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Cannonball Read V: Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

By Travis Jarrod Smith | Book Reviews | March 7, 2013 | Comments ()


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As far as setups are concerned, Gerald's Game is among King's best. About to engage in a little bondage-induced coitus with her husband Gerald, Jessie rethinks the viability of the whole situation and attempts to call it off; however, Gerald isn't listening, and her efforts to halt him, his IQ-reducing grin, and his 5-inch member result in his inadvertent death. Where this leaves Jessie is tied to a bed, naked except for a pair of panties, with her only neighbors being a stray dog and a distant lumberjack. One might be concerned that it's too meager a setup to milk a novel out of, yet that alone would be enough motivation for others, such as myself, to read on. I wanted to see for myself whether he'd succeeded at teasing a novel out of a concept better suited to a short story or, rather, at stretching it, as well as himself, too thin.

I'm pleased to say that, as luck would have it, it's the former that holds true, as opposed to the latter. Like one of those online "escape" games in novel form, King hides the tools of her eventual escape, as well as her numerous failed attempts, in plain sight; however, as in said games, my inability to recognize their significance was astounding. Which is to say that, if I were Jessie, I'd be dead, having long since resigned myself to defeat. Each time she conjured up a potential escape plan, my reaction was one of genuine surprise. Her predicament grew more hopeless by the minute; yet, every so often, when things sounded most dire, and she sounded nearest giving up, she'd locate that last, dying glimmer of hope and go after it.

She and King can only jerk that rabbit out of their hats so many times, though, before the poor thing dies from all the jostling and it's a corpse they're holding. By the time her ordeal's about over, it's clear King's taken to dragging his feet and manufacturing tension, namely in the form of the "Space Cowboy" who introduces an unwelcome element of the supernatural into an otherwise grounded story.

Except it's the ending where he stops stumbling and finally falls. To start with, he abandons the immediacy of the moment with a jarring flash-forward. Following that, he waffles once more, retconning the story so as to demystify it. Based upon what I just said in the paragraph above, you'd likely assume I welcomed this return to reality. If the so-called "truth" didn't sound somehow more disingenuous, I likely would have. Instead, I find myself wishing Gerald's Game had ended prior to that coda of his. Frightfully little would've been resolved, but I'd prefer he maintained a sense of mystery given what he unveils was hidden beneath the shroud.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it, and for more of Travis Jarrod Smith's reviews, check out his blog, Not much has happened since I last wrote.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Emily Roach

    Gerald's Game, though not even close to one of my favorite SK books, contained the one image that still scares me... The thin man swirling his fingers through the suitcase of bones and jewels. UGH. I'm glad I read it though, otherwise the long references to it in Dolores Claiborne wouldn't have made any sense at all! I love the rewards you get from reading all of his books =)

  • Ed

    The ending wasn't classic King. It seemed more like a Dean Koontz ending than a Stephen King ending. (Which, by the way, is the only thing wrong with Koontz's writing - his stories are great, he just doesn't have a clue about how to end it. I hate flash forwards or contrived happy endings.) I think King wrote the story and had Koontz ghost write the end.

  • Siege

    As for the ending...well, let's just say (and I can say this with a fair amount of certainty, as an admitted King enthusiast) that endings are NOT Stephen King's strong point. At least this one didn't end with alien children or giant spiders from outside space and time...

  • Travis_J_Smith

    I'm biased, seeing as I consider Stephen King my favorite author, but this was the first time I truly balked at one of his endings. Then again, I haven't read too many of his books thus far, so I imagine I'll be adding more to that list eventually.

  • Siege

    Oh, he's my favorite author, too, but I still must admit that his endings are often problematic. I think sometimes he'd happily continue on with his characters infinitely, but he knows he HAS to end the story, so he panics and throws something together at the end.

  • DeltaJuliet

    I should add, I love his stories as well. His writing is AWESOME. Which does not equate to successfully ending a story, unfortunately. A perfect example of this is "IT".

  • Semilitterate

    Andd now I come the point in time where i understand why I have neve beeen able to finish "it"

  • Travis_J_Smith

    A habit his son has adopted so wholeheartedly that he actually outdoes his father in that regard.

  • ,

    I dunno ... Steve says Joe came up with a better ending to "11/22/63" so he used it. I don't know what the roiginal ending was, but what ended up in the book worked for me.

  • Jezzer

    SPOILER:

    Other than a remembered psychic connection that happened during the eclipse when she was a child that coincides with the events in Dolores Claiborne, there is no supernatural element to this story. The "Space Cowboy" is a real person, but Jessie's delirium causes her to see him as the personification of Death, aided by his physical abnormalities and seeing him holding the spoils of his graverobbing forays.

  • Travis_J_Smith

    The supernatural element I was speaking of is what we were led to believe prior to King demystifying the story at the end and making it sound somehow more outlandish in his efforts to ground it all back in reality. I would rather he have kept it rooted in the supernatural, because the ending is like the epilogue to the final Harry Potter book in that it feels like King just copied and pasted someone's fan-fiction in there at the end and called it a day.

  • Siege

    So I was not the ONLY person who hated that cruddy, ridiculous ending to a glorious series?

  • BWeaves

    Rule #1: Never use real handcuffs, and if you do, put the key around your wrist.

    Rule #2: This is why Velcro was invented, people.

  • ,

    SPOILER

    Shoot, I've read this and remember how she gets out of the handcuffs, but I can't remember the (in your telling) stupid coda. I guess I should be grateful.

  • DeltaJuliet

    I started reading this YEARS ago and never quite made it through. Maybe I'll pick it back up, although, as has been mentioned many times, endings are not Stephen's strong suit.

  • Travis_J_Smith

    Thanks again, Pajiba, for picking one of my reviews. But I just thought I'd point out that it should be "check out HIS blog."

  • mswas

    Serves me right for copying and pasting the credits! Sorry about that, I've corrected it.

  • I first read this book when I was maybe 15 and it scared the shit out of me. It wasn't only the being-trapped-forever thing, but it was mostly the weird stuff that starts to happen and when she "sees" things...don't want to give anything away, but yeah, that shit was scary back then. I went back and read it again a few years ago and I liked it, but I didn't find it all that scary anymore. Still disturbing and surprisingly tense for how little is happening, but you're absolutely right: The ending was terrible. It's always been one of King's biggest weaknesses. Great premises, awful endings.

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