Book Club reader review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

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Pet Sematary
Author: Stephen King Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: 1o November 2011 Price: £8.99

Although I haven’t had the chance to read anything new, I am currently working my way through my Stephen King collection. I am a massive fan of his work and have most of his novels – from Carrie right up to Under The Dome. I thought it would be a good idea to read them all from the start and compare them to some of his later work to see how they stand up. The answer is: Suprisingly well. I have already made my way through Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Rage, Night Shift, The Stand, The Long Walk, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, Road Work, Danse Macabre, Cujo, The Running Man, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Different Seasons and Christine. (By the way, in case you didn’t recognise a couple of them it’s because Rage, The Long Walk, Road Work and The Running Man were all under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, all worth checking out).

I was enjoying them all, especially The Shining and The Stand, which I hadn’t read in a long time and which both still stand up today. It’s always good to revisit the Overlook Hotel and see what the Dark Man is up to next. But then I came to Pet Sematary. I started reading it and it then dawned on me how truly scary King’s novel is. When the Creed family move to Ludlow in Maine and realise there’s a path that leads to a kids’ Pet Sematary (crudly spelled like that by one of the kids who made the sign), little do they realise that their world will soon be turned upside down. The theme of death is strongly used throughout the novel – especially when Louis Creed’s daughter Ellie asks him about their cat Winston Chruchill (Church for short) would go when he dies. She then blurts out “it’s not Gods cat, it’s mine! Let God get his own cat if he wants to!” – and there are numerous others, such as Rachel’s sister Zelda, who died from spinal meningitis. There are lots of really creepy scenes in here, and I will try not to spoil too many for you in case you haven’t read it yet.

The dream walk with victim Victor Pascow to the Pet Sematary – “Do not go beyond this, doc, no matter what!” – and Rachel’s horrifying ordeal with her sister Zelda are two which immediately spring to mind. The characters in this are some of King’s best. The neighbour across the road Jud Crandall (whose wife Norma dies from rheumatoid) is a warm and friendly old man that Louis claims to be the father he never had, and who first introduces Louis to the Pet Sematary and infamous Micmac burial ground when the Creed cat gets run down on the highway. The way King builds up the horror in this book is immense, and when the tragic accident to end all tragic accidents happens further into the book hits home, you realise that the lump in your throat has suddenly got bigger and you are covered in sweat by the time you reach the nerve jangling ending.

There was a decent film version adapted by King himself and directed by Mary Lambert released in 1989 which had a couple of chilling scenes (the Zelda one in particular) and there have been talks for years of a TV miniseries remake, but the book will always be superior. Having just finished it again recently it’s still one of the scariest books Stephen King has ever written – even beating IT in terms of scares, and one that is my all time favourite. I am now on Misery, but Pet Sematary is the one I will remember for a long time to come. If you;ve never read it give yourself a treat – but be warned it is very, very scary.