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From a Buick 8 - Stephen King

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Author: Stephen King / Genre: Horror / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

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      31.01.2010 15:53
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      A Troop of Patrolmen regale a young lad with tales of a haunted car that comes into their possession

      Currently going through something of a Stephen King revival, the next book on my list is none other than this mis-matched title that, like several of his later novels, has managed to divide opinion and split the views of SK fans in two. For many, this book is like Marmite; you either hate it or you love it. Personally, whilst I agree it differs in style from many of his books and hence understand why it might not be to some readers' tastes, it remains one of my favourite Stephen King novels of all time. If anything, its easy-going nature and the fact that it is quite a light read means that it is more like something written by Dean Koontz than The Master Of Horror himself and that is perhaps one explanation for why it may not sit well with SK fans. There are plenty of people who don't like and dismiss Dean Koontz for his writing and many of them are long-time fans of SK. For me, I personally applaud the writer for trying something different, set outside, as it is, his usual location of Maine....

      Curtis Wilcox is a Pennslyvania Trooper who is killed in the line of duty when a drunk driver plows straight into him. His son, Ned, begins hanging out at the Barracks after his father's death in a bid to feel close to the people he worked with and begins doing odd chores all about the building. And it is not long before he stumbles across Shed B and the secret that lies within; a mysterious Buick 8 that defies all logic and seemingly makes up its own rules about what is expected as normal.

      Ned begins asking questions and so the Commanding Officer of Troop D, Sandy Dearborn, along with the last remaining Troopers who were there when the Buick first turned up, all sit down and tell him the story of how the car came to be in Shed B and all that has happened in between. It is a story that crosses several generations and begins way back in another time but it is also a story with very few answers. The Buick, it seems, is a conduit to another (or several) different dimensions and has always been shrouded in mystery. Slowly, as the truth is revealed, Ned finds himself searching for explanations but, ultimately, none are forthcoming. The Buick just is and its influence is every bit as powerful now as it was on the day it was discovered as the Troppers of Troop D are soon to find out....

      Very much like Stephen King's answer to the cult classic House Of Leaves, (and anyone who has read that book will know it is similarily devoid of any answers) From A Buick 8 is a modern-day ghost story; a haunted-house tale where the house in question is not actually a building at all but a car! Some say that this book is linked to King's Dark Tower books, and that may be true, but those links are tenuous at best as are claims that the story is also connected to the short story, The Mist. It is perhaps more relevant to mention here that all Stephen King's work follows similar themes and so it is only likely that fans will draw connections where maybe none were originally intended!

      Certainly Buick is a frustrating book in that it never gives anybody any kind of satisfactory closure, be it either the characters or the readers, but then that is often how it is in life and sometimes everything cannot be neatly filed away in its relevant box. Often files in our life are left open and incomplete and, in this way, this novel comes across as one of his most ambitious undertakings yet. Personally I love the story and love the whole aura of mystery the story leaves behind it and think it is an excellent addition to my collection of Stephen King's published work!

      It is not often nowadays that you get a book that leaves plot issues unresolved and, in a genre that is literally becoming flooded once again with imitators eager to steal King's crown, I still believe that this book is something of a brave move on this author's part. And it is for that reason, and the fact that I still really enjoyed it second time around, that I have chosen to give this paticular novel a controversial 5 stars!!

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        30.07.2009 17:55
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        If you have never read him before, choose something else...

        Stephen King has featured in my reading habits a lot over the years. His very style is enjoyable and eye opening at times. I think I will always consider 'The Stand' as my favourite book, but he has written many good ones of late too, such as 'Bag of Bones' and 'Dreamcatcher' (albeit a disappointing film). I await each new book with an air akin to that of a child waiting for Christmas morning, as I was with 'From a Buick 8.'

        So, Imagine my disappointment when reading it!

        Firstly, I will give you details of the story: Ned Wilcox's father has died and he starts working for the police force his father worked for, generally cleaning up the place at weekends - he is still at school - and learning how to use dispatch. Everyone there loves the kid.

        Troop D (a division of the Pennsylvania police department) has a secret, and that secret is hiding in Shed B of the barracks where they are based. This secret might look pretty harmless, for it is a Buick 8 Roadmaster. But the car has a lot of history about it, which Ned Wilcox is about to find out. The sergeant of Troop D - Sandy Dearborn - has decided it is about time Ned knows the secret of the Buick 8, along with how and why Ned's father was so horrifically killed in a road accident a year ago - he was crushed by a lorry.

