That's Not A Good End!

Ending a novel can gave a reader the euphoria of crossing the finish line after a hard run race.  Or it can be like running out of gas in the middle of no where.

Stephen King endings -- the thought alone can cause constant readers a little trauma.  It seems pretty well known that while Stephen King has given us some great stories, the endings sometimes leave the reader a little frustrated.

Sometimes King nails it!  He drives the story home with unusual skill.  He allows the characters and  plot to work together to bring about a breathtaking end.  Dolores Claiborne, The Shining and Salem's Lot all had what I considered  to be pretty satisfying endings.

There have also been times that King declined to really end a story.  The Mist is such an example.  King left the character driving into the mist, for the reader to choose their own adventure from there.  Also, the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was a bit unclear at the end. I also liked the endings to the very dark stories in Full Dark No Stars.  The Green Mile played out nicely from beginning to end.  I think the pressure of having to write in serial was good for King.

Did Insomnia have an end?  I never got there.

Here are some endings I found weak:

Needful Things.  It ends with a video that Allan has to decide if he will watch or not.  The battle really isn't as big as we would think.  Polly takes on a pretty awesome spider, but it really doesn't pack the punch the rest of the novel did.  I liked it right up to the very end, it had played out so well, and then it just dropped off.

The Dark Tower.  I've gotten so therapeutic resolution over this from Bev  Vincnt, but the ending still troubles me.  My feelings run pretty deep on this not only because the books were so long -- and there were so many of them -- but they were so long in coming.  A little portion of my life was spent  thinking, "now when is the next Dark Tower book coming out?"  Then for it to end without the deep resolution I was hoping for left me disenchanted with the entire series for a while.  But there were  episodes I really loved!  I thinks some of King's best, and worst, writing appeared  in The Dark Tower  books.  The Wolves of the Calla was particularly delightful.

11/22/63.  Once again, loved the novel, hated the end.  We go a long ways with King waiting for the alternate history to play out -- but it never really does.  By the time King gives us a glimpse of what would have happened if Kennedy had lived, the events are marred by science fiction.  That is, we don't really get to see  the "what if" played out.  We have to put up with a strange world ripped apart by an overdose of time travel.  The giant earthquake changed everything, thus creating major events different from the timeline we are on now.  So the changes in political history really don't matter much, since nothing jives with our own timeline anyway.  Might as well be the history of Mars.

Cujo.  I liked the novel, but I liked the movie better because they changed the end.

Dreamcatcher.  I was really engaged with the first half of the novel, but when we began chasing aliens from point A to point B, I really got weary.

Thinner.  I don't think I should have to say more than that.

Firestarter.  Great book, but a troublesome ending.  I found it, as with others,  hollow  and even a little forced.  It did not have the tension I think King was looking for.

And in regard to the Talisman. . . that was a crazy way to end a book.

What is your favorite and least favorite endings to a Stephen King book?


  1. The ending to Cujo was one of my favorites. I hated it when I first read it, but as I have grown older I have come to really enjoy the ending. I particularly like it as a description of King's struggle with alcohol at the time he wrote the novel. Also, Salem's Lot, Blaze, and Desperation had really good endings.

    I thought the ending to Under the Dome was horrible. Before that my least favorite ending was It (really, a prepubescent gang bang?!), but Under the Dome was truly stupid. I also thought the ending to Doctor Sleep was pretty weak.

    1. I remember the very end of IT being Bill riding his bike. . . that other scene is strange!

    2. Re: IT. Its not the very ending, but it is pivotal to the (pardon the expression) climax of the novel. I did like the scene on the bike though.

      Also the very ending of the Shining was very nice and hopeful.

  2. My favorite ending to a King book would have to be It, coming in a close second might be the ending to Hearts in Atlantis, though Salem's Lot might vie for a spot as well.

    I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking Needful Things could have used a little more work at the end (more destruction and carnage please!), however I thought 11/2263 played out all fair and square, and besides I think it's clear no one understands the physics of such changes, plus I always had the feeling the alternate America was somehow tailor made for whoever changes it, in other words, so what you really want to reap.

    One of the worst endings I'd have to say is Cujo, plus Under the Dome, and finally.

    Doctor Sleep: Lamest...Ending...EVER!

    For a final bonus: Favorite ending of all time in a non-King work:

    All I'd really prefer to say is it was published in 1968 by Peter S. Beagle (and those of you who know what I'm talking about, STOP LAUGHING!).


  3. My favorite non-King ending is Pillars of the Earth and A Dangerous Fortune, both by Ken Follett. I think I like suspense novels where it all comes together with a bang at the end.

  4. King has stated time and again that he is a character-oriented writer and that he himself does't know the ending to his books when he begins the story and lets it all play out in accordance to the characters. This is all well and good and we can all agree that King is a master of characterisation but the downside to this is that the plot suffers and he often wraps things up once the characters have run their course but leaving the plot itself as an afterthought, thus the weak endings.
    And yes, I add my opinion to everyone else's in saying that the ending to Under the Dome was a complete anti-climax.

    1. I actually argue that of all King's strengths as a writer, characterization just happens to be his greatest more often than not.

      The thing is, if Luis' reaction proves anything, it's that it implodes the myth that good characterization is enough to carry a novel or film. The other ingredient might be the events that happen to the characters, as much as how the characters are written, and a good story might be defined as a balance between character and fictional event.

      Most of King's novels, even in his 90s phase, have managed to deliver for me in this regard.


  5. Salem's Lot and Misery had great endings - especially Misery. I love how King showed how Paul Sheldon was struggling to cope afterwards... it made him seem human. I didn't like the ending to Cell at all. I thought the ending to Carrie was weak - at least in part (Carrie's confrontation with Momma seemed forced). I did like the part with Sue, though. The worse non-King ending I've read recently would probably be Mockingjay.