Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Rating:  ★★★★

I’m going to write a spoiler laden review here, because this book is older than I am.  You’ve been warned.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King.  That one time, the movie was better than the book.

I can’t believe I just said that about a Stephen King book.  The thing is- most movies based on Stephen King books just suck.  Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, like in the case of The Green Mile, the movie will be at least as good, but I’ve never, ever, said the movie was better. (I’m excluding IT, because I’ve never technically finished reading IT.)

I always read the author notes or introductions or whatever else there is to read in a book.  There was a wonderful little intro to this, a letter from Stephen King to his constant readers, in which he introduces Pet Sematary as the book he personally thinks is the scariest he’s ever written.  The one book in which he felt he might have actually gone too far.

And having already watched the movie, I could completely understand.  Because the movie was fucked up.  In a good way.  I was pretty much stunned into silence at the end.  It did feel like the movie went too far.  It was one of the best horror films I think I’d seen in a long time.

And with the ending in mind, I happily jumped into the book.  I patiently waited through 400 pages of the mundanities (spell check is telling me this is not a word, I’m making it a word) of everyday family life in small town Maine.  And I actually did enjoy most of it.  I liked Louis as a character.  I loved Jud.  I loved the backdrop and the creepy Pet Sematary, and loved knowing how King came to write the novel.

There is very little action in the book.  Sure we get a few glimpses of the horror to come- Church the cat, Pascow’s ghost, the ORINCO truck.  But nothing really happens until the end.  This is the slow burn he’s so well known for.

I think, maybe, if I had read the book before the movie, I might have felt more surprise and more suspense.  I watched Pet Sematary knowing nothing about it.  I read Pet Sematary thinking I knew what was going to happen.  So all the parts where Louis is in the graveyard digging up his two-year old, Rachel forging ever onward to her untimely demise, I get the sense the reader was supposed to be thinking, OMG NO!, but the impact might have been a little lost on me.

The thing is- I was expecting the book to languor in the horror of an evil two year old going all stabby stabby.  I was expecting there to be some slow realization by Louis that what he’d brought back was, in fact, not his son.  I was expecting there to be a longer ending.

What actually happened, is that Louis seems to surface from whatever fever dream possessed him to bring his son back from the dead in the first place, makes a very clear choice to undo his mistake, and then lapses right back into the fever dream.

It almost felt like, to me, King thought, “Oh shit, I’ve gone too far.  I should probably wrap this up.”  And then wrapped it up.  The whole ending, in this 500+ page book, takes maybe 30 pages?  It was disappointing to say the least.

Especially knowing what I know about King’s work.  There are times when it seems like he’s gone too far.  The opening to Mr. Mercedes for example, exploring all the gory and gruesome details of a sociopath driving a car into a crowd of people in need.  Or that short story he wrote, Survivor Type, which I read 15 years ago at my mother’s kitchen table on a sunny summer day and still gives me nightmares.

This, in comparison to those things, in comparison to it’s own movie, seemed tame.

That being said, though I was disappointed with the ending, I did enjoy most of the book.  And I read through all 500 pages insanely fast.  So- it’s worth reading, sure.  Just don’t read it after you’ve seen the movie.  Or if you can’t wait, just don’t expect the book to match the movie.  You’ll end up a little disappointed.

Pet Sematary can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

24 thoughts on “Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

  1. So you must be talking about the new Pet Semetary movie? I still haven’t seen it, but I have heard it’s really good. I think King has always been verbose in his writing and gets a pass from editors because of who he is, so I’m not surprised that you found the book a little on the boring side😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t even know that it’s boring- just more slow? It is probably a little too long especially toward the end.

      You should definitely watch the movie! It was awesome. I loved it and I don’t often say that about movies any more.

      Like

  2. I’m absolutely happy to finally see a differing opinion on this book! I mean don’t get me wrong, I love the book(and haven’t seen the new adaptation yet.) but it makes me happy to see someone that feels the books end was a little ‘meh’ because in truth I think so too. I absolutely love the build to it, but would have been thrilled to see more of Gage being stabby stabby for a bit more than what we got.

    Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha- thanks Sasha! You definitely need to see the movie! I was just all hyped up knowing how gruesome/gory King can get and then it was like he was so spooked by his own book he stuck a fork in it because he was done. I want a new ending!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s been a long, long time since I read Pet Sematary, so memory has become more than a little blurred and I’m aware of the core story because I saw the recent movie – creepy, indeed, even though the scariest King story remains IT: since reading that one, I have never been able to look at a storm drain in the same way…. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m definitely intrigued by this King story but I could probably say that for most of his work too hahah It’s nice to hear your comparison between the recent movie and this one though. I’m debating on if I should avoid the movie until I SOMEDAY read the book or if I should go ahead with the movie if I ever get the opportunity hahah Great review, Sarah! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a tricky one- because I might have enjoyed the slow pace of Pet Sematary knowing what was coming… I’m not sure I could have said the same thing if I hadn’t already watched the movie.

      On the other hand- I liked the ending of the movie better…which made the book feel like a let down.

      It’s really a lose lose situation.

      I say at least watch the movie- because t really was good!

      Liked by 1 person

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