Monday 19 September 2011

Devouring Stephen King: Christine

You've probably heard about this Stephen King book, even if you haven't read it- it's the one where the car comes alive and kills all these people and it's all just horrible and, if you're a sensitive soul, makes you scared of cars. Or at least ones that drive themselves. I had read Christine before this time around, but somehow managed to retain none of it, other than the fact that there was a crazy-ass car (although I'd even forgotten just what makes it crazy, so apparently I just wasn't paying attention at all when I was reading it). I remembered just not being massively impressed by it, hence not feeling the urge to own it or read it again, until, that is, I decided to read them all (what a fool I am!).

Interestingly, I was actually pretty terrified by Christine. I know it all sounds just a tad silly- haunted car, teenagers, creepy old guys- but I actually did get a little bit scared late at night, making my way upstairs in my darkened house, seriously hoping that I didn't hear an engine anywhere near my house. I am ridiculously easily scared by things, but this is probably the Stephen King that has scared me the most so far, and that's probably because I really didn't know what was happening, or what was going to happen, despite reading it before. That sense of the unknown makes books so much scarier when you're in the middle of them than when you've finished them, and that's especially true of Stephen King books because they almost always have relieving, if not always happy, endings.

Christine is a book that, I think, starts off really strongly, falters somewhat in the middle, and then manages to pick itself up again by the end. That's not to say that it was really bad in any parts, but some parts were definitely better than others. And I could definitely have done without a lot of the car talk, but I understand that was necessary. Sort of. So at the beginning, it's all very creepy and implying of horrors to come, everyone except Arnie, this kid who we both like and don't, hates Christine, or at least get the creeps whenever they around her. As we learn as the book progresses, even Arnie gets the creeps to some extent when he is around Christine, but at that point he is powerless to do anything about it because he is also in love with her (it. Whatever.) The story is told from the first person perspective of Dennis Guilder, Arnie's best (and only) friend, who is a lot cooler than Arnie since he plays football (or, as I like to call it, American football) and he is more or less our eyes for the things that go on with Christine.

Until he isn't. And this is what I have a problem with. For the second section of the book, the narration switches to third person, and it's kind of distracting and irritating for a while, and in that time, instead of focusing on the story, I was too busy being distracted by the shift in narration. I don't want to give too much away, but at the end of section one, Dennis is left out of commission, and the story must continue without him, since it relates things that happen that Dennis can't have any idea about. I understand that (it's the whole basis of using third person narration) but it's just so jarring and distracting that I would rather have had the whole book written in the third person, or not have Dennis go out of commission (although I did think that was important to the plot in that it allowed Arnie to get closer to Christine... Or maybe the other way around mwahahahaha). The narration also goes back to Dennis in section three, which is really irritating because he then tries to make it sound like he's retelling this whole story for the first time, even the bits that were in the third person that he has no way of knowing about. King, why are you trying to piss me off like this?

Anyway! Moving on from the irritating narration, I really did like the story. It's obviously got the horrible , creepy, and sometimes just plain terrifying moments that you expect from a Stephen King novel, but also in a secondary way it deals with learning how to grow up, even if you're not quite ready to. Arnie, I think, represents Dennis's childhood in a way, and as they grow further apart, Dennis grows up some more. It's a pretty brutal way to have to grow up, but at the same time, isn't all growing up pretty brutal? This book also embodies what it's like to be a teenager (probably more a teenage boy than a teenage girl, but whatcha gonna do?) and this statement more or less sums it up: "It's only when you're a teenager that you talk about change constantly and believe in your heart that it never really happens." Ain't that a fact though?

I'm not going to lie, Christine is definitely more about the horror stuff than the more 'literary' theme of growing up, and when Stephen King does it as well as he does, who am I to complain about that? If you want to gain an irrational fear of cars (and a completely rational fear of moving cars without drivers) then I would definitely encourage you to read this- I will have ultimate respect for you if you read it on Hallowe'en too, when I will inevitable spend the night watching Disney movies and trying to not think about all the Stephen King books I've read this year...

As well as moving my Stephen King challenge along, this is the second of my posts for the R.I.P. Challenge. I think I might be reading more than 4 at this rate...


  1. Love the review! I've never really read any Stephen King, but I have to say I am intrigued by a book about a haunted car. Herbie the Love Bug gone horribly wrong? (:
    If I do decide to tackle a Stephen King novel, I think I'll probably have to sandwich it between two fluffy chick-lit books so that I don't get too creeped out.

  2. I remember reading this a few years ago and like you I remember little about it. I don't remember liking it a lot either. Perhaps I'll have to give it another try. thanks!

  3. I have never read this one, but I remember my brother being OBSESSED with the movie when I was younger. I never quite got up the nerve to read the book after all that.

  4. @dooliterature- Stephen King is pretty scary, especially the first time round! If you start with something like The Green Mile though, you shouldn't be too scared- although you may cry a bit...

    @Sharon- it's definitely worth a re-read- I thought I hadn't liked it that much, but I definitely liked it this time round.

    @Jenn- You'll be alright with this one, it's not even set in Maine so you don't have to be scared! Hehe. I can imagine it being good as a film though, there were bits of the book that I could exactly imagine on film in my brain which was really cool.

  5. I still keep a wary eye out if I have to walk in front of a running car at night with its headlights on. I just don't TRUST them anymore :)

    @dooliterature - Herbie gone wrong! hysterical!!