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Mile 81 (2011): American-Made, Baby

Stephen King, Mile 81 (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

You never know what you’ll find at the local rest area.

Stephen King is well-known for logorrhea, and it’s been warranted since about the unexpurgated edition of The Stand. Which is not to say those thousand-page doorstops are not worth reading; they are, and most of them are very good. But it has always been the case, and I suspect it always will be, that King does his best work in the realm of the short story. “Grey Matter” and “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet” and “Blind Willie” and “Survivor Type” and “My Pretty Pony” and “I Am the Doorway” and “The Mangler” and I could go on all day. That’s the good stuff, and I say this as someone who has traditionally listed three King novels among my hundred favorite books of all time (‘Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and Misery). So I guess you could say I was kind of predisposed to like “Mile 81”, which feels like a return to the good old days. (This is, of course, an absolute myth. It’s not like “My Pretty Pony” came out of nowhere. “The Last Rung on the Ladder” and “The Woman in the Room” closed out Night Shift, and I found them unbearable until I was well into my twenties because they weren’t horror stories.) This is what King does best—take something as quotidian as can be (a crappy, generically American station wagon covered in mud) and make it scary, throw a few unsuspecting folks into its way, find the least likely hero you can, and make a story out of it. It’s formula, but it’s Stephen King formula, and it’s been working like gangbusters for more than four decades now. In other words, if you like his stuff, this should work for you, and if you don’t, this probably isn’t going to change your mind. I find nothing at all wrong with this. *** ½

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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