Author: Stephen King
Release Date: April 1983
There is a scene in an early episode of the animated series “Family Guy” where Stephen King’s publisher is asking him about his next novel. King says it’s about a couple that’s attacked by a **looks around** lamp monster, and proceeds to make got’cha movements with a lamp. The publisher says something like “you’re not even trying anymore… when can I have it?” Before I read “Christine” I had that same sort of feeling about the subject of this book. Really Stephen? A car that wants to kill people? Is this by the same guy that wrote the story that was adapted into “Trucks” and “Maximum Overdrive?”
Actually, pretty much. The story goes that Arnie is a loser and Dennis is his only friend. Dennis himself is cool, and kind of looks out for Arnie but has no delusions that Arnie isn’t a loser. One day Arnie sees a ’58 Plymouth Fury for sale that should probably be in a scrap heap and instantly falls in love with it. Its owner, Roland LeBay is a real ass, but ends up selling Arnie the car. For Arnie, this is the first impulsive crazy thing he has ever done, and he begins to obsess over the car, and snap at those that question his prized possession. At the same time, he also starts to change in more subtle ways, some for the better some for worse. Through it all, the car (which Arnie and LeBay refer to as Christine) is the centerpiece for the strange occurrences that are happening around town. Of course there’s also a beautiful love interest (Leigh Cabot) that comes between the two guys and provides additional tension.
Of course I ended up really enjoying this book. Through its release date in King’s bibliography, I’d put it around “The Dead Zone” or “Salem’s lot in terms of quality. Not as good as “The Stand” or “Pet Sematary” but way better than “Carrie or “Firestarter.” Despite a hokey premise, and some very generic lead characters, the story inside the story was very compelling. I was actually disappointed when **Spoiler Alert** the story went overtly supernatural, because the story of Arnie finally losing his awkwardness and acne and becoming a different person with a bad attitude felt the exact right amount of weird. For his parents and friends, it was as if their son was being replaced, but there was still a question whether it was drugs, hormones, or something else that was causing it. In fact, all of Arnie’s changes were interesting, from his obsession with old music to his missing hours to his total obsession of Leigh and Christine.
The book is certainly not perfect. The character of Leigh is basically present to fall in love with whichever main character she is spending time with. For Arnie, you’d figure any female that showed him affection would have caused the same effect on him. Arnie’s mother is also an outline of a human being; she exists just to have outbursts and worry. The male characters are much better realized, but the other students are typical King bullies, i.e. future murderers and madmen disguised as high schoolers.
My biggest problem with the book however is the entire 3rd act, which definitely makes LeBay and Christine a supernatural problem to be overcome by Dennis and Leigh. I’m fine with the supernatural elements in all of King’s works, but here he had a much more compelling narrative and mystery going before Christine was revealed to be driving around town on her own running over people. If that was the story he wanted to tell, I think it would have been much more interesting had he waited to reveal that until the very end instead of near the middle like he did. Despite all of those complaints, this was still a story I very much enjoyed reading; I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 but I’ll round up on here.