From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

Synopsis:
When a car that shouldn’t drive appears at a local gas station, the police troop that deals with it discovers that it is a portal to another world, one that seems very, very dangerous.

Review:
I swear I really am reading Anna Karenina. My brain was so fried, however, at the end of this crazy work trip I just took that I needed something for the plane that wouldn’t challenge me. From a Buick 8 is a King that I’d only read once before, and at $7.99 I figured I could bend my “no brand-new books” rule.

From a Buick 8 is structured as a story within a story, with head trooper Sandy Dearborn telling the story of the freakazoid car to his deceased colleague’s teenaged son, Ned. Ned started spending a lot of time at the police station after his father was killed by a drunk driver during a routine traffic stop, and he seems to be taking a lot of comfort in the camaraderie among Troop D. He notices the Buick 8 in Shed B, and discovers that the car is at the heart of the troop’s identity. It shouldn’t drive; it’s like a model car. Nobody knows how it got to the gas station or what happened to the man who was driving it. And every so often it has what they call a “lightquake,” spitting purple lightning and the occasional four-winged one-eyed bat from hell. Though no one knows for sure, rumor has it that one of the troopers as well as an escaped prisoner disappeared inside it.

Sandy’s telling Ned the story so that Ned can understand his father better, but it’s also another excuse for King to muse on the nature of storytelling–not that this is a bad thing. In this book, his ostensible thesis is that some stories don’t get an ending. They just peter out. There’s no purpose, no unifying structure, no meaning. Some stories are just a collection of things that happen. However, every word that Sandy speaks undercuts this thesis because he absolutely has a reason for telling this story. And King absolutely intends to give it an ending.

The horror elements of the book are largely backgrounded, save for the few instances where something big comes out of the car. It doesn’t have the narrative urgency of King’s strongest works, nor does it have the pure terror of a lesser book like, say, The Tommyknockers, which has a really stupid story but some unforgettable moments. From a Buick 8 is one of King’s few books that is almost immediately forgotten.

4 thoughts on “From a Buick 8 by Stephen King”

  1. Wasn’t there some sort of afterward or something in this, where he thanks the Connecticut State Police or something for helping him dig deeply into procedural stuff? I found myself thinking: I don’t care. You could have made it up whole cloth and it would have been pretty much the same book. It was entertaining, but not close to his best work.

    Sometimes I wonder about King and Dean Koontz, whether they sometimes write intentionally forgettable books to trick us into buying them more than once. I have gotten several chapters into a Dean Koontz only to find that the plot is becoming more than a little familiar.

  2. That’s hilarious…

    I’ve read some Dean Koontz. I felt like he was much more formulaic/much less compelling than King. I think what really gets me about King is that he incorporates such highly original detail into his writing. Other genre writers tend to skate by on thrills but don’t take the time to develop their characters & dig into the setting. Plus, there are those odd little horror moments that King inserts into character backstory that have nothing to do with the tale at hand. Most memorably, the red dye cereal vomiting in Cujo…

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