First off, I'm a King fanboy, but I'm a little different from other fanboys. Here's what I think: When King's good, he's the best in the business. When he sucks, he's still readable, but it pisses me the fuck off because I know what he's capable of. Being readable even when he's off his game is how he's maintained my fandom while Koontz and Saul eventually lost my monetary involvement. I will still read the latter, but only through NetGallery and library borrows. With every King release, I purchase the audio book for road trips, the ebook for reading, and the hardcover for my collection. When the paperback drops, I buy that for rereads, because I still prefer physical books to digital materials, and I refuse to crack open my first edition hardcovers. So yes, I am a fanboy. But I also know that King has had his shit books. Fortunately, only a third of this book drew a frown down my face. For those of you that want to cry "Hater!" I will explain. Extensively. Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
The beginning of this book gets five stars. I loved the interaction between Dennis and Arnie, and even loved the inclusion of Leigh. That familiar sense of dread that is felt throughout all of Stephen King's beginnings is showcased here. The character development is also quite strong with Christine. We know Arnie is going to go bad, and we hate that. But this is King. We signed up for this ride not to witness a happy ending but to see just how fucked up things are going to get before the final page is flipped.
Then we hit part two like a milk truck sliding across icy tarmac before crashing into your local meeting of Lactose Anonymous. The middle of this book is a low three stars for me. We're ripped out of Dennis's intimate first-person POV and shoved wily-nily up the exhaust pipe of some strange omniscient narrator. Dafuq just happened? I want Dennis back. Gimme back Dennis, you uppity fuckwit! The narrative further devolves into a slasher film wherein the masked killer has been replaced by an unstoppable car. Some of these scenes are riveting, but others fall flat as cardboard, and still others are told completely off camera. It's as if King got tired of describing the killings so he...
Hopped back into Dennis's head for the denouement (aka Part Three). What the farfegnugen? Okay, well, I guess I got my wish. I'm back with Dennis, and I'm enjoying the ride once more. People are still dying, but that's taken a back seat. In fact, the detective, the guy that's a huge part of part two, dies so far off camera I didn't at first realize he'd been run off the road. King breezes so quickly over his death that I thought it was some nobody, some inconsequential lout who just happened to shit in Lebay's cornflakes on one of his off days. But no. It's the main dick. His death is given a single paragraph, and we're back on the road.
While reading this, I continuously came across parts I recalled and then whole sections I don't remember happening, like, at all. Which leads me to believe I only skimmed through this one when I first read it, quite possibly because the middle-way narrator switch upset me so completely. I remembered the shit truck instead of the CAT, like what's in the movie, but I completely forgot about Arnie and Regina's deaths. Do I still classify this as a reread? Ya betcha bald tires I do. And yes, I still enjoy the movie over the book. Carpenter's telling is succinct, but it does sacrifice the amazing character development of Part One, so take your pick. Tight story or some damn fine getting-to-know-you? Remember, though, that the getting-to-know-you sections end at Part Two and never, ever, come back.
Last but not least, I listened to most of this book. If you have the chance, and are into audio books, pick up the Audible edition narrated by Holter Graham. Dude was fantastic.
Trelawney (Carrie and Mr. Mercedes)
In summation: I have no idea why King didn't write this entire book in third person. Having Dennis tell only two parts of this three act play makes zero sense because the book is supposed to be written by Dennis. But Dennis doesn't tell the second act. Faceless, nameless narrator does. My computer doesn't. compute. I threw a rod and cracked my head. If you don't think you'll mind this, I can dig it. You'll probably love this whole book. It's a rad story, and King manages to make a story about a killer car readable and, for the most part, entertaining. And not in a cheesy way, either. That alone is a massive achievement. Not the best thing King's written, but far from the worst.
Now getcher motors running, and get the fuck out my face. Next stop: Pet Sematary... yay?