As part of the Read By Spooktober hashtag that’s going around Instagram among the book lovers and horror fans, Pet Sematary is the first of three spooky reads for the month of October. Having never seen either the original film or remake, I quite excited to read the novel, especially as Stephen King has inspired so many wonderful works of the horror genre. And with this particular title, I’m stuck on the fence with a verdict. I liked it, then I was bored by it, and then I was scared by it.
My first thought was that the book has a fair few pages (466 to be exact) but isn’t one of King’s longest (The Dark Tower series are exceptionally hefty in page number) nor is it one of his shorter novels (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is what you would call a “general size”) so was looking forward to having a book that would last a little longer than my favourite (Misery) and meant being caught up in the terror a little longer.
My second thought was about how this novel would end-I have found in previous works that it’s as if King has invested so much of his creativity and imagination in to his characters and the atmosphere that he gets tired or simply bored and decides to end the book abruptly and without much of a process (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon being the main one that springs to mind without giving away too much). So I did become a little concerned that I would invest myself in to the story and be left disappointed.
Reading Pet Sematary gave me a third thought that really stuck in my head the further in to the book I went (no need to panic just yet at the sudden influx of thoughts! I promise!) and this is a thought I’m sure not a great many King fans will agree with and that is this- when does it get scary?
Stephen King is known for being the most iconic master of terror and horror, yet this book is more of a thought-provoking-scare than an all out I’ll-have-nightmares-forever type (still not having seen the films I can’t compare them, but with the horror film genre in general I personally do believe that it’s mainly what you don’t see that’s the scariest bit as your brain picks up the sounds and clever musical score and allows your imagination to run further and further in to those dark and frightening places). Don’t get me wrong, I have had nightmares after reading a book (The Shining being one of two so far) but this won’t be one of them.
As far as the idea goes, it’s very good and was written in the 80’s so King’s writing style has changed and developed since being published, and it was enjoyable but 3/4 of the way through I did get a little bored (don’t shoot me down! Please!) but the last few chapters for me were written in that iconic and well known scary style that we all know and love. The beginning was nice (horror and nice don’t seem to go well together, but it really was!) and the scene was set for Louis and his lovely family to make the move to this whole new town and met Jud and Norma who become like family. I do believe that Jud had good intentions when he took Louis to the MicMac burial ground, but there are things that are unsaid until the end, like the “pull of the place” and left me wondering if Jud felt the continual pull after taking Spot up there in the same way that Louis did when he went up for a third time with Rachel (third time lucky? I really hope so but I do doubt it).
I found that the faster paced chapters were the final ones where Louis goes to the burial grounds alone with Gage and sees and hears the things that were dismissed by Jud and Loons and St Elmo’s Fire, which then take on a sinister and frightening form. Then the attacks on Jud and Rachel as well as Louis was graphic and horrible (in the sense that it was an awful thing and not horribly written) and I know this is the part of the films that would scare the socks right off me! Children in horror are creepy at the best of times but newly un-dead children with the voices of adults is an entirely different ball game and is terror-inducing on every level (the style we know and love right there!) and being a parent myself to a small child who likes to stand in front of the night light on the landing in silence, I can safely say that this is the part of the book that will stay with me!
I really had never given Pet Sematary a second glance because I really thought it was about being haunted by animals and nothing else, and no-I never did ever pick up a copy or ask what it was about because the title told me all I thought I needed to know (lesson learnt), but I am glad it was on the list for Spooktober and I would recommend it as a read for darker evenings or as a though provoker (would you really bring back your most dearly beloved? How far would you truly be prepared to go?) and it’s a good book club choice purely for that reason (in my eyes). If it’s a book on your bucket list then definitely read it ASAP, it is worth the time, but if it’s on your list as one of King’s better reads I would say consider The Shining, It and The Outsider.