Friday, February 12, 2010

Roadwork by Stephen King

Roadwork is one of the scariest books Stephen King--originally using the Richard Bachman pseudonym--has ever written.  It's unlike the vast majority of his work in that there is not a single monster, no aliens, nothing supernatural to make it so.  Rather, the fear felt by the reader comes from the acute psychological discomfort of watching a formerly complacent and  successful middle manager methodically lose his mind in the face of impending, inevitable change.

The story opens with Bart Dawes, manager of a large commercial laundry outfit, purchasing some guns.  As he does so, we are privy to the violent and disturbing conversation he's having inside his head.  As is so often the case with Stephen King, who has no qualms about telegraphing the end early on, we know that this one is going to end badly, almost certainly with a bang.  What we don't know is how moved we will be by that time, having become attached to this pathetic wretch of a man who can't come to terms with the ineluctable march of progress.

The change Bart Dawes is grappling with is a freeway connector which is to be built through his town.  Not only is the laundry he manages to be torn down to make way, but his own home is scheduled for the wrecking ball, as well.  Bart knows that what's coming will come, yet rather than accept things and move on he refuses.  At no point does he ever seem to believe that his refusal will halt the process, yet still, he will not make a move.  And as he digs in at home and at work (where he's supposed to be closing the deal on a new facility), in the back of his mind violence is bubbling.

Roadwork is sad and disturbing, and if King's introduction ("The Importance of Being Bachman") is to be believed, could only have come from the rainy day pen of his alter-ego.

3 comments:

dmL said...
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dmL said...
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EnriqueFreeque said...

I couldn't completely disagree more with the above comments made about your Roadwork review, Rebecca. I've been following your reviews for well over a year (I lurk hereabouts, and rarely speak) but after reading the above comments I just had to say I THINK IT'S OBVIOUS THAT YOU READ THE BOOK!!!

Keep up the good work!
Enrique