Tom Meade's Reviews > The Mist

The Mist by Stephen King
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Jul 18, 09

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bookshelves: horror, science-fiction
Read in July, 2009

Oh boy, if I had read this when I was fifteen it would have been my favourite book in the world.

I actually saw the film of this first, which may have hurt my appreciation of the novella. The film, you see, follows King's book almost to the letter, but at the same time it fleshes-out a lot of the minor characters, cuts-out King's incessant pop-culture name-dropping and ill-advised sub-plots (the relationship betwen Amanda and David is pointless and ill-conceived, and really should have been shelved unless King intended to flesh this out into a full-length novel), and provides a portrait of the villain, Mrs Carmody, which is simultaneously more over-the-top and mustache-twirling and more believable than that presented in the book.

I'm not just bashing this work for not being as good as its adaptation, however. In fact, the two complement each other quite nicely. King's story is very much a pulpy yarn, clearly written with little thought other than to take this really cool idea he'd hit upon and just get the story out. The film, conversely, is a somewhat heavy-handed political allegory that occasional forgets it's a horror film (often, but not always, to its detriment).

Putting all this aside, The Mist is a really cool idea. It's a mist! Full of monsters! That's covered-over the entire world! That's a great premise. My only real quibble is that King decided to have all of his characters trapped in a super market for another re-reun of Night of the Living Dead. He was obviously trying to conjure a sense of brooding, apocalyptic hopelessness, but the rushed style he adopts kind of undoes him, here, and the book often reads more like either a bloated short story or the skeleton of what could have been an excellent novel. If he'd fleshed things out a bit, and had the characters take-off across country trying to survive, then that would have been marvellous. I do get the sense that he just sort of ended it where he did, because he couldn't think of anything else to write.

Anyway, this was a very enjoyable story. The characters are reasonably fleshed-out, the writing is decent, the ideas are wonderful, and there are some excellent set-pieces. I'm just a little bitter, because as good as this is, with a little more effort it could have been a genuine classic. The idea is simply too good for anyone to be allowed to half-ass it, even if it's also good enough to mean that people can simply coast on it if they want.

I definitely recommend it, anyway. Just don't see the movie first, because it might spoil things for you.
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