"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Monday, April 8, 2013

Don't Read My 'Pet Sematary' Review

Don't read the below review. Instead, read this article to an interview with Stephen King about his upcoming sequel to The Shining. And, if you are still thinking about reading the below review, instead read this review about The Shining. But whatever you do, do not read the below review about a book so creepy I have vowed never to read it again.

The Review You Should Not Read

Pet Sematary Pet Sematary by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was raised in a religion that proffers the existence of a literal veil between this world and the next—a thin yet material demarcation between living humans and those who have passed on. So a novel like Pet Sematary, which dabbles enthusiastically in this mythic zone, is going to get traction with me whether it is earned or not. Fortunately Stephen King deftly executes the narrative, so much so that this novel earned my complete attention and emotional investment from the outset.

In terms of spookiness, Pet Sematary exceeded my expectations. Thus far King’s novels have tended to spook me after I put them down, while I am trying to sleep for instance. Pet Sematary spooked me while I read it. And the active ingredient in this spookiness is precisely what the title promises: pets. That’s about all I can say without spoiling it. Though, the other tool King uses with audacity is the spoiler. In two cases regarding major characters, King explicitly states what shocking thing is going to happen a few
pages later.

Why be subtle? Admit it. If you are reading horror fiction you want to be manipulated. King does so with frankness and, in this novel, with economy.

Alas, though it offers efficient and effective storytelling, Pet Sematary did not feel special. As I followed a weary protagonist into the deep woods of Maine, I found myself tiring from the deluge of gore Pet Sematary delivers in its penultimate crisis. Then, at the climax, King elevates a minor character to pivotal status. This would have been a satisfying surprise if the character had hitherto been more engaging than any given friend or relative with a better case for promotion.

Moreover, the decidedly spooky denouement comes as a bow half-tied. In the context of storytelling, I suppose that is better than a bow tied too neatly. Still, it is significant that I was quite content to read the ending and put the book down. With five-star reads I always want to flip back to page one.

I give Pet Sematary a solid three stars out of five. May I someday be able to craft fiction with such confidence and effectiveness. Boasting main characters a cut above stock and extremely spooky companions prowling the homestead, Pet Sematary proves more compelling than so much crappy horror fare pumped out by Hollywood. It is a tribute to the author that devices so belabored by other storytellers can here be brought forth afresh from the grave.

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