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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review: Rage by Richard Bachman. 4/5

It's a fact of life in the modern world, in the years since Stephen King first penned this tome, and in the years since he first published it under his pseudonym of Richard Bachman, and finally before it sold a hundred times more copies once it was revealed that King had in fact written it, that shootings in schools have been an all too familiar story that spreads across our TV screens. They are a terrible indictment on our world and the people who perpetrate them, often leaving you with the feeling that 'why didn't they just shoot themselves and be done with it'? It is in this day and age that I once again revisited a story that I have always enjoyed reading, one that I have never really understood the final stanza of, and an age where this is no longer in print anywhere in the world.

When I first read this more than 25 years ago, it was as a teenager who knew of terrible acts that occurred around the world, but rarely gave them more than a seconds thought. Not because I didn't care, but because they didn't affect me directly, and in my young years those were the only things that really mattered. Those things change with time, with marriage, with family. It gives you a different perspective on most things in life, and this includes books and stories.

I've always enjoyed this book because the main protagonist, Charlie Decker, does not come across as a hero. He doesn't make excuses for where he is, and the predicament he gets himself and his classmates into. He is aware that he must have issues, mental problems, whether it be hereditary or by social comment or by environment. Despite this, he is still shown to be intelligent, and for the most part in control of his own actions. His conversational battles with the school principal, Mr Denver, the school shrink Mr Grace, and with the Police Chief Philbrick allows the reader to see that, and where he ends up at the conclusion of the story may only be of a consequence of the final actions of his classmates than anything that has gone on before this.

There are three sections to the story. The first is the lead up to Charlie taking control of the classroom, the middle is the back and forth within the classroom of Charlie and his elders and Charlie and his classmates, and the final section is the end game in the classroom and the aftermath of that.

It could make a study in itself this story, and as I've mentioned I've never really understood the way that the characters in the classroom fall into what they say and do within the short time frame that is available to them. I know it is all fictional, and the plot and characters are made to do what helps the story advance and reach its climax, but whenever I have read it in later years I have tried to imagine it being a real case scenario and how that could happen - how those characters could bloom so much that not only do they participate in Ted Jones' demise, but then in many cases carry that on into their lives following this, as is intimated in the letter from Joe to Charlie in his ward. And Ted himself - was he/could he be so messed up before this happened that he goes completely catatonic? It seems unlikely... surely... but King is so good at his craft, perhaps... just perhaps he has it right on the nose. Of course, in my younger carefree days I just read the story, loved it for what it was, and always enjoyed it for what it was - a story to be read and enjoyed, not torn apart and analysed at every turning point within the plot.

Suffice it to say, I still enjoy this story, but with a touch of reticence that my advancing years must ply into the storyline and its consequences. Of course, neither Richard Bachman nor Stephen King has encouraged anyone to go out and kill people in the way that happens during this book. The fact that King came up with it while in a class all those years ago is just the way ideas creep up on you. The sad part of it is that when killings similar to these occur, people will blame literature for encouraging those incidents occurring - so much so that King has now allowed this to lapse out of print. It's a sad state of affairs, especially when books like the Bible and the Koran have been an indirect cause for thousands more deaths than Rage has been, and yet only one can now not be bought in book stores around the world.

Rating:  A one room play that encourages open forums.  4/5

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