By Doug Gibson
Plan 9 Crunch fans, I just watched a horrendous 2004 Mick Garris-directed film, "Riding the Bullet," starring David Arquette and Barbara Hershey. Thing is, it's a pretty darn good novella from Stephen King. It's not the first King adaptation to stink (anyone see "Dreamcatcher" or the Rob Lowe "'Salem's Lot?" But, in fairness to a spooky tale, I submit a review of King's original e-novella since I doubt the film clinker even made it to theaters:
Riding the Bullet
...the worst stories are the ones you’ve heard your whole life. Those are the real nightmares.
Stephen King can spin a great yarn and his new e-novel, Riding the Bullet, is no exception. It’s the tale of Alan Parker, semi-starving college student at the University of Maine. Alan gets a call from a neighbor that his mother, Jean, has suffered a stroke and is in the hospital. Since his “junker” car is down, Alan hitches rides for the long journey downstate from Orono to Lewiston. On the highway, in the middle of the night, Alan discovers he’s hitched a ride with the angel of death. To escape with his life, death offers Alan an awful alternative.
It’s not surprising that death is a dominant them in this very short (63 pages) tale since King wrote it while recuperating after being hit by a car. The famed writer nearly died of his injuries. The first 40 or so pages is the best. It’s very creepy when Alan discovers that the being who picked him up for a ride shares the same name on a tombstone Alan saw earlier while hitching. The story weakens a little at the end when Alan finally meets his mother in the hospital. Jean Parker is one of King’s stock characters; the loud, brassy, overweight single mom whose armpits always smell but sure as heck loves her kid.
Nevertheless, that’s a minor quibble. Readers will find it hard to stop e-turning the pages on their computer screen. The action for most of the novel moves quickly. You can lose yourself in King’s storytelling skills and forgot the slightness of the plot and that Alan is really the only developed character. To sum up, Riding The Bullet is like listening to a great tale over a campfire.