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Pet Sematary


Stephen King

Pet Sematary
average rating is 5 out of 5

Horror, Thriller, Supernatural

R. Alex Jenkins

Stephen King can be as smooth to read as butter and therefore easy to forget as horror. The short and accessible chapters are a blessing too and even the intentional spelling mistake of 'sematary' feels right.

The character building is incredible as you would expect from Stephen King while you get to know the peeps and how they interact with each other and the other side.

Although I've never seen any of the Pet Sematary movies, I was expecting plenty of silliness from this book, perhaps waves of rabid cats and dogs leaping over tombstones and sieging the house with Gremlin cackles and howls of evil laughter, becoming gradually apparent that this isn't that type of book but closer to a slow-burning family thriller with notable horror elements.

Published in 1983 and nine years after his first book, Carrie in 1974, and 'Salem's Lot in 1975, the writing maturity in comparison to his early work is evident, with lower amounts of characters and convoluted plot twists that are confusing and untethered in 'Salem's Lot, for example. This book slows down and concentrates on building up emotional attachment between family and friends and the fear of potentially losing connections and emotional ties. Slow but never plodding, intriguing and mildly gripping at first, ultimately leading to foreboding as you sense what's coming next.

At 55% (part two) I had to put the book down and take stock before carrying on. For a day or two. A genuine fear that this might go too far. If you've ever loved anything or anyone and fear possible and unimaginable loss, maybe unable to breathe because of irrational thoughts that things will never be the same, perhaps spasming with terror at the horrible concept of spending the rest of your life bereft of hard-earned love and being abandoned or finding yourself alone, you'll emotionally connect with this book.

Pet Sematary plays on such fears in droves.

You may question whether you need the psychological stress at what's laid out in front of you? But to spur on and find out what happens next is worth it.

Although this is a scary book, Stephen King is more dependent on your personal apprehensions, circumstances and experience at what his stories mean to you. He doesn't do hardcore or splatterpunk and there are only moderate graphic descriptions, but psychological horror is here in swathes and the core storytelling skill is the prize.

It's something about the way the book is written, the close proximity and homeliness of all the characters, the bond between family and neighbours, even the punch up later on, rather than the stark horror itself. We don't get to see many lurching monsters but can regularly feel the evil under the surface as it waits to rise up and take over because we invite it into our lives through ill-advised perceptions of what's right and wrong. It's our silly egos, our inability to accept loss and move on from the past, while trying to make everything whole again at any cost or consequence.

This book makes you realize that we are sentimental to the point of absurdity and unable to forget because, after all, that's all we have, our memories and connections to each other.

This is profound horror literature instead of jump scares and cheap thrills and if you're looking for serious gore or mayhem maybe isn't the best place to find it, as too slow paced and closer to perfect psychological terror.

It's amazing that a book can be so mature and dark when presented on the surface like action-packed survival against zombie-like pets with soul-piercing stares and incredibly springy rear haunches, with 'pet cemetery' more like an allegory for our inner fears connected to loss and shattered existence.

This is a five-star read and measured consistency is what it's all about by not taking it too far or taking us for an impossible ride that could never happen, which enables us to accept the improbable as very possible from a horror perspective.

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