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4.6 out of 5 stars58
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on 4 August 2001
The dramatic effect of throwing readers in at the deep end with Andy and Charlie already on the run is pulled off perfectly by King, with flashbacks explaining the more intricate details of the experiments and the Shop agency. When I first saw this, I thought it would be a cheap version of Carrie, but I found this far more entertaining, with more interesting characters and a much more satisfying conclusion. The superntatural backdrop is hardly as much a basis for the story as a trademark of Stephen King's macabre style. Also well researched, with mutations, telepathy and pyrokinesis. Amazing.
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I've read a few Stephen King books. I'm only 12, and sometimes I find it very hard to concentrate, but in Firestarter I just never lost intertest. I would recommend it to good readers of my age, as it has very little unapropriate content, unlike King's other books.The story may seem shallow at first, a girl and her father running away from the government agency "The Shop", the girl with a supernatural power to set things on fire. Ripping off Carrie? No, after the father and daughter are caught and imprisonned, thats where the story really takes place! Excellent story and charachters, I recommend this to new readers as well as hardcore SK fans.
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on 22 September 2011
Andy McGee, a young student, willingly takes part in a medical experiment to raise a little cash. The experiment, sponsored by a shady government organisation called "The Shop" leaves him (and his future wife) with telepathic/telekinetic powers. Many years later and Andy is on the run from The Shop with his daughter, who has inherited her parents' powers (and then some), in tow. Their pursuers (inevitably) want to conduct a few "experiments" on Andy and Charlie...

It's been mentioned in another review that Firestarter is one of King's most emotionally compelling books and I have to agree. I rarely experience particularly strong emotional reactions to even very good books: I don't think I've ever read a story that scared me, or made me happy, or want to cry. However, Firestarter is one (possibly the only one? No - there was Gallipoli) that /really/ moved me and I can vividly remember first reading it (many years ago) and being sucked in by the story and engaging with it as if it were reality (and for a book about telekinesis, that's quite an achievement!). In fact, I would go so far as to say that I found Andy and Charlie's plight heartbreaking. Don't worry, there's no gratuitously gory medical experimentation or anything like that. What moved me was Andy's devotion to his young daughter, Charlie's innocence and the dispassionate, detatched cruelty of their tormentors. I'll say it again, because it still surprises me - this is a moving, upsetting, sad and engaging story. It's not (for me anyway) a tearjerker but it really did tug on my heartstrings.

OK so it's all a bit cliched; innocent fugitives on the lam from a sinister government organisation, covert weapons research, yadda yadda yadda. But, like so many of King's novels, it still works. Whatever his critics may say about his material, he has a real gift for producing characters that you really /care/ about. The relationship between Charlie and her father is one example, but even King's baddies are done well enough that you care enough about them to hate them. Thus The Shop's supervisor, Captain Hollister (surely a model for Kurtz in Dreamcatcher) and his go-to-man, Rainbird, are strong, vivid, interesting (if just a little hackneyed) characters.

King never disappoints. Perhaps, over the years, and with so many books under his belt, his stuff may occasionally seem a little "samey" in various ways; the same old characters, the same old dialogue, the same old monsters and baddies. However, I think Firestarter has stood up very well indeed to the passage of time (thirty years!) and the relentless tide of his subsequent works (around sixty novels and short story collections!) and it is as good a book today as it seemed then.

Highly recommended... No. VERY highly recommended
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on 25 February 2005
Having already taken in Insomnia, The Stand, and Salem's lot, I was already a Stephen King fan before I read Firestarter but this one re-affirmed my love of Kings books. The book follows Andy and Charlie who are on the run from a government agency known as 'the shop' who want to find out what makes the little girl (Charlie) tick and how they can make use of the pryrokenetic power she possesses. The story while the pair are on the run is gripping but the book gets better once the pair are in the grip of 'the shop'. The reader comes to identify with the characters as they are seperated for months, the little girl desperate to see her daddy, the parent not knowing what's happening to his child. King's writing is so exceptional that you can't help but go through a range of emotions by simply reading the words on the page to the point where you wish there was something you could do to help Andy and Charlie, you want them to get one over on the shop, you want Charlie to be able to escape and live a normal life with Andy.
A Gripping Novel with a tear-jerker ending.
If you're going to read any of Kings work, start with FIRESTARTER!!
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on 12 April 2006
It's not as well known a novel as say, The Stand or The Shining (although there was a film made starring Drew Barrymore), but for me this is one of King's best works. The story is of a man who takes part in a clinical trial of a new drug while at university, and who picks up an ability to influence people's actions with his mind, somewhat Jedi-like. He later passes on to his daughter the power to start fires with her mind, something which makes her the target of a shady government group intent on using her powers for their own gain.

It's one of King's most tightly plotted novels, completely lacking in his sometimes too-frequent ramblings that don't seem to go anywhere. Though not really horror, it does have King's typically excellent characterisation, and as usual I felt very connected to the main character's plight and cared a lot about his outcome. Definitely highly recommended.
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on 12 March 2014
Did you ever take place in a controlled medical experiment, maybe as a student to earn some money? You know the type where they pay you some money and part of your group gets given the 'real' new drug and part of the group gets given the placebo?

Andy McGee takes part in just such an experiment as a student which, as he learns later, is run by a government agency called 'The shop' who are testing a hallucinogenic drug they called Lot 6. Andy has flashbacks of people screaming and being carried out of the room during the experiment, but he had a bad trip and can only vaguely remember. But what The Shop didn't plan for is that two of the students on that experiment will fall in love, get married and have a child.

