From the Archives: Rage by Stephen King

Years ago, I attempted to read all of Stephen King's books in order and blog about them. I eventually gave up because there are just too many. Below is one of the posts I wrote. 


Original Review written in 2014:

Rage was technically written before Carrie and is King's actual first novel, but was published years later under King's pseudonym, Richard Bachman. This makes Rage not the next step on King's developing talent, but a look back to where he began and I did not really like what I saw. Rage is flat, rushed, and unpleasant to read. Charlie Decker shoots two teachers and then holds a classroom hostage until Stockholm Syndrome sets in and they not only relate to him, but then turn on the one member of the class who resists Charlie's spell of dark, self-deprecating, and embarrassing stories. The writing is simplistic and lacks King's usual depth and captivation. The characters are hollow and I found their behaviour unrealistic. I'm no psychological expert, but doesn't Stockholm syndrome take longer than a few minutes? The kids are Charlie's almost as soon as he sits down. Despite a few tears and scattered screams, the class is pretty unfazed by witnessing the death of their teachers and being held hostage for the majority of the school day.

Charlie Decker is an unsympathetic protagonist (despite the abuse he suffers from his father) and the stories he tells just made me cringe. He has a classroom captivated and what does he do? Tells his most embarrassing stories and failures as some sort of catharsis. What I think happened was Charlie shot his teachers, took the classroom and then didn't know what to do with them so he babbled to fill the silence. Fortunately, it's a short book (more novella than novel) and not terrible.

If I had read this book not knowing it was Stephen King's work, I don't think I would have recognized it as him. It lacks his usual style - Decker is neither an addict or a writer. The story is told in first person and is devoid of King's "floating words" device as I like to call it. Anyone who reads King will know what I mean - those italicized snippets that float between the paragraphs. However, when I think underneath the surface, some elements are there. For instance, the hostage situation where the "real monsters are those inside" idea that shows up most notably in The Mist and Under the Dome.

Now that my review is done, there is an elephant standing in the centre of this room and he just won't stop demanding I address him, so here we go. Rage is out of print because four perpetrators of school shootings were influenced by it, or cited it as an inspiration, or found with it. This made King uncomfortable and he then let the book fall out of print. I have a copy in the form of "The Bachman Books", a collection I once found at a used bookstore forever ago. I don't want to get into a deep discussion on school shootings, but I will say that I generally agree with King's comment:

“My book did not break [these teenagers] or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them, because they were already broken,” he said. “Yet I did see ‘Rage’ as a possible accellerant, which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”

As for the pseudonym aspect of it, I think I'll discuss Bachmann vs. King in more detail later on in this read-through when I've made my way through them all.

My next King review will be a while from now because the next book is The Stand and even though this time I'll be rereading the abridged version (I'll read the full version when it comes up in the timeline), it's still going to take me a while.


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