After Arnie Cunningham falls in love with a broken down junk pile vaguely resembling a ’58 Plymouth Fury, he’s desperate to own it. His friend Dennis thinks he’s gone crazy and his parents forbid it but for the first time in practically his entire life Arnie stands up for himself and buys “Christine.” As he goes to work on restoring the car a series of curious events commences. The previous owner dies suddenly, Arnie’s repairs are going better than could possibly be expected, but the rest of his life is in shambles. He’s fighting with his parents and his grades are slipping because he spends every free moment with Christine. Even when he miraculously gets the prettiest girl in school to go out with him, it’s clear that Christine comes first. As the car starts to exert more and more power over Arnie, the people closest to him worry that the Arnie they loved will completely disappear.
I don’t know why it should be the case that a novel about a haunted car should prove to be a bridge too far for me, when I’ve gladly read Stephen King novels about a haunted hotel, a haunted general store, and time travel, but the truth is I never got over the fact that I was reading a very long novel about a haunted car.
That length (645 pages!) is a real problem. There just isn’t enough in the story to really sustain the reader all the way through. Once it becomes abundantly clear that Christine is possessed with the malicious spirit of its previous owner, the slow grind of the car exacting revenge on the people that have wronged both it and Arnie seems to take forever. Lengthy passages describing the car driving under it’s own power, seeking out school bullies and nosy policemen drag on and on.
For the most part Christine is narrated by Arnie’s best friend Dennis. It’s not a very fruitful use of the first person. Dennis isn’t much of a character, even when he takes a more active role in the story as he takes on Christine head-to-head. None of the human characters are as interesting as the car, which feels like a problem.
Just like a car, Christine the novel would work better if it was a little sleeker and more aerodynamic. As is, it’s like a nice-looking car dragging a muffler.