Thursday, October 6, 2011

Novella Investigation: N. (2008) by Stephen King

So, this may, in fact, be a bit of a Stephen King October Nights. This is the third Stephen King work that I've looked at this month and I've planned for a few more. I know Stephen King and his works really well, so these are ones I feel obligated to review. I've read almost all of his novels, short stories, and novellas, and I know most of the movies based on his works. So, these reviews are ones that I feel very comfortable with writing.

"N." is a fantastic story of a psychiatrist who is becoming more and more engrosses with a patient who exhibits a very excessive case of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). That is the main premise of the story. It does also make some interesting and halfhearted attempts to make some scholarly ideas up about the disorder as well, but they fall very flat if you know anything about it at all.

Well, the story starts out with a woman, Sheila, writing a letter to a man, a reporter, Charlie, about her brother, Johnny the Psychiatrist, who recently was thought to have committed suicide. She found something strange amongst his possessions, a box that said "BURN ME" upon it. The story progresses as Sheila writes this letter to Charlie about all of the things that Johnny experienced up to the time of his death.

Johnny was seeing a patient, the eponymous "N", who has severe OCD. Johnny tries to solve the man's problems, but the man start spouting off some very strange stories to Johnny about a field that has seven stones in it even when there are supposed to be eight. The eighth cannot be seen unless it is seen through something else. In N's case he saw the eighth stone through his camera. The problem is that there are eight stones, but since only seven are visible, a darkness starts coming from the middle of the circle of stones. Holding his camera and looking through it at the stones keeps the eighth stone anchored in the world, preventing a dark and terrible entity, Cthun, from entering the world.

This sounds like Lovecraft, doesn't it? Well, get that out of your head. Stephen King has said that he was inspired by "The Great God Pan" by Arthur Machen, which is a stunning tale of horror and suspense that I'll probably get to reviewing at some point. It has a fantastic pace and some great feelings to it for being one of the first of its own genre.

But getting back to "N.", Johnny starts thinking that N might have schizophrenia because he keeps saying that he sees things, and he keeps having to set things in a circle or in a diagonal to keep the world together. Then one day, after N leaves Johnny and gives up getting help, he commits suicide, which hits Johnny quite hard because of several different reasons. He was also planning on writing a book about N and his experiences and neuroses.

Johnny goes to N's funeral, a rather odd practice for a psychiatrist, and then makes his way to the field that N spoke o, Ackerman's Field. There he sees the stones, eight of them, and finds a key, the same key that had been sent to N after he had come to the field a few times. Johnny is taken aback, but takes the key that is in a plastic baggy along with a small note that apologizes to him for getting him involved.

Johnny is about to leave, calling the whole thing creepy and stupid when he sees only seven stones and a darkness starting to emerge out of the middle of the stones. He holds the plastic bag up to see the eighth stone and gets the balance back. Soon he is doing all of the OCD things that N had been doing before. And eventually both he and his sister commit suicide, and it's hinted that Charlie might be next.

Now, you can see, when reading the book, the similarities to both "The Mist" and From a Buick 8. The themes are very similar and even some scenes are close. I like this novella. I think it blends an interesting way of telling the story to an actually unnerving story. You don't know what's real and what's not after reading it and it's very disconcerting which is exactly what everything horror should be.

I was very impressed while reading it. I believe that both of the other two stories that are similar by Stephen King are better than "N.", but I also think that this is easily the best written and the most elegant. There is also a web-show/web-comic type of thing based on "N.", so check that out if you like the story, as well as a graphic novel. It's pretty good and there are no real complaints that I feel that I have to give. Expect an old-styled, slow-paced, atmospheric horror novella, full of feelings of both dread and creeping horror.

I left a lot out, like the ending, but  think people should really check it out even if the ending is incredibly similar to the end of From a Buick 8. (So, if you've read my review of that, you'll probably get the gist of this one.) Anyway, I suggest it. I think it's pretty wild and pretty creepy, and it needs to be read by those who enjoy horror.

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