Stephen's Reviews > Rage

Rage by Richard Bachman
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Apr 06, 12

bookshelves: psychos, horror, 1970-1979, children-behaving-badly
Read from April 04 to 05, 2012

RAGE…we’ve all experienced it, whether bumper to bumper on the roads, interacting with ass stains at work, or railing against the evils of beachfront development.
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Here, Stephen King explores the darkest aspect of this emotion, and strikes a chord that can be felt by anyone who remembers the awkwardness, the insecurity, the anger-inducing turbulence of being a teenager. King taps a mighty strong vein in this one.

Originally entitled Getting It On, this early effort of the master, while less polished and containing more technical flaws than his later work, is one of his most visceral and striking psychological stories. This is Catcher in the Rye meets American Psycho, and it is made all the more eerie by the echoes and reflections of real life high school shootings that this story is sure to conjure in the mind of the reader.

PLOT SUMMARY:

A deeply troubled high school senior, Charlie Decker, shoots and kills two teachers and takes his Algebra class hostage. This all happens faster than you can say “Holy Shit, Stephen King wrote this gripping, evocative story while he was in High School…High School…that over-abundantly talented bastard.” This just sets the stage for the real drama to come.

While the police surround the building and make unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with Charlie, the classroom becomes a tense, angry crucible, in which dark secrets and memories of betrayals and painful persecutions are shared by Charlie and his hostages. See Charlie believes that everyone has bad secrets that build up and gnaw at you until you eventually decide to “get it on.”
And all that weirdness isn’t just going on outside. It’s in you too, right now, growing in the dark like magic mushrooms. Call it the Thing in the Cellar. Call it the Blow Lunch Factor. Call it the Loony Tunes File. I think of it as my private dinosaur, huge, slimy, and mindless, stumbling around in the stinking swamp of my subconscious, never finding a tarpit big enough to hold it.
Initially, the confessions of Charlie’s classmates are only partially voluntary. However, as the day goes on, the atmosphere thickens and morphs until a form of group mind takes hold. Suddenly the classroom is a like a dark “after hours” episode of Dr. Phil and the confession begin to come fast and furious…and the rage builds.

For his part, Charlie, through a series of flashback, tells the reader and his classmates, about the events that led to him standing before them a violent, rage-filled double murderer. All of this leads up to an exceptional ending that will stick with you.

THOUGHTS:

This is tough stuff, full of raw, unfiltered anger, and descriptions of the kinds of casual ruthlessness that teenagers are subjected to from their parents, their peers and even themselves. Charlie is a “hold nothing back” narrator and his descriptions of events are unvarnished and somewhat bizarre since he is explaining events as he saw them, not necessarily as the actually occurred.

This is a portrait of a troubled child exploding against the injustices, both real and imagined, to which he feels he’s been subjected.

It is also, like all of King’s novels, addictively readable. Despite being one of his first works, King’s natural, effortless storytelling ability is on full display. It’s amazing to me that a high school student could so easily engage readers and keep them turning the pages in need of knowing what happens next.

The man is gifted like few others in that department.

Finally, the ending. If I had one gripe about some of King’s novels, it’s that his endings are letdowns from the slow, creeping horror of the set up. There’s a sense of letdown and even disappointment. Not so here. The ending of this story is sublime and, I would argue, its best feature. The last 20 pages are positively haunting and reminded me of a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Wicker Man.

I’m going to leave you with a quote that I think expresses the tone of the story very well, and also provides insight into Charlie’s character. The school psychiatrist, who Charlie hates, is coming to try and “talk him down” and Charlie gives you his thoughts on the man's profession.
A man with a headful of sharp, prying instruments. A mind-fucker, a head-stud. That’s what a shrink is for, my friends and neighbors; their job is to fuck the mentally disturbed and make them pregnant with sanity. It’s a bull’s job, and they go to school to learn how, and all their courses are variations on a theme: Slipping It to the Psychos for Fun and Profit, Mostly Profit. And if you find yourself someday lying on that great analyst’s couch where so many have lain before you, I’d ask you to remember one thing: When you get sanity by stud, the child always looks like the father. And they have a very high suicide rate.
But they get you lonely, and ready to cry, they get you ready to toss it all over if they will just promise to go away for a while. What do we have? What do we really have? Minds like terrified fat men, begging the eyes that look up in the bus terminal or the restaurant and threaten to meet ours to look back down, uninterested. We lie awake and picture ourselves in white hats of varying shapes. There’s no maidenhead too tough to withstand the seasoned dork of modern psychiatry. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe now they would play my game, all those shysters and whores.
4.0 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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message 1: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Great review Stephen! I hope this means you're getting closer to reading The Long Walk, for me not only King's best Bachman novel, but one of his best novels ever. It's one of my all time favorites anyway. I just love that book :)


Stephen Thanks, Trudi, and yes, The Long Walk is the next King book I'm reading. I can't wait.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Wow. He was in HIGH SCHOOL when he wrote this...! I am hugely impressed.

I like the GIF, but it's no Baby Rage.

V. tired so back to sleep. This is a really good review!


message 4: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn My favorite book Stephen King wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachmann is called BLAZE. This one was actually really touching in many ways.


message 5: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim Never heard of this. Great review! I added it to my to-be-read pile.


message 6: by ~Geektastic~ (new)

 ~Geektastic~ Rage is a hard book to get your hands on these days. King pulled it out of publication after Columbine, but it's still available in the Bachman Books collection, and I've been meaning to read it for a while.


message 7: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Wow, one of the few Stephen King books I have not read yet. I must add it since your review was so compelling.


message 8: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe Okay. Gotta read it. I can see why he pulled it though.


