In a word: chilling. Maybe it's the fact that I started this at the start of summer with all of its potential, exactly the way this macabre, surreal carnival does. The Regulators takes place on an average American street, one so familiar to small towns that it could literally be anywhere. Baseball is in the air, neighbors are friendly and lawns are neatly manicured. Dogs are playing off-leash in the street and kids are off to go get ice cream or to just hang out - and in a flash like the onset of a freak summer thunderstorm, it all changes. The transition from lazy summer day to horror funhouse is jarringly sudden and from that point out King acts as your happy tour guide (how does he manage to still be funny in the midst of chaos?) taking you on an expedition through the twisted mind and fantasies of a demon named Tak level by level, taking the time to fully explore the emotional and physical landscape at each stop - allowing you to get used to it almost, to catch your breath, before plunging you down to another level of insanity.
I'm partial to King's books, his method of character development and even the archetypes he uses, so this review should be read with that bias. I think anything that even tangentially adds to the mythology of the Dark Tower multiverse automatically gets a thumbs up in my opinion. There are several recurring King motifs in this one, the most prominent of which is the centrality of a disabled child as the key to the unravelling mystery. The imagery is ripe with potential as disabled children certainly present a duality of a kind, metaphorically at least. Children represent the hopes we have of the future, and for the most part, or at least I believe, they are born good, full of love and trust and willingness to help. What makes them effective vehicles in King stories is that they also represent the fears we have. What parent or potential parent doesn't worry first and foremost about the health of their child? To make sure that they're going to live a full, happy life? It's probably the single greatest fear in the paternal/maternal world and King exploits that fear by letting his imagination show us a contorted version of reality constructed by an autistic child being parasitically fed off of by an ancient and malicious evil. The setup is great because what shines most in this novel is just how absolutely good
Seth Garin is in contrast to Tak - a mirror for the love and patience and kindness of his family, particularly his aunt Audrey and uncle Herb, who sacrifice everything and endure months of torment that would break a normal person in a week for a child not their own. This motif is powerful and again, really ripe, but reading as much King as I do, I'm wondering if he's not overusing it (my single complaint, and probably one I wouldn't have if I had read this before Dreamcatcher, for example. This book reads far better than that one too.)
King has a talent for picking out obvious observations amid psychotic chaos and some of the most enduring images are the off-color observations that normal people the world over have at the most unlikely of times. It's rather hard to explain I think, but when Brad Josephson, of the town's single resident African-American couple, kneels on the ground to allow a white liberal hippy to step on his back and make it over a fence to escape from demonic imaginary coyotes, there's time, even with their lives in imminent danger, to reflect on the social irony, the awkwardness felt by both men, and the strangest (yet most normal thing of all), the comedy of it that they both realize and laugh at. They laugh at! Complete with tongue-in-cheek jokes laden with the history of slavery, subservience and the social-cultural identity of whites (liberal ones at least) in the post-Civil Rights era. The whole scene is perfectly surreal, but one expects, perfectly normal and real
at the same time that you can't help but buy in to the tale as completely and vividly plausible. It's truly amazing. King also has a knack for revealing the ugly interior underneath the surface veneer of nicety in people when all hell breaks loose. I think the scariest thing sometimes about his stories is not what supernatural forces lurk in the dark waiting to get you, but what your neighbors are capable of when their lives, or their little constructed view of the world, is threatened. Then again, these characters are always balanced by the natural and selfless and unassuming goodness of others - wandering hippies, authors of children's books and wayward cops.
Really fun to read. Enjoy during the summer!