from a buick 8

Stephen King

Curt Wilcox’s boy came around the barracks a lot the year after his father died, I mean a lot, but nobody ever told him get out the way or asked him what in the hail he was doing there again.

The state police of Troop D in rural Pennsylvania have kept a secret in Shed B out back of the barracks ever since 1979, when Troopers Ennis Rafferty and Curtis Wilcox answered a call from a gas station just down the road and came back with an abandoned Buick Roadmaster.  Curt Wilcox knew old cars, and he knew immediately that this one was…wrong, just wrong.  A few hours later, when Rafferty vanished, Wilcox and his fellow troopers knew the car was worse than dangerous – and that it would be better if John Q. Public never found out about it.  Curt’s avid curiosity took the lead and they investigated as best they could, as much as they dared.  Over the years, the troop absorbed the mystery as part of the background to their work, the Buick 8 sitting out there like a still-life painting that breathes – inhaling a little bit of this world, exhaling a little bit of whatever world it came from.  In the fall of 2001, a few months after Curt Wilcox is killed in a gruesome auto accident, his eighteen-year-old boy, Ned, starts coming by the barracks, mowing the lawn, washing windows, shoveling snow.  Sandy Dearborn, Sergeant Commanding, knows it’s the boy’s way of holding onto his father, Ned is allowed to become part of the Troop D family.  One day he looks in the window of Shed B and discovers the family secret.  Like his father, Ned wants answers, and the secret begins to stir, not only in the minds and hearts of the veteran troopers who surround him, but in Shed B as well…

One of the later Stephen King publications that I picked up when I slowly started getting back into reading his works.  See, I was a voracious reader of King’s work, from when I read my first Stephen King novel in 8th grade (Cujo, for a book report), on up until about the summer of 1992, and gradually got burned out after struggling to make it through Gerald’s Game.  It happens.  It wasn’t until about the earlier part of the 2000’s when I picked up a used hardcover copy of his Everything’s Eventual collection, and thought maybe I could check out what all he’s done since I took my sabbatical.  From that, I got another used hardcover copy of another anthology of his – Nightmares & Dreamscapes (I have got to cut down on mentioning other books in these things, shouldn’t I?) – and then came about From A Buick 8 in the bargain bin of the Wal-Mart book section for $5, new hardcover, and shrink-wrapped with a poster of the book advertisement for collecting purposes, I guess.  Lost track of the poster, but read the book.

From A Buick 8 is what you would call vintage Stephen King modern dark fantasy storytelling, giving you a rich tapestry upon which he spins his yarn, and making it loosely tie into the world he has created through the decades.  Shades of his otherworldly dimensional creation found in The Dark Tower series and mentioned in other previous works (especially The Mist and Long Men With Yellow Coats) pop up here, with the Buick 8 that’s not really a Buick 8 (it’s, um…well, not really explained in the book, it just is, but more on that in a bit) acting as a conduit to which this alien and dangerous world seeps through into our world with Lovecraftian terrors, and sometimes someone from our world might accidentally disappear into that world as well.  All quite fascinating, if you think about it really.

The story is a slow-burner, taking its time to build up to a boil, and leaving much of the supernatural happenstances to the imagination of the reader.  Not much is explained as to the origin of this vehicle (where it came from, who or what built it, what it’s overall purpose of existence is, etc.), what this mysterious parallel world that seems through the thing is, or why there’s a doorway to begin with.  This may be rather frustrating to some readers, I can imagine; personally, the overarching unexplained mystery did make me chew things over after I finished the novel, so there’s that going for it.  Overall, though, it did take me a bit longer than normal to read, and like I said it is a slow burner.  Decent read, though.