Over the weekend I finished reading “Firestarter” by Stephen King and I have to say, I think this may possibly be the most frightening book of his that I have read. Let me explain.
“Firestarter” is about a little girl named Charlie who can start fires with her mind. It is an ability that she was born with because both of her parents participated in a science experiment in college. Each parent unlocked their own psychic abilities after the experiment. This science experiment was all done under the supervision of a division of the government called ‘the shop’. When they realized what they had with Charlie and her parents they wanted to pick it apart and study it. This is what I really found frightening, the lengths that these government characters go to in order to obtain this family. Because you just know that the way that Stephen King portrays the government is not only his opinion, but a fairly accurate representation of just how out of control things can get. There are too many government officials who wave their badges and believe that gives them absolute authority.
While the shop is pursuing Charlie and her family they realize that they have something more powerful than they can handle. Part of the problem is that different characters react to this differently. An example of this is, “…an old man who had once opened Pandora’s box and now wanted to shoot all of the things that had flown out instead of putting them to work.” (Firestarter, pg 81). Some characters recognized the danger while others chose to see things differently. Another good quote that represents this is, “It is your great failing. You look, you see a monster. Only in the girl’s case, you see a useful monster. Perhaps that is because you are a white man. White men see monsters everywhere.” (Firestarter, pg 196). Very true.
While Charlie was the main goal of the shop, her father also seemed promising to them. He is the one telling the story for most of the beginning. He is a very solidly built character and I like what Stephen King does with him. He makes this guy very easy to relate to and often he says (or thinks) very insightful things. “It was all in the past; none of it could be changed; it was time to stop thinking about it. A neat trick if you could do it.” (Firestarter, pg 171). This particular statement jumped out at me because it is something I have been struggling with personally—letting go of the past. Much more easily said than done.
One thing that Stephen King often does in his novels is that he has several people tell the story. This is a great technique in my opinion because it gives the reader a chance to know the minds of all the characters, not just the protagonist. This also allows for King to slip in some foreshadowing in the book. “A third part was remembering a Chinese curse, a curse that sounded deceptively pleasant until you sat down and really though about it. May you live in interesting times. For the last year and a half he had lived in extremely interesting times. He felt that just one more interesting thing would drive him totally insane.” (Firestarter, pg 195). I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that the character was not far off base.
Would I recommend this book? Yes—to a certain crowd. I don’t think those who dislike horror books would find anything that King has written to be very appealing. But for those die hard Stephen King fans, this is a must-read. It would even be a good introduction to Stephen King book for someone who hasn’t picked up his work before.