By: Stephen King
Paul Sheldon is the bestselling author of a melodramatic romance series starring the popular heroine, Misery Chastain. Finally ready to put that chapter of his life behind him, Paul makes the controversial decision to kill off his beloved main character in exchange for his more “serious” work that could get him recognition in the writing community again. Such actions have consequences especially for men like Paul who receive countless letters of devotion from their adoring fans. Usually those fans are miles away but when a near-fatal car accident lands him in the lap of Annie Wilkes, Paul discovers just how dangerous fame can be. His self-proclaimed “Number One Fan” is more than just upset about Misery’s demise, she’s downright murderous and Paul is tasked with writing her a very special story. He must write the reappearance of Misery risen from the grave before Annie decides to put Paul in his.
Stephen King is well known for his supernatural creep shows and unique monsters, but very rarely he creates a story that seems all too real. Misery is arguably one of his more terrifying novels both for its simplicity and the sense of terror and isolation it creates. There are no supernatural elements because they aren’t needed. Paul could reasonably be swapped out for any one of us if we ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and King’s own story struck home for him when he had a near-fatal car accident which caused him to be bedridden with pins in his leg and dope in his veins. He forbade any of his caretakers from even mentioning Misery to him because the resemblance was uncanny and more than a little unsettling.
I would count myself among the “seasoned” King veterans now that I’ve read 15 of his novels, but that didn’t keep me from gagging when the axe came down. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well feel free to find out for yourself because from what I’ve gleaned, the book and film are quite different in some of the more gruesome aspects. You’ll need to read the book to get the full effect because a sledge hammer doesn’t do this story justice if you know what I’m saying.
I give credit to King that even amidst the horrors of Paul’s situation, he still expresses some degree of pity for Annie’s severe mental illness. That doesn’t excuse the horrible things she does but it does explain how she ended up alone out in the middle of nowhere. A special kind of evil lives in a special kind of crazy and the best vessel of all is a woman like Annie Wilkes whose physical strength is matched only by her mental cunning. Her powers of perception and complete control over Paul leads to one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve ever read in a horror novel. The ending lingers for more than just the reader, and we find that one of the most powerful ways to escape is through the insatiable need to create.
The Dragon Lady breathes fire in the end after all.
Overall rating: 4