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Review: The Mist by Stephen King

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Mist
Stephen King

Genre: SuspenseHorror
Paperback: 240 Pages
Publication: October 2, 2007 (originally 1980)
by Signet


It's a hot, lazy day, perfect for a cookout, until you see those strange dark clouds. Suddenly a violent storm sweeps across the lake and ends as abruptly and unexpectedly as it had begun. Then comes the mist...creeping slowly, inexorably into town, where it settles and waits, trapping you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world. The mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. What unleashed this terror? Was it the Arrowhead Project---the top secret government operation that everyone has noticed but no one quite understands? And what happens when the provisions have run out and you're forced to make your escape, edging blindly through the dim light?


I think a lot of people might be familiar with the film adaptation of this that came out a few years ago. Since I haven’t seen it all the way through, I’m not too sure how faithful it is to the story, but I can tell you that this novella works well on its own.

The best developed characters of this book are our narrator David, his young son Billy, and the antagonistic Mrs. Carmody and Brent Norton. Part of me suspects that this may be because of the length; we are talking about a novella, after all. However, this could’ve been avoided if it hadn’t been overstuffed with minor characters. There are a few of these who are actually memorable, but not for the best reasons. David is a great narrator because even though he flat-out tells the reader that he is afraid, he doesn't let that fear control him. The antagonists were great as well, particularly Mrs. Carmody. Where David didn't let fear take control of his mind, she used fear to gather followers for her more... outrageous beliefs, for lack of better words. I can tell you I was really glad to see her get her comeuppance towards the end.

The suspense was amazing in this book. Even though the beginning was sluggish, everything started to pick up when the mist literally rolled in. When the people are trapped, my mind went to Night of the Living Dead. Not because there are zombies or anything but because these people are trapped and have to find their way out while dealing with a threat that none of them understands. No one knows what this mist is or where it came from, nor how far it’s spread and if there’s a way out of it.

Specifically, this story is a creature feature. Even though we don’t see all of the monsters, they and their actions are described enough to make them terrifying. The mist itself becomes a character in the story, mostly because of the focus on it throughout. One thing that did leave me a little disappointed but gave the story a greater sense of dread were the mentions of the Arrowhead Project. We aren't given any details about it other than that it involves the government, and possibly some messing around with other dimensions, but other than that, the project remains a mystery to the people trapped by the mist. The speculation that it may be the source of the mist and the monsters it brings only serves to amp up the mystery of it and the suspense factor in the story overall.

The ending to this book was very different to that of the film. Where the film had an ending that had just such a hardcore feeling of devastation, the book does it slightly better. It has the grim tone of the movie’s ending, but it has some glimmer of hope. Even though it’s practically dripping with uncertainty, there is still that bit of faith in David that they can come out of the whole ordeal alive.

Legendary horror author HP Lovecraft once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” If there’s anything King plays up severely in this story, it’s that fear. Not just the fear of not knowing what kind of monsters are hiding in the mist, but also fear of the nature of the mist. No one knows where it comes from, nor how to get away from it. Additionally, because we don't know any of the specifics about the Arrowhead Project and the people who could talk about it are dead, the fear about the nature of the mist just increases that much more.

This was a really great read. I didn’t find it so much scary as it was suspenseful. Sure, the moments with the monsters made for great scares, but the suspense was positively fantastic and, in my mind, the best element of the book. (For this review, I actually read the story in the collection Skeleton Crew, which you can check out here.) Whether or not you've seen the film, pick this up, even if it's just for the end. Again, the film's ending left me feeling incredibly upset when I saw it, but this one makes up for it. That one little glimmer of hope proves to be worth fighting for, and that, I think, is a far better message and ending.

Additional Information

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2 comments on "Review: The Mist by Stephen King"
  1. Wow. Can you believe i have read nothing of Stephen King's?
    I always wanted to though. Since I am a great fan of horror.
    GREAT review
    Your reader,

    1. If it makes you feel any better, I didn't read my first King book until senior year of high school (it was 'Carrie'). I really enjoyed this one, since it's been a while since the last time I read any of King's horror stuff; 'The Green Mile' was one of my first reviews on here, but it's magical realism. But if you want a quick scary story, go for this one. Thanks for reading!


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