Andy and his wife Victoria both realise that they have powers - Andy can mentally 'push' people to make them do certain things, and Victoria has telekinetic abilities, however, Andy also gets terrible and debilitating headaches if he where ever to use his power, and Victoria's ability is rather minor. However, when they have a daughter, Charlie, they quickly discover that she has very powerful pyrokinetic powers. If Charlie is angry for whatever reason, whatever Charlie focuses on gets set alight. As parents, they want to protect Charlie as much as possible, so from an early age, they teach her not to use her power and control it, wanting Charlie to grow up as normally as possible.

But 'The Shop' find out about Andy and Victoria - and are most interested in Charlie. After watching the family for many years, they finally make their move to get Charlie - with tragic consequences for the whole family. But Andy fights for his daughter, as he knows that otherwise she will just face a lifetime shut away in laboratories. He manages to track her down and him is fleeing with her. Not long though and 'The Shop' will do anything to get Charlie. But they underestimate Charlie.

This is one of King's very early books (I've just read on Wiki it was his 8th book, published in 1980. I love his early books, they are, in my opinion, just so original and powerful. Up to then, no-one would have thought of this kind of idea for a story (Ok, someone is probably going to prove me wrong on this point now!). One of my very early King reads, and another one I couldn't put down. Not wanting to include a spoiler, I can say that the story also 'resolves' at the end (which is not always the case in King's books). Though the full purpose and agenda of this government agency 'The Shop' is not fully elaborated, there is no need for complicated explanations. Just enjoy the ride King-style.
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All things considered "The Dead Zone" probably remains my favorite Stephen King novel, although the epic sweep of "The Stand" is impressive, but "Fire-Starter" has my favorite ending of any of his works. I can still pick up my copy, turn to the last two sections, and get a lump in my throat. I am not sure why this is the case, although I acknowledge that as a rule King novels do not have what would qualify as "happy endings." At the other end of the spectrum from this one would be the ending of "Pet Sematary," where the whole nightmare is about to begin again. In "Danse Macabre," his dissertation on horror, King writes of the tension between Dionysian darkness and Apollonian sunlight and I have no problems with seeing the end of "Fire-Starter" as representing the sunny side of the equation.
The "Fire-Starter" of the title is young Charlie McGee. In 1969 her parents, Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson, participated in a drug experiment run by a secret government agency known as The Shop. A year later they marry and two years later they had a little girl who could set her teddy bear on fire just by looking at it. As the novel opens Charlie is eight and her parents have taught her to control her pyrokineses, but The Shop knows about her and wants to study her as an "ultimate weapon." So Shop agents are set out to hunt down Charlie and her father, chasing them from the streets of New York to a farm in Vermont.
On the one hand King plays into one of the commonplaces of contemporary fiction, the secret government organization that will do anything to anybody to get what it wants, that I happen to detest. I have to admit that if you give me a choice between seeing the government as corrupt or as incompetent, I choose the later and I am sick of the idea that the way to defend America is to forget what being an American is all about. But counterbalancing this is the relationship between Andy and his daughter. Her parents have instilled in Charlie the idea of controlling her power and not hurting anybody, but circumstances are forcing the young girl to go against her conditioning. There is a scene early on in the book, when the McGee have made it to the Manders farm and The Shop agents catch up with them. Andy tells her daughter that she can stop them and she asks the question that serves as the title of this review, the other point in this book that always brings tears to my eyes. At the heart of this novel there is a real little girl.
This is by no means a perfect Stephen King novel. The entire set up works well enough without the whole John Rainbird subplot, which I find to be just too much of a wildcard and just because we know in the end the little girl is going to turn the tables on The Shop does not take away the pleasure of reading how she gets to do it. Besides, Irv Manders is one of my favorite minor characters in a King novel and the whole idea of a young girl coming into her own under extraordinary circumstances is quite captivating. Add to that the ending and "Fire-Starter" remains a favorite and one of the Stephen King novels I continue to pull down from the high shelf of the big bookcase so I can read my favorite parts again. I also thing the film version is one of the better adaptations of one of his novels (qualified to those that have the author's name before the title and not the really good ones like "The Shawshank Redemption" which do not).
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This is one of Kings better books and keeps you hooked throughout. As usual for King (despite other failings) his characterisation is spot on and you engage straight away with the main characters, and therefore with their story. King manages to give just the right amount of edge to the government agency pursuing the pyrokinetic girl and her father and you begin to feel their frustrations and fear as they are relentlessly hunted down. This book is often overlooked in Kings body of work, but it is one of my favorites of his and well worth a read.

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on 21 October 2009
King's tale of a young girl with the power of pyrokinesis is more than just the out and out horror you would expect. He engages the readers sympathy for the protagonists from the first page, with a father on the run from government agents with his tired little girl. King continues to engage our empathy with flashbacks to the murder of the girls mother, her own struggle to use her ability to help her father, and her attempts to controll her urge to use her power.
This novel is a testament to King's technique and as usual with Stephen King, every character is fully realised.
Reccomended for: King fans, horror fans, conspiracy theorists, literature lovers and anyone who wants a good story.

"'I'm all right daddy,'... 'Everything's okay'.
And that was when the cars began to explode"

Absolute genius!
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on 29 June 2004
this book was brilliant, again there are no words to discribe it, it was truly sad and scary, you really see the true relationship between father and daughter.
you really see the heartbrakingly life behind the little girl and father and see the pain and misery ahead of them.
this is a must read book and you should read this before seeing the film.
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