Carrie by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On the surface, Stephen King’s first published novel could have been subtitled “The Ugly Duckling Goes to the Prom”, such is the simplicity of the under current storyline. ‘A picked-on and teased girl named Carrie White, who lives alone with her religiously stubborn mother, is an outcast in her school group, until the popular girl sees the error of her ways, and convinces her popular boyfriend to take the unpopular girl to the prom rather than herself, in order to atone for her wrongdoings, but also hopefully to bring the ugly duckling into the world for everyone to see she is really Cinderella’. The fact that Stephen King writes this basis of the story so well is an important facet, as everything that occurs outside of this, in the paranormal world, would never work so well if the actual base of the story wasn’t so strong. That what occurs in the book is so left of centre is the beginnings of what would become the Stephen King phenomenon.
What makes this so readable is that it is compact, and rather short in the scheme of the massive novels that were to come. But the story here is told in short, readable sections, such that it can be read in snatches between classes or in the bath or before sleep without having to commit to large sections. It moves back and forwards between what is happening at the time of the story, and then publication a few years in the future, describing the events with the element of hindsight. It is an effective method of keeping the reader informed of what is happening and what is going to happen, though it does give away some of the elements of surprise and suspense that would normally be the case, as events and even deaths are announced before they actually happen in the book’s present day.
What is evident immediately is King’s ability to draw you in to the story and how he allows you to determine for yourself whether you like the characters and whether or not you believe they are good or evil. He doesn’t write the people in his story to essentially be autonomously a particular character, he gives you enough leeway to decide for yourself if they are likeable or deplorable. Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a particularly evil person getting away with bad stuff, especially when in most cases they then find an even more evil end to their affairs. Perhaps here in Carrie, it is the number of innocents who are carted off that may disturb some of the light hearted readers. And the scale of the destruction. But wow, when she blows, she blows!
I still enjoyed revisiting Chamberlain again, and bathing in the blood that is released in so many ways during the course of the novel. Yes, King can write about women (no doubt with not just a little help from his wife Tabitha on this one), and he can write about the paranormal, and he can sure rain death and destruction on all who inhabit his stories. It may not be as fleshed out as many of his long novels to come, but many people will enjoy the fact that the story moves along and concludes itself without having to wades through thousands of pages.
Rating: Blood in the streets. 4/5
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