Christine by Stephen King

I wrote this review in 2016. I just want to add that I now drive a red car and have named it Christine. Sadly, it does not repair itself when broken.


Review from 2016:

"While I am grateful that my car is not possessed by an evil murderous army ghost, I wouldn't mind if it started repairing itself." - Me

I have been reading and enjoying Stephen King's work for close to two decades now, but some of those stories have faded in my memory. That's why I've been making it my recent mission to work my way through all of his books again and write about each one. I was doing this in order of publication, but I've loosened the rules a bit now.

I thought that listening to an audiobook about an evil car would add some terror to my morning commute, but no such luck. I know I read Christine years ago and liked it, but listening to it again was disappointing. It's leaps and bounds above Roadwork, and offers up some excellent scary moments once the car starts killing people, but the wait to get there is long. Our main character, Dennis Gilder, is supposed to be telling us the tragic story about his friend, Arnie, becoming possessed by an evil, angry man and dying young, but instead all he does is talk about himself - at least until the bizarre part where he's in the hospital and the book shifts from first person to third.

Arnie, in Dennis' own words, is a loser. He is beat down at school (only surviving because the sainted Dennis intervenes) and at home by his controlling mother. When he buys Christine, it is, at first, good for him. He stands up to his mother - and Dennis - and gets to work on what he loves, cars. Arnie is a nice guy, has terrible acne, has a weird sense of humour, and is on the chess team. His absolute "loser" status is bizarre. I can see how the chess team and acne are nerd stereotypes, but being best friends with a star athlete and an excellent mechanic should earn him points with someone. But then again Dennis seems to have no friends other than Arnie either, so perhaps he's not as popular as he thinks he is.

At first, the car brings Arnie confidence and a girlfriend, but then he quickly gets consumed by the ghost of the previous owner and becomes an obsessive, angry person. Unfortunately, we don't get to spend enough time with Arnie before all this to see him as such a great person. I never felt like I got to know him as well as I did the angry Lebay. This is because Dennis is not a very good friend to Arnie. Sure, he stops him from getting murdered at school, but he never visits him when he works on the car, and while he is correct that the car is bad, Dennis offers Arnie very little support. He even "steals" Arnie's girlfriend, Leigh Cabit, who wins the title for least developed character in the book.

What I know about Leigh Cabot: Nice Girl, Interested in College, Gets Period Cramps, Really Pretty. That's it. When Dennis begins to fall in love with her, I found myself thinking "why her?" I wonder if perhaps Dennis could not handle his "loser" buddy getting the best looking girl in school, so he began to desire her, not just because she's desirable, but out of some sort of need to keep Arnie in his "place". Because while the possession of Arnie is real and Dennis is right to be worried about his friend, I can't help but think that at least part of his issue with the car and everything is the same as Arnie's mom's issue with it - the loss of control over Arnie and change for the future. Dennis does clearly love Arnie, and I don't know if he could have stopped everything, but he barely tries, even before he's bedridden by a convenient injury.

Christine tried to be a novel that deals with the fictional terror of possession and the real one of growing up and apart that face all young best friends, but it didn't quite make it. I can see King's greatness in the descriptions of the ghosts and the murders (the final confrontation with Christine is intense and hair-raising), but the first chunk of the book takes too long.


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