Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stephen King's Best Books: #2 -- Pet Sematary

#2     Pet Sematary

The #2 spot in the countdown is occupied by Pet Sematary [1983], which in my opinion qualifies as Stephen King’s darkest, scariest book.  Here’s the gist of the novel:

When Dr. Louis Creed moves his family from Chicago to Ludlow, Maine, their new neighbor, an elderly man named Jud Crandall, warns Louis to keep his children away from the highway that runs past their house, which trucks from a nearby chemical plant frequently pass at dangerously high speeds.  After his daughter’s cat, Church, is stuck on the road, Jud reveals a terrible community secret:  hidden in the woods beyond Louis’s property is an ancient burial ground that was once used by the Micmac Native American tribe to bring the dead back to life.  

Jud leads Louis deep into the woods to the burial ground, where they bury the cat.  But when Church returns home, it is clear that something is wrong:  the cat is more violent and aggressive than before, and stinks of the grave.

Things take an even more tragic turn when Louis’s two-year old son, who’d recently learned to walk, wanders into the road and is similarly killed by a speeding truck.  Overcome with grief, Louis becomes intrigued by the prospect of digging up Gage’s body and taking it to the ancient burial ground to return his son to life.  Guessing Louis’s plan, Jud tries to dissuade him by sharing an incident from World War II, where a local resident had used the burial ground to resurrect his son, Timmy Baterman, who’d been killed in combat.  But what returned from the burial ground wasn’t Timmy Baterman—it was a demon possessing Timmy’s body that terrorized the town for several days until the regretful father killed them both by burning the house down with them inside.

Undeterred by Jud’s warning, Louis carries out his plan… with deadly consequences for those around him.

That’s all I can reveal without giving too much away.  Creepy and surreal, Pet Sematary delivers an unprecedented supernatural wallop.  Particularly memorable are the terrifying portrayal of the thing wearing Gage’s skin when he returns from the grave and Louis’s descent into desperate lunacy as the situation unfolds.  I’m not suggesting that Pet Sematary is Stephen King’s best work from a literary standpoint, but it is undoubtedly his scariest.

But being King’s scariest novel wasn’t enough to push this book to the top of this list. 

Which book will occupy the #1 position?  

Check back tomorrow on Halloween to find out!

Pet Sematary  [book]

The book was poorly adapted into an entirely forgettable movie in 1989, noteworthy only for the scenes toward the end of the film where Gage comes back from the dead.  If your lasting impression of this work was formulated by the movie, then I'd suggest giving the book a try instead.

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