Length: 417 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Gerald Burlingame and his wife Jessie take a two day trip to their lakeshore house just before the onset of autumn. The time of year promises complete seclusion and privacy, something that is pivotal to their plans of a quick, sex getaway. Being handcuffed to the bed is not a new game for Jessie – lately it seems to be the only way for Gerald to remain interested in sex. She’s been handcuffed to the bed before and although she doesn’t love it, she doesn’t hate it either… until now. Handcuffed to the bed and wearing nothing but her panties, something snaps inside Jessie’s mind when Gerald refuses her repeated request to be set free – and she kicks out in anger. She didn’t expect the blow to hurt as much as it did, and she definitely didn’t think it would kill him. And now, she’s completely naked and alone in a deserted cabin. The main door is slightly ajar, she has no way of getting out of the handcuffs, and she has no one to turn to except for the voices in her head that are growing louder and more judgmental by the minute, forcing her to look into the dark abyss of her own mind where she’d kept secrets hidden for decades – secret so traumatic that she’d never wanted to face them. But as time passes, as night comes closer, and as the voices slowly start taking over, she realizes that she’s not as alone as she’d thought – and that being alone might have been the best thing that could have happened to her.
The first thing that anyone reading this review should know is that I’m a scaredy cat. I can’t watch horror films and although I have thoroughly enjoyed the few psychological thrillers that I’ve read, they’ve always given me nightmares for a while after. So clearly, having heard all that is said about Stephen King’s specific brand of horror, I had to stay away. I had made an attempt to read Bag of Bones, but got too scared to continue past the first ten percent. That being said, I’d always assumed King to be an exceptional writer, if his quotes and general perception and way of putting things across was anything to go by. So I made up my mind that one day, I’d muster up the courage to read his books, nightmares or not. And that is how I ended up with a copy of Gerald’s Game when I went to the library with the sole intention of picking up one of King’s books.
And I, scaredy cat and all, have absolutely no regrets!
Gerald’s Game is written to keep you gripped. I remained turning the pages, hour after hour, stopping only once the sun set completely – because, as I learned, reading it at night is not the best idea. The book has chills and thrills crafted out of very real situations, something that aids to the creepy factor. There is quite a bit of gore presented in a manner that makes it simply disturbing than disgusting and further adding to the creepiness. Also, the conflict that Jessie faces with herself makes you really associate with her, and feel for her for everything that she’s been through.
Jessie’s character in fact, is done brilliantly, where you can see her transform as time passes, as the voices in her head get louder and more real, and as she fights against the situation in which she finds herself. The way King describes everything that she goes through made me realize how well he probably understands the human mind and its ability to withstand and even its desire to break. But more than that, you get a sense of being there, as though everything that you are reading is unfolding right around you. His prose is amazing, taking you right to the middle of the action, and that adds to the charm and to the panic.
The story itself does not disappoint, in spite of unfolding more most part in one room where Jessie is handcuffed to the bed. And that is a pretty impressive thing to achieve. Although others may say differently, I didn’t think the book dragged. It moved from the present to the past often and did move off into related tangents, keeping me engrossed at all times. Added to that was the way Jessie’s character continuously developed and there was little to complain about.
What I really loved about the book though was the ending. Without giving any spoilers, I can say that at one point, I could predict an aspect of the end, and I thought that if it was to truly be the way I thought, it may be a bit disappointing. But I was proven wrong. Sure, my prediction wasn’t wrong entirely, but I still found the end amazing, because it gives you an insight into the horror that people face, have in them, and can be. And that ability, in my opinion, is the scariest thing of all.
I would recommend Gerald’s Game to anyone who likes King. Sure, it may not be his best work if ardent fans are to be believed, but it has its own charm and its own brand of horror. If gory situations upset you, then this may not be the best reading option for you. But if you’re keeping yourself away from King’s work because, like me, you’re afraid – don’t be. He is definitely terrifying, although Gerald’s Game doesn’t fall into the very terrifying category – but as a reader, you should not be missing the work of Stephen King. In fact, Gerald’s Game is as good a place to start if you’re looking for the safer, less scary option. After all, I only completely freaked out once and needed to hold on to my fiance’s hand while continuing to read, because I could not put the book down either. If you’re a King fan, you may prefer his other work, but this is not one that you should miss because it is extremely interesting, if not as scary. And if you just want to try horror as a new genre, Gerald’s Game is a book that you should definitely add to your list.