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3.8 out of 5 stars68
3.8 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2012
CUJO is the famous story of the huge great St.Bernard dog, who having contracted rabies from some poorly bats who bit his nose, lays siege to Donna and Tad Trenton in their broken down car. The story is simple, but King develops his characters well, and the supporting cast get full histories, outlooks and characterisations. Donna and Vic Trenton are married but in trouble - Vic has work problems and Donna has just ended a messy affair, which the other party gleefully informs Vic about. Tad, their four year old son, is scared of monsters in his closet, and isn't happy about Daddy having to go away on a business trip. Their car, a knackered old Pinto, is giving up the ghost and in dire need of some tinkering. Old Joe Camber lives on the outskirts of Castle Rock; he's a cheap but reliable mechanic. His wife is scared of him, and when she unexpectedly wins a packet on the lottery she takes her son on a little family interstate trip. Joe is left alone with his drunken pervert friend Gary from next door, and his sons huge dog Cujo to keep him company. Events conspire to that final simple occurrence; Donna and Tad trapped in a dead Pinto, outside Joe's garage while a disoriented, pained and very confused dog is getting very angry at everything.

Its not just the human characters that King draws well but Cujo himself is painted in a very sympathetic manner; before the disease Cujo is a big loveable furry heap of a dog, a huge gentle giant, but illness makes him hurt, makes his head pound, makes him confused. Cujo is not the villain here, the villain is rabies, and the villain is fate; the day-to-day living with the card you were dealt, and how twists and turns of fate can affect many others inextricably linked with your destiny.

Alledgedly King wrote most of this book while off his face on various hard drugs and booze but while it does wander a bit, its still a fairly grounded piece of Castle Rock mythology, and occasionally the writing shines. I loved a little line, early on, when Vic is checking in Tad's closet for monsters and "Tad could hear the coathangers jingling softly, talking about Daddy in their coathanger language." I think that's great. I never really considered reading CUJO a while ago, much like I still don't really fancy SALEM'S LOT or CHRISTINE, but CUJO turned out to be read ahead of some other choices simply because it was small enough to fit into my pocket to read on the way to the hospital to see my dying father. Its quite a tight book, smaller than Kings usual behemoths, and really engaging, especially in the last third. I also enjoyed just the Castle Rock people - the mailman, the serial killer from last decade, the old woman who can predict the weather - and the atmosphere; I'm hugely interested in reading more of the Castle Rock chronicles, preferably when its out of season.
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on 10 January 2014
I am (re)reading Stephen King's works in chronological order and this re-read was up next for me. I originally read the book when it was first published in 1981 making me 13yo. It made a big impression on me at the time and I was quite shocked it ended the way it did. The change in the movie ending infuriated me. Re-reading it all these years later, I don't find it anywhere near as good as what King had written to this point, though better than Firestarter. Cujo is a short book compared to the other's but longer than Carrie. I had thought this was going to be pure realistic horror but had forgotten about the boogieman element. King goes about playing this realistic, frighteningly possible story of a rabid dog wandering in a rural backwoods area while adding in just a touch of the paranormal which we could believe is imagination on the part of the participants but King won't let us off that easily. Cujo has a small cast of characters and King does something different here for the first time (disregarding the Bachman books) by spending a lot of time on character development of the main handful of major players. There is not even any threat until well over 100 pages in which is 1/3 of the book. King also chooses to write from the dog's point of view occasionally; this is a tricky thing to do and pull off well. But The King does it! Cujo's thoughts come much less frequently than any others, and his passages are always short lending great credibility and success to Cujo never becoming personified. He is always an animal, even though the reader is party to his brief canine thoughts. A good quick read. Classic King, but I'd call this a turning point from his work to date so far, more of a psychological thriller than horror; but still horror in a more real sense than in actually being scary or creepy.

Now as I'm reading through the books, I'm also looking for the connections to the previous books in the big Stephen King Universe and this one is easy. Taking place in Castle Rock, right after the events of The Dead Zone, our new family moves into the house owned by the killer in DZ. This killer (I won't say who it is) and the case which forms the first half of DZ are referred to frequently in Cujo. Finally, Sheriff Bannerman from DZ is a character in both books. I didn't pick up on anything else.
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on 8 November 2013
So I decided to download Cujo due to the repeats of the movie being shown on the telebox. I enjoyed the book although it is not King at its finest. It is definitely worth a read.

The Good -
- Yes it is frightening. Cujo begins as a remarkably good natured German shepherd and descends into a psychotic beast. The displacement feels genuine and does make you wonder what you would do in the position of its unfortunate victims.
- I really liked the fact that you get the POV of Cujo himself and how King explores how a rabid dog may think. I think these parts are some of the best sections of the book.
- Good characters that you genuinely sympathize with and can connect with.

