(No Series)

When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son -- and now an idyllic home. As a family, they've got it all...right down to the friendly cat.But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth -- more terrifying than death itself...and hideously more powerful.

"Sometimes dead is better."

Pet Sematary is horror-scary with its story, but the prime focus that comes across to me is overwhelming grief meeting the breaking point/barrier the brain has before it goes insane.

Stephen King has said this was one of the books that frightened him the most to write. It likely meant so much to him because of being a father himself. It's a creepy book (so much horror isn't actually scary), but while reading it I found it wasn't always the actual moments that were what stood out as creepy, but the theme itself. Grief is one of the worst things in the world, perhaps the very worst thing. Change is hard, but change in the form of loss is unimaginable. To lose those you love more than anything in the world, to have that grief, is a great fear. Life will never be the same again and the heartache of some of it can be so harsh it ends you entirely.

So much of horror is aimed at the loss of personal life and fear of the main character dying. The creepiness comes from a monster out there waiting to end you. Pet Sematary takes it even further by bringing the fear home harder - it isn't the loss of personal life, but the loss of other lives and how that will affect you. Not just a sad book that isolates grief, but by then twisting it further by turning your own grief - that worst fear - against you. Saying okay, you have this horrible death happen, life is horrible now, but here's a way to stop the pain, here's a possibility to retrieve that life, erase that loss, press the magic erase button. The cruelty in that is the small hope is perfectly squashed when the deceased returns as 'other' - you got your wish, they are back, but they're still dead, they're not the same, and the only chance you have of surviving is to end them again, this time with your own hand. Pretty horrible stuff. 

“And the most terrifying question of all may be just how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity.”

And of course the book does have actual creepy moments. The moment in the cemetery where it all goes wrong, where Jud errs and brings Louis despite his better judgment but in answer to an ancient call, hearing the sounds of "loons" he's warned to ignore. Louis being told yeah, scary stuff is going to happen, but just ignore it best as you can, block it out to do this OTHER creepy thing and get through it. And that cat Church. He comes back the creepiest. The empty look, the shuffling awkwardness of body, that bizarre stare. Creepy indeed.

I've always thought King rocked with villains, works among the best with plot conception and layout, but his weakness is endings. Here he wins because he brings irony into the twist, an almost morbid despair that fits into the story, making it all that more horrible but fitting. I do wish he had kept the mysterious road open. It's fine for early dialogue from Jud to muse about what could cause the sour land, but to bring in the mildly cheesy culprit in the end took away a little magic. I also found Gage's dialogue cheesy at the end, unlike the movie where it actually worked better (even though I didn't like the movie overall)

As always, characters fit the story like a glove. Louis as a doctor was a good fit as protagonist - his role in life is healing people, and he's thrust into this mess with this cemetery and the height of grief. Rachel's past phobias with her sister tie into the morbid fear or death and moving into this new house, which looks so perfect but borders on the imperfect. Jud as a man with a history of the town who fits in as a trusted father figure, only to accidentally unleash horror on his new 'family.' The touch with Pascow is perfect, and Gage is an adorable little boy. Ellie is fortunately less annoying than the movie version *shudder*. I wonder what became of her? King put in a few nods to other books like Cujo in this one, does he put a story of Ellie somewhere in another book?

For obvious reasons, this is a top horror novel. King's writing is top notch here, not too long and detailed, his characterization fits the story in so many ways, there's genuine creepiness, the theme is one of the worst things imaginable, and the ending wraps it up on in ironic way that lets the evil that always has existed keep existing. Bravo.


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“You learned to accept, or you ended up in a small room writing letters home with Crayolas.”

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