Cannonball Read V: Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
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.
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