This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

16 October, 2013

REVIEW: CARRIE

Cover photograph by Kamil Vojnar/Getty Images

CARRIE
BY
STEPHEN KING

ISBN: 978-1-444-72069-3
Pages: 242
Publisher: Hodder
First published: 5 April 1974
This edition published: 13 October 2011

On the cover:

Carrie White has a gift - the gift of telekinesis.

To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie - the first step towards social acceptance by her high school graduates.

But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she is forced to exercise her terrible gift on the town that mocks and loathes her...


   Carrie is Stephen King's debut novel, but there is really nothing that tells you that. This reads more like the work of someone who has been writing for quite a while. Someone who has already found their voice, an author who is sure of himself. 

   It becomes clear pretty early on that this novel does have a theme that I'd argue is the Stephen King trope - growing up/coming of age. In this case it is also in some ways a retelling of the "ugly duckling" tale... Except this being King, there's not a Fairy Tale happy ending. The story stays quite far away from that.
   Carrie's coming of age in this novel is something that happens on several levels. There's what happens in the shower at the beginning of the book, her telepathy, and her going to the prom. The last one is the central event of the book, the place where all that Carrie is comes together and reaches a peak.

   Before I go any further, I have to talk a bit about the structure of the novel. I have already said that this is not structured as novels are as a standard, and it isn't. This novel does not have one continuous narrative text. There is a storyline that, with a few exceptions, is continuous, but it doesn't consists of one narrative text. It's a narrative text that is interspersed with book excerpts, official testimonies, and excerpts from news reports/news wires.
   This shouldn't really work. It is disruptive to a "clean" narrative, and something like this will usually mess with the readers "immersion" into the novel. Here it doesn't do that, instead it adds to the atmosphere of what is going on. And it even increases the tension that is building. In my opinion much more so than if this had been handled with different points of view. (There are different points of view in the novel.)

   I mentioned tension in the previous paragraph, and to me that is what best describes what this novel gives you. There's not really much suspense, we are told early on that something major will happen. So even if you somehow have managed to completely miss anything about what Carrie is about, you will not be surprised that something happens.
   What makes this great is that the lead up to the events is a constant building of tension. You know there will be a bang, and at times you almost hold your breath waiting for it to come. There is a sense of impending doom hanging over everything that happens, and a lot of what we learn adds to that feeling. Everything, in and around Carrie, builds up the level of tension. And when all that is finally released, it almost comes as a relief.

   Carrie is a very interesting and sympathetic character. What we learn about her, both about her school life and her home life, makes us feel for her. She is definitely an "other", an the treatment that she is given because of that is something that is both thought-provoking and unpleasant to read about. This is however not a novel that is heavy handed when it comes to trying to make you feel empathy with Carrie. That is something that happens naturally as we learn about her. And even towards the end of the book, it is clear that she is pretty much an innocent.
   There are other characters here than Carrie. Three of them are important parts of the narrative. These characters does not only serve to give us a glimpse into those things that Carrie is not aware of, they also gives us a perspective on Carrie as a person. In this way they are supporting characters, but they are important and integral to the story. 

   This is a very short novel, but one that gives you much more than its page numbers would suggest. The story is excellent, once it has hooked you it will not let you go until it ends. And along the way it will give you a page-turning, tension filled, journey through the darker corners of growing up as an outsider.
   There is no doubt that this is a powerful and accomplished novel. It is arguably one of King's best ones, and is essential for anyone who is a fan of his writing. In my opinion this is also an excellent place to start reading King. And I urge anyone who has not read any of his novels to pick it up. This is Psychological Horror at its best, and a great introduction what makes King such a popular writer.

BONUS LINK: You can see some of the covers Carrie has had through the years over on Hodderscape.

BONUS FACT: I was 44 days old when this novel was first published.


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