CHRISTINE was always a book that intrigued me. When I was young a hardback copy sat prominently on the bookshelves of my Grandma’s bedroom. It had a bright, angry looking Plymouth Fury on the cover and I can remember being fascinated by it. Yet, when I started reading Stephen King novels myself it wasn’t one I picked it up. Indeed, it’s the only major novel of his imperial phase that I hadn’t read.
Why was that?
Undoubtedly it’s because I don’t have that big an interest in cars. Yes, I come from the land of ‘Top Gear’ but this fetishizing of big old 1950’s automobiles does seem much more of an American than a British thing. Put it this way, it’s hard to imagine that James Herbert would have got away with an equivalent book about a Morris Minor. So, reading a book centred on a car, even by an author whom I love, just seemed like hard work to me.
And maybe a lot of that is why I didn’t really enjoy it. No matter how much I tried, no matter how hard the narrative forced me to go with it, I couldn’t get with Christine as a threat. Big, red and furious she might be, but each time I envisaged it, the car was a Tex Avery animation.
Frankly, your book is in trouble when your constant reader can’t picture its main threat as anything other than a cartoon.
But it’s more than that. CHRISTINE is overlong, which isn’t really a surprise for King, but it’s also frequently quite boring. The element that’s supposed to liven it up are Christine’s attacks and even they get tediously repetitive. King actually seems to realise this, with one or two of them happening away from the narrative.
What’s truly surprising though is how thin the characters are. Most of them – students and parents alike – are thumb-sketch caricatures. This is particularly egregious when it comes Leigh Cabot, who serves as the heroine here, and who is so thinly drawn that I had little more idea of her at the end than I did at the beginning. The narrator in the final act regrets his teenage sexism to her, but the entire book is like that – she’s a character who exists to be pretty, sexy, in danger and absolutely nothing else!
So, the only one of King’s big early novels I hadn’t read, and now – without a hint of a doubt – my least favourite.
As always, you can find more book reviews (hundreds in fact) on my Goodreads page.