I fled into the world of The Regulators (by Richard Bachman / Stephen King) after a friend’s suggested book proved so dry and badly written that I had to balm myself with enjoyable, cutting fiction. And really, through people hate to admit it, King is a solid writer. It might feel clever to say he isn’t, but his prose is hard and sharp and imaginative, and his stories horrifically fun. And this one was no exception.
The book explores the ironic zone between the peaceful world most of us live in (suburbia) and the brutal popular culture that flies through the airwaves and down into our homes, through our antennas. How many of us sit in our comfy little houses, sealed off from the world, while imagines of pain, horror and death flicker from our televisions?
So here we are on Poplar Street, in eastern Columbus, Ohio. It’s a lazy summer’s day, with car washing, Frisbee tossing and paper delivering going on. How idyllic. How nice.
But in 247 Poplar, a small child is gathering power. For inside him grows some creature named Tak, picked up in a family outing out west, an outing that ended with his entire family being gunned down in a drive by. His aunt has become his plaything. His uncle, sucked of all life force, has been discarded. And now he’s going to cut lose, to bring to life all those images the young boy has watched, of cowboys and Indians and van-driving cartoon action-figures. And all these things are coming to Poplar street.
We start with a lot of characters, almost too many. I kept referring to the street map in front to remember who was how. But in King fashion, that’s not an issue. First, King has distinctive character types; you know them on your own street. And secondly, they start to die in horrifically nasty ways. The field is culled down until its easily remembered.
It’s a good story, solid King, modern-horror delivered piping hot. Just the thing I needed when reading a private press libertarian fantasy that goes down like a mouthful of oyster crackers. I do know (from poking around) that this was one of a two-set companion book deal with a mirror novel named “Desperation”. Apparently its the same characters, the same monster, just in a different setting. I’m not sure what the point is in that – it seems a bit too much a gimmick for me. Besides, once you have someone blown into gravy by a barrage of shotgun shells, what’s the point of having them back alive again?
Anyway, it was a lot of fun. Now, back to that self-righteous political pulp…