Aug 11 2008

From a Buick 8, by Stephen King

Rating: ★★★½☆
I’m usually not into horror novels or movies, but Stephen King is one exception. His books are just so readable, with a conversational style that’s effortless to absorb, that almost anything he writes is a pleasure to read. I’ve also found that many of his books aren’t really horror, at least the way I think of horror, as in the gore and shock-value of horror movies. They have a spookiness about them, a feeling that there’s *something* out there we’d rather not look at, but that’s often combined with a good mystery or science fiction type of story that’s good in its own right.

That’s certainly the case with From a Buick 8, where much of the creepiness comes from the unknown and unknowable. When an old Buick Roadmaster—or a sort of model of one—is abandoned at a rural Pennsylvania gas station, a group of state troopers take charge of it and do their best to contain the dangers it represents. Over many years, they gradually discover that the Buick is some sort of a conduit to and from another place, drawing in and spewing out things that may not actually be evil but which sure feel like it.

A nice touch is that the story is told to the son of one of the state troopers who originally discovered the car, and several of the troopers take turns telling the story, offering different perspectives. There’s no one hero, and in fact nothing really heroic happens, which is one of the main points of the book: In real life, problems that come along aren’t always fought and defeated like they are in the movies. Sometimes they’re simply contained or dealt with, and life goes on as best it can. Not exactly a climactic concept to base a plot on, but it works well here.

Despite what I said earlier, there are a couple of unpleasantly gory scenes reminiscent of more typical horror novels of King’s like Carrie, so don’t read this book if you’re very sensitive to that sort of thing.

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