Stephen Amber ~Geektastic~ wrote: "Rage is a hard book to get your hands on these days. King pulled it out of publication after Columbine, but it's still available in the Bachman Books collection, and I've been meaning to read it fo..."

The Bachman Books is where I read this and I highly recommend it, as it also includes The Long Walk,The Running Man and Roadwork.


Stephen Kate wrote: "Wow, one of the few Stephen King books I have not read yet. I must add it since your review was so compelling."

If you like King, Kate, I think you will really enjoy this. Very raw compared to his later work, but that is not a bad thing.


Stephen Kaethe wrote: "Okay. Gotta read it. I can see why he pulled it though."

I can see why he pulled it as well. If you look on the Wikipedia page for this book, you will see a handful of school shootings in which the perpetrator either acknolwedged this book as an inspiration or had the book in his possession.


message 12: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe Oh, man. That's got to hurt like anything. I mean it's obviously not King's fault, but how could you not feel bad?


message 13: by Arun (new)

Arun Divakar Excellent review ! You picked some of those passages which are compelling & very visible pointers to King's formidable writing skills.


Stephen Kaethe wrote: "Oh, man. That's got to hurt like anything. I mean it's obviously not King's fault, but how could you not feel bad?"

I agree.


Stephen Arun wrote: "Excellent review ! You picked some of those passages which are compelling & very visible pointers to King's formidable writing skills."

Thanks, Arun.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I love that rage face!


Stephen Thanks, Jeannette. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

One of my friends liked your review, and this little face popped up in my update feed. It made me laugh. :) (I imagine the book is a bit more intense than that baby.)


message 19: by April (new)

April I've heard this is now out of print because of its subject matter. I am not happy about that, considering it's one of my "haven't read" books by SK. Thank goodness for Half Price Books.


message 20: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Wow, I've never even heard of this King book. Sounds a bit like Apt Pupil's ending


message 21: by Bill (new)

Bill Nice review!

I actually read this in school, I think I was in grade 8 at the time, and it was in our library. I hadn't even heard of Stephen King at the time, and I can remember how pleasantly surprised I was, many years later as a Constant Reader, when I realized this novel was his!


Stephen s.penkevich wrote: "Wow, I've never even heard of this King book. Sounds a bit like Apt Pupil's ending"

This is a good one, s. Harder to find than most of King's books, but worth it.


Stephen Bill wrote: "Nice review!

I actually read this in school, I think I was in grade 8 at the time, and it was in our library. I hadn't even heard of Stephen King at the time, and I can remember how pleasantly s..."


Thanks, Bill. This was definitely a good read.


message 24: by Elke (new)

Elke I actually had to check my shelves, because it sounded familiar but I could not remember this title. Solution is, I read the german translation "Amok" a couple of decades ago, when they published a bunch of Bachman novels. Memory is somewhat blurry, but I know I liked all of them, though I best remember Thinner and The Running Man, which is in part to blame on the movies. I remember feeling instantly "at home" with the books, discovering several small mannerisms typical for King's writing. E.g., the kind of music playing on the radio in one of the stories (CCR I guess it was).


message 25: by Elke (new)

Elke BTW, great review as always, which also gave me a moment to indulge in sentimental memories *sigh* Especially Amok and Roadwork (?) where so disturbing because they have no fantastical elements in them. I always find those "it could really happen this way" stories most shocking, because you can't simply write them off by saying it's not possible or doesn't exist...


Stephen Thanks, Elke, and I agree about King's ability to scare without using any fantastic or supernatural elements. I haven't read Roadwork or Running Man yet, but plan to as soon as I finish The Long Walk, which I have been anxious to read for a while.


Maciek The Long Walk is excellent. I always thought that The Running Man is extremely underrated, too. But be careful with reading the introductions to these books. In the new introduction "The Importance of Being Bachman" I think it's called King gives away the outcome of The Running Man.

I thought that The Long Walk was a great dystopian piece, and The Running Man was completetely captivating and unputdownable. Can't wait to read your reviews!


message 28: by Bob (new)

Bob Milne It's a shame King has allowed Rage to disappear from the shelves, since it really is one of his best early works. I still have a thick, dog-eared paperback copy of omnibus edition Bachman Books on my self (with that garish orange sunset and skull-lined highway on the cover). The Long Walk was definitely the best of the bunch, but Rage was a close second.


Stephen @Maciek - really looking forward to the Long Walk. I will beware of the introductions...thanks for the heads up.

@Bob - I agree about Rage being one of King's most effective early works. I have the omnibus Bachman books as well, but mine is the black cover with no cover art.


Maciek I have an old UK paperback of The Bachman books, with the original introduction titled "Why I was Bachman". It's the angry one where he's visibly upset with being revealed. The new one is calmer and if I remember says more about how the books were written, but also completely spoils The Running Man.

Be sure to give The Running Man a go, too! It's terrific and gives The Hunger Games a run (LOL) for it's money.


Stephen I definitely will, Maciek. I am going to read all of them in order. After The Long Walk, I'll probably read Roadwor and then Running Man.


message 32: by Dustin (new)

Dustin Maciek- it's kind of funny that you mentioned The Hunger Games in relation to The Running Man, because when I first read the synopsis of it, I immediately thought of The Running Man, and the obvious similarities between the two.


message 33: by Elke (new)

Elke Dustin wrote: "Maciek- it's kind of funny that you mentioned The Hunger Games in relation to The Running Man, because when I first read the synopsis of it, I immediately thought of The Running Man, and the obviou..."

Same with me, I was immediately reminded of The Running Man, and I'm still undecided whether to give the Hunger Games a try...


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