I have always been fascinated by the concept of the disease Rabies. Ever since I saw the film Cujo as a kid I have wanted to learn more about it. The subject is not touched on as much as it should be; King captured it brilliantly with this horrid situation that really could have happened. He also chose a vicious vehicle for the disease...after all, it's better to have a huge, powerful St. Bernard than a small alley cat coming after you. The facts, from what I have learned on the disease, are accurate enough. The dog not attacking the boy the morning of the fog for example...he was going through the stage of turning completely, and recognized the voice in time. All of this realism really ups the creepiness of the novel; creepy animals have always spooked me more than unrealistic ghosts and goblins.
The scenes between the dog and humans is brilliant. From the opening bat attack to the sad as hell ending, the atmosphere is rich and powerful. The little boy Thad is as precious as they come. King wrote him well and he came across as convincing. My heart ached with him. I understood the mother a bit more in the novelized version than I did the movie, and sympathized with her more. Her fear, frustration, and life all rang through. Her husband, Vic, wasn't there as much but when he was, he convinced me.
A friend of mine has commented that he didn't think Cujo the dog was written well. I disagree; I found that a well enough job was done and I enjoyed being in the mind of this St. Bernard, even if he was going through hell. It's a bit slower at the beginning but this is all due to character development. Thankfully it worked and enhanced the novel instead of taking away from it.
King really shines in some of his novels, and I consider ones of his best works. The ending was hauntingly depressing - the dog attacks were vicious and exciting - the narration at the beginning and end of the book before and after the characters are 'dealt' with -- King's ability really shows within these paper walls.
Sometimes it's fun to escape into a world of fiction where monsters that couldn't exist are there, where madmen have unrealistic abilities, where things that never could happen do. Where we see the end of the world, or a made up race. On the other hand, it's also more unsettling to see realistic events unfold...dogs turned into killing machines is high on one of those lists, families destroyed by a brutal disease really out there. King doesn't hold back on the violence or the gore here, either, and that helps drive the impact home. The characters are sympathetic, the attack scenes suspenseful, the ending justifiably sad, and the atmosphere well-done. Cujo deserves its place in your library.
“Surely they had passed the worst. All the luck had been against them, but sooner or later even the worst luck changes.”
“All the logic in the world could not blunt the pain. Logic could not blunt her terrible sense of personal failure. Only time would do those things, and time would do an imperfect job.”