“From a Buick 8 is a novel about our fascination with deadly things, about our insistence on answers when there are none, about terror and courage in the face of the unknowable.”
This is another one of the dull and long-winded Stephen King books. “Desperation” was like this, “Insomnia” was like this and it has a lot in common with “Christine“. It’s a story about a car in a police unit’s garage. A story how a car that looks like a Buick 8 has been impounded from a petrol station after its owner abandoned it and then strange and spooky things began to happen around it. Like “Christine”.
But this car had no owner that it could be jealous of. This car just kept the air around it cool and occasionally acted like an inter-dimensional gateway to a place where monsters roamed.
And at the end of the book, it briefly attempts to kidnap some policemen and fails. Then it starts to slowly shatter as a door that has been banged too hard shut and the car itself starts to lose its regenerative abilities. The book ends with the possibility of the car failing to be a door anymore and letting the mnsters through.
The narrative style is very similar to “The Wind Through The Keyhole” and “Colorado Kid” where the story is told not by the author but by one of the characters – in this case the town sherriff, Sandy.
He tells the story to the new recruit, the son of a cop who died recently and very much loved by the force he joined.
The book is boring. Perhaps it has something to do with the way the narrative is told- all in flashback; but what we stay with is the initial situation- weird car- and it doesn’t develop into anything like a plot.
“Law enforcement: a case of good men doing bad chores.”
The Buick 8, which resembles a vintage 1953 Buick Roadmaster, has been in storage in a shed near the barracks since 1979, when it was left at a gas station by a mysterious driver who then disappeared. The car, they discover, is not a car at all. It appears to be a Buick Roadmaster, but the steering wheel is immobile, the dashboard instruments are useless props, the engine has no moving parts, the ignition wires go nowhere, the car heals itself when damaged and all dirt or debris are repelled by it.
“It’s funny how close the past is, sometimes. Sometimes it seems as if you could almost reach out and touch it. Only who really wants to?”
Sandy Dearborn, now Sergeant Commanding of Troop D, is the main narrator of the book, and tells the story to Ned, discussing various things that have happened with the car and his father’s fascination with it. The car will frequently give off what they dub “lightquakes,” or large flashes of purple light over an extended period of time. These lights will occasionally “give birth” to strange plants and creatures that are not anything like what they’ve seen in their world. Two people have disappeared in the vicinity of the car—Curtis Wilcox’s former partner Ennis Rafferty, as well as an escaped lowlife named Brian Lippy they picked up for both drunk driving and being under the influence of angel dust. It is later suggested in the book that perhaps the Buick was actually a portal, between our world and another.
After hearing the story of the Buick and how it has been kept secret by Troop D for so long, Ned becomes convinced that the car was somehow related to the death of his father in a seemingly random road accident. After all, the gas station attendant who first reported the Buick sitting in front of the station was the same man who, years later, would kill his own father. Sandy cautions him to keep from obsessing over the Buick (“There are Buicks everywhere,” he warns), but after leaving Ned at the Troop D facility to eat at a diner, he realizes Ned never asked about one subject, actually avoided asking about it…whether anyone considered destroying it. He realizes that Ned is determined to destroy the Buick…and that the Buick, in fact, wants to use that impulse to take Ned into the world it connects to ours.
Sandy returns to the shed to find Ned sitting in it, Ned having poured gasoline under the car while holding a pistol and a match. Just as Sandy pulls Ned out, the Buick transforms into a portal, trying to draw both Ned and Sandy inside of it. The rest of the staff arrive on the feeling that something bad may happen, all of them helping recall the story of the Buick’s origin at their station, and manage to pull Ned and Sandy free, but not before Sandy glimpses into the world on the other side of the Buick. He sees Lippy’s swastika necklace and cowboy boots, along with Ennis’s Stetson and Ruger.
One last story is told, revealing that destroying the Buick actually was discussed. However, they come to theorize that the Buick functions as a sort of regulator valve, drawing in and out between the two worlds…and that destroying it would do much more harm than good, releasing whatever malign power is maintained by it. They decide that it is safest to watch over the Buick, in the hope that whatever supernatural force will eventually dissipate and expire.
The book closes with Ned joining the police force after dropping out of college and he pulls Sandy over to Shed B. The Buick’s windshield is cracked and remains cracked without healing itself. Ned believes that the Buick will one day fall apart, having expended the last of its energy in that final attempt to draw him over to the other universe.
The bad parts:
No. Fucking. Shit. King spends a great deal of this book explaining to the reader that there’s not always a definitive ending. He prepared us. But that doesn’t mean I accept it. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Listen, friends and neighbors, I can get behind a short story or a novella that leaves me with an unsatisfactory ending because they aren’t time sinks. To be in the audience of a magic show wherein the magic is only alluded to is a terrible trick. I don’t need everything explained. I don’t need my hand held. But I want a complete story. This is not a complete story. It is a rambling mess. The shifts in tone are jarring. You never know what kind of book you’re reading. The characters are taken part and parcel from The Green Mile. If you’ve read both books, you’ll probably see where I’m coming from. I mean even down to the wild fucker named Billy. Billy the Kid… Billy Lippin. And yes, Sandy Dearborn and Paul Edgecomb are the same fucking person. I don’t care what their names are. Sweet baby Tom Cruise, the parallels are so obvious it feels like Desperation/The Regulators all over again. Only this time, the books aren’t supposed to be that way! Fuck this book. Take it out back and put a goddamn bullet in its brain.
The good parts:
From a Buick 8 is a novel that is meant to make you think more than entertain. It presents an interesting premise, one that emphasizes our human nature for needing ‘meaning’ in life. It makes us question how we demand for the world around us to give us closure, understanding, and to fit inside our internal ‘plots’. When life works outside those constructs of understanding we tend to become frustrated, and that is exactly what happened for some readers. From a Buick 8 is a book that tells us that there is not necessary foreshadowing or hidden agenda within its prose, just a story, plain and simple.
From a Buick 8 has very complex and realistic characters, which I expected from Stephen King. They all asked the same questioned I did, acted the way I would, and overall believed the same things I did. The only difference was that they were fictional and I am not… or at least I believe am I not (*dramatic music*).