I’ve read a fair amount of Stephen King by this point, and this is one of the better ones. Aside from some dated language and ideas (fatphobia, gender essentialism, homophobic/racist language used mostly by bad guys), I liked this one almost as much as I like Misery. Good villains, simple but effective story. Just a really well done horror/suspense novel. The 1980s just ooze from every page.
I actually wasn’t anticipating the intensity of this novel. It opens in the middle of things, and our two main characters, Andy and Charlie McGee (father and daughter), are already on the run from a mysterious entity that is constantly on the verge of catching them. They are exhausted and in pain and have no money. While they’re on the run, and it is extremely stressful, we get the story in bits and pieces. Andy and his wife met back in college after volunteering to be subjects in a science experiment. They were shot up with drugs, had a very weird night, and then afterwards fell in love, not knowing that that experiment would be far from inconsequential, and that years later, a secretive branch of the government called The Shop will want their daughter very badly. Their daughter who can start fires with her mind.
My main thing with this book is that I kept getting pissed off at how competent the bad guys were. Charlie and Andy just could not catch a break, and even when you think they have, it’s often an illusion. Even the flashbacks are full of claustrophobia, as you watch their lives little by little succumb to this one choice they made when they were broke over a decade ago. And in the back half, when the nature of the threat changes, it’s still stressful as hell because whenever they do manage to catch a break, the bad guys aren’t far behind.
I think I expected this book to be full of just people being set on fire all over the place and exploding, and creepy little firestarting children, but that’s not really what it’s about at all.