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#100 Firestarter by Stephen King (and a Victory Speech!)

By Jen | Books | September 2, 2009 |

By Jen | Books | September 2, 2009 |

Boook #100

I used to read a lot of Stephen King in high school and college — while some of his novels would occasionally go off the deep end, I could also count on being entertained by them. Obviously, some were much better than others. Especially if I’d been reading a lot of dry nonfiction or classics, I would always see his books as a relaxing break.

I’ve read most of his novels at this point, except for some of the very early ones. I read Carrie earlier this year, and some of the ideas are rather similar to Firestarter. It’s actually kind of interesting to compare some of his earlier work to later novels. My dad is not a huge Stephen King fan but he liked The Dead Zone and The Stand and therefore, is actually the person that introduced me to Stephen King. It seems like in his early work, King starts out with a much smaller idea that is just a little bit out there, but still very believable. I know sometimes when I’ve read his later work, I’ll enjoy it quite a bit, and then there will be a twist or a turn that just seems like a bit too much. For example, I vaguely remember Rose Madder — it begins as a novel about a woman escaping her abusive husband and starting her life over, and ends with her running from him in some magical picture. The husband also turns into a bull, possibly.

By comparison, Firestarter is rather tame. King takes the question he asked in Carrie, “What if people really had telekinetic abilities?” and approaches it from a slightly different angle. In this one, there are more powers than simply telekinesis — Charlie’s father has the ability to mentally persuade as well as occasional intuitive hunches, her mother had the occasional moments of telekinesis, and Charlie can start fires with her mind. Unlike Carrie, Charlie is loved as a child, so the novel isn’t about what could go wrong when a teenager that has been picked on her whole life suddenly has powers. Instead, the question is what would happen if the government knew about these abilities? In fact, Charlie’s parents only have theirs as a result of rather unethical experiment funded by the Shop, a mysterious government agency.

When the government agents are discussing Charlie’s powers, they wonder how much more powerful she might be once she hits puberty. Of course, this was also when Carrie’s powers started really showing themselves. It’s interesting how some of King’s most famous characters are young girls with extraordinary abilities. I might not be remembering everything here, but it seems like in most of his other novels, he tends to focus more on young boys when he uses children than girls (I almost forgot about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, but I’ve never read it). For example, The Dark Tower obviously has Jake, The Shining had a young boy, etc.

Overall, I liked it — he had improved upon the parts of his writing style that I disliked in Carrie, but didn’t have any crazy plot twists. Maybe not the great novel I’d wanted to end with but at least it didn’t make me want to rip my hair out and kill all the main characters (except for the ones that are villains, of course).

The Victory Speech

I came to the Cannonball Read rather late in the game. When the initial challenge had started, I was still in Iraq, and I was tracking everything I was reading anyway (OPSEC and Army make for slightly limiting blog topics). As a result, I knew that 100 books in a year wouldn’t really be an issue for me. I’d also just started a “Buffy/Angel” marathon to end the deployment on, so with 12 seasons of television to watch in a month and a half, I obviously didn’t have much time to read.

I ended up signing up for it on 1 January after seeing a post that said it was the last chance to participate. I’d been back in Germany since the middle of October, and I was less than happy with the amount of reading and blogging I’d been doing in the previous few months. Being back in Germany, there were a lot of distractions, of course: friends to see, alcohol to drink, not to mention my television had a much larger screen than the laptop downrange. I figured the Cannonball Read might be a good way to get back into reading, and maybe inspire me to blog a little bit more.

I don’t tend to get too competitive when it comes to sports. However, when it comes to things like Trivial Pursuit or Cranium, I am. My competitiveness did kick in slightly with this challenge (another officer recently made fun of me after he made the comment that a friend of ours had more books than I did, and I defensively said, “no, she doesn’t”). I wanted to see how many people I’d be able to catch up with despite my late addition. As a result, I admit my reading may have been a little different than it normally would have been but not too much. Downrange, I had tried to incoperate nonfiction and classics every once in a while just so I could feel like I was still mentally challenging myself. However, these also tend to take me a little bit longer to read, so I read less from those genres than I might usually. There are also a few books on my shelf right now that are almost a thousand pages that I didn’t read because I was afraid they would be dry. However, I’d also say that most of the books I read were between three hundred and five hundred pages, so it’s not like I was going for the bare minimum.

I was very impressed by how well-thought out some of the other participants’ reviews were — I may be able to read quickly, but those people could write. I know Sophia mentioned that she had originally hesitated about joining because of the reviews. I admit I was always excited when I’d written something that was interesting enough to get posted on Pajiba.

I would do it again, although since I was on a compressed timeline, I think I focused on reading a little bit more than I normally would have. The second season of “The Tudors” and the last part of “Battlestar Galactica” have been sitting on my DVD player for a few weeks now. However, other than that, I had my normal distractions — I still went out, I still went to the movies the two or three times the AAFES movie schedule showed something I wanted to see on days that were good for me, I still traveled to different countries every four-day weekend, and I still had some long ass work days (not quite as long since I got moved up to battalion). Basically, I doubt I’d repeat the 100 books in 8 months next time, but 100 in a year? No problem.

Congratulations, Jen, on finishing the Cannonball Read, and a sincere thanks for all your great reviews. — DR

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Jen’s reviews, check her blog, Notes from the Officer’s Club.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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