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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


From a Buick 8

By Stephen King
Scribner, 356 pp, 2002

Long-time readers know that Stephen King is my favorite writer. I've read nearly everything he's written and enjoyed most of it. That's why it pains me to write this review, because From a Buick 8 is not a very good book.

In fact, it's boring and not very scary. King readers expect more, and it's not an unreasonable expectation. King has written some terrifying novels (Salem's Lot, The Shining, and It are my personal favorites), but this one falls far short. 

The novel is about a car, an old Buick, left at a gas station in 1979 by a mysterious man in a black overcoat who disappeared. The attendant calls the State Police, and they show up and have the car towed to their barracks and stored in Shed B. But this car is unusual because it is spotless, not a mark or speck of dirt or mud on it.

It starts doing some weird things, like display flashing lights, lower the temperature in the garage, and disgorge strange creatures. The troopers do their best to chronicle the strange behavior and figure out what's causing it. One trooper even disappears, and yes, the car did it.

The story jumps from the present time to the past, and at the very end to the future. Sandy Dearborn is the main character, though mainly as an observer as, in the past, Curtis Wilcox and the boss Tony take the lead in studying the Buick, and in the present, as Sandy tells the story to Curt's son Ned.

Sometimes the jumping around gets a bit confusing, as King selects other characters to tell parts of the story. The device is a bit contrived, and as a result the author's tricks take precedence over the story itself.

Like all King books, it's well-written, but the scant action and lack of horror overpower the writing. More needed to happen in this book, other than state police officers watching a car and reacting to its infrequent strange episodes.

The end is pretty good, and predictably (though very subtly) ties into the land of The Dark Tower series. But the whole book needed to be more like the end - then it would have been good.

Let's hope that King realizes all this and after The Dark Tower series is fully done and published, he'll return to the pure, supernatural, terrifying novels that earned him so many readers and brobdingnagian paychecks.

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