Much like the novel’s title object, Stephen King’s From a Buick 8 sat on my shelf for many years. While I never stared at it and assumed the superintendents position as the book possits, it traveled through multiple moves without a glance. Typically a quick read, I tend to refer to King when I need a good novel, one that flows by without deep literary symbolism and interpretation. Something that can spark interest and excite while keeping the pages turning. While From a Buick 8 has merits, this book is a bit folksier than King’s typical works and driven more by theme than events, as in this text was not quite what I was expecting at the time.
Primarily written from the first person perspective of an aging Pennsylvania State Trooper named Sandy, the text follows the mysterious and strange events that surround a peculiar Buick the Troop branch took possession of in bizarre circumstances: the owner drove it into a gas station, asked for service, went to the bathroom, and never returned. While his absence is not the mystery the text presents, this car not only appears invulnerable to damage—one can scratch it and watch the paint regenerate—but also a source of great energy. It emits light quakes that flash waves of purple, transports strange creatures from another world, and is responsible for the disappearance of at least three individuals, including its owner. Furthering the oddities, the car is not built to spec and exists as more of a concept for its make year than the real thing—nothing about the machine seems to add up.
Typical of a Stephen King thriller, the car seems to breathe, seems to gnaw at the mind of the officers, and while standing as a beacon of interest for the men, it is linked to the worldly death of many officers, even if such occurrences exist more as hunches than anything else. Yet the narrative, which hovers around the hodgepodge recounting of Buick experiences to young Ned, the mourning son of a recently killed State Trooper who held an unhealthy fascination with the Buick, and while the tales do hold merit, the central narrative does not. Frankly, the narrative just kind of starts, plods along, and ends under the assumption that everything will be alright, a fact that is atypical of Stephen King’s creations.
While the tone is indicative of much of his later work, where redemption and life reflection tend to ooze to the top, King spends too much time in Sandy’s head offering too much cliché patter about the actions of Ned and the boy’s reception to their story. In the end, while the book is a decent read, it neither thrills nor fully enthralls. There is something here, something that rings home, but that something may not be worth the four-hundred pages.
- “I did, too. Sometimes there’s nothing to learn or no way to learn it, or no reason to even try. I saw a movie once where this fellow explained why he lit a candle in a church even though he wasn’t a very good Catholic anymore. ‘You don’t fuck around with the infinite,’ he said. Maybe that was the lesson we learned.”