        The car came to them after it was left at a gas station and the driver (a very odd looking guy) seemingly did a runner. When they received the car, they found many odd things about the Buick, most importantly the fact that it could not possibly be of this world. Whilst the car is being inspected one of the member of Troop D disappear never to be seen again. Everyone feels that it was the car, that the car opened up its trunk and ate him whole. Troop D decide to keep quiet about their Buick 8, not wanting it to become a Roswell type of thing. They learn more about it as a result.

        The car performs strange lightshows within the shed it is kept and after these light shows have finished, things disappear, like Hamsters But things... arrive also, such as bat-like creatures that cannot possibly be of this earth. Ned's father is one of those people who belong to Troop D who have a big interest in the car and what it is. They perform experiments and such just to try and figure out what the car is, why it is here and what it wants...

        Questions are asked such as where it came from, where things go to when they disappear and where the things - such as the bat things - come from. Ned Wilcox and Sandy perform autopsies on the things that come out of the Buick, but still they have no answers.


        Buick 8 is quite horrific at times and there are visual scenes of gore that might well make you want to hurl. It is well written and I guess it is one you feel you have to finish once you have begun. However, I was not impressed. I expected much more. I did not care much for the characters, and I felt it was too overly padded out. Mr King does pad out his books and I usually find this fine, for I like his writing style. However, the Buick 8 style of padding is not interesting or entertaining. The worse thing about this book is that it promises much but does not deliver - it really does not seem to go anywhere at all, leaving the reader with many questions left unanswered.

        Perhaps I have read too much Stephen King of late (Black House, Everything's Eventual, Dreamcatcher...) I might well have OD'd on this best-selling writing from Maine, USA. Still, I suppose you cannot be perfect all of the time, you can sometimes miss the mark - and Stephen King certainly has done so this time, as he has done in past (Pet Semetery), but not for a long time!


        Also written by me (slightly altered) as 'Borg' for Ciao UK...

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          22.10.2008 16:50
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          His worst book, but that doesn't mean it is bad

          I am not surprised to see that this has some of the worst reviews for a Stephen King book. This is not his best work. Of course that doesn't mean it is bad - with his wonderful, clear and easy to read writing style I doubt anything he writes can be bad!

          THE PLOT
          Revolves around the Pennsylvania State Police station. At the back there is a car. A Buick. It seems to be a portal to another world. But any of his 'constant readers' should realize that it is in fact a portal to a dark place that exists between worlds that is full of monsters. The story follows Ned. His father was a tropper who died and now Ned wants answers. He sees the Buick and wants more answers. The other troppers fill him in.

          WHAT'S WRONG?
          Firstly this is another of his books told and someone telling a story, namely the other troppers telling Ned. This is not a problem in its self, but it is harder to write such books, and this effort falls short.
          Second, NO ACTION, none, it really gets a little boring at times. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, and it is so thin if I start I'll give it all out! But it is hardly masterful.

          SUMMARY
          It is King, and as I said, that means it is at least OK. But a poor plot and no action makes it right at the bottom of the list of King's books.

          Only when you have read all of his others!

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            18.03.2006 21:52
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            One of the worst, if not THE worst, Stephen King novel.

            I'm shocked. Simply shocked. What about? I'm shocked that this book is written by Stephen King. I've been Stephen King's 'Number One Fan' (see, I even quote from his books!) ever since I read Pet Semetery when I was about 14 and have read most of his books so you can imagine my excitement when a new book arrived on the shelves with a minimum of fuss. Why no fuss? Possibly because he's embarrassed. This book doesn't hold a candle to his usual work - the characters are only half plausible and the books very hard to follow because it keeps jumping from a first person narration to the story telling you about that person in the past. And the first person narrator changes regularly too! Confused? You will be!

            The story is about a police department (Troop D) based in the fictional town of Statler in Pennsylvania. Many years ago, a Buick 8 is recovered from a local garage where a strange man has asked the attendant to 'fill her up' and then simply disappeared. The car is impounded and taken to Troop D's barracks where it starts to behave very strangely. The car has 'miscarriages' where it throws up a revoltingly described creature from another dimension. It also has the ability to suck people and animals into this same place.

