This felt like a very different kind of King, one that was almost hesitant in the way he created and molded his characters. There's only a hint of the quirks and endearments that we usually associate with King characters evident in Carrie, which should be a given seeing how this is the first in a long line of novels. The story is competently told and builds to the horror that is foreshadowed quite cleverly through interspersed "documentary" evidence. The format was a strength for the most part, but there were times that I felt like it defeated itself. We're led to believe in some of the conflicting eyewitness accounts and analyses that some of the sources for the story are questionable and may be downright unreliable - a good narrative device that creates ambiguity and forces the reader to pick up the slack and impart a little bit of themselves to the meaning of the characters, story and its events, but running alongside this in-word narrative is the omnipotent and omniscient voice of King, who relays to you the unerring details. Why call a witnesses's motives into question only to vindicate them in the next paragraph? A small gripe.
What King does do quite better than he has in any of his later works is build an atmosphere of fear. The White household is downright creepy and Carrie's mother Margaret is insanely evil. You feel a blend of compassion and revulsion toward's Carrie herself and what's really scary about this book is that the cruel behavior she experiences in her adolescence is probably experienced by tons of teens in the world for pretty much the same reasons: hierarchy, angst, power, popularity and just downright meanness. In that sense, the story is very, very real. In the modern post-Columbine-Virginia-Tech world, we've seen all too clearly how this type of marginalization really does lead to horrific outbursts of rage. In that sense, the novel is prescient and a terrifying reminder to be mindful of how we treat others. The overtones of religious zealotry provide just the right level of creepiness and I think I appreciated King's attempts to use it as a backdrop for Carrie's upbringing and a lens through which we can view the events that happen on Prom night in Chamberlain. I was less enamored of the scientific mumbo-jumbo used to rationalize it by others in-world. Why have competing scientific-spiritual explanations of the horror that unfolds? It detracts from the narrative at times and is kind of campy.