As many of you know, I love Stephen King's novels. I think he's a master of the writing craft, and I'm awed by his prolific output. I'm working my way through his books, a task that will keep me occupied for quite a while! On a recent trip to a charity shop, I bagged myself seven titles I'd not yet read. All were ones that aren't so well known, such as 'Desperation' and 'Just After Sunset'. I was curious about my purchases, wondering why they hadn't achieved the success of books such as 'Carrie' or 'The Shining'. The last one I finished was 'From a Buick 8', a novel about a supernatural car. The book gets very varied reviews on Amazon, and I can see why. For me, reading it proved a mixed experience.
First, let's deal with the good stuff. The prose is every bit as enthralling as King's other novels. I love the way he makes magic with words, and 'From a Buick 8' didn't disappoint in that respect. I read the book pretty much in one sitting, and was never bored. After all, diehard fans like me will enjoy whatever the man writes, even if it's his laundry list! So what was the issue? How come I could understand the scathing Amazon reviews, ones such as, 'It should have been titled "nothing happened"'? Or what about: 'A car that isn't really a car pitches up in a Pennsylvania backwater... and that's it. What we don't get is a story.'
Less leaves, more action, please
Whilst the words are wonderful, 'From a Buick 8' lacks a coherent plot or much tension. It's a shame because the potential's there, but King fails to develop it. One problem is that the story is largely revealed in hindsight, with the police officers of Troop D telling the story of the mysterious car they guard to a rookie recruit. Such a plot device lacks the immediacy present-day action offers, at least the way King does it. As those disgruntled reviewers pointed out, the plot is thin. The Buick could have been so much more menacing than it actually is. More victims should have succumbed to its power, thus upping the ante. Instead, Kind spends a lot of the book telling us how the car's trunk spawns all manner of weird things, most of which can't survive in our world. Instead of leaves that disintegrate minutes after they arrive on planet Earth, or dead flowers, how about giving the readers something truly scary? The one thing that does live is more ridiculous than frightening, and is soon killed anyway.
It would have been good to have a chapter or two in which the state troopers attempt to destroy the car, resulting in casualties as it fights back, but it didn't happen. Instead we're given a flimsy reason as to why they're content to leave it be. Even the Troop D members admit long stretches of time pass during which nothing happens with the Buick. Neither are we given any notion as to why the car ended up in this world, abandoned by its mysterious driver. Again, I feel the author missed a trick here. This is not the stuff great supernatural fiction is made of, in my opinion. King does provide a welcome boost to the tension towards the end, but then the plot goes flat again.
So there you have it. I'm still an avid fan of Stephen King's work, given his talent with words, but 'From a Buick 8' will most likely only appeal to readers who, like me, are already hooked.
Let's hear from you!
Have you read 'From a Buick 8'? What's your opinion of the book? Leave a comment and let me know!