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GERALD'S GAME by STEPHEN KING
“They ought to make it a law that you have to get a license, or at least a learner’s permit, before you’re allowed to talk. Until you pass your Talker’s Test, you should have to be a mute.”
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What was meant to be a salacious but fun romp with her husband Gerald soon becomes a harrowing battle for survival against the elements, against time itself, against the things in the woods, and against her own inner self.
Gerald's Game makes great use of the 'self contained' horror trope. Trap a character alone in a single location and see how much of a story you can get out of it. Stephen King does an amazing job here, primarily by making strong use of a couple key ingredients.
The first is with the protagonist Jessie. How does one get an entire novel out of a singular character's thoughts/dialogue, you may ask? Well, the trick is that there are more than just Jessie present through the plot. It's just not so obvious at first. Jessie is struggling to survive. It's a harrowing experience. Coupled with her life experiences, she has created many personas to cope with what is happening alone in this cabin on the lake. She talks to herself, but it's really not to herself. There is entirely separate character work and dialogue going on here, and it plays very well.
Mostly. SK is often infamous for inserting turns of phrase and 'interesting' dialogue to give characters more...well...character, and that is good to do so. But sometimes he goes overboard, especially with the born-and-raised-in-Maine characters he often creates. Jessie is an example of that here. Some dialogue is eye-rolling, unfortunately. But the mechanics of it all are top-notch.
Another great effect in this book is the almost-Stephen King-horror way he has of teasing the reader with the supernatural in this story. You think it's heading down that path, and then you question it, and then bam. You get your answers. But again, there is a caveat; even when you get your answer, it becomes very long and drawn out, and leads into what is unfortunately the weakest part of this story. The ending. It's long winded. It's almost like a forced after thought. There is a good 50-100 pages that could likely get cut and still have an intense, incredible ending. Oh well.
Also, for the eagle-eyed, there is a sequence mentioned subtly that involves the eclipse but at a different location, with an unknown woman. This ties into another Stephen King book, one which originally published the same year as Gerald's Game I believe. It's the same eclipse, but two different places, two different characters, both of whom I believe have the Shine and would fit into the Dark Tower mythos in their own ways...
A great self-contained horror/thriller that unfortunately gets really bogged down by its overly long and needless ending.
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