bobby Garfield of Harwich, Connecticut, who craves a Schwinn for his 11th birthday. But his widowed mom is impoverished, and so bitter that she barely loves him. King is as good as Spielberg or Steven Millhauser at depicting an enchanted kid's-eye view of the world, and his Harwich is realistically luminous to the tiniest detail: kids bashing caps with a smoke-blackened rock, a car grille "like the sneery mouth of a chrome catfish," a Wild Mouse carnival ride that makes kids "simultaneously sure they were going to live forever and die immediately."

Bobby's mom takes in a lodger, Ted Brautigan, who turns the boy on to great books like Lord of the Flies. Unfortunately, Ted is being hunted by yellow-jacketed men--monsters from King's Dark Tower novels who take over the shady part of town. They close in on Ted and Bobby, just as a gang of older kids menace Bobby and his girlfriend, Carol. This pointedly echoes the theme of Lord of the Flies (the one book King says he wishes he'd written): war is the human condition. Ted's mind-reading powers rub off a bit on Bobby, granting nightmare glimpses of his mom's assault by her rich, vile, jaunty boss. King packs plenty into 250 pages, using the same trick Bobby discerns in the film Village of the Damned: "The people seemed like real people, which made the make-believe parts scarier."

Vietnam is the otherworldly horror that haunts the remaining four stories. In the title tale, set in 1966, University of Maine college kids play the card game Hearts so obsessively they risk flunking out and getting drafted. The kids discover sex, rock, and politics, become war heroes and victims, and spend the '80s and '90s shell-shocked by change. The characters and stories are crisscrossed with connections that sometimes click and sometimes clunk. The most intense Hearts player, Ronnie Malenfant ("evil infant"), perpetrates a My Lai-like atrocity; a nice Harwich girl becomes a radical bomber. King's metaphor for lost '60s innocence is inspired by Donovan's "sweet and stupid" song about the sunken continent, and his stories hail the vanished Atlantis of his youth with deep sweetness and melancholy intelligence. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

