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Pet Sematary ()


I have no argument with the view that Stephen King is a master storyteller.  But he has, either consciously or no, limited himself to being only that; he is content to simply tell stories without trying to imbue them with any depth or signifigance.  His well chronicled shortcomings, overuse of pop product placements, weak endings to most of his books, etc., are annoying, but they are not fatal.   The thing that keeps him from being considered a really first class writer is his general unwillingness to grapple with serious ideas in his fiction, or, when he does deal with them, to simply put his own gloss on classic concepts.  Pet Sematary amply illustrates all of his strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Louis and Rachel Creed and their two children, Ellie (5 years old) and Gage (a year old), have just moved to Ludlow, ME.  They live on a surprisingly busy road for such a rural setting, but there's a thriving local chemical company.  Jud Crandall, an aged neighbor, befriends Louis and shares beers and local lore with him. Then when Ellie's cat, Church, is killed, Jud shares the darkest bit of local lore; the nearby "Pet Sematary" is actually capable of regenerating life.  Louis hoping to avoid breaking Ellie's heart, decides to bring Church back to life, but the horrid smelling misshapen beast that comes back from the grave is pretty creepy.  The rest of the story is pretty obvious--Louis will inevitably bring back a person, with catastrophic results for all.

The reason that King sells a kajillion books is because he makes the whole thing grippingly creepy, striking just the right balance between the peacefulness and the mystery of his bucolic setting. Supposedly, King put the book aside several times while he was writing it because it was scaring even him.  And it is truly scary at times.  But overall the book will not stand even mild critical scrutiny.  First, it is totally predictable--as soon as the secret power of the cemetery is revealed, you know exactly where the plot is headed (for the thickheaded, there's even the added element that Rachel Creed can not deal with the concept that those she loves will one day die).  Second, perhaps he's his own worst enemy, but King makes the reborn cat so creepy, that I didn't buy someone trying to do the same for a loved one.  The key to any good horror story is, of course, to keep the audience on your side so that they are willing to suspend their disbelief, but his grip starts to slip here and, after a reasonably good set up, the book sort of tails off to it's gory conclusion as even King seems to lose interest.

But the most important weakness is that the whole thing seems derivative and devoid of fresh ideas.  It reads like a grab bag of elements ranging from Frankenstein to The Monkey's Paw.  The central premise of trying to return animation to dead flesh is so well trodden that unless you have some startlingly original twist to put on it, perhaps it is best left alone.

Final Verdict:  a perfectly acceptable airplane or beach book, but it's not likely to provoke any thought nor to linger long in your mind.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C+)


Websites:

See also:

Stephen King (5 books reviewed)
Horror
Stephen King Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Stephen King
    -ENTRY: Stephen King (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Shining (novel)
    -ENTRY: The Shining (Haley Bracken, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Dr. Sleep
    -EXCERPT: from The Shining
    -INTERVIEW: The Blue-Collar King: An Interview with Stephen King (Angela S. Allan interviews Stephen King, OCTOBER 25, 2015, LA Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Bakhtin's Carnival Reversed: King's The Shining as Dark Carnival (Linda J. Holland?Toll, 05 March 2004, Journal of Popular Culture)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Stephen King (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining by Stephen King (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Julie Parsons, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Grady Hendrix, Tor)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (James Smythe, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Anthony Wolk, Science Fiction Foundation)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Hanan, The Doodeh Life)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Dine, SFF Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Colin D. Smith)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Glass Typewriter)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Little Man Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Greg Jameson, Entertainment Focus)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Inverarity is not a Scottish village)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Emily Weatherburn, A Literary Life)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (West Chester Public Library)
    -REVIEW: of The Shining (Wayne C. Rogers, Horror Novel Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep by Stephen King (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Ian Thomson, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Steven Poole, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Margaret Atwood, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Alan Cheuse, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Roger Luckhurst, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Lisa LaDouceur, Macleans)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Sam Coale, Prrovidence Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (James Kidd, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Alan Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Matthew J. Trafford, National Post)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (MICHAEL ROBBINS, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep ( Joelle Herr, BookPage)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Grady Hendrix, Tor)
    -REVIEW: of Dr. Sleep (Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of BLACK HOUSE by Stephen King and Peter Straub (Sam Phipps, The Spectator)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Stephen King (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Stanley Kubrick (IMDB)
    -TRIBUTE SITE: The Shining: an analysis of the Stanley Kubrick classic
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: The Shining (Metacritic)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: The Shining (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: The Shining (1980) (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: The Shining (1997)(tv) (IMDB)
    -FILM TRIBUTE SITE: Overlook Hotel
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Dr. Sleep (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Dr. Sleep (IMDB)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Room 237
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Room 237 (Rotten Tomatoes)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Room 237 (IMDB)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Room 237 (Metacritic)
    -ESSAY: Inside Stanley Kubrick’s annotated copy of Stephen King’s novel ‘The Shining' (Far Out, 5/23/20)
    -INTERVIEW: Kubrick on The Shining (An interview with Michel Ciment, Visual Memory)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Shelley Duvall (Roger Ebert, December 14, 1980, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -ESSAY: The Real Reason Stephen King Despises the Movie Version of ‘The Shining’ (Amanda Harding, October 31, 2019, showbiz Cheatsheet)
    -ESSAY: Stephen King Famously Hated Kubrick's The Shining. He Says Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep Redeems It : “All I can say is, Mike took my material, he created a terrific story, people who have seen this movie flip for it, and I flipped for it, too.” (BRADY LANGMANN, NOV 6, 2019, Esquire)
    -ESSAY: Here’s “The Shining” deep dive you need to prep for “Doctor Sleep”: Why Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation is actually a hopeful movie that challenges social issues and death itself (MATTHEW ROZSA, NOVEMBER 6, 2019, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Why does Stephen King hate Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining so much? (Biba Kang, 14 JUNE 2019, The Telegraph)
    -ESSAY: Stephen King says Doctor Sleep film 'redeems' Stanley Kubrick's The Shining: The novelist "flipped" for Mike Flanagan's new movie (Clark Collis, November 05, 2019, Entertainment Weekly)
    -ESSAY: Stephen King's Hatred For Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Explained (Will Ashton, NOV. 5. 2019, Cinema Blend)
    -ESSAY: The Family of Man (Bill Blakemore, 1987, San Francisco Chronicle)
    -ESSAY: Why does Stephen King hate the original movie of ‘The Shining’ but love ‘Doctor Sleep’?: The celebrated author has said that everything he disliked about Stanley Kubrick's iconic horror has been "redeemed" in 'Doctor Sleep' (Sam Moore, 6th November 2019, NME)
    -
   
