Thinner by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
And I thought the Atkins diet sounded unhealthy…
William Halleck is a successful lawyer living a very comfortable life in a Connecticut suburb with his wife and daughter, and his biggest problem is that he’s overweight. His perfect life is upset when he accidently run over an old Gypsy woman when he was *ahem* distracted behind the wheel. Since Billy is one of the solid taxpayers who plays golf with all the right people the whole mess is quickly tidied up in court without Billy getting so much as a ticket. However, another old Gypsy puts a whammy on him and suddenly Billy can’t keep weight on no matter how much he eats. As he becomes a shadow of his former self Billy sets out on a desperate quest to track down the Gypsy and try to convince him to lift the curse of growing thinner.
This was the last of the novels Stephen King released under the pen name of Richard Bachman before his cover was blown shortly after its publication. (In fact, he gets cute by having a couple of characters describe the situation as sounding like a King novel.) As with the other Bachman books it seems like Uncle Stevie ran leaner and meaner in this one. He keeps the story focused tightly on its key concept, but he’s also delivering some nice subtext about American culture. We’ve got a nicely ironic curse of a man’s thoughtless greedy consumption being turned back on him as well as the hypocritical way that the decent folk of New England will have their fun with the Gypsies and then run them out of town.
One of the strongest points here is in Halleck as a character. Billy is a decent guy who genuinely feels guilty about the death he inadvertently caused, and he’s got the brains and courage to face up to the bizarre situation and act to save himself. However, he was also willing to go along with sweeping the whole mess under the rug, and he’s willing to turn to a dangerous friend when he’s really in trouble. So there’s a nice mix in him that he’s both somewhat willing to take responsibility even as he trying to wriggle out of the consequences of it.
It’s a very solid piece of horror fiction that makes me wish that King would have gotten to do more Bachman books before the secret leaked out. He has published others under the name, but none were ever quite this good.
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