Gwendy’s Feather –
The Buttonbox universe continues! This time without Stephen King for good and bad, I think. The writing is mostly the same and Richard Chizmar does a pretty good job of mimicking the style as needed. It’s most weird that Richard Chizmar in playing in the Stephen King universe more than anything. There’s some references to Alan Pangborn here of The Dark Half and Needful Things fame or infame, though he’s not a major element in the book. It’s a Castle Rock book and is treated as such.
The story picks up 20 years after Gwendy first got the box and used it possibly to lose weight and possibly to cause the Jonestown Massacre. She’s now a best-selling novelist turned documentary filmmaker, now turned first-term US congresswoman from Maine. She comes home for winter holiday and is asked to assist (politically) with the case of a missing local girl who might be part of a series of missing girls.
Gwendy goes home and can you imagine that, there’s the buttonbox, showing up again, and presenting her some temptation. She has some things she wants. She wants her AIDS research bill to pass, she wants the world to not collapse into nuclear war with a recent brinksmanship with North Korea, she want the local girl to be found safe, and she wants her mom not to die. She also knows that getting any one of these could cost her and the world the other. It’s the box, man.
The novels reminds me a lot structurally of Black House, where having built the world in book one, has to figure where to play it out in book. The scope is smaller without the worldbuilding, but and characterization are much stronger in general.
Gwendy’s Final Task
Well I sure hope neither Stephen King nor Richard Chizmar has Alzheimer’s, because I think of a few other prolific writers who died from Alzheimer’s who turned to the ideas of dementia, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s in late writing. It’s 2026 and Gwendy is a Senator from Maine and also she’s in space. No kidding. The box has appeared one more time in her life along with its owner. He tells her he’s not going to be able to protect it much longer. He tells her she will need to take it to space and destroy or push it out an airlock. Luckily, she’s a Senator so she can get herself on a mission. It’s silly convoluted, but here we are.
We also find out that the box’s last caretaker seems to have caused Covid, which is unfortunate for all of us.
So the novel begins to further tap into Stephen King universe moving from Castle Rock to Derry, referencing both It and Hearts in Atlantis in the process. This novel is restrained from diving too much into things, and works more in the vein of the Castle Rock tv show than other of Stephen King’s novels where he will sometimes do a real deep dive into the connections. It’s a fitting, sad end for the character.