Hearts in Atlantis

Hearts in Atlantis Book Cover Hearts in Atlantis
Stephen King
Short Story
Scribner
September 14, 1999
Paperback
673

Although it is difficult to believe, the Sixties are not fictional:

THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

 

No matter the format, Stephen King's work is spellbinding because the author himself is spellbound. The first hugely popular writer of the TV generation, King published his first novel, Carrie, in 1974, the year before the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Images from that war -- and protests against it -- had flooded America's living rooms for nearly ten years. In Hearts in Altantis, King mesmerizes readers with fiction deeply rooted in the Sixties, and explores -- through four defining decades -- the haunting legacy of the Vietnam War.

As the characters in Hearts in Atlantis are tested in every way, King probes and unlocks the secrets of his generation for us all. Full of danger, full of suspense, and most of all full of heart, Stephen King's new book will take some readers to a place they have never been able to leave completely.

 

So, Hearts in Atlantis is a collection of two novellas and three short stories, all of which run chronologically. I picked up this book because I read it had a tie-in to the Dark Tower series. Which I have already read before picking up some of King’s prior works, so I felt like I was missing context there. But the main time this comes into play is in the first story.

Low Men in Yellow Coats can be a bit confusing if you haven’t read the Dark Tower. It’ll have a much greater air of mystery. But it’s no less sinister if you fully understand what’s going on. This is probably the most classic Steven King story in the book.

The titular Hearts in Atlantis story focuses heavily on young men in college during the Vietnam War. This one stuck with me the most because it was more grounded in realism than the others. Mostly. But that revelation doesn’t come until the next story.

Blind Willie deals with how a Vietnam vet deals with his guilt and somatoform disorder. The thing that sticks out here though is a character named Raymond Fiegler getting mentioned. Fans of King’s work will probably know what his initials mean.

Why We’re In Vietnam is probably the most disconnected of all the stories. It’s a good little story, but if you somehow skipped over it, the info you’d miss isn’t all that critical. Still, the way it deals with aspects of PTSD is entertaining, in a grief-stricken sort of way.

Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling is the conclusion story, wrapping up a few key loose ends from the earlier stories. Not all of them, mind you, because at least a couple don’t get addressed until the Dark Tower books. But enough that it feels like a good ending to the book as a whole.

Overall, this is probably one of King’s best collections. The quality does have its high and low points but is fairly consistent in a good way. Now to go read everything else connected to the Dark Tower that I missed.

September 12, 2021

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