The Mist – Stephen King

The Mist originally appeared as a novella in the 1985 collection Skeleton Crew. They made it into a movie a few years ago when I was in college (I think it flopped) and published the novella as a separate paperback. I’ve read it two or three times and I think I finished it in a day each time—so it’s short. But it’s also pretty good.

Set in the small town of Bridgton, Maine, The Mist starts with David, Stephanie, and Billy Drayton weathering a huge thunderstorm in their lakeside house. The morning after the storm, a thick, unnatural mist moves slowly across the lake, eventually enveloping the whole town. David and his son, Billy, have gone to the grocery store with their neighbor, leaving Stephanie, his wife, at home to garden. Once at the store, the mist continues to move across the town, reducing visibility to almost zero. Soon, the people in the grocery store begin to hear screams of fellow townspeople through the mist, but cannot see who—or what—is causing the desperate screams.

Eventually, it becomes clear that there are bizarre, unearthly creatures in the mist that attack and kill any human they come across. Thus trapped in the supermarket, tensions between factions of townspeople continue to grow as David and a few others begin to plan an escape.

I have to say that the only thing I can really complain about with The Mist is that it’s not a fully developed novel. It works well as a novella, but I always feel that it ends too soon. I wish we got a little more closure at the end—I’m not personally a huge fan of open endings. I need to know.

King’s characteristic distrust of both the military and organized religion are very obvious in The Mist. First, there’s the implication that the nearby military research facility, home of the mysterious “Arrowhead Project,” is somehow responsible for the mist and the bizarre creatures that inhabit it. Even more damning is the early-on suicide of two soldiers who were trapped in the supermarket with the other townspeople. Then, on the religion side, is the fanatic Mrs. Carmody, who insists that the mist is a sign of the end times and the result of sinful behavior. Eventually, as she makes followers of some of the survivors in the supermarket, their faction insists on a human sacrifice to save them from the wrath of God.

Mrs. Carmody was honestly one of the scariest/most unsettling parts of the story for me; religious fervor is somehow more unsettling to me than other things, if only because I’ve always personally had positive experiences with religion. Seeing the darker side of it is always something that is sure to get to me.

All in all, The Mist is a pretty good little book. I’m looking forward to reading it in its context as part of a collection. It’s not one of my personal favorites, but as with most of Stephen King’s work, I would still recommend it to anyone who’s interested in a good, quick story.

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