From what I can ascertain from the merry cobble of information out there in Webland, Stephen King never wrote a sequel to Firestarter. And right from the get-go, I have to say that’s “a bummer, man,” as Jeffrey Lebowski might say. While this book had its moments, it never really got going. It dragged along and teased me, and I realized about two-thirds of the way through it that it wasn’t going to deliver the knockout blow I was hoping for.
And it’s weird. It sure seems like a great setup for a great story. There are so many ways to move the plot forward, it’s surprising King doesn’t ever really give it full throttle.
I read it with a plan, though. I purposed to read something from King’s early days, because I wanted to see if he’s always been amazing or if he developed along the way. The answer was mostly that he developed along the way. Firestarter was a decent story, sure. But it’s no Duma Key; it’s not King’s best. I’ve read somewhere that he isn’t particularly proud of his early stuff anyway, and that’s why I sought it out. I wanted to see what kind of writer he used to be.
Firestarter was like the patient whose wife waits in the hospital lobby, the doctor walking gravely in with the ma’am-I’m-afraid-I-have-bad-news line. The bane of all rookie authors—passive voice—isn’t just a rash in this book. It’s not just an outbreak. It’s riddled with it. Sure, it’s fixable, but only by re-making the patient. And maybe I got an early edition; it’s copyrighted 1980 and there are no edition numbers on the copyright page. Perhaps some of that stuff got fixed later on. I don’t know. It’s stunning, though, that it went to press in such bad form. These are the professionals, or so we’ve been told.
What I do know is that I was encouraged by this book. One of my literary heroes, King had teething problems too, just like me. He turned out a halfway decent book that got made into a movie. And he launched into a career as an author that was very rewarding. Sure, the world’s a different place now. But it’s good to know that one of the master storytellers of our time had his own early issues.
Now…I’ve got things to write.