Tag Archives: 3 Star Books

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

StephenKingPetSematary

A rule of thumb- after your daughter’s newly resurrected cat comes back ‘stunted,’ 99.9% experts would advise you against burying your kid in the same Godforsaken place and in hopes that he will return from the dead as well. But that doesn’t stop Louis Creed, does it?

Believe it or not, this is my first Stephen King, though frankly I was a tiny bit disappointed at what I found to be solid yet somewhat overhyped prose. Don’t get me wrong, King has a great story to tell and some interesting commentary on grief and the dangers of meddling with the unspeakable, but I found the writing in general to be a bit underwhelming.

First, let’s dig into the premise itself- family man Louis has a loving wife, Rachel, and two great kids, Ellie and Gage. Together they move to a small town in Maine and Louis strikes up a friendship with grizzled local Jud Crandall. The damper on their otherwise happy life- the creepy burial ground built by the Micmacs years before unnervingly close to Louis’ property.

This is not the eponymous ‘Pet Sematary’, but a site relatively close behind it. Once the haunted locale gets hold of Louis, all bets are off (a string of disasters follow soon thereafter.) Despite Jud triying to convince Louis that ‘sometimes dead is better’ in the wake of tragedy, Louis in compelled to meddle with things that are not to be meddled with- with predictably horrific results.

In the dark, dank world of “Pet Sematary,” the beautiful, the natural, the wholesome can all be taken away with a domino effect of chaos. Stephen King does a pretty good job of playing on our basest fears, and on the inside the very old hardcover copy I read it said that this book was the one that Stephen King himself had trouble finishing.

I don’t know if this was legit or a marketing ploy- I didn’t think the book was that shocking, but I guess it’s different if you’re a parent of a small child (considering the gruesome death and reanimation of a very lovable child character.) However, I had some problems with the writing.

I hate repetition in prose when there isn’t a good reason for it, and there was lots of unnecessary repeating of words and phrases here- the nonsensical utterance of “Hey ho, let’s go” (I know it’s a line from a song, but what the hell does it have to do with anything in context, anyway?) Every so often Louis would think something ‘randomly’ or ‘stupidly,’ or refrain from bursting into hysterical, horrified laughter at the drop of a hat.

How often does one burst into maniacal laughter, I wonder? I was also driven to  interpret moments in the story in a totally inappropriate way. For instance, I found myself feeling sorry for Church (Ellie’s cat, who returns from buying the farm only to be kicked around by the repulsed Louis) and disturbed by the portrayal of Rachel’s disabled sister Zelda as a deformed, evil freak.

I found this book a little overlong at almost 400 pages, even though it’s one of the shortest books Stephen King wrote (!) To be fair, I was having a lot of mental health problems at the time, including repetitive re-reading, one of the staples of my OCD diagnosis. Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to read that “Under the Dome” book I bought cover to cover.

Now, for a question for readers- is the “Pet Sematary”  worth watching? Also, what Stephen King books would you recommend to a newbie?

The Quarry by Iain Banks

the-quarry Iain Banks

“The Quarry” is a novel focusing on the slow-paced exploits of an appealing narrator, eighteen-year-old Kit, and seven exasperatingly mean-spirited nincompoop side characters, whose rants and abrasive political views take up a copious amount of the book. Kit, a high-functioning Autistic with an avid video game fandom, lives with his abusive, foul-mouthed (and dying) father Guy in a ramshackle house on the edge of a quarry. The house is scheduled for demolition as soon as Guy kicks it and the government vacates Kit, who is wondering seriously about the probability of supporting himself after his father’s death.

Guy has cancer and isn’t expected to make it much longer. To accompany Guy in his final days- or drive him to an early grave, the more likely outcome (with friends like these, who needs enemies?) a group of Guy’s university friends come over to the water-damaged wreck of a house. I won’t go into great detail describing them for you; suffice to say they are horrible people, intellectual wannabes/ vacuous losers who aren’t really there for Guy at all.

No, what these self-righteous pricks want has nothing to do with altruism- they have their sights set on a missing videotape that allegedly contains shocking footage that nobody wants found. I was initially sucked in by the mystery of the tape, but the resolution of this plot thread was disappointing to say the least. I hate to say bad things about this novel- writer Iain Banks was dying when he wrote it and it was obviously a very personal project to him. Indeed, “The Quarry” has some very good qualities- just not enough.

You’ve got Kit’s story for starters. If you focused on Kit and cut out all the extraneous bullshit (i.e. the side character’s political crap,) you’d have one hell of book. Kit has a unique way of seeing the world due to his condition, and for every moment he was self-absorbed and painfully immature, there was another where he was charming and likable. And that’s as it should be- people with disabilities aren’t saints, and pretending they are is nothing less than careful, calculated nonsense. I’ll never look at traffic jams the same way again after hearing Kit’s wonderfully quirky take on their spiritual dimension.

Sadly, about 25% percent of “The Quarry” is simply unnecessary- long, pointless tirades haranguing the bureaucratic bullshit of just about everything. None of the characters besides Kit are remotely likable, and even the only one who serves as a friend to Kit, film critic Holly, ends up betraying him in the end. Kit wants to believe in Holly, and convinces himself she cares about him and has his best interests at heart. That’s not the point. We don’t believe in Holly. If anything, we believe she should get her free-loading ass out of Kit’s house.

The creepiness of Kit’s indecent  interest in mom-figure Hol didn’t even bother me. I just found parts of the book terribly dry and didactic. The character’s scathing monologues are more exhausting and annoying than affecting- does anyone actually talk like that? And do we really want to have anything to do with these terrible, and more to the point, completely uninteresting people?

Iain Banks’ first novel, “The Wasp Factory,” was great, and there really are moments that shine in “The Quarry.” I like Kit’s way of dissecting the fine points of the  everyday niceties that don’t come naturally to him, although sometimes he seemed more socially intuitive than most neurotypical  people. I just see a lot of filler that would be better off in the writer’s paper wastebasket. It’s a shame that he didn’t write a better book with his last time on earth.