Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

Summary

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

GwendysButtonBoxCover

Gwendy’s Button Box, a novella written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is a twist on a familiar story/social experiment. I was immediately reminded of the 2009 film The Box, based on the Richard Matheson short story “Button, Button” and previously adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone by the same name. The story more or less always goes that an enigmatic man gives someone a box with a button on it. If they push the button two things will happen: they will receive a sum of money, and someone will die. What follows is the expected moral dilemma. While I’m certain this book is meant to recall these tales, the situation here is actually a lot more complex.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/24

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

Last week I said I wanted to get through a couple of books before Gwendy’s Button Box and Theft By Finding were released on May 30th. As it turns out, I was mistaken about the former’s publication date, which was actually May 16th. So, I quickly bought the book and began reading it.

As it turns out it’s a rather quick read (making the Kindle edition much more attractive than the $30 hardcover), so I’m nearly finished with it. While it is written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, it still reads a lot like a King story to me. It’s an interesting twist on a familiar tale about the effects of power, its influences, and what one should do with unfettered access to it. So far most of the story has felt in service of building toward something, rather than dealing with something. It has been enjoyable thus far, but things have also been a little too nebulous. This needs to amount to something substantial for me, or I will be left a little disappointed.

I’ve also started reading On Writing by Stephen King. I’m only about 40 pages in at the moment, but I’m enjoying it. Thus far he’s talked about his earliest memories growing up, giving a window into the things that shaped him as a writer. It feels like an honest approach to giving advice on the craft, without pretension or inflated self-importance.

Recently Finished

I finished reading Tarkin by James Luceno over the weekend, the new canon Star Wars novel about Grand Moff Tarkin before earning the rank of Grand Moff. I liked it, but with all said and done I’m pretty lukewarm about it. Getting to know some of the Imperial politics was interesting, but the plot was a bit too much concerned with him and Darth Vader chasing shipjackers around the galaxy. Tarkin doesn’t directly involve himself in the action, which is appropriate, but I wish the story had been more about political intrigue than leading pursuits against dissidents. I never got swept up in the mystery, I kind of just felt led along to each reveal. The details of his past were most compelling, giving a bit of a look at people’s lives on a planetary level.

I also read Hellboy in Hell: The Descent, the first of two volumes in that series by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart. It had a rather somber feel to it, his descent into hell dreary and nightmarish, and not bombastically infernal. I really like the depiction of the Abyss, full of gigantic eldritch insects skittering in the pitch black.

Certain plot points related to hell from the main series get tied up here too, which felt a little abrupt, yet still appropriate considering they’re issues that needed to be put to rest. It did a lot to leave me wondering what’s next for Hellboy, some unsettling turns leaving his future in Hell unclear and not at all what I would have expected. With only one volume to follow this one I’m cautiously optimistic of where the story will go. I’m worried it will disappoint me, with only one volume to conclude things.

Reading Next.

Theft By Finding by David Sedaris comes out next week, so I’ll be reading that once I get a hold of my copy. Otherwise, I’ll definitely be opening the next volume of Hellboy in Hell, and Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett looms in my near future too.