It’s pretty impossible to have not heard of Stephen King but alas, so far his work had not quite touched my shores until a generous work colleague lent me Christine and I took the plunge. I’d seen the 1983 movie adaptation a while back as a teenager and enjoyed it at the time, and considering that I’ve been making a conscious effort this year to read, read, read, figured it was about time to get acquainted with King’s work.
Fair to say, I found Christine a pretty compelling read, gripping and ominous – I read the whole 600-page book in about a week. For me this is pretty darn quick!
I found Christine to be a pretty moody and atmospheric book, building up the sense of the supernatural and ominous in a linear but rewarding way. There’s a definite sense of decay and dread that begins to malign the characters we’re introduced to – essentially, a load of regular people of anonymous American suburbia – and it’s a malign influence that the characters feel they have to keep contained. How can they say that a restored 20-year-old car is possessed? So the mystery and happenings of the book seem confined to the knowledge of the handful of characters, which amplifies it.
I was also impressed that the supernatural elements were peeled away slowly, kept subtle and just under the surface until the climax of the book; generally, supernatural happenings don’t excite me but with this and my reading of a lot of James Herbert’s work, I feel I’m beginning to appreciate this kind of horror a lot more. This is horror disguised around a sense of normality that slowly emerges, and I didn’t disapprove of the execution.
In terms of characters, each of the main characters in Christine goes through a literal and figurative journey and at the end of the book they’re left scarred and materially changed by the events of the book. More interestingly, Christine manages to add characterisation to an inanimate object – the 1958 Plymouth Fury itself. The car becomes a vehicle for a character we, the reader, meet only briefly to begin with but learn more about as the story progresses. I did feel a sense of pity for the car being used for such nefarious ends as it was in the book. In the end, I appreciated even why King chose the 1958 Plymouth Fury as the car to inhabit with the evil spirit – the final line of the book describing “his unending fury” dovetailing well into both the car, and the persona behind it and the events of the book.
Finally, I was impressed, too, with King’s prose. It was unchallenging but also gripping, and I definitely ended each chapter wanting to read on. Unchallenging prose is difficult to achieve, but also allows for a quicker sense of immersion, which is what I feel King achieved here. The plot was quite pacy and moved quickly – each chapter added something – a further degeneration of events and characters – to the mix to build up to the climax of the book. For the most part, King writes well enough that the book is a convincing “retelling” of the story from the eye of Dennis, one of the protagonists, several years after the fact.
Wrapping things up, I found Christine was indeed a gripping and strong tale of automotive supernatural goings on at the heartlands of America. It was creepy, moody and compelling to read; it has aged well, too, as the events are as vivid now as they would’ve been in 1983. I am definitely pleased to have read it, enjoyed it a great deal and am going to be raiding the Stephen King back catalogue with no delay!
Buy Christine on Amazon UK