Gosh… Annie Wilkes.
I was on the brink of finishing IT. Browsing Goodreads and Reddit to find Uncle Stevie’s best books according to everyone’s list. Well, Misery is on the list and dubbed as “one of the King’s best”. So I picked it.
Actually, there was a little conflict inside of me to choose between Misery, Pet Sematary, or The Shining first. Initially I would pick The Stand or 11/22/63, but considering my goal–Goodread’s goal–to read 3 more books (out of 10) until the end of 2017, I’d pick some light reads. So, it was narrowed to Misery and Pet Sematary. And finally, I picked out Misery first.
My take and first impression to Misery was like the others have said: it was grotesque, disturbing, and live up to its genre, psychological horror. However, despite its grotesqueness, I enjoy this book very much. Though, at some point my hands were spaghetti’d.
In comparison, during the middle of reading Misery, I bought one local book with the same grotesqueness. But to compare the execution between King and the local book author will not be a good match. The local book I bought served a dreary, gory, full-of-blood grotesqueness. It was damn straightforward, you have this family who could not eat and decided to eat human flesh anyway, and since the beginning, it was full of sadness.
Misery, however, has an undulating emotion inside. Even before I read the book, I know Annie Wilkes is crazy. But the book wasn’t filled with one emotion, instead, you could find some parts where Annie was lovely, and other parts where she was a psycho. That’s where Uncle Stevie’s great at. Creating characters we would love or hate so much.
So far, this was probably a book that could create a great suspense. Last night before I finished, probably several pages left, the suspense was intense that I subconsciously muttered “God no way” in disbelief.
The premise of the story came from a simple idea: a self-proclaimed number one fan who meet and kidnap her idol. It actually inspired from Uncle Stevie’s experience of fans who rejected his 1984 book– The Eyes of The Dragon, which did not include a horror at all.
Paul Sheldon was a best-selling writer of a Victorian romance novel which features Misery Chastain as the main character. Annie Wilkes was the ‘number one fan’ for the Misery-themed books. One day, Paul was involved in a car crash and rescued by Annie, who then decided to take Paul to her house. Annie, who later know what Paul has done to Misery-themed books and decided to write a whole new novel named Fast Cars, was upset–no, she was furious. She asked forcefully for Paul to write a whole new Misery-themed novel to her own liking.
Paul who was heavily injured and almost immobilized, couldn’t do anything rather than accept the fate that he had to stay in Annie Wilkes’ house who starting to be… strange. There, Paul started to know Annie and her antics.
Example? Forcing Paul to swallow his pills using… rinse-water. A rinse-water with gray color, you know, after you mop the floor and put the mop on a bucket? Yes, that water.
PLUS POINTS FROM THE BOOK
Claustrophobic setting. Throughout the story, the setting was only one: Annie’s house. That’s it. And to make matter’s worse, the protagonist, Paul Sheldon, was powerless. He was heavily injured, his feet couldn’t be moved due to the injury. Paul was also locked in his room, despite at some point he was out of that room, but mainly he was locked. Annie was smart to put on any kinds of lock in her house. To top that, Paul was also depend on a medication that Annie only have. If he’s not taking his medication timely, the pain would seize him. So basically, Paul was powerless against Annie, who, in addition to mentioned above, also took karate class and has a strong hands. The only thing that could stretch Paul’s life was writing Misery.
Fearless villain. There’s a reason why Annie Wilkes secured number 17 on top 100 Heroes and Villains. Subjectively, Annie was fearless. There was a quote from the book (rephrased) “If they found out about you, Paul, I’ll kill them first, then I’ll kill you, then I’ll kill myself”. She seemed to not have any stakes at all. Other than that, the embarrassed wire that should be on her brain seemed to be cut, or loosened. Paul had witnessed her psychotic antics and how she would treat him. But after treating Paul badly, she didn’t seem to feel embarrassed or even feel bad (she felt bad for some occasion though), instead, she smiled it off like nothing ever happened. It’s like you were facing someone, maybe your roommate, in some occasion they would give you chocolate or laugh at your jokes, but maybe at night, they would bring a hammer to smack you off when you upset them, but then next morning they hello’d you like nothing ever happened.