-PODCAST: ‘The Shining’ With Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Chris Ryan (Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Chris Ryan Oct 31, 2019, The Rewatchables)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Pauline Kael, The New Yorker)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Roger Ebert)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (James Berardinelli, reel Views)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Gary Arnold, Washington Post)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Kevin Thomas, LA Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Eric Henderson, Slant)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Marjorie Baumgartner, austin Chronicle)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Adam Nayman, The Ringer)
    -FILM REVIEW: A HOTEL OWNER REVIEWS STEPHEN KING'S THE SHINING (Neil Floyd, Quirk Books)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Kevin John Bozelka, Common Sense Media)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (David Sterritt, CS Monitor)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Richard Combs, BFI)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Adrian Turner, Radio Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Killian Fox, The Observer)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Robert Hatch, The Nation)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Derek Malcom, The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW: The Shining (Lawrence O'Toole, Macleans)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Miles Surrey, The Ringer)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Sean Keane, C/Net)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Brian Lowry, CNN)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Brian Truitt, USA Today)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Sam Adams, Slate)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (AP)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (A.O. Scott, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Deangelo Hawkins Clay, Eastern Echo)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Vaneesa Cook, LA Review of Books)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Eric Kohn, Indie Wire)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Sebastian Wurzrainer, The Dartmouth)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (JENNIFER OUELLETTE, Ars Technica)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Film School Rejects)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dr. Sleep (Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Kyle Smith, NY Post)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Jim Emerson, RogerEbert.com)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Adam Nayman, The Ringer)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Beth Hanna, Indie Wire)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Scott Tobias, NPR)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (David Haglund, Slate)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Manohla Dargis, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Noel Murray, AV Club)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Stephen Marche, Esquire)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Ian Freer, Empire)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Matt Goldberg, Collider)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Marc Mohan, The Oregonian)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Peter Rainer, CS Monitor)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Kenneth Turan, LA Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (David Edelstein, Vulture)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Marc Lee, The Telegraph)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Matt Pais, Chicago Tribune)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Globe & Mail)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Beth Accomando, KPBS)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (John Serba, MLive)
    -FILM REVIEW: Room 237 (Rob Nelson, Variety)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Life & Times : Stephen King (1947 -- ) (NY Times)
    -REVIEW: (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: SOMETHING LURKS IN LUDLOW (Annie Gottlieb, NY Times Book Review)
    -Official Stephen King Web Presence
    -Stephen King Page
    -Unofficial Stephen King Homepage
    -Stephen King Website
    -Stephen King WebRing
    -THE STEPHEN KING COVER GALLERY
    -Stephen King Links Springboard
    -Stephen King Links
    -Reader's Choice: Stephen King Novels
    -ESSAY: The Metamorphosis of  Stephen King (Elizabeth Hand, VLS)
    -The King of Death: Andrew O'Hehir peers into the terrifying world of one of our most important writers -- and recommends five Stephen King novels for newcomers. (Salon)
    -ARTICLE: A Case for Sherlock: The Double Helix of Crime Fiction and Science: The detective story has become a touchstone for academic criticism, raising issues that have become cultural obsessions. There have been examinations of the detective as skilled reader of cryptic texts and of the detective novel as a bourgeois morality tale.