book/series review

‘Stranger Things’ is about to get stranger ...

Posted:  Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 9:30am
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The small town of Hawkins, Indiana. It’s November 1983.

The Hawkins National Laboratory is a Department of Energy site. Strange things happen there. Experiments. And not on light bulbs.

Four 12-year-old boys, besties, gather to play Dungeons and Dragons in the basement of Mike’s house.

Did you hear that? Mike does. He hears the demogorgon. And won’t cast a magic spell despite the near hysterical insistence of his friends. And one thing more … The demogorgon game piece disappeared. Mike’s mom Karen insists they end the game. School tomorrow.

As he leaves, Will tells Mike his roll of the dice was a 7. “The demogorgon got me.”

Mike’s mom says game over. Will and Dustin take off for their homes – racing on their bicycles for one of Dustin’s comic books. Will wants X-Men 1, 3 and 4. Will takes a short cut home – on the Department of Energy land. The light on his bike flashes on and off. Distracted by it, he rides off the road and into the woods. He ditches the bike and runs.

Running. Running.

Home.

Safe!

But no one is there. Mom and Jonathan are out. The demogorgon is outside the house. He hears it. His dog hears it. The slide on the front door comes open. Will runs into the shack and loads a BB gun. The door creaks open … otherworldly sounds … the light bulb grows brighter and brighter. When it dims, Will is gone.

Next morning – Joyce, Will’s mom makes a discovery. Two actually. There was a major power outage last night – and Will isn’t home. Joyce calls Mike’s mom Karen. No, Will isn’t there. He left a little after 8 last night …

So where is Will Byers? Where indeed.

Will’s mom Joyce goes to see Jim Hopper at the police station and frantically tells him her son is missing.

Meanwhile, at the Department of Energy, an otherworldly place exists. God only knows what is living in there. What kinds of experiments are they conducting in there anyway? And someone or something has escaped.

What has happened to Will Byers?

Hopper talks to his friends. The boys tell Hopper Will takes the Murkwood path – (from “The Hobbit,” remember?) – their name for it.

Joyce goes out into the woods to Will’s Castle Byers – a fort-tent – hoping he will be there. It’s good to hope. Now Joyce’s mother’s hell begins. So does the chain smoking. The pacing. The raking of her hair with her fingers.

Then, there are the flickering lights in the house. Will’s favorite song, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” starts playing all by itself. Joyce runs into Will’s room … is that some kind of creature threatening to come through the bedroom wall?

Meanwhile the search for Will continues.

A strange girl with a shaved head in a white hospital gown wanders into Benny’s diner. Benny finally gets her to say a word or two. When he calls the hospital, thinking the girl has been abused, the hospital employee on the end of the line isn’t the only one on the telephone line ...

The first episode hooks you. The second one digs the hook in a bit deeper and episodes 3-8 … you’re lovin’ this trip back into the ’80s – the clothes, the music, the lack of cell phones … and the Internet.

The Duffer Brothers, writers of the series, well mostly, there are a few guest writers, have created a masterpiece of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, laced with conspiracy theories. Throughout, the influence of Stephen King, John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg adds that addictive layer … of atmosphere. Of paranormal activity. Of sheer delight!

To keep it all together, and because he is a self-professed fanatic about the show, Guy Adams penned “Notes From the Upside Down: An Unofficial Guide to Stranger Things.” His is the guide into the surreal world of the highly successful Netflix series that debuted in July 2016.

The highly anticipated season two begins Friday, Oct. 27, and I, like millions of other “Stranger Things” fans, cannot wait.

Did I mention the soundtrack? “White Rabbit,” British punk, classic ’80s tunes like “I Melt Into You,” and, well, I can’t write them all in this bit.

The spoken and visual references to King’s characters are obvious, like the four friends in “Stand By Me” and the girl from “Firestarter,” for, um, starters ... but a treat. In fact, those on Twitter already know King is a fan of the show. When it first premiered, he wrote “Stranger Things is like watching Steve King’s Greatest Hits. And I mean that in a good way.”

Same goes for Spielberg flicks like “Jaws” and “E.T.” and scenes from Carpenter’s ’70s films like “The Fog.” Or “Poltergiest” ... “The Twilight Zone” — like the scene where the Byers’ house phone rings. Joyce, now quite frantic, answers but there’s just static on the line. Joyce shouts out her son’s name, and then, as if millions of miles away, she hears what sounds like Will’s voice. Then the phone literally fries in her hand.

Tweeted King July 17, 2016: “STRANGER THINGS is pure fun. A+. Don't miss it. Winona Ryder shines.” (Hey I tried to speak to him but the tweets were all I got. And I’m working with it.)

And Guy Adams’ unofficial guide is a fun fan read. This dude is so into the show – and he doesn’t miss a thing. Which is great for we “Stranger Things” fans – ’cause we won’t either. The book is described as “… a love letter to 1980s culture from an author who grew up during that time and never really let go.” Adams relates all the historical info we might have missed (depending on what you were doing in the early ’80s). Released in August, it’s a $16 gem. Find it on Amazon or through Touchstone.

If you haven’t watched it yet – watch Season 2, beginning Oct. 27. That’s this Friday. And, I have to end with one more King tweet. Back when the series debuted — “My only question about the Netflix series STRANGER THINGS is whether or not it will be popular enough to crash their servers. It might be.”

Well, it didn’t, but given all of the rave reviews by fans and Season 2 just days away — plenty of time to binge-watch the eight episodes — this time, this time it just might!