            The Trooper who shows the most interest in the car is killed on duty years later and his son starts hanging around the barracks so he can stay close to his dad. The Sergeant (Sandy Dearborn) takes pity on the boy (Ned Wilcox) and arranges for him to do some work at the barracks while he waits to go to college. One day Sandy finds Ned staring through the window into the shed where the Buick is now stored (it's considered too dangerous to be near anyone) and then proceeds to tell him about the car.

            Ned wants to find out why his dad was so obsessed with this car so gets the whole story from Sandy and ends up ultimately blaming the car for his dad's death. Whether the car could have been responsible is never answered in the book, along with many other questions that are posed throughout the story such as where are the creatures from and where did the Buick even come from in the beginning!

            And the whole story isn't a particularly long one. In a nutshell, they come across the car and decide to keep it rather than hand it over to the authorities (it isn't really explained why they would want to keep it), then it does a few weird and awful things over the years and that's basically it. A short book is then made into a longer one by clever story telling from Stephen King and there's a lot in the book that isn't relevant to the story at all.

            The narration is mainly done by Sandy Dearborn to begin with, mixed with flashbacks to the time he's talking about. But as the story goes on and more people drift over to the smokers bench (which is where the story is being told) the narration gets really confusing and you have to make sure you check the top of the page as you start a new chapter to see the name of the person who's telling the story now! And even then you'll occasionally see a name you don't recognise and have to flick back through the pages to find out who it is.

            This didn't seem like a Stephen King book to me at all. His writing style is completely different to his other books and I couldn't picture any of the characters, unlike his other books where you can put yourself in their place and really experience the tale. It has the feel of someone trying out different writing styles and it just doesn't work. The story doesn't 'fit' either - I got totally confused with all the to-ing and fro-ing at one point and had to go back 2 chapters so I could catch up. There isn't much of a climax at the end and the story more tails off than anything else... and when you get to the end you're none the wiser!

            There's some gory bits and parts that are so disgusting you feel sick, but the suspense and chill that Stephen King is known for isn't there.

            I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I really don't recommend this to anyone but a die hard Stephen King fan. And if you've never read Stephen King before, don't read this book first because it's definitely the poorest one I've come across and it might put you off reading some of his excellent work such as The Shining and Carrie.

            You can buy From A Buick 8 in paperback from Amazon for a bargain £3.99, although if you *really* want to read it then grab a copy from the library and save yourself wasting money.

            Thanks for reading.

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              31.01.2006 18:15
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              A must for SK fans.

              For a huge fan of Stephen King (No 2 after Annie Wilkes), I realise I haven’t reviewed many of his books. This is partly due to the number of reviews written about his books already, but mainly because I hate to say anything negative about his work. I seem to have been a fan of his for as long as I can remember so it’s hard to say which of his books I first read, but since then I’ve read every one except for The Dark Tower series. Reading a new book by King is like putting on a pair of comfy slippers to me, I know I’m going to hibernate for a while until I’ve finished the book. Actually picking out a favourite is like asking a kid to choose one confectionary from a whole sweet shop.
              The jury is still out on whether King has lost his touch over the past few years, non-King readers may not be aware of his near-fatal car accident in 1999 or his failing sight which must be a nightmare to him. King reads extensively as well as writing and to lose his sight must have some affect on his writing.
              Enough digression, dig your hands into your pockets, pay your entry fee and come see the crocodile, but beware, it could be a one-way trip!

              After Ned Wilcox’s father dies in the line of duty (splattered across the highway by the town drunk), he starts to hang around the police barracks where his father was stationed. Troop D becomes his 2nd home and in many ways his family. While the other kids his age (17 going on 18) are doing what comes naturally at that age, Ned is busy doing odd jobs around the station and trying to come to terms with his father’s untimely death.
              One day he’s cleaning and comes across Troop D’s deadly secret, in shed B is a vintage 1954 Buick 8, as neat and clean as if it had just rolled off the assembly line and Ned is as fascinated with it as his father, Curtis, once was.

              Of course he needs to know the story around it, kids are naturally curious but being Curtis’s son there is a lot more than mere curiosity involved. While several members of Troop D start to tell the incredible story about how they came to acquire it before Ned was even born, the ‘Car ‘ puts on a dazzling light display and slowly the whole story must now be told. For the Buick is no ordinary car and the troopers are the guardians of something that defies description.

