Author: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 512
This is one of Stephen King’s earlier books, and it’s one of those that I’ve put off for a while purely because there are so many other well-known Stephen King books on the market, but I feel like the basic idea of this book had still made its way into my consciousness. I’ll try to cover that without revealing too many spoilers.
Before the main story starts, when Andy McGee was a college student, he volunteered for a medical trial in exchange for $200. Only something went wrong, and many of the volunteers died. Others survived but were forever changed, often by inheriting strange powers. McGee himself earns the ability to ‘push‘ people, which is a little bit like using a Jedi mind trick to convince them of something. He also earns himself a girlfriend – and later a wife – by befriending a fellow test subject.
And then they have a child, and it’s this child that’s at the centre of much of the action. Charlie McGee is a little pig-tailed girl with a hell of a lot of power – if some of the characters are to be believed, she might even grow up to have the potential to split the earth in two. The book starts with Charlie and Andy on the run from some mysterious government entity, and the plot basically barrels its way along from there.
That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot itself, but what I will say is that King does a great job of creating a sense of a constant threat from the government. It was so successful that the only thing I can think of that comes close to it is the threat and the conspiracy in Prison Break. It’s difficult to communicate just how real and how visceral the threat felt, but it was always there.
The characterisation was great here too, whether we’re talking about Charlie and her family or whether we’re talking about the bad guys that are trying to hunt them down. I particularly liked John Rainbird, an American Indian with a heavily scarred face from the Vietnam War, and I liked King’s revelation of how it actually came about and how that clashes with what the government would have you believe was actually happening in Vietnam. It also kind of reflects the corruption that’s shown by The Shop and its attitude towards the victims of the medical trial.
Overall then, I’d definitely recommend this, and while it might not be the best book to pick up if you’re new to Stephen King, that’s only because he has so many great books on the market. It’s a better option when you’ve read three or four of his books and you’re ready to dig a little deeper, but it’s up there in his top 10-20%. I really enjoyed it, and I think you will too – after all, it’s kind of hard not to. It’s just a gripping conspiracy thriller but with a lot of fire.