Jason's Reviews > Firestarter

Firestarter by Stephen King
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: horror, science-fiction, psionics

Yes. This novel could have benefited from stricter red ink on the manuscript pages from King's editor. &, furthermore, it would have benefited King--including the story--if he had written it as a novella instead of a novel.

This is a great plot-line that has been written by King before but is enhanced with the "innocence lost"-theme coursing through the character of Charlie. In some ways, King has hidden within the story that there is no greater crime or horror than stealing away an individual's childhood. How is it "hidden"? Within the borderline stereotypical "fugitive plot" he buries the Charlie's lost childhood theme--allowing it to be pondered by the reader later. & this makes the novel one of King's unsung examples of him developing as a novelist. He is at least attempting to not be the hack he truly is.

Sure, we've seen the "innocence lost" through psionics within King's earlier novels, Carrie & The Shining, but with his third stab at the story-line, even though it has its flaws, I believe Firestarter is the better novel of the three.

I love stories involving psionics (hell, I have a goodreads shelf dedicated to it) & when I first read Firestarter as an excerpt in Omni magazine, I foamed at the mouth to get my hands on a copy of the novel. Being a kid in the fifth or sixth grade at the time, I didn't know who S.King was & nor did I care. He wasn't completely a household name yet but he was about a year or two away from it. Regardless, I didn't know the author's name but the title & the excerpt I had read was enough to sell me on it--Pyrokenesis! I'm so in!

It wasn't until a year later--when it came out in paperback--that I got my hands on a copy. & I read. & read. & read. & found a thrill here. & a way cool action scene there. & a Native American hit man. & another thrill there. & dad who also has some psionics. & a clandestine science organization that has a cool name called "The Shop". & I read. & read. & then: Far out awesome Psionic Showdown with kid, Charlie, laying waste to everything around her--so cool!

Now, with all the "& read" parts I repeatedly wrote in the above paragraph--these are the parts of the novel where King's editor should have gone red-ink-apocalypse on his typed manuscript. It just rambles. & rambles. Only to be punctuated with just barely interesting plot or character development. His best scenes are the ones involving heavy action with Charlie releasing her "curse" (or "gift", depending on how you want to look at it) upon her abusive oppressors. Her "family moments" seem stereotypical & have the feeling of a Cronenberg Scanners scene that was left on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, when King gets the action rolling, he's back into a groove that makes the story--pardon the pun--burn.

So with all this negativity towards the book, where does the 4-star rating come from? It comes from being a fan a novels involving psionics--there aren't enough of them. & the ones that do exist are not very good ones. Firestarter is one of the better ones--possessing a great concept that if developed properly could have spawned a series surrounding The Shop & the victims of their ultra-secret experiments. This possible series would have been far more interesting than that Dark Tower crap.

With some heavy editing--or a massive re-write if he still wanted it to be a novel--King's Firestarter could've been a hell of a lot better than it is. I'm a total fan of the concept & the execution wasn't completely successful, but it is a stand out novel about psionics.

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