Review: Pet Sematary (Stephen King)

Stephen King has this reputation as one of the best horror novelists around. Add to that King's claim in the introduction to this book that it's the scariest book he's ever written. So it's reasonable to expect that someone who's never read King before would be more than a little bit scared by this book.

Unfortunately, Pet Sematary doesn't succeed in doing what you'd normally expect any good horror story to do -- scaring the readers. And when it comes to someone who's considered the King of horror -- sorry about the pun there ;-) -- you'd expect something more than just good... it must be outstanding, which I'm afraid this book isn't.

The interesting thing that I noticed here is that King has relied less on gory images and more on uncomfortable ideas to create the horror. Yes, there is plenty of gore -- like Victor Pascow with half of his skull smashed in, or the accident that kills the little boy Gage Creed, or towards the end of the book where... er... well, read it yourself, I'm not revealing spoilers here. But that's not what creates the horror here. When you read about Pascow who's lost half a skull and is dripping his brains everywhere on a hospital floor, the curiosity about what he wants to tell Louis Creed overweighs the feeling of sickness over his condition. The questions that King asks are far more terrifying than these images.

And he does ask quite a few questions. Like, what if you could bring back the dead? What if you were in Louis Creed's place, would you have acted the same way? Would you care that your loved ones weren't the same as before, as long as they weren't dead? And why? Why would you do it if you knew that once they're back they'd be somehow... empty..?

Here I must admit that even though I'm not very fond of this particular book, I'm not writing off the author as someone I wouldn't read. I'm not even saying that it's not a good book. Although I don't consider it scary enough to qualify as an outstanding book of the horror genre, it's still a book I wouldn't want to miss. And it's hard to forget some of the mis-spelled lines from the book -- "Pet Sematary", "Smucky the cat, he was obediant" -- and Ellie Creed's screaming "Let God have his own cat..." when faced with the fact that someday her pet will be dead. And the ending of the book will definitely leave you wondering "What next?" After coming back from the dead, is Rachel Creed going to ever be the same person again, or...??? King leaves that question open to us to answer it anyway we like.

My rating: 6/10.



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