              First Impressions.
              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

              When I first read the book I was a bit disappointed. The actual plot was fairly basic and didn’t quite capture that air of menace that King is so good at. In some ways it seemed to be a mixture of several of King’s previous books, to the uninitiated it has echoes of “Christine”, one of King’s earliest books, with a mixture of several of his short stories and although there is plenty of horror the book seemed to drag at times.
              I wanted to know what had happened over the years the Buick was kept under wraps, like Ned I wanted answers straight away and wasn’t prepared to wait for them. At times I felt like skipping ahead to where the action appeared, but I persevered and in the long run I got my reward with a few chapters of such gripping action I could well have been there myself.

              On my first reading I felt maybe King was losing his passion for the supernatural and the shock tactics were few and far between. What I hadn’t realised was that I was expecting the usual dose of horror that King’s fans have come to expect from him. Instead the book was more restrained, much like the early works of the 20th century writers with more than a nod in the direction of H.P.Lovecraft.

              I got much more out of my second reading, this is something I do with all my favourite authors, go back to the book about a year or two later and really read it with my mind on what the author is trying to put across to the reader. I may often be reading more into a story than the author intended, but this time I feel I got the point exactly as King was trying to make.

              Second Impressions.
              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

              Without giving too much of the plot away I can only say that the Buick 8 in the book is a sort of conduit to a parallel world, something King has explored many times. It’s in the actual telling of the story through the eyes of the various members of Troop D, which lifts the book above the status of pure horror.
              Ned needs answers to the death of his father in a seemingly pointless accident. As the story unfolds he has an uncanny link to the mystery that had gripped his own father many years ago. That his own father kept a deadly secret to himself seems a betrayal to Ned and his family, that his father had his own secret world which he never talked about at home makes him angry and keeps him looking for answers when there is no real answer, only something that each member of Troop D had tried to keep to themselves.

              The story reveals itself in episodes with the main characters adding their own impressions. This is where King really excels himself with characters that appear so real you can imagine meeting them and recognising them straight away. The sub-plot is so subtle that many people could easily overlook it, the fascination with the unknown and how it affects the characters. Each one, in their own way loves Ned who is the spitting image of his father but dragging the story of two decades out of them takes it toll and it’s only in final chapters when that love is tested to it’s limits.

              Summary.
              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

              I could analyse the book for ages and still find something else to add, this is the beauty of King’s books, he can run two or three plots at the same time without the reader even being aware of it. The object that the Buick presents has a lure that it’s hard to avoid, even when the troopers think they are acting out of a sense of duty to their dead comrade’s son they are being roped in as helplessly as a rabbit caught in a snare.
              It’s this attention to detail that makes or breaks a book to fans and potential readers alike. It’s not a great book by any means, but as a character study of human nature alone, King once again shows the mastery he brought to such books as “The Green Mile”, “The Body” and “Dreamcatcher.”
              Maybe King’s books will never reach the pinnacles of his earlier work, but he still tells a good story and that is what matters to me.

              My own personal copy is the hardback version, as I can rarely wait for it to come out in the paperback version. It was a present so I’m not sure what it cost although the retail price on the cover says £17.99. It’s still selling at the same price on Amazon although the paperback is cheaper at £6.39. Ottaker Bookshops are worth a look; I bought another hardback there at a 20% discount.

              In SK’s own words, thanks, Constant Reader.
              ©Lisa Fuller
              January 2006.

