Literature Review: Mile 81
My aunt gave me a Nook for Christmas this year. If you don’t know what a Nook is, it’s Barnes and Nobles answer to the Kindle. If you don’t know what a Kindle is, it’s a small device used for electronic book reading. It looks like this:
I was ambivalent as to whether or not I wanted one of these. I think it’s a good tool, but there’s something that just feels a little off about reading literature off a screen. I don’t know why, but it feels wrong somehow, like you’re doing the author a disservice. I have no idea why I feel that way; maybe because I associate reading off a screen with the internet, and the internet is not exactly a haven of wordsmiths (kind of ironic for me to say, but it’s how I feel nonetheless).
Since the Nook was given to me as a gift, though, there was no way I wasn’t going to use it. The first book I purchased was a novella by Stephen King called Mile 81. It was written in the fall of 2011 with the specific intention to distribute it via e-readers such as the Nook, and as such it only cost $2.99. Stephen King is one of my favorite writers, so it was only natural that I checked out the book.
The story is about an abandoned rest-stop off I-95 in Maine that is the site of some strange occurrences one day. The story is short (only 45 or so pages on the Nook, not sure how that translates into book pages) so there’s no point in going into much detail on plot. Suffice it to say a number of people end up stopping at this rest stop and getting more than they bargained for.
The consensus about this books seems to be that it’s a so-called “old-school” Stephen King horror story. I don’t have much to say on that, as I’ve read his books in a fairly haphazard, non-chronological order, to the point where I don’t think I could give an accurate estimate as to the order his books came out. This does have the feel of earlier tales such as It, only peppered with references to Justin Bieber and Doctor Who. I do have to say it’s a bit odd hearing Stephen King talk about more contemporary cultural touchstones.
For the most part, each chapter here delves into a specific character or group of characters and their reasons for ending up at Mile 81. This is the strongest part of the story by far. King has always been great at describing character, particularly character motivation, and that skill is evident here. His descriptions of the younger characters is outstanding, in particular a 10 year old boy who wonders into the rest stop after his older brother abandons him.
The main weakness is that the primary adversary wasn’t particularly noteworthy. It seems to be a retread of From A Buick 8, but it doesn’t work nearly as well here because of the brevity of the novel. Interestingly, one of the complaints people have about King is that his works are so long. I actually felt like this story was the opposite; I would have loved a few more pages of character description to fill out the story.
Final Analysis: This is entertaining piece of fiction from a great writer. If you have a Kindle or Nook, you can download it for $2.99.