Rage by Stephen King (originally published under the name Richard Bachman)
Published in 1977 by Signet, and later as part of The Bachman Books
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: A high-school student with authority problems kills one of his teachers and takes the rest of his class hostage. Over the course of one long, tense and unbearable hot afternoon, Charlie Decker explains what led him to this drastic sequence of events, while at the same time deconstructing the personalities of his classmates, forcing each one to justify his or her existence.
Rage is Stephen King’s fourth novel, originally published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. The story revolves around Charles Everett Decker, or Charlie, a senior at Placerville High School, Maine. In March Charlie attacked a teacher with a pipe wrench, and when he was allowed back to school a month later, he started bringing his dad’s gun to school. In May he takes a class hostage and Charlie tells them his story, delving back into childhood memories, while also learning more about his classmates.
I read Rage a month ago and have put off reviewing it until now because I really don’t know what to say about it. Did I enjoy it? No. Was it interesting? Yes. Would I recommend it? Well, maybe to serious King fans.
Charlie hasn’t had the best childhood, but I also didn’t feel like it was the worst experience, or an experience that justified shooting people. It’s clear Charlie and his father have never been close, Charlie has always believed that his father hates him, and it’s probably true. He had a couple of experiences with being bullied, and didn’t have many close friends, apart from best friend, Joe. It’s hard to judge someone else’s experience, but I kept waiting for him to describe a catalytic moment or event, but he never did.
Reading this bought back memories of reading Forgive Me,Leonard Peacock. Charlie and Leonard share similar traits: they’re judgmental, they feel entitled and better than others, but in Leonard’s case I understood why he attempted to carry out his plan, I didn’t understand Charlie in this way.
The end of Charlie’s story lost me, especially the last few moments in the classroom and the follow up letters/documents. It wasn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t find it that believable.
In the late eighties and the mid-nineties there were four school shootings, and in each one the shooter either had a copy of Rage or had mentioned reading it. Following the last incident in 1997, King called for the book to cease being printed. If you do want to track a copy down, your best bet is to find a second hand copy of The Bachman Books (I got mine via Abe Books). After reading Rage, you can see how someone in a particular state of mind would find it inspirational, but I don’t think the entirety of the blame can be placed on the book.
King’s books often have references to the Beatles in them, and Rage features two: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and A Day in the Life.
Rage is a very different book from the rest of King’s work, it definitely reads as something he wrote when he was younger, and it focuses on a more realistic situation, as opposed to his horror books.
Book #4 in my Stephen King Project