Monday, November 2, 2015

Carrie Review

(This is for the book, not the movie!)

So, the book that started it all.  One might be tempted to overstate the importance of Carrie as Stephen King's first published book, especially as it was a best seller once it hit paperback.

One of the biggest surprises for me when I first read this novel (re-read for the Great Stephen King Experiment) was how short it was.  One of King's greatest strengths as a writer is how well he conveys imagery and burrows into his characters, but in this early work you don't see much of either.  You get a good feel for Carrie White and Sue Snell, with a bit of work thrown in on Tommy Ross and Billy Nolan, but most characters only get a cursory bit of insight.  Part of this stems from the decision to weave into the story 'excerpts' from fictional works about what is referred to as Prom Night in the novel, a decision that helps the reader see reactions to the event, but which also serves to distance them from fully immersing themselves into the story.

The story does move along quite briskly, with no lags despite the excerpts.  From the start, it slowly crescendos up into the pivotal moment at the spring dance, where it then manages to soar higher as Carrie enacts her revenge not only against her classmates, but also against the town of Chamberlain itself.  King conveys Carrie's rage nicely, and the various 'transcripts' taken from various townspeople capture the confusion and terror quite well.

My only critique, aside from rather thin sketches of the majority of the characters, is the lack of a truly strong villain.  Carrie herself is a tragic figure, so she hardly counts.  King makes you feel as if some sort of showdown will occur between Carrie and Chris Hargensen, but Billy Nolan gets more attention once the actual plan is in motion.  Margaret White also appears to be the villain, but she is mostly sidelined until her confrontation with Carrie after the dance.  Despite that confrontation being especially chilling, Margaret never feels like a true threat, even if she does strike what ends up being a mortal blow on Carrie.

Still, the novel is quite good, and a fine start for what turned out to be quite the career for King.

Pages:  199
Movie?:  2 of them - one in 1976 and another in 2013, plus a terrible sequel and a made-for-TV version.  Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received Academy Award nominations for the 1976 version.
Dark Tower?:  No references that I can remember.
Child Deaths?:  The various teens at the dance, possibly some younger ones during Carrie's destruction of the town.
Penis Talk?:  Vague references from Sue Snell and Chris Hargensen from when they slept with their boyfriends, and Margaret White refers to her late husband's as The Devil's Serpent (unironically)
Grade:  B+

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