The Bad -
- for a while I did feel like this book was a soap opera with a killer dog put in there. I felt you had to wade through a lot of the not so scary stuff in order to really get to the goods. And I do think that there is a lot of filler material that was unnecessary for a horror book.
- you do groan at some stupid decisions made by stupid characters. The kind that you see in a horror movie that think 'Well I could phone my friends about/call for backup in this/get the hell out ofo f this strange and potentially very dangerous situation but instead I'll walk into this deserted place when something blatantly not right is happening'. This annoys me and I think King could have done better.

However all in all I would definitely recommend it, it's a classic after all. Even if you don't like it it'll make you appreciate King's better offerings such as It, The Shining, Misery, etc
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on 26 August 2012
This story has a lot of Stephen King staples: being set in Maine (in King's fictional town `Castle Rock'), use of weird and wonderful local accents, a `big bad' evil lurking behind the scenes, characters trapped in a deadly situation, and a very tightly-timed sequence of events that sync up in the run towards the finish.

It also has his enviable skill with characterisation shown in full. Throughout the course of the novel he creates an alcoholic, a scared child, a beaten wife, an adulterer, an animal and more, and each role s played perfectly. one of his tricks for this is to slip into first-person narrative during times of strong emotion.

Despite its polished and professional charms, "Cujo" is not without its flaws. Horror stories involve some suspension of disbelief, and when you have a sequence of tightly-timed 'coincidences' leading up to your finale, this suspension becomes even more important.

You're wife's cheating on you, your business is going down the tubes, and your car has broken down. That's tough luck, but it happens. Your wifes choice in flings in a psychotic author that trashes your house into a conveniently crime-scene like mess? These things happen, I guess. The garage where you repair your car is not only void of all humanity, but inhabited by a rabid dog and your wife and kid are stuck out there? They're out of gas? It's the hottest day of the summer? You've called them a dozen times but think you might leave it a few more hours just in case she's out and besides, if you did call the police they'd be kind of incompetent anyway and take their sweet time about figuring out what's going in?

Plot-writing involves a good amount of convenient coincidences - that's an old cliche and a true one. However, writing is also all about sneaking in hints and little events that subtly manipulate the characters and story in the right direction, without giving away to the reader how it's all going to end.

"Cujo" doesn't quite have this pegged, and it leaves a lot of the book full of frustratingly unrealistic mistakes by characters, as well as choking up their pacing. The characters are stuck in a inescapable situation, and after the first attempts to save the day fail it just gets boring sitting back and tracking how many times people will mess up until King feels it's time to wrap the story up.

If you're looking for a quick-moving read, there are worse books to pick up. Other King novels tackle the flaws in"Cujo" more skillfully, but plenty of other writers come up with much worse. Most importantly, new readers will probably be too distracted by King's skilled prose to notice its flaws.

"Cujo" is recommended as a decent introduction to Stephen King's work, as well as a fun look into good characterisation and narration for budding writers. If you've been reading King's stories for a while, however, it's unlikely to be one of your favorites. 3/5.
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on 10 May 2012
Cujo is the compelling story of a rabid dog who traps a woman and her young son in a car. As with many King stories human problems are brought into focus by the central threat. The woman, Donna Trenton, is cheating on her husband Vic, whose ad agency is failing. This leads him to Boston, away from her and their son Tad when the dog Cujo attacks. Cujo belongs to Joe Chamber, an abuser whose wife Charity plans on running away with their son Brett. One day while chasing rabbits the unvaccinated dog is bitten by a bat, giving him rabies.
Cujo is written so well it makes me wonder why some professional critics hate King. The prologue is almost perfect. The atmosphere it creates is tense and brisk. Passages exhale menace. I'd say it should be a candidate to be studied by beginner authors.
The plot is detailed and unlike some horror stories doesn't consist of just a threat which provides gore. We care about the characters because they have personal lives which exist outside the threat, giving the impression that these are real people whose lives are interrupted by terror, not terror interrupted by fake people. Cujo is a gripping, powerful horror novel I'd recommend to anyone in search of a suspenseful read.
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on 26 June 2012
I have owned a few copies of this book over the years - they seem to get 'borrowed' and don't come back!
I am always a Stephen King fan but sometimes the story doesn't work for me; this one definitely did.
I really liked the way King set up the story so that when Donna and Tad go out to the farm they are inevitably going to get stuck there and no one is coming to help. It seemed to me to be so resonant of a lot of real life situations (not neccsarily ones with such deadly results) where someone will talk about something that has happened and then add - 'if only' - we have all thought that at one time or another -it happens all the time.
In the story we also get to see this awful situation from the viewpoint of Cujo the poor victim of an attack that had affected him with rabies. King describes how the dog's mental processes deteriorate with such disastrous results!
This story is really different and I admire that too. Loved it.

Author of : The Palaver Tree
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on 29 June 2012
I've just finished Cujo after wanting to get to it for months, and I gotta say, I think I have a new favourite by Stephen King.

It's no secret; I've enjoyed every book I've read by King so far - branching from Carrie to 11.22.63 - but this story is horror at its finest.

Up until now, I would have said The Shining was the scariest book I've ever experienced, but, growing up with dogs (one of which was actually mentally ill), Cujo has now surpassed it, just for being that much more real in a sense.

