Christine (1983) – Stephen King

This week, I dug into a Stephen King classic that I hadn’t read for over thirty years. In fact it was definitely in the first half dozen King novels that I read when I first discovered him in my teens.

It’s amazing how much of it I forgot, and how much of it got blurred over by the John Carpenter adaptation, so a lot of it was like digging into it for the first time. Despite the fact that the 1958 Plymouth Fury is the titular character in both the film and the book, the novel reminds you that the story is just as much about possession as it is this demonic vehicle that is tearing up roads and bodies in small town Pennsylvania.

Broken into three parts, the first and third are told in the first person through the eyes of Arnie Cunningham’s good friend Dennis Guilder. It is with Dennis that Arnie, a bit of a dweebish sort, first sees the broken down Christine for sale, and won’t stop until he is able to purchase him from an elderly crank named LeBay.

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From there, Arnie claims to work on the car even as it causes divisions between he and his controlling family, and even he and Dennis, not to mention the girl who comes into their lives Leigh Cabot.

The car is restored, seemingly impossibly, and as it restores, Arnie seems to change, uses phrases, mannerisms, and exhibiting some of the same injuries of the now deceased LeBay. Dennis has suspicions, but no one is ready for the terror and the darkness that spreads out across the blacktop when Christine takes to the road.

I loved this book this time through, and I’m fairly sure I did the first time I read it as well. But I think I got more out of it this time, as I could see my youth reflected in the characters, but could also see it from an older point of view. And I have to say, Christine has one of King’s arguably best endings, just enough to leave you worried and anxious.

The John Carpenter film is fun, and now that I’ve reread the book, I may revisit the film in the near future, but I really loved King’s prose in this one. Everything works, he can write teenage characters, as well as older characters and make you believe in them. We strap into Dennis’ mind and hold on as he sees his friend’s change, and falls in love with Leigh, all while realizing there is a horror to be confronted in Christine, and the soul that possesses it.

This was a very enjoyable turn, and has definitely fired me up to read a few more King classics in the weeks ahead! What is your favorite?

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