Firestarter by Stephen King

(No Series)

In 1969 Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson participate in a drug experiment run by a veiled government agency known as The Shop. One year later they marry. Two years after that their little girl, Charlie, sets her teddy bear on fire…by looking at it. Now that Charlie is eight, she doesn’t start fires anymore. Her parents have taught her to control her pyrokinesis, the ability to set anything – toys, clothes, even people – aflame.

But the Shop knows about and wants this pigtailed “ultimate weapon.” Shop agents set out to hunt down Charlie and her father in a ruthless and terrifying chase that ranges from the streets of New York to the backwoods of Vermont. And once they get her they plan to use Charlie’s capacity for love to force her into developing a power as horrifyingly destructive as it is seductive. What they don’t take into account is that even a child can know the pleasure of the whip hand and the satisfaction of revenge.

“No one likes to see a government folder with his name on it.” 

Having always been a big fan of the film, I was anxious to experience the fire starting abilities of Charlie in book form. Did the book end up leaving a burned imprint in my mind as much as the movie did?

Stephen Kings Firestarter, written in his older school style, begins with Charlie and Andy McGee on the run from a company called “The Shop”. The first few chapters are riddled with intriguing flashbacks to fill the reader in on current day situations and up the desperation of the protagonists plight. Multiple point of view is used, showing each persons personal stake in each matter – this was an effective way to pen the novel, working the best for this kind of story. Even though some of the ‘villains’ do actions the reader may not agree with, it’s easier to see why when you’re in their heads.

King writes characters clearly, from the adorable little Charlie to the hardened death-obsessed Rainfield. The relationship between her and the father is endearing, the personal internal issues she struggles through harsh, and the chemistry between everyone brilliant. One thing that made this book soar was the relationships and personal motivations. It wasn’t about starting fires or avoiding putting them out – it was about what these fires meant to each person, and the lives of all. The feelings of the characters is easy to sympathize with; the unfairness of it all spoke volumes, and could apply to several situations not involving pyrokinesis issues in real life.

The pacing was concrete as well. From start to finish I kept reading, absorbing the medium pace. Something was always happening, and the flashbacks never hurt the interest I held.

King’s style really shines here. While later he can sometimes overdo the writing bit, and earlier on he was a bit short and choppy, here he was at his prime. The words are colorful, not weighed down by senseless description and unneeded detail. Paragraphs flowed together fine, creating a piece that was easy to lose myself into. He avoided overusing huge words that boasted a large vocabulary, yet didn’t keep things so simple it felt like it could have been written by any one other than an exceptional writer.

The gore and violence is not overly heavy, but it’s there when it needs to be, particularly when the Shop is at play and the atrocity of the experiments. The theme of novel is powerful, and the idea behind the fire starting child is impressionable. What most of the world wouldn’t give for a power such as this! (Without the side effects of experimentation and government agencies chasing you from Hell and back, of course.)

The beginning is heady stuff, making emotion strong from the beginning – and the ending was a worthy tearjerker that left a heavy feeling in the chest and a coasted with an ironic realism.

I recommend Firestarter to anyone wanting to test the King waters, fans of King who haven’t yet read it, or fans of reading in general. It’s an emotionally driven story with a unique plot, convincing characters, and a strong wrap-up. Buy it for the collection.

   Book Quotes:

“The world, although well-lighted with fluorescents and incandescent bulbs and neon, is still full of odd dark corners and unsettling nooks and crannies.” 

“A kid of your age---any kid---could get hold of matches if she wanted to, burn up the house or whatever. But not many do. Why would they want to?” 

   Cover Gallery:


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