Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Rage by Stephen King

Rage by Stephen King (originally published under the name Richard Bachman)
Published in 1977 by Signet, and later as part of The Bachman Books
Source: purchased
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


  1. Great book review! I haven't read this one.

  2. The Bachman books are an interesting departure. My favorite is The Long Walk. (I've never managed to get a copy of rage.)

    My dad actually owned some of the Bachman books and resold them before it was known that Stephen King was Bachman. He's always regretted that!

  3. I had no idea that that many shooters had read this book. Now that sounds scary but yeah like you I believe you cannot blame it on a book. It's a easy way out. Anyhow this sounds like a really interesting read even though that ending doesn't sound like something I'd like either. Great review, Mands :)

  4. Oh that's horrible that people said the book of being inspirational for real-life shooters. I never think that's the case with literature. I mean, yeah, maybe it could inspire someone who's already sick, but I never think you can really blame a book, or movie or whatnot. But whatever. I'm rambling. ;) This sounds like an interesting book, but I've read Leonardo Peacock (and also Hate List by Jennifer Brown) and both were incredibly sad and...I probably wouldn't run after Rage. It's frustrating when I don't connect to the main character so I don't "get" why they're doing things, so I completely understand your feelings there!

  5. I am sorry to hear that you did not enjoy this one, it does sound like a difficult kind of read. That is definitely awful that somebody could claim such a book inspired them to kill people, however I think a big part has to be lain down on their own mental state, but I guess King does not need it connecting to himself and tarnishing his reputation. Although I imagine that would weigh quite heavily on him.
    Great review!

  6. Never heard of this one but it's such an interesting premise. Also interesting how King asked for the book to be recalled after school shootings. I don't know if I would enjoy this one.

  7. I'd never even heard about this book with the bad rap it eventually got it makes sense that I haven't. I'm loving how you're reading all King's works, because for someone like me who's never read him, I'm getting the complete rundown of where to start :) This one does sound different from his usual but at the same time maybe that's why you didn't really connect with the story or the mc as much - he hadn't gotten into his flow yet or something I guess. Wonderful review ^^

  8. King wrote some interesting and different to his norm stuff as Richard Bachman but it was devastating to see the backlash against Rage after the shootings as it took so much of the blame but it's the same sort of story that comes out after every similar tragedy, they always try to blame the book/movie/video game etc rather than the sicko who actually did it.

    I've had my copy of The Bachman Books for years and still think it's a great book, Rage may not be the best of the stories in the book but in general The Backman Books is a great introduction to King if you want to start a bit smaller than some his doorstop books.

    Thea @ Gizzimomo's Book Shelf

  9. I didn't know about this book or the controversy around it. It sounds interesting... though maybe not enjoyable.

  10. I haven't read Rage surprisingly though I do own it. I also have it in a series that includes all the Bachman books. I can see why King pulled it from bookstores though. Why give people more motive to do mass shootings. I think this is a book that a lot of people don't even know about unless you are a King fan.

  11. I hadn't even heard of this book, or it's connection to actual school shootings. It sounds interesting but I am not sure it's one I would ever want to read myself.


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