From A Buick 8: Stephen King

Fear comes in different forms. It takes the shape of the scared hollow of our mind, or rings shrilly into our ears. Fear weakens the cartilage of our knees and has a way of sliding into our heart riding on our breath. Stephen King knows all these fears and then some more. In the ‘From a Buick 8’ he delves on the instinctive reactions of the human mind when faced with life forms never seen before, unknown to the perceptions of the mind. This is one of the Stephen King horror novels which has a science fiction angle to it, and which is rendered wonderfully by King’s dexterous pen.

The dark matter at the centre of this novel is a car, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster. This Buick drives into a gas station and waits for its driver to return from a visit to the restroom, while the gas station attendant dutifully fills her up. The driver however never returns and the police from the Troop D have to investigate the disappearance. The first thing the Troopers realize is that the Buick has no logically structured engine, the steering wheel is too large, the battery is not connected to anything, the dashboard props are facades – in short the car is incapable of being driven. The car is towed back to the barracks and becomes a part of the Troop D property, and they stick with it even when it gives out queer ‘lightquakes’ and belches out monstrous entities.

Curiosity is a running theme in this plot. The Buick sits in the mid of the Troopers holding a huge sense of improbability about it, and Curt Wilcox, a young Trooper can’t resist the temptation to prod into its cover to unravel its mysteries. But what begins as his quest to satisfy curiosity soon turns into a hopeless persuasion of the unknown. A senior trooper makes a pertinent observation,
‘While curiosity is a provable fact, satisfaction is more like a rumor.’
Curt and none of the other troopers are quite satisfied with any of the theories they have built about the existence of the Buick. The Buick, in the meantime, conjures up unlikely animals and plants from its trunk and drives the barracks into chaos. There is another theme that King has woven into his narrative and which I think is most interesting. It is about the physicality of our bodies. When the alien life forms show up from the Buick, the natural reaction of the Troopers is that of revulsion and horror. But this horror does not generate from anything that the alien entities have done but it arises through their appearance itself. This also forces us to ponder upon how our own appearance will be received by alien eyes. The evil here lies in simple unfamiliarity and the outcome turns out to be morally catastrophic.

This is a slightly different kind of Stephen King novel. It has its share of horrors and thrills, but compared to some other of his novels, it seems that horror is not as prime a factor of the plot. This novel is also a little slow and predictable at times. This novel might not interest those who expect a regular Stephen King full throttle horror-thriller, but it nevertheless does have interesting ruminations on the workings of the human mind and I will recommend it for these.

This novel can be downloaded from Kindle or can be bought from Flipkart.

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