Why does King (Dreamcatcher, 2001, etc.) write such gross stuff (“I have the heart of a small boy . . . and I keep it in a jar on my desk”)?
His latest is less gross-out than police procedural. A strange “man” in a black coat and hat pulls up to a nearly deserted gas station in rural western Pennsylvania in a weird Buick 8 Roadmaster and, while his tank is being filled, disappears behind the station. Troopers come and move the Buick to Shed B out behind their precinct house. Why? Because the car is only a poor simulation of a car: the battery’s not hooked up, the dashboard is stage-dressing, and most of the car seems made of unknown materials. Then the vehicle starts to make local earthquakes and gives off a purple light that outlines the nails in the shed walls. All this began 20 years ago, and the troopers have watched the car go through otherworldly shifts: it gives birth to a big batlike thing; a sofa-sized fish; unfamiliar green beetles; a lilylike plant; and it has sucked one trooper into its trunk, teleporting him God knows where. Then a girl-battering tattooed kid gets sucked in. Lead investigator is Trooper Curtis Wilcox, who dissects the strange bat and finds egglike one-eyed baby bats inside. This year, Curtis Wilcox has been killed on the highway after hailing a tractor-trailer, and now his teenaged son Ned wants the lowdown on the station’s cover-up about the Buick 8. The novel gives the history of the car—or would that it did. Instead of following it’s fairly gripping premise, King stuffs his tale with endless police procedure and some of the most truly dull characters this side of a 1930s Soviet proletariat play. The writing’s not bottom drawer, but this is truly a miscalculation after the emotional wonders of The Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
Seven-tenths filler, three-tenths story.