By "Atlantis," King means the 1960s, that otherworldly decade that, like the fabled continent, has sunk into myth. By "hearts," he means not just the seat of love but the card game, which figures prominently in the second of the five scarcely linked narratives in this full-bodied but disjointed omnibus, King's third (after Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight). The stories proceed chronologically, from 1960 to 1999. The first, the novel-length "Low Men in Yellow Coats," is the most traditionally King: an alienated youth, Bobby Garfield, is befriended by a new neighbor, the elderly Ted Brautigan, who introduces him to literature and turns out to be on the run from villainous creatures from another time/dimension. A potent coming-of-age tale, the story connects to King's Dark Tower saga. The novella-length title entry, set in 1966 and distinguished by a bevy of finely etched characters, concerns a college dorm whose inhabitants grow dangerously addicted to hearts. The last three pieces are short stories. "Blind Willie," set in 1983, details the penance paid by a Vietnam vet for a wartime sin, as does "Why We're in Vietnam." The concluding tale, "Heavenly Shades of Night Falling," revives Bobby and provides closure. Sometimes the stories feel like experiments, even exercises, and they can wear their craft on their sleevesAin the way the game of hearts symbolizes the quagmire of Vietnam, for instance, or in how each narrative employs a different prose style, from the loose-limbed third-person of "Low Men" to the tighter first-person of "Hearts," and so on. With about ten million published words and counting, King probably can write a seductive story in his sleep and none of these artful tales are less; but only the title story rivals his best work and, overall, the volume has a patchy feel, and exudes a bittersweet obsession with the past that will please the author's fellow babyboomersAKing nails the '60s and its legacyAbut may make others grind their teeth.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Bobby Garfield's father had been one of those fellows who start losing their hair in their twenties and are completely bald by the age of forty-five or so. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King, at his best July 6 2004
By niara
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This review will be short and sweet: I loved this book. I loved this book so much that I refused to see the film adaptation with Anthony Hopkins out of love for the words and not to be betrayed by the screen. It is absolutely brilliant. I have been reading Stephen King since the 8th Grade with Salem's Lot and this is by far, the absolute best that he has written. I finished this and Bag of Bones back-to-back and I honestly believe King is writing the best he ever has. Beautiful. Poignant. When the boy received the flower petals in the mail, it nearly brought me to my knees. I was truly, truly sorry when I finished it. I just wanted it to go on and on.
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3.0 out of 5 stars PEACE LOVE AND FLOWER POWER June 8 2004
This is one of Stephen King's TAKE ME AS A SERIOUS WRITER novels. During his prolific and supersonic career, King has given us some of the best "horror" novels of our time: "It" "Carrie" "Dead Zone" "Salem's Lot", etc. Years ago, he decided he wanted to be more than just a genre writer so he gave us "Different Seasons" and "Four Past Midnight," and "Nightmares and Dreamscapes." HEARTS IN ATLANTIS is the least impressive of all the King books I've read and I've read them all! Divided into five different sections, King weaves tales of psychodrama and Vietnam War drama. The first story (the longest) is the one about Bobby Hatfield and his encounter with Ted Brautigan and the low people in yellow coats. At times mesmerizing and frightening, it still is pretentious and overly talkative at times. Characters are established and King continues his deft handling of bringing us multidimensional characters. But at this part's end, we're still not sure of just who Ted is, and unless you've read THE DARK TOWERS, King's self-congratulatory epic series, you will be lost.
The second part is about as electrifying as a gas lantern; we meet Pete Riley and some other King-like characters, we're reintroduced to Carol Gerber from part one, and the whole story focuses on the addiction to the card game, Hearts, with antiwar sentiment thrown in for creative balance, or imbalance.
In the third story, one of the characters from part one leads a triple life and poses as a blind man. Ho hum. Next we meet Sully again, and this time he encounters objects falling from the sky during a traffic jam. Woah..where did this come from? And finally we meet Bobby again who meets Carol again and who tells us Ted has something planned.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King: Experienced and Flawed, but good May 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I initially picked up the hardcover of this novel off a B Dalton bookstore due to the ultra low, bargain price of 6.99 (as opposed to $20+), and the fact that it was a King novel definitely added a plus to that purchase. I quickly found out about the plot of the book online, including the fact that it was tied to the Dark Tower series. Such a fact made me excited and pushed me to read it. After finally finishing it two nights ago, I find myself both gratified and yet somewhat dissappointed.
The first story "Low Men in Yellow Coats" is pure gold, and I can see why the film adapatation would pick this story in particular as its plot (although I still need to see it sometime). The relationships between Bobby Garfield, his mother Liz, his first love Carol, his friend Sully, and especially his close friendship with the old man Ted Brautigan make this story pull you in like a powerful magnet and not let you go until the end. At many points of the story, I felt myself emotionally attached to much of what went on, even losing my cool a bit from time to time (just a bit ;) ). The plot does well to tie into the Dark Tower series (of which I'm between books 4 and 5 at the moment), and yet keeps itself to what's ultimately important in "Low Men," in how Bobby handles the conflicts thrown at him. This story alone makes the book worth a read, especially for DT enthustiasts.
Unfortunately, King put his best story first, and left the other four as a fizzle down to the end. It wasn't necessarily that I didn't enjoy the stories, it just felt like half the time King was dragging on and not going to the action quickly enough. It's not as if King is a slow author (incinuating a waste of words), but he can leave a reader thinking "why does this matter at all? Just go on!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent book May 1 2004
By ...
Format:Mass Market Paperback
this is a very interesting book and a pretty unique book from stephen King. I have read many books from him and why people consider him a horror writer is beyond me. This book is, nevertheless, verygood. I think that it does a very good job at transporting you to the time in which it takes place. the characters are very good and King's attention to detail in this book (which I have now come to expect) Is very enjoyable for me for reasons that I have no idea. It is very well written, anyway, and it is a very entertaining story, or set of stories, anyway. If you have seen the movie but have not yet read the book, this book is much better and is very different than the movie. Many things were taken out of the movie(for good reasons) and certain things were just changed, I'm assuming to make the movie more interesting, but I think that it failed. And certain things that were cut out of the movie I don't think should have been,(For instance, the part in which Bobby is nearly assraped by a perverted man in the park while feeding birds, which would have been a pretty interesting scene I think) Anyway, I 'm getting bit off topic right now,but I think that I've made my opinion clear enough.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Different King!
A trip down to the 1960's in an Interesting interwoven four stories by Stephen King. The 60's was a time of lost innocence and Stephen King brings out his interpretation of this... Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Cavaco
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
One of the least "spooky" books by King. Anyone growing up in North America in the 60s or 70s can relate in some manner to the main theme of the book.
Published 6 months ago by Charles
5.0 out of 5 stars super
this book was one of the best books I ever read.D'ont you know that they made a movie out of the book? Read more
Published on March 1 2006 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars the prince of darkness!.............................
this is one of my favourite stephen king books.
the story is by turns, spooky, heart-warming, heartbreaking & enraging,
stephen king knows how to get under the... Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2006
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
I'm not a big thriller fan, and this is not a thriller. I want to read more king books because of this one.
Published on July 14 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Great King read
Everything who has read King knows his writing is flowing and easy to read. This book is NOT a horror story! Read more
Published on June 12 2004 by Purple Shades
2.0 out of 5 stars King alienates his readers
Fortunately, I had read the Dark Tower series before I read this book, but after I finished it, I thought to myself that King was really alienating anybody who hadn't. Read more
Published on May 22 2004 by Denny Gibbons
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Tower Fans - Here's another tie in
I've listened to this audio book twice and I'll listen to it again. King's story telling mastery shines in this one tieing the world of the "low men in yellow dusters" (agents of... Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by Ralph Cramden
3.0 out of 5 stars First Story Well Worth Reading; As for the Rest...
It's easy to see why Stephen King has sold about 100 million billion books - the man can flat out write! Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by Stewart Salowitz
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