This is really fun! I read this while I was camping, and let me tell you, it was a pretty intense experience. If you haven't read this yet, I highly recommend you try and save it for when you can get outdoors. It's one of the shorter King works, but the book is taught and a survivalist page-turner.
Young Trisha MacFarlane does what every innocent hiker thinks is natural when out walking in the woods and faced with an intense urge to pee: she wanders just a little
off the trail for a just a couple minutes
to relieve herself. And since she didn't go that far, it makes perfect sense to rejoin the curving trail and bypass a small chunk of woods by taking a short-curt through the brush to catch back up...right? Right. Thus begins a harrowing ordeal of survival that plays on all "civilized" peoples' fears of the great outdoors. Remarkable for King in this volume is his willingness to hold things back and let your animal instincts fill in the blanks. There's something stalking Trisha, or she thinks there is, and that feeling of being watched is so ingrained in our genetic make-up that you can't help but feel your skin crawl and look over your shoulder yourself when you're reading outdoors because everyone who's spent time camping or hiking knows that feeling. It's the feeling you get when you have to roll out of your bag in the middle of the night to take a whizz in the dark. It's the feeling of suspicion you get when the sun sets and the glow of the campfire casts illumination in a set radius that ends abruptly in the enhanced blackness created by your constricted pupils in the contrast of light. As such, it is one hundred percent believable and your fear becomes intimately sympathetic. He doesn't have to spell it out for you, and it doesn't even particularly matter if there is indeed something watching Trisha or what that something is - the idea of it is enough to get your sympathetic nervous system just takes over and your heart beats just a little faster and your imagination starts to play tricks on you.
Would I have had the same reaction reading this in my arm-chair at home? Probably not, but this book still has a lot going for it. Beyond that intimate knowledge of human fear of becoming prey to the big things that stalk our imagination, King also expertly toys with the psychological cycle of hope and despair that anybody who's ever felt lost as a kid, even in the middle of a shopping mall knows, right down to the superstitious things we whisper to ourselves to help ourselves cope (If Tom Gordon gets the save, I'll be saved too!). The psychological drama that goes on inside this brave little girl's head is well-thought out and contrived so that, again, you're right in her shoes.
Definitely one of my favorites of King's shorter works and probably something I'll bump up in my list of books to recommend to people just starting out with King to give them the hook. The characters come alive, the situation and the fears presented are something that almost everyone can identify with, and it doesn't require the investment of time something more profound and developed like IT
or The Stand
needs to get the most out of.