A Sometimes Plodding, Yet Overall Suspenseful Build
Stephen King’s brand of horror isn’t usually the twist ending, nor is it the gross out factor. He often plays the suspenseful long-game, in which he drops breadcrumbs throughout the story that lead the reader to expect some part of the ending well in advance, yet keeps the reader guessing enough to want to continue.
His strategy is no different in Pet Sematary.
This book follows the Creed family in their move from Chicago to Maine. Louis Creed is a doctor with a wife, two children, family cat, and a foreboding feeling about the new place they’re living. He quickly befriends his neighbor across the busy Route 15 they live on, an old local named Jud Crandall, who teaches him about the town’s history. One of the places Jud shows Louis is the Pet Sematary, a place where locals bury their pets, which is in the hills in the woods beyond the Creed family home.
As a reader, with Stephen King as your guide, you can perhaps imagine where things might go from there.
To me, certain things worked well in this book, and certain things didn’t work well. The family story and dynamic was great, as was Louis’s friendship with Jud. But Louis just didn’t feel like a doctor to me. Based on some of his actions and his inner dialogue he felt almost blue collar. And even though he made almost seventy-thousand in 1983, somehow there was a lot of talk about what they could and couldn’t afford, especially with rather small purchases.
The main suspense of the story is foreshadowed early on when Jud warns Louis to get their cat fixed so he doesn’t try to wander across the road and end up getting hit by a truck. And it worked well most of the time. But by the middle of the second part, it was being dragged out way too long. There’s a difference between long scenes of action for suspense, and long scenes of action that become quite boring. Unfortunately, this book veered toward the latter.
But, the ending, though an inevitable one, wasn’t quite the one I expected, and I did enjoy it.
Pet Sematary has been on my to-read list for a long time. It’s one of those stories that has become a classic in the horror genre, as well as beyond it. The Simpsons and plenty of other shows and movies throughout my life have made references to it, which I understood only obliquely.
If anything, this book was a great way to exchange some of my time for some ‘90s cultural currency. And it was a great way to spend a few hours over Halloween weekend.