King is so legendary that criticising his writing feels like questioning your doctor or correcting your kid's teacher. Sometimes, though, it has to be done. And I'm sure he gets very tired of being surrounded by sycophants, don't you think?
I love the early King books but haven't been keen since `From a Buick 8', if I'm honest. But King generally pens a good short story so I pre-ordered `Mile 81' on my Kindle. I liked the start of the tale, King is fond of - and good at - putting teenage boys together and observing the dynamic that runs between them.
`Mile 81' has car/unidentified demon horror running through it...we like. The story ends in such a way that it might happen to someone else....maybe even us or that annoying neighbour with the dog that barks at 3 am. We like this more because we know it won't really. King satisfies on a number of fronts in the story, he gives us what we know and love...some of the time.
However, King has an infuriating habit of clarifying what he says in brackets, like he doesn't trust the reader to get it first time. He's always done it to some extent but outdoes himself in `Mile 81' to the detriment of the story. When our young hero Pete skulks round the abandoned truck stop, we are told that Pete is careful not to run his bike tyres over any broken glass. Okay, fine....we understand. We don't need - (in brackets) - `there was a lot of it on this side of the fence'. When Pete lifts his bag, which holds a bottle of vodka, up onto a loading dock, King goes on to explain - (in brackets) - `being especially careful on account of the half-full vodka bottle'. It's okay! Stop fretting Legendary One! We remembered what was in the bag because you told us that just a few pages ago. Two examples here of the countless occasions it happens in this one story. I think King is probably aiming for a conversational-type of storytelling but the brackets only serve to irritate and distract.
Short story rule: don't include anything that doesn't move the story along. So the reading tension wasn't particularly cranked up by details about Pete's ant-farm project and the grade his friend got for it at school. We can let that go, it's Stephen King. The rules don't apply to him, right?
When Pete finally gets inside the disused restaurant, he wanders around looking at stained mattresses and posters of naked women constantly laughing, giggling....laughing and giggling....laughing and giggling....OVER AND OVER AGAIN!! Yep, he's a young lad, stuff makes him laugh and giggle. We got it the first few times.
So, a good start, over-waffling in the middle section where scary stuff happens and then quite suddenly, the whole dilemma is resolved and the story is finished. And what's strange is that our hero is never in danger, he sleeps through the whole thing....so why make us care about him in the first place?? With better editing and pacing, the story could have been great. Instead it was just okay. But I'd almost forgive Mr King anything....and I'd never criticise him to his face.