Monday 9 January 2012

Devouring Stephen King (as Richard Bachman): Thinner

Following the grand tradition of his Bachman books, Stephen King has here created a story that mainly hinges on human mistakes and weaknesses, whilst incorporating the bare minimum of supernaturalness, and it still manages to be scarier than some of his books that are out and out horror stories. Don't get me wrong, Thinner is horrifying in a lot of ways, but because it's humans doing this shit, it's so much scarier because, you know, we see humans every day! I'm not sure if I liked Thinner so much because I'd literally just finished The Talisman and was less than impressed by it, or because it genuinely was really good; but let's go with the latter because it's nicer and Thinner has an awesome ending that deserves its 'very good' title.

Very good, that is, but not the BEST EVER. Thinner is basically about this guy, Billy, who has run over this old gypsy lady before the book begins, and, being a lawyer, and friends with the Judge and all, manages to escape conviction for her death completely. Naughty Billy. So, there's this old gypsy man (who is related to the dead woman) who doesn't really think this is good enough, and lays a curse on Billy, a, shall we say, portly gentleman, using only one word: Thinner. And so, Billy begins to lose weight, even though he's eating as much as ever, which is understandably freaky and unsettling for the poor dangerous driver.

Sounds pretty good right? And it is, only there are some parts of the book where it gets a little, if not dull, then sort of subdued and non-actiony. There's this whole chapter where Billy is chasing the gypsies throughout the country, which mainly serves to show how well Stephen King knows the geography of Maine- it genuinely reads like 'and then he went here, but he was 13 days behind them, and he went here, and he was 7 days behind them', and while I get that he needed to find them, I was more or less going "FOR GOD'S SAKE, just find them already," although, I guess, as a tension building device, or at least a pissed off with boredom device, this was second to none!

I am being mean though, because on the whole, I genuinely did really like it. The ending, which I'm obviously not going to tell you about because that would ruin it completely, was so utterly awesome that I'm still not over it (and if you've read it, please, let's discuss!) and I really enjoyed the kind of underlying rage that Billy had towards his wife, since, as she played a part in causing the accident, he feels she deserves an equal measure of the punishment too. The problem with this, though, and what Billy fails to see, is that if he had just been punished adequately by legal (and non-supernatural) means, he wouldn't have gone through any of this anyway. I think King is actually very clever in this book- he makes Billy relatively unlikable so that you're not necessarily rooting for him to have the curse removed; and at times it really seems like he wants the gypsies to win- they've been on the bottom for so long, seeing injustices carried out against them every day (Billy's is an especially bad one, to be fair) and it's difficult to scold them for wanting some revenge. At the same time, though, he also makes the gypsy curser an extremely frightening figure when seen up close, so you can't entirely root for him either. It's a complex thing to be on everyone and nobody's side at the same time, but somehow Stephen King manages it. Of course he does.

So yeah, Thinner! Two thumbs up, or whatever. Don't expect to really like any of the characters though (except possibly little Linda, Billy's daughter), but just accept them as flawed, fairly unlikable people who happen to be involved in a very interesting case. I wish I could tell you more things to compel you to read it, but it's really difficult without giving away whole swathes of the plot. So, let's just say- cocaine-sniffing doctor (guess how I knew this book was written in the eighties) plus kind of whiny wife plus threats to have Billy sectioned because he's going on about gypsy curses equals my idea of a good read.


  1. Sounds interesting! I've been looking for a new King book to read, so this may be the one!

  2. Thinner is the only Bachman book that I haven't read. I'm not sure why, I think I just never came across it at the library. Regardless, I'm glad you liked it - I'll have to check it out. I love the four collected "Bachman Books" - I've read them all at least three times.

  3. @Kayleigh- Go for it! It is really good and creepy and then OMG twist ending. It's awesome :)

    @brooks- It was really great! I've read the Bachman books (I have the set of 4 too!) and this was actually my favourite of all of them (although I did love Roadwork too). So yeah, check it out if you get the chance to!

  4. The only Stephen King book I've read is Pet Cemetery, because I found a copy in my desk when I was working as a receptionist in college. I liked it, but I've never been brave enough to pick up another by him. You, madame, have convinced me to add this to my TBR list post haste.

  5. This is a great one. He does classic tales of suspense so well. You're right about the ending. I was so mad at him at first for playing that hand but, moments later, so glad he did.