Needful Things Review

Needful Things - Stephen King

Some authors write about king slayers. Others write about serial killers. Stephen King? He writes about fuckers capable of leveling entire towns. Whether those responsible are aliens or devils, it doesn't matter. The ride is usually a fun one.Needful Things is no different. It is, however, the epitome of a bloated Stephen King novel. There are entire characters herein that serve zero purpose. George T. Nelson and Frank Jewett's stories could have been left out. Ace Merrill is another pointless character. I simply do not see what he added to the proceedings. I never understood why Buster couldn't do everything by himself. Even when those two split up, they're still only across the street from one another. Even the movie version cut Ace and nobody cared. I theorize that Ace was a loose end for King, the bad guy that got away, so he felt the urge to give the hood a proper send off. Insert Ace in Needful Things. Problem solved.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Doesn't sound like you enjoyed this one, E." Well, that's not entirely true. Yeah, I think certain characters are useless and some scenes are pointless, but I dig this book quite a bit. King always impresses me with how he manages to create entire fictional towns populated with such true-to-life personalities and make it seem so fucking effortless. At this point in his career (1991), King had killed two small towns and crippled another three: 'Salem's Lot was sucked dry; Chamberlain was never the same after Carrie White; Derry died a special kind of death but refused to go away completely; Haven would be off-limits for decades; and Castle Rock had one bombastic enima. I remain in awe of that fact. Think about that. In less than fifteen years, one author populated and then ravaged five small towns. And we loved every minute of it.

I think several things make readers ignore the bloat in Needful Things. Cora and Myra's Elvis Presley fascination is awfully hilarious, as well as some of the shenanigans other characters get into. The beshitted picture of one townie's mother had me in tears, I was laughing so hard. Buster was blissfully insane, and Nettie and Wilma's fight scene is one of the most gruesome in all of horror literature. This novel is jampacked with awesome occurrences, and that makes the bloat feel worth it. Even the uber goofy ending can be ignored because the rest of the book is... well, it's just a shitload of fun.

Obvious Tie-ins:
The Dark Half
The Body
The Sun Dog

Hidden Gems:
Gaunt refers to the items in his shop as "gray things", which supports my theory that all of King's works can be tied back to the Dark Tower series by way of The Tommyknockers or IT. I believe all of King's supernatural villains, all of his monsters, belong to the race of Old Ones known as the Prim. But more on that in myA Decade with King: (1985-1994) post coming in April.

Notable Names:
Pop Merrill
Ace Merrill
Evvie Chalmers (I love how this woman is in five different King books, but is never on-camera, as it were)
George Bannerman
Thad Beaumont

(This poor fucker made it through The Dark Half only to have one of the longest off-camera downward spirals King has written. It's mentioned here that Thad's wife leaves him and takes the kids with her, and then, ten years later inBag of Bones, King mentions how Thad ended up killing himself. Poor guy.)

(show spoiler)

In summation: It's not the best book King has ever written, but it's far, far, far from his worst. Needful Things is a favorite for many King fans, and I understand why. I simply think he could have used fewer characters to the same end. Well worth a read, whether you're a King fan or not. But, be forewarned. Whole sections of this book make no sense unless you've read The Dark Half.

Final Judgment: Town slaying, like a boss.