Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Book Evaluation: From a Buick 8 (2002) by Stephen King
Oh yeah, that's the premise of this novel... and it is wonderful. This is not a so bad it's good novel. And it's certainly not a bad horror story. This is an incredibly well done story showing off the best of a novel that skips time, following a father and his son as they delve into the mysteries of a car that showed up one day and was never claimed. This novel is eerie in almost every way, reminding me of the Somerton Man, just as much as it reminds me of almost any real life mysteries. It almost seems as if it could be real and that's the really scary part.
The novel follows a police officer throughout his life as an officer until his eventual death. But he's not the protagonist. Instead his son, a helper at the police station, takes over that duty. Most of the story is told through flashback from one of several different police officers telling the intertwining story of the thing that resembles a 1953 Buick Roadmaster and his father, Curtis Wilcox.
The story is incredibly effective, blending both past and present into a coherent narrative. It becomes terrifying, not because of what actually happens within the story proper, but rather because of the implications of the story itself. The Buick is left at a gas station by a man in black who disappeared seemingly into nowhere. The Buick drew people towards it. It would make interference with electronic equipment. It would do such strange and inexplicable things, like making people disappear or giving off a terrible energy.
The Buick would both "eat" people and spit alien things out of it. And that's what the terrible implication is: there is a parallel universe, or at least that this "car" that could never run, could never even freaking drive and yet was driven to a gas station by some mysterious and disappeared man in black, is only a portal between two separate worlds that find the other terrifying and awful to behold.
The book ends as the Buick is losing power, finally spending any excess energy it has to try and take the heroes of the story into it as they try to destroy it. It fails even if Sandy Dearborn, the Sergeant of the police officers, sees through the portal one last time and "sees" the personal objects of those men who crossed the barrier between worlds.
This novel shares similar themes with two or three other Stephen King works and many, many Lovecraft works. The Mist and The Dark Tower series are the obvious candidates for being so similar to this book. The Mist is almost exactly like this novel, but on a larger scale, without a car, and with mist and monsters pouring out instead of being spit out or taken in from time to time. The Dark Tower series has many similar themes as well, especially in the last three novels of the series that explain "Todash" space and what lies within it. Actually many of Stephen King's more recent novels have built upon these similar themes, with Lisey's Story and Duma Key having some similar ideas and feelings to them. The other few books that have similarities are The Talisman, describing nightmare landscapes and a way to move between worlds, and N. that describes creatures from some other existence bent on the destruction of the universe if certain things are not done correctly. All in all, Stephen King likes the themes that are found in this novel and so do I.
This is a fantastic and horribly underrated novel. Few people know about Stephen King's amazing novels, knowing instead his weaker works like Carrie, The Shining, and Cujo. Those novels were all made into big movies (with a few other well known ones besides, deserving or undeserving), but even though they are known as Stephen King's REAL HORROR novels, they come off as shlock. They are earlier novels by him and do not stand up to the novels that he really takes seriously, like From a Buick 8 as a telling example.
This is an absolutely effective and terrifying novel that proves that pacing, plotting, characters, and atmosphere with an air of mystery and confusion can really lead itself to feelings of absolute horror. it may be subtle horror. It may be the horror of nothing, but, to me, it's the most effective kind of horror and the one that stays with me for months afterwards and still makes me shiver in the night.