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                06.10.2003 20:06
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                Stephen King is a horror institution. Born in Portland, Maine in 1947 he has gone on to produce many a journey into the macabre including novels, short stories, screenplays and ultimately, big screen movies. The issue around SK is as to whether he's lost the knack of keeping readers glued to the pages of his latest written work. Having read "Everything's Eventual" I'd decided that he couldn't any more. However, being the forgiving soul that I am, I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and read the 2002 offering "From A Buick 8". King quite rightly suggests that short story writing is a lost art. Recounting a method made famous by the 19th century monoliths HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, the flexible King penned a lame offering of ring-fenced affairs in the shape of "Everything's Eventual" that meant his return to the more traditional stronghold of novel writing was met with some relief (well, by me at least). This story is set in Pennsylvania. Centring on a police barracks in Statler, the plot revolves around the mysterious contents of Shed B. The book opens with the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of state trooper, Curt Wilcox. One minute he's doing his job, the next he's run over by the county drunk, Bradley Roach. The death of his father sends Ned Wilcox into a psychological tail spin. At a stage in his life where is he deliberating over what to in terms of a future career, the demise of Curtis senior leaves him confused and vulnerable. By way of compensation, Ned starts to hang around the police barracks, befriending the different officers on duty at different times. In an effort to come to terms with what's happened, he finds himself talking about his father's past which happens to coincide with the secret surrounding one of the police sheds. It seems that within Shed B is an old Buick. Not just an ordinary Buick, this one is in prime
                condition with "....that distinctive fifties Buick grille, which looked to me like the mouth of a chrome crocodile. Whitewall tires, Fenderskirts in the back, yow, baby, we used to say, too cool for school." (to quote Tony Schoondist) What transpires over a period of time is that the old Buick is more than just a car. In a series of atmospheric recounting, Ned comes to discover the strange events surrounding both the initial finding of the vehicle and the subsequently bizarre incidents that follow the trademark build up of static electricity and bright white light that are precursors to an increasingly alarming chain of events slowly uncovering a sinister link with another dimension. Stephen King has reached into his vast imagination again to bring what appears to be a cross between the short story "Low men in yellow coats" (from the book "Hearts in Atlantis") and "Christine". Whilst "Hearts in Atlantis" is a series of short stories with a connection to the US conflict in Vietnam, the actual short story mentioned above is the high point of the collection featuring a boy's encounter with a man running from strange people from another dimension. "Christine" is a more obvious parallel drawing on a classic car that has a mind of it's own, albeit the Buick in question has a more static role than the fender bending star of "Christine". The strength of the tale lies in King's attention to detail. What is unusual is that the setting differs from the usual one based in Maine. The reason for this is revealed in the notes at the end and provide an interesting insight into the origins of the story. Returning from a trip to Florida, King stopped at a gas station in Pennsylvania. It was one of those with a pump attendant so whilst the car was attended to, he went to the rest rooms. Having done his business, he went outside and noticed a steep bank leading to a stre
                am at the bottom. Curious as to what was down there, he slipped and nearly found out first hand. So it was that the "what if?" scenario came into play with Stephen Kind pondering what would happen if a strange man complete with overcoat (see shady characters from "Hearts in Atlantis"), stopped his old Buick at a gas station, went to the rest room and simply never came out, thus leaving the car he arrived in to the vagaries of any potential new owners. This provides the catalyst for the story and also King's desire to set it in Pennsylvania. Attention to detail is immaculate with several drafts of the story amended to take into account more accurate background provided by actual state troopers based in the county. There are a number of meanderings that are included to dramatise what the State troopers do for a living whilst saluting their efforts and hard work. As ever, the characterisations are strong. We've come to expect a carefully crafted pen picture of the main characters and here again, King doesn't disappoint. The developing relationship between trooper Sandy Dearborn and Ned Wilcox is carefully choreographed throughout the main tale whilst the other characters including Tony Schoondist, Shirley Pasternack and the Swede Arky Arkanian (surely based on Latka from the TV series "Taxi") are all prime examples of King building an image that readers can empathise with further compounded by the development of a personal history of varying degrees that serves to give imaginary flesh and bone to the character you are reading about. Stephen King is at the opposite end of the writing spectrum to writers like James Patterson. Whereas Patterson will include short, sharp chapters, Stephen King goes into meticulous detail around every nuance of a plot. This can be boring at times. There is no doubt that Mr King is a brilliant writer and this is reflected in his revered status in the writing world. However,
                there is more than a suggestion that he has become more convoluted with age and here again is another example of a tale that could be told with a quicker pace aimed at entertaining rather than attaining literary perfection. You have to hand it to King that he is always willing to try something different. A recent foray into E-novels proved inconclusive but within this story, King tells the tale from several perspectives and flits between the past and the present. This is intended to give the story a kind of campfire feel to it and he probably succeeds without confusing the reader. Personally, I wouldn't get too excited about this approach and prefer the first person myself. All in all, I still feel the jury is out on Stephen King. I find myself questioning whether to buy any more of his books but, I suspect die-hard fans will disagree and buy the book in droves. No doubt there will be a film to follow soon too. This isn't a bad read but simply more a deserving case for the hordes of SK fans only. I bought this paperback copy at Tesco for £3.73. If you want to get it any cheaper than you can always have a scoot around online. Thanks for reading Marandina ISBN 0-340-77070-8 *Incidently, the movie "Hearts in Atlantis" is worth a watch if quite a gentle affair starring Anthony Hopkins.

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