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Let's Talk About Books

An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading. 

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SPOILER ALERT!

Needful Things - The Review!

Needful Things - Stephen King

So I've got a problem. I like to complain. Like, I really like to complain. And I don't have a lot to complain about. I liked this book a lot. It was fun and it was thrilling and I just loved it. So let's get into this. 

 

My favorite thing about this book is the characters. Without a doubt, they are the best part of this story. They are well rounded, all of them, and they each are fascinating! We all know by now how I adore Gaunt, but I also really came to love Alan. I didn't know if I would at first but the more I saw of him, the more I liked him. The way he interacted with the Rusk boys absolutely won me over.

 

Alan and Gaunt's dynamic, despite never interacting, was spectacular. I have a book with writing exercises for speculative writers and one of the key things it says about writing a villain is he has to mirror your hero. In this respect, the novel did amazingly. Gaunt complimented Alan so well. He really was as dark as Alan was good. They were two opposite poles on either side of the chaos that came to the town. I really can't express how much I love their characters and their roles in the story. 

 

One character who I came to adore was Buster. That really surprised me, since I thought for sure I wouldn't care for him, even downright hate him by the time the book was done. Yet he really was one of my favorites. His paranoia was easily the aspect of the story that made me the most uneasy. I mean, I could feel my pulse race whenever he went on about the great and terrible THEM. I'd go so far as to say that his paranoia was the scariest thing about the book for me. It was so well written though, and he was so well written. He was a scumbag but a scumbag I couldn't help but care fore. The scene where he killed his wife had to be one of my absolute favorites. The thunk, thunk, thunk part especially was chilling. Just so wonderfully written. It's a good thing I was alone in the laundromat when I read it because I probably had a really weird expression on my face. The only thing I disliked about Buster was how he died. For such a fabulous character, it was really anti-climactic. I mean, really. He just gets shot and dies. I was hoping for him to go out with a bigger bang. This is actually related to one of my complaints but I'll talk about that later. 

 

The plot itself was very solid. It built on itself so wonderfully. At first I was a little annoyed by the sections where it was just people buying things at Needful Things and the little descriptions of the pranks they had to pay. It seemed unnecessary, just fodder at first. But then I came to love it. It built up the tension so well, which I think is something King excels at. He hints at something, then makes you wait for it. It was fun to see all the pieces move into position and wonder how it all was going to go down. The book was sort of a slow burn and I rather liked that. Much like The Witch (which is awesome, for the record, go see it), it makes the parts where shit goes down that much more intense. 

 

Okay, now for some critiques. Not calling them complaints, just critiques. 

 

I've seen it said time and time again that King has a problem with endings. This book is no exception. I wouldn't say the ending was bad. Just weird and over the top. It's the one place where I think the movie was better. In the movie, if you haven't seen it, the shop blows up thanks to Buster and Gaunt calmly leaves town like the classy bastard he is. In the book, it's much stranger. I don't want to give too much away, but it fits better in something like Lord of the Rings than it does in this story. Not bad, just out of place and melodramatic. 

 

That said, the very last page is a good ending. When it parallels the beginning, talking about the store Answered Prayers and wondering what it sells there, that was awesome. 'Cause you know Gaunt's not gone and you know it's all going to start again. I loved it. I really did. Didn't quite make up for the strangeness of the other ending, but it was a solid conclusion to the book. 

 

On a similar note, I actually didn't care for the beginning. Like the ending, it had it's charms, but it dragged. It just really dragged. I wish he had let us figure out the different feuds, rather than flat out telling us about it all. It would have added to the tension and mystery, I think, wondering why Gaunt wants people to play the tricks they do. I totally see the purpose of the beginning, I just feel it slowed things down. 

 

Final complaint is super small: the Cujo references. At first it was fun, being able to go, "I see what you did there". Then after a point it was just annoying. Like, we get it, you're talking about Cujo. It was a good gag, it just went on too long. 

 

That's it. Those are my complaints. Really not a lot and really not that bad. 

 

I suppose the only thing left to address is whether the book scared me. My answer? No. It didn't. It made me super uneasy. Like I said, Buster's scenes made me so uncomfortable. And the creature living inside the necklace really made me cringe. But I wouldn't say that at any point I was scared. And that's okay. I didn't think this book would scare me. At the end of the day, it just wasn't the subject matter that creeps me out. But it was a fun ride. I really liked it. And it could very well scare someone else. 

 

Final Rating: 4.5/5 stars. Took off half a point for the weird ending and the slow beginning. Overall though I really recommend this one. I was expecting to be let down but Mr. King really delivers. 

 

Final thought: I wonder what Mr. Gaunt would have for me.