Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scary Readin'

Well ... I finished 'salem's Lot last week and immediately jumped right in to Stephen King's Cujo, which I finished Saturday afternoon. So quick "reviews" & synopsis of each ...

'salem's Lot opens with the Man and the Boy living quietly in the West Coast after the events of the book have taken place, then we get to the telling of the story, and then we go back to the Man and the Boy as they come back to the Lot to finish what they started. Ben Mears is the main character, a sort of prodigal son done well returning to his roots. Ben is a writer and has returned to the Lot to write ... and to excorcise the Marsten House from his nightmares. The Marsten House is the "haunted house" of 'salem's Lot - many years before there had been a murder-suicide there. At any rate, Ben meets Susan - the town's favorite daughter, so to speak. They hit it off and begin a romance. But there's something sinister going on in the Lot (but really, isn't there always something sinister going on??). The book is about vampires - a centuries old vampire, Barlow and his puppet, Straker, who move into the Marsten House and begin the gradual take-over of the town. Ben and Susan team up with English teacher, Matt Burke and his doctor, Jimmy Cody, along with a young boy named Mark Petrie and the local priest (whose faith is failing), Father Callahan in an effort to stop Barlow. Things go badly for the group when Susan decides to approach the Marsten House alone. She falls victim to Barlow, but Mark scores a blow when he maims Straker, causing Barlow to have to kill his own man. When the dust has settled, Ben and Mark are left standing, but the town of 'salem's Lot has all but been wiped out.
The book is scary - especially as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler - but it's not the kind of book that leaves me afraid to peak around the next corner. While things go badly in 'salem's Lot, Ben and Mark are the good that outwits and eventually beats the bad. This is the book that leaves you knowing that the good wins. But if you read it, be prepared for Stephen King's great description of the town, of the fear and for things to go bump in the night.

Now for Cujo. For those of you who haven't read it, I will say this: Cujo is the type of book that embodies all of the things that I am most afraid of - so its scare factor, though different than 'salem's Lot, is much higher for me. Cujo is a dog. A St. Bernard. He's a good dog who loves THE MAN and THE WOMAN and THE BOY who are his family (the Camberts). If it came down to it, Cujo would die for his PEOPLE. But Cujo is a victim of fate and is scratched by a rabid bat. Donna Trenton is a wife and mother in Castle Rock, Maine. She loves her husband but has been unfaithful, and she loves her son, Tad (who is four years old). The stars align for all of the wrong things to happen at the right time for things to go badly for the Trentons and the Camberts. Vic, Donna's husband, finds out about her affair (after she's finally ended it) at the same time he's scheduled to be out of town for two weeks for work. Tad is afraid of the monster in his closet. Donna's car needs work, and Charity Cambert has won $5,000 in the lottery. Vic heads for N.Y. on business, Charity and Brett Cambert head off for a visit with her sister's family. And then there's Cujo, who isn't feeling at all himself - his head hurts, every noise seems amplified and he's got a terrible thirst.
Not knowing that the Camberts aren't home, Donna and Tad head that way in hopes of having her car fixed - what they find is much worse. Cujo is fully mad at this point - he's killed the Cambert's neighbor (Gary Pervier) and Joe Cambert. And now Donna's Pinto is broken down in the Cambert's drive, with Cujo standing guard. In his rabid brain, he knows that this WOMAN is the reason for all of his pain. He is no longer the dog that Brett Cambert knew and he's no longer the dog who would die for his PEOPLE. He is mad.
This book has no feel-good happy ending (not so for the movie, BTW). By the time Donna is able to brave going head-to-head with Cujo, 4-year old Tad has succombed to dehydration and Donna has been mauled by the rabid Cujo. And let's not forget the local Sheriff who wasn't too quick on draw.
For me, this book is far scarier than 'salem's Lot because the fear you feel reading it is the fear all mothers have - the fear of the unknown, the out of your control circumstances of life. I'm sure that my first reading of Cujo 19 years ago is what inspires me to keep a few bottles of water and a blanket in my car even now - just in case.

So ... what will I read next? I'm not sure. With Halloween only 10 days away, I'm going to have to be selective in choosing the next scary read, as it may be the last of the year. November will be dedicated to books with themes of Thanks-giving. I'll be going through the facebook suggestions as well as any in the comments ... and as always, your thoughts are welcome!

Happy reading ...

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