Stephen King will publish two books this year: one is already out, and the other will be released tomorrow. In January or February the publishing schedule was switched around for some reason, so Everything’s Eventual – a collection of short stories – was released in March, while From a Buick 8 will be released on Tuesday. Why this is, I know not, but I can certainly say Mr. King did not save the best for last in his publishing schedule of 2002. From a Buick 8 is simply not that good.
The book begins at a rural gas station in rural Pennsylvania with some backcountry characters whom King has such a way with telling. A bright, shiny blue Buick pulls into the station, and the estranged driver wearing a billowing trench coat and looking menacing tells the attendant to fill her up and then heads off to the bathroom. The attendant fills the tank, but the owner of the opulent automobile never returns. He just disappears. When the police arrive, a preliminary search and detailing is made of the classic car, and some very astonishing facts are discovered. The car has an engine with “Buick 8” written on the sides, but the engine is not connected to anything. All the dials on the dashboard, while looking very realistic, are entirely artificial and serve no true purpose. The exhaust system appears to be made of glass.
The car, like its owner, remains a complete mystery, and is left in Shed B at the barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP). We soon meet our main character, Sandy Dearborn, and the scene is set in the present day, some twenty-five or so years later. We also soon discover that this harmless vehicle has apparently been spitting out some hideous creatures, as well as sucking in a few humans without a trace. Where they go, nobody knows.
250 pages of the 356 page book focus on a detailed retelling of the history of this Buick 8, told to a young man, Ned, whose father was killed – by the car? It does not seem so, but as the story unfolds this becomes uncertain. At parts it becomes a little slow, as King waxes diatribe on the little ineffectualities of rural PSP life, juxtaposed with scary scenes of these helpless cops dealing with monsters erupting from this organic car, all dead (except for the last one).
What comes to the greatest shock, having read just about everything King ahs ever published, is that there is very little resolution, which has always been an important quotient in King’s books. Once all the ups and downs of the car have been revealed, there is a big final scene where our young hero, Ned, attempts to blow up the car with himself in it, with the intention of getting sucked to wherever the ingested go, and killing whatever is on the other side, as the car explodes. But this never comes to pass as Sandy Dearborn saves the day, unsurprisingly.
And that is pretty much how the book ends. We do not find out who the mysterious character that disappeared was. We do not discover whether the car attempts to take over the world. We do not discover whether there is anything in this other dimension that the car takes its victims to (I was personally hoping for a Dark Tower tie-in that seems to be popular with King these days). The car simply begins to age and rot, end of story.
And there’s not much more to say about it. It’s nicely written, there’s some amusing character work, though no great character development, since most of the book is delivered in hindsight. It is simply a very remarkable story (short for King) about a strange car that doesn’t really do much, and has no real ending or explanation. It seems that something is amiss in Stephen King’s From a Buick 8, I only hope it does not carry on in his future publications.
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Originally published on September 23rd, 2002.
Originally published in the Long Beach Union.