Wednesday 13 July 2011

Devouring Stephen King: Firestarter

Ah, Firestarter. Well, the clue to the plot of this book is in the title (why yes, it does involve a firestarter!), but it's sort of included in an interesting way so that the book is not so much a horror title as a thriller, kind of in the same vein as The Dead Zone, and this is definitely something that I wasn't expecting from it. It's interesting that, upon starting this King challenge of mine, I thought that I would be scared a lot, and while I have been mildly scared, what I've actually got from the books I've read so far is actually a lot better than mere shocks. This book was no exception, and it's possibly my favourite of the King books that I hadn't read when starting this challenge. There is, of course, still a long way to go, so maybe I shouldn't say such things yet. I'll just try to explain exactly what I liked about it.

So, the thing with Firestarter is that the mystical power, like in The Dead Zone, the mystical powers (pyrokinesis and psychic manipulation, in this case) belong to the protagonists, and you would think that this would give them the power and control in the story. But no. Instead, they are being chased down by the evil forces of a sinister government branch called the Shop, Andy's mind control power is giving him what seem to be mini-strokes, and Charlie, our little firestarter, is too brainwashed and terrified to use her powers to protect herself and her father. This gives a government that gave Andy (and his deceased wife) their powers, license to think that they can take them, along with an arrogant belief that, because the powers given to Andy belong to them, that he, and his subsequent offspring, belong to them too. What a bunch of pricks.

So I really really really enjoyed this book, as I might have mentioned, possibly because it was a new one for me so it was extra exciting, but even then, it was much better than The Dead Zone, which I hadn't read before either. I think the key to this was that there was a lot more chasing and running and generally more action in Firestarter than The Dead Zone (which basically outlined a man's sedentary recovery, let's face it), including a probably 20 page long part of a chapter that was so thrilling and exciting and tense that I swear I didn't breathe at all while I was reading it! In the storytelling respect, then, I think this is King really coming into his own as a writer of thrillers rather than horror, and it is something that he doesn't necessarily use that often, but also something that he is enviably good at. And, I think we can all enjoy a story of the little guy trying to overcome evil government agencies, can we not?

Aside from that, the characters in Firestarter are by turns adorable, courageous, and downright creepy. Charlie, as an innocent looking girl with enormous hidden potential, shows such vulnerability that you will want to adopt her and make sure that no one can ever hurt her ever (even though, as you will be made completely aware, she's more than capable of looking after herself, and anyone else who comes along). Andy is also incredibly well-drawn, as a desperate but incredibly brave man, just trying to do the best he can for his daughter, and trying to keep both of them safe and free. You will be rooting for them throughout the entire book. And then, there is Rainbird, an incredibly creepy Native American hitman, who, we find out, is essentially dead inside (isn't that a treat?!) and who wants more than anything to see Charlie die, so that he can get a greater idea of death. He's a pretty messed up dude, and I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't want to mess with him. Just a thought.

So, what more can I say to convince you that you need to read this book? There are so many finer plot points that I haven't included because I didn't want to ruin anything, and they're probably more interesting than anything I have written here, so go and read the book! I have to say that pretty much nothing I was expecting to happen happened (I was picturing more a little girl terrorising an entire town a la Carrie at the end of Carrie) so the whole book was really a pleasant surprise for me! If you have anarchist-style leanings, then this is probably a good book for you to read too.

Next up in the old King challenge is another Bachman book. I feel a tiny bit like whining 'aren't these done with yet?!' but I shall persevere because that is what I do. Just... don't expect me to read it too soon, ok?


  1. I just rewatched the film with Drew Barrymore and I've been dying to read the book ever since.

    Have you seen the film?

  2. I haven't seen the film! I try to avoid scary films because I'm a total wimp! Books are different because, you know, the images just come from my brain, so I can just discount them- or something... lol.

    Having said that, Firestarter isn't necessarily actually that scary, so I could probably watch the film- so maybe I will! Hehe

  3. Yeah the film was definitely more thriller than horror, and little Drew Barrymore was so adorable!