Monday, May 25, 2015

Pet Sematary by Stephen King



I vaguely remember seeing the movie Pet Sematary when it first came out in 1989. My recollections of it now, is that it was a mediocre movie. Like many of Stephen King's movies at the time.

I just finished the novel.

What a difference.

Pet Sematary has a small cast and a small local. The action is all relative to the area.

But it's tightly wound and amazingly well structured with every word written seeming to have a sort of inevitable lurch to the next one.

The novel focuses on the Creed family, freshly moved to Ludlow, an off the beaten path haven for raising a family. Save for the nearby road which thunders with heavy truck traffic. Early warnings of both mundane words and supernatural entities is ignored or forgotten until the unthinkable happens and then it gets worse.

In clumsier hands, the tale might have used short cuts to get to the main body of work. That would have been a mistake. One of Stephen King's strengths, or at least here and in other books with a small cast like the Shining, is allowing the build up of how believable the characters and their motivations are.

It's not interested in beating the reading over the head with how vile things are or how gross some particular vision is. Rather, it has a slow wind up that continues to beat the drum of anticipation while giving the readers glimpses into a larger world that has its own plans for the Creed family.

This is hinted at being something much older than the town, much older than America, perhaps older than the people who first lived there, coming from another country altogether. The opportunities to prevent the tragedy that happens, ignored.

To a point though, that brush off of the dangers, isn't natural. The book indicates strongly that everything proceeded as it must, because the power of the 'bad place' was on the rise. That there was no true ability to resist the flow of fate here.

But it's the struggle to do so which makes it a great read. It's the twists and turns that Stephen King puts the Creed family through that make it worthwhile. We get to see the origins of the animosity between Louis Creed and his father in law, and how after years, that when the opportunity to put that in the past arises, that Louis cannot. Not because he doesn't want to, but because it, indeed, the whole relationship with his father in law, is no longer important compare to the thing that Louis must do.

There are numerous instances like that, ranging from when Louis helps explain to his daughter the whole concept of death after visiting the Pet Sematary, to his daughter experiencing what happens when an elderly friend's wife dies to other, closer, more unconscientious horror happening.

As with other Stephen King novels, there is the occasional 'wink' as other work's he's written. For example, while under a sense of dread and driving on little sleep, almost falling asleep at the wheel, Rachel Creed passes the town of Salem's Lot. There were a few of these references in the novel and I'm sure in future novels, if Stephen King continues to write as he did here, there will be mentions of some tragedy happening in this small local.

I highly recommend Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary and hope that one day we'll get a limited series out of it that doesn't have to rush and ruin the mood and build up that the novel so skillfully delivers on.