Christine * Stephen King Book Review

Oh, how I hated this book. You have probably seen the movie adaptation in the 80’s or if not, have seen the book in passing and know in general what it’s about.

Come on, big guy. Let’s go for a ride. Let’s cruise.

Feel like this book sorta goes off the rails once the ghost of the previous owner starts popping up. It’s so powerful in the beginning, when it’s a book about this loser kid finally connecting with something for the first time (this car he finds and begins to rebuild). When the focus is on how that newfound focus starts to change him, it feels real and true and both exhilarating and scary. But once the ghost of the old guy enters the picture, it stops being about the kid and the car, and becomes about something else… about some grumpy old dead guy who may or may not have been a changeling demon, or something, I don’t know. Wish the focus would’ve stayed on the car: a kid who’s haunted by a car.

Not a car that’s haunted by a dead guy.

The weird 1st-person, 3rd-person, 1st-person structure feels a little clunky, and while I can except a haunted house, or castle or hotel (people have lived and died in these places and something could have been left behind), I find a haunted/possessed car a bit of a stretch, and I didn’t really take to any of the characters like I normally do in a King novel.

Psychological terror scares me — not gross-out.

I woke up. I didn’t scream. That night I kept the scream in my throat. Just barely. I sat up in my bed, a cold puddle of moonlight caught in a lapful of sheet, and I thought, Died suddenly. That night I didn’t get back to sleep so quickly.

The brutal self-examination of Jack Torrance in The Shining or Carrie White’s desperate longing to fit in . . . those are situations that pull on my heartstrings and nerves, so when unfortunate events happened to those characters I was scared and deeply empathetic.

King tries similar tricks here — Arnie being bullied throughout is a definite callback to the locker room horrors of Carrie, and his obsession with Christine brings to mind Jack’s love affair with the Overlook Hotel — but it all comes off as a middling, been-there-done-that affair.

Love is old slaughterer. Love is not blind. Love is a canibal with extremely acute vision. Love is insectile, it is always hungry

There isn’t anything brought up in this story that hasn’t been done before — and better! — by SK. By this point in King’s career he was a multi-million dollar success, high on fame and cocaine, and perhaps Christine was the first time editors were afraid to really cut the fat off the writing.

The story — larded with cliché after cliché, often spinning its wheels — could have worked well in twenty or thirty pages as a short story but instead is bloated at over 500 pages, making it King’s second largest novel to date at the time of its release in 1983. I can’t completely explain it, but one gets the feeling of King giving in to all of his excesses here.

What I did to the book once I finished reading it?

Yep, this book was on my burn list from 2008. It has been burned. The chunky novel of the young boy who falls in love with his car and the car that gets jealous once he finds a human girlfriend. The story of the idiot who went armed with a crowbar at night to dispose of the car. AFTER he knew it was killing people. God, it was bad. Don’t read it.

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