Not everyone will agree with this statement, but not everyone has had a family dog turn on them.

The story is not only awesome, but it is relatable in so many ways. A trait I've come to love about King's novels. The characters all come into a life of their own, and you're soon linked closely to them in your own little world.

Dark, gruesome, terrifying and pretty damn shocking. Cujo is not one to miss for ANY horror fan.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2000
Take a small Maine town. Add one family of three (husband struggling in business, wife having an affair, young son terrifed of a monster lurking in his closet). Include another family (bullying father, mother desperate to escape, son caught between the two). Bake in a very hot summer. And don't forget to top with a rabid St Bernard dog.... The result is a very good read !
Cujo is one of the least supernatural King novels - its horrors are firmly based in reality. It builds suspense and characterisation with the usual King precision. If you are looking for an entertaining read (and perhaps an introduction to Stephen King's work), I would recommend Cujo. Just a cautionary note - this is perhaps not the ideal book for those with dodgy cars and fur allergies !
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2007
I'm guessing that many of you own or have owned a dog at some point in your life. And, i'm also guessing that you'd consider said dog to be loyal to you and part of your family. So, I ask you, can you possibly imagine what you'd do if your dog went rabid?

Pooch would lose his appetite. Start to become easily confused. Tired. His brain would melt and with that he'd forget about you. Forget the loyalty and love he held for you.

He'd feel intense pain.

In his eyes YOU would become the reason that he feels this pain.

Mix this with a claustrophobic seige over a few days, some marital issues, a child that suffers from sleepless nights and you have Cujo.

King really doesn't hold back any punches with this. Be warned. It's bleak, but an amazing read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Cujo is special. This was my introduction to Stephen King; oh, I'd read that story of his about toy soldiers (in seventh grade English class, no less), but this was my first real Stephen King experience. It was also my first truly adult novel; there's some pretty racy stuff in here, especially when you're an innocent twelve-year-old kid. Steve Kemp, Donna Trenton's jilted lover, is a cretin. That's part of the reason why Cujo has always been my least favorite Stephen King novel - until now, that is. Having finally reread this book, I am quite bowled over by the experience. This is King at his most visceral, his most unrelenting, his most vicious. Dark doesn't begin to describe this novel. The ending was and is controversial (so controversial that it was changed - quite cowardly - in the film adaptation). Speaking of the film, it's important not to judge this novel by that adaptation - in the movie, young Tad is almost impossible to like because Danny Pintauro was just such an annoying child actor, and Cujo himself is little more than a monster because we don't get inside his increasingly disturbed head the way we do in the novel. The real Cujo is a good dog.
King has said he does not remember writing very much of this novel, that it was written in an almost perpetual drunken haze. It's ironic because Cujo is an amazingly sober read. Maybe the booze explains the brutality of the story, but I think not - like any great writer, King lets the story tell itself. What happens at the end of this novel just happens; King doesn't make it happen. That ending - actually, the whole book - opens up all kinds of questions about Fate and justice. I have a hard time liking Donna Trenton, and a part of me thinks there is a certain amount of justice in her fate (although the punishment grossly outweighs the crime in this case). How do you explain what happens here, though - all these coincidences that seal our characters' - especially the child's - fates? Why and how does such a horrible tragedy happen? As the reader, you ask these questions, and they echo the questions we sometimes ask in real life. King taps directly in to your worst nightmares with this seemingly simple story.
The basic foundation of this novel is a pretty simple one: man vs. nature. In one corner, you have a mother fighting for the life of her son as well as herself; in the other corner, you have Cujo, a two hundred pound St. Bernard, a gentle, loving dog who has gone rabid - very rabid, insanely murderous rabid. It's essential to realize that there are no villains here, though, only victims. Curiosity killed the cat, but it gave Cujo rabies, and we experience his own canine mental breakdown as the disease lays waste to his central nervous system. Cujo would never dream of hurting anyone; the rabies eventually kills the real Cujo, though, and turns his huge canine body into a horrible killing machine, a very fiend from hell itself, the personification of the terrible monster in the closet that frightens young Tad so much every night in his room. King conjures this malevolent connection in a wonderfully tangible way, going even farther to tie "the monster" in to the murderous deeds of Frank Dodd - King directly cites events chronicled in The Dead Zone, already building the aura of the doom-shrouded town of Castle Rock.
So it's a simple story - yet it's not simple at all. You have marital discord between the Trentons, the result of a stupid affair between Donna and the aforementioned cretin Steve Kemp. Vic is trying to save his business at the same time that he is hammered with the news of his wife's infidelity. You have Tad's fear of the monster in his closet and his trust in his father to keep him safe. You have the wife of country mechanic Joe Camber and her fears that her son will turn out just like his father. You basically have all manner of compelling subplots going on at the same time, somehow coming together to conjure an unimaginably horrible series of events. In other words, this is real life taken to extremes - and there are monsters in real life, oh yes.
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