Smart villain. There were times in movies or books where us viewers and readers would root the protagonist in scheming or plotting a good revenge for the villain, a sly way to smack the villain out of their sanity. It was what happened exactly to me, I root for Paul for his meticulous planning to get out from the house and from Annie. In movies like James Bond or any kinds of that, the protagonist would start planning something accompanied by thrilling background music, at the end it would be successful and the villain was fooled. If we’re talking about James Bond, the villain would be intelligent, bulky, fast, and anything.
But Annie’s nowhere match to that description. Honestly, how would you perceive a cunning and smart villain? He/she must be fast like a ninja, biceps decorating the hands, and equipped with powerful tools. Then look at Annie, a hefty, lovely woman. You wouldn’t think she took a karate class or have a strength matching that of Captain America’s. You would think she would bake a great cookie and be a darling to everyone.
But hey, she can smell you coming out of your room and any little details that changed around the house. She know exactly how you lie and can smell the footsteps you just left subconsciously in her house.
NEGATIVE POINTS FROM THE BOOK
The Misery Chastain Story. I found no use of the Misery story other than a support of the main plot. Sure, it helps the plot to advance, also subconsciously show the readers how Uncle Stevie crafts his stories. But I kinda hope that it will reveal something in the end that impacts the whole plot, I don’t know, it’s probably a dilettante’s analysis and a wishful thinking. But I don’t really like the Misery Chastain story mainly because it’s setting was in old England, where the grammars of the people aren’t as logical as it is now. It’s a bias, I know, but I had a hard time getting through the Misery story.
Overly imaginative Paul Sheldon (So vivid!). This is probably just the character or King’s signature. But drifting off far to somewhere I couldn’t reach and had to re-read several times to understand kind of irking. The Can You Paulie? thoughts somehow felt off to me.
**CONTAINS SPOILER, SKIP THIS PART IF YOU’RE ABOUT TO READ MISERY**
- First and foremost, hobbling scene. The scene was just… gruesomely perfect. Never came to my mind that Annie would do such thing, but she did it anyway and just shrug it off afterwards. In the movie, the ‘hobbling’ was Annie smashing Paul’s ankle with a sledgehammer. In the book, Annie was chopping Paul’s foot with AN AXE. To make matters worse, after being chopped, Annie lit up a blowtorch and torched Paul’s skin. (My hands were weak typing this)
- Lawnboy scene. Schnap. This was second scariest and most grotesque. There was a young police who came to Annie’s house, intended to find Paul Sheldon as his whereabouts had been a news. Knowing that, Paul threw an ashtray to catch the young police (later known as Duane Kushner). Before Kushner help Paul, he was stabbed from behind using a cross by Annie. Didn’t stop there, Annie turned on a lawn mower, and drove it to Kushner’s hand and head. Blood spurted like a jet. And Kushner’s face was… well, ripped.
- Thumbectomy. Annie, again, chopped a part of Paul’s body. It was his thumb. As if it’s not done scaring, Annie bought a happy birthday cake…. with Paul’s thumb in the middle as the candle.
- That false alarm when Paul told us that after Annie’s death, he suddenly found Annie jumping from behind of his apartment sofa, swinging axe and finally chopped Paul’s head. It gave me shiver and a swearing word after knowing it was just in Paul’s imagination.
For horror and gory readers and enjoyer (what a bad portmanteau lol), this should be on your list and you will enjoy this book. And this could be enjoyable to the general public though, but I had found some people who can’t stand the book mainly because it was that gruesome. But bottomline, this is a book I’d first recommend to any of those who would ask me “what horror book should I read?”
And a final parting gift from Annie Wilkes…