Erik Graff's Reviews > Firestarter

Firestarter by Stephen King
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's review
Jul 21, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: sf
Recommended to Erik by: James Koehnline
Recommended for: King fans
Read in April, 1985 , read count: 1

After reading The Stand and getting a sense of why King was so immensely popular in the eighties, I borrowed my roommate's copy of Firestarter, then The Shining, then Pet Sematary. I definitely liked Firestarter the most.

The reason I liked Firestarter--and the movie based, somewhat raggedly, upon it--was because it contained several elements of interest to me: LSD, CIA, MK-ULTRA and wholesome family values. I'm a sucker for family values--or at least for my peculiar take on what would constitute an ideal family.

An ideal family is founded upon unconditional care between its members and an ethical concern for all others. This is highlighted by the relationship between the father/daughter protagonists having been made berift of the wife/mother, a common focus of their own idealization and longing, her absence intensifying their bond and their mutual recognition of its importance.

The CIA MK-ULTRA program was, according to the subpoenaed congressional testimony of former Director Richard Helms and many others, a rubric for mind control experiments conducted by the agency around the fifties and sixties. Some of these experiments involved LSD given under various conditions to persons in the know and not in the know. So, King's story is based on fact, though the ESP elements are invention, and the way he portrays the agency and government as acting in direct contravention to common values and public law is certainly in keeping with the practice of the real CIA.

It's this verisimilitude which I found most attractive in this work and in King's quite ordinary writing style in general, but, better than most novels, here his weirdness isn't all that weird. Even the ESP stuff is in the range of the plausible.
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