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Book review: <i>Carrie</i> by Stephen King

I wanted to get a couple of Stephen King’s under my belt, if only to review a run of the mill horror. I’m sure I read IT as a child. Anyway, he is apparently the master of the genre, even though there are some great contemporary authors who have learned from him and managed to produce some really original stuff. And why not start with Carrie, where it all began? Anyway, I have six words for you: Not as bad as Dean Koontz.

The story

Carrie is a novel, as the cover so cunningly states, of a girl with a frightening power. The details of the life of sixteen to seventeen year old Carrie White are laid out from a variety of sources, from autobiographical accounts by witnesses, to evidence submitted to the “White Commission”, to the story written afterwards called “The Shadow Exploded”, and of course, the interspersal of these things with third person limited segments from the point of view of various different characters, including Carrie herself.

Basically, when Carrie is sixteen and finds herself once again the butt of a nasty locker room teasing, the stress of the whole situation unleashes her telekinetic power. At first it’s just an ashtray here, a hairbrush there, but unbeknownst to everyone, Carrie starts to practice her power at home and pretty soon she can lift a whole lot of furniture.

Her crazy religious mother believes her to be the spawn of Satan, and has a history of locking her in a closet to pray, and has really intense hang-ups about sex that would probably have caused Freud to have some kind of heart attack. Anyway, one of the girls in her class, Sue, feels remorseful for picking on Carrie so much and convinces her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom to ease her conscience, and Carrie agrees to go with him. However, there are other members of the school community who are less than impressed with Sue’s generosity and feel that Carrie needs to be taught a prom night lesson.

Nobody realises Carrie’s power, not even, really, Carrie herself...

The style

Not being a huge fan of the mainstream horror genre, I was pleasantly surprised by Carrie—not that it was the best book I’ve read all year, or even all week. However, it wasn’t hideously bad, and it was engaging enough that once I started it I wanted to finish it, which is a good sign.

As I mentioned above, there are different narratives throughout the story, which provide subtle foreshadowing and allow the reader different points of view of the events. King does a good job with the characters, particularly Carrie, for whom the reader feels simultaneous sympathy and disgust. The mother was a bit weak and stereotypical with the lunacy and all, but you can’t have everything.

I found the whole religious/purity/sex issues a bit over the top; while they were all dealt with within a “scientific” narrative, the whole concept just seemed to go a bit far. Like I said above, Freud would have had a field day and maybe King was a fan, or thought it would sell better, but the story would have been fine even if the religious fanaticism and sexual repression had been toned down a bit.

On the whole, I liked the narrative structure. Even though this type of structure is used a lot now, King still did it really nicely—there was no discord in the switching between points of view. Furthermore, the foreshadowing didn’t prevent the reader from wanting to finish the story and fill in all the blanks, which is important as well. In short, good for a mainstream horror.

Who is this book for?

If you are a Stephen King fan and haven’t read this yet, what are you thinking? Furthermore, if you are a big mainstream horror fan, King IS the king of the genre you know. You might as well read his debut work...

If you like this book, you would also like...

I’m going to throw this one out of left field... read Matilda by Roald Dahl. I’m pretty sure Roald Dahl read Carrie and decided he could make it palatable for kids... oh and do yourself a favour and read Chuck Palahniuk... such as Lullaby or Diary. It’s good horror, but just a bit kooky...

In short

Title: Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0385086954
Year published: 1974
Pages: 174
Genre(s): Horror, Fiction
Review Type: