When Pennsylvania state troopers are called in for an abandoned car, they expect it to be a simple report and transfer to impound. But instead they find a car that is slightly off. It looks like a Buick 8 but isn’t quite one. Plus its engine by all laws of mechanics should not work. The troopers agree to make the Buick their responsibility, putting it in a shed and keeping an eye on it. Because it’s not just a car. It might not be a car at all.
I was told before I read this by other Stephen King fans that it’s not one of King’s better books, but I would like to read everything he has written, so I picked it up anyway. This is a book that builds thrills slowly and gently to a conclusion that may not seem satisfying to many readers.
The biggest thing that I think took the thrills out of the book for me is that I am not a car person. When the narrator was describing the Buick 8, I had no idea any of it was off at all, so it didn’t give me the creeps. When they first describe the engine, for instance, I was surprised they were freaked out by it because it just seemed like a mysterious engine to me….like all engines. I definitely think there are more thrills to be found here if the reader is a car person. A car person will get caught up in what’s awry with the Buick, and see it as the mystery that the state troopers recognize it to be immediately.
What this book excels at is what King always excels at. The book establishes the place and feeling of rural Pennsylvania beautifully. The characters all speak in accurate and easily readable dialogue. There is a large assortment of characters, and they are easy to tell apart. The timeline of the book is carefully selected for just the right tempo for the book. These are all wonderful things that kept me reading and made me engaged with characters I might not normally identify with.
Some readers might find that the plot and thrills move too slowly for them. The Buick has issues gradually over time, and the conclusion they build to might not feel like a satisfying conclusion for all readers. Personally, I enjoy slower moving thrillers, so this worked for me, but it might not work for all. Similarly, I believe the ending will be more satisfying to those who have read the entire Dark Tower series than to those who have not. What is going on with the Buick is more understandable and a bigger deal if the reader is aware of all of the context provided by the Dark Tower.
Overall, if you are a car person who will appreciate a car that is slightly off and also enjoys slowly moving thrillers enhanced by a strong sense of place, this will be a great read for you. Similarly, those who have read the Dark Tower may be interested in this book due to some possible connections to that series. If neither of those descriptions fit you, you may want to pick up a different Stephen King book for your thrills. He certainly has plenty to choose from.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Harvard Books