Tuesday, September 13, 2011

REVIEW: Mile 81 by Stephen King

If you read my review of Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars earlier this summer (check out the review here), you'll know I'm a huge fan of King's earliest collections. He's become a stronger, more mature, more self-aware writer over the years, and his themes have definitely shifted, but I still love the gore-splattered, b-movie fun of Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. Often pointless exercises in horror, with no redeeming message or even a happy ending, they were the stories that first made me a fan.

While Fair Extension, the third entry in Full Dark, No Stars, was a welcome reminder of classic King, his stand-alone digital short, Mile 81, could very well be a 'lost' story from those early collections. It's creepy and bizarre, with a monster that is never explained or justified, and an ending that's neither happy nor tidy. It's a story that gleefully wallows in its impossible gore, pushing one victim after another into harm's way, until you can't help but laugh (guiltily, of course) at the absurdity of it all.

I don't want to say much about the plot itself, because it's a short story with a slight (but nicely handled) pay-off, so instead I'll share you with one of my favourite lines:

He could feel something, oh dead God and dear Jesus, something like teeth. They were chewing. The car was eating his hand.

Yes, it's a car, and yes, it's eating his hand. What's more, it doesn't stop with his hand - it doesn't even stop with him! This is one hungry, nondescript, mud-splattered, oddly parked station wagon from Hell . . . or, perhaps, as the two suddenly orphaned children imagine, from somewhere beyond the stars.

While it doesn't have the personality of Christine, or dangerous allure of a certain Buick 8, this is still one bad-ass car. It's just an all-around fun read, and well worth the price of admission to the drive-in. Just make sure you have the popcorn handy, don't park too close to that dirty car beside you, and be sure to stick around for the preview of 11/22/63: A Novel that follows.

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