Purely by chance, I managed to read two Stephen King books back to back, and funnily enough both of the books dealt with havoc and carnage caused by automobiles.
The two books I am talking about are Christine – a golden oldie, and Mr. Mercedes – one of his newer books.
Evil is alive in Libertyville. It inhabits a custom-painted red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury and the teenage boy, Arnold Cunningham, who buys it from the strange Roland LeBay.
Helped by Arnold’s girlfriend Leigh Cabot, Dennis Guilder embarks to find out the truth behind Christine and finds more than he bargained for: from murder, to suicide, and a strange feeling that surrounds Christine — she gets even with anyone that crosses her! Can Dennis save Arnold from the evil that is Christine?
~ Synopsis from goodreads
Bloated is the first adjective I’d use to describe this book. Granted most King books are chunksters allowing you to sink deep into his world while he turns up the horror bit by bit, but even taking that into account, I’d say Christine is bloated.
The story ostensibly is about a teenage boy who buys a vintage car and gets slowly obsessed by it. And because this is Stephen King we are talking about, that unremarkable car slowly takes on a personality of its own, and totally takes over the lives of everyone connected with it.
I thought this book was a little weak compared to some of his other classic horror novels.
A few things that didn’t sit well with me:
- The length of the novel made the first half feel really slow and dragging.
- The character sketches of the people in the novel didn’t quite ring true. To be blunt, I like my teenage boys to sound and act like teenage boys, not like mature middle-aged men. Dennis the narrator especially doesn’t ring true. His characterization swings arbitrarily from the geriatric to the kiddish. I mean even in the love portions of the novel, he doesn’t sound like a teenager. Also, this boy and every one around him giggle. That just killed it for me!
- Somehow the concept of an evil car didn’t really scare the socks off me.
That said, I thought the second-half was pretty powerful and fast-paced, and made up for all the weaknesses of the first half.
Still, definitely not anywhere top of my Stephen King reading lists.
Mr. Mercedes won over Christine purely on size terms. In spite of a pretty unbelievable and ludicrous plot, I still preferred it to the bloated and overblown Christine.
This book deals with the conflict between a psychopath who uses a stolen Mercedes to badger people to death, and a retired cop who is determined to hunt him down. The entire book covers the cat and mouse game between the two, until one of them perseveres over the other.
This is also the first book in the Bill Hodges (the retired cop) trilogy, and that’s a pretty good thing, because unlike Christine, I actually liked the characters in this novel. The supporting characters (even the minor ones) are really nicely written, and I loved them all, including the dog 🙂 .
That said, the plot is not very convincing, and a huge chunk of the story revolved around the mystery of how a car could be stolen without a key, and without breaking into the car. Not very interesting, considering it all revolved around the very technical aspect of intercepting and capturing the signal emitted by the key. I guess I wanted and missed the supernatural evil horror that I normally associate with Stephen King in this book.
However, if you are looking for a regular thriller, this isn’t too bad a pick to while away a few hours. At least, it’s short. Relatively.
I definitely plan to read the next two books in the trilogy simply for the engaging characters alone.