book-review-firestarterStephen King
Viking Press
1980

Hadn’t somebody said that perfect paranoia and perfect awareness were the same thing?

In 1969 Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson participated in a drug experiment run by a veiled government agency known as The Shop. One year later they marry. Two years after that their little girl, Charlie, sets her teddy bear on fire . . . by looking at it. Now that Charlie is eight, she doesn’t start fires anymore. Her parents have taught her to control her pyrokinesis, the ability to set anything–toys, clothes, even people–aflame. But The Shop knows about and wants this pigtailed “ultimate weapon.” Shop agents set out to hunt down Charlie and her father in a ruthless and terrifying chase that ranges from the streets of New York to the backwoods of Vermont. And once they get her they plan to use Charlie’s capacity for love to force her into developing a power as horrifyingly destructive as it is seductive. What they don’t take into account is that even a child can know the pleasure of the whip hand and the satisfaction of revenge.

So, I read this particular novel by Stephen King around my Freshman year in high school, which was when I was beginning my grand quest to read all of King’s books, but still wasn’t completely hooked as a fanboy. And at the age of 15, I wasn’t exactly the best at keeping focus on what I was reading. So, unfortunately, I have to admit that reading through Firestarter–King’s sixth published work–was a bit of a slog to get through at the time. Again, this was less to do with the quality of the story and more to do with my ability to get distracted by something shiny. Or have something in what I’m reading set off a chain reaction of thoughts that take me away from the reading experience. It still happens now, just not as out of control. Anyway…

The story involves a father and his young daughter on the run from a shady government group. The reason being that, years prior, the father and his future wife participated in covert experiments involving special drugs that would give those either psychic powers, or a psychotic break. They, of course, developed powers, and got married because they fell in loooooove while being tested on, and had themselves a kid that seemed to have developed an interest power of her own: setting stuff on fire. Now, after a series of horrendous events involving the government agency trying to round them up for more experiments, the mother dies and the father and daughter are on the run. Soon, those government officials and the mercenary they hired to capture them are going to realize that preteen girls are scary enough without powers; what’s gonna happen when they finally anger one with the ability to char broil you with her mind? Hint: nothing good.

Now seems a good time to get this out of the way: I never have seen the movie that stars a young Drew Barrymore. Never felt the need to do so. As far as the book goes, I think this would be another one I’d have a better appreciation for at this age I’m at now, rather than the 15-year-old me who read it back in the day. It had an interesting cat-and-mouse premise, and the more scientific–albeit closer to a mad doctor style, but still–buildup behind the father and daughter’s respective powers has this more as a psychological thriller with a bit of a science fiction base than a straight-up horror novel. Maybe that’s what was causing me to loose focus all that time.

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