Mile 81 – Stephen King

Mile 81 is a short e-book (a novella, if you will) released by Stephen King in September 2011. It was released only as an e-book, so I had no idea how I’d ever be able to read it—but then a coworker let me borrow her Kindle at the end of September at an overnight staff function and I got to read it and it was awesome.

Fast-forward five months, and I still hadn’t written about it. By that point, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to remember enough of it to review it, so I figured I’d just forget about it. But then, I got my shiny new iPhone, with its awesome app, iBooks, and I was able to download it on my phone! I was able to read it again, and this time I’m actually going to write a review!

When ten-year-old Pete Simmons is left behind by his older brother, George, on a boring, overcast day during spring vacation, he decides to go investigate the abandoned Mile 81 rest stop near his house. Having heard tales of Really Big Kids going there to do coke, drink, and “suck face” with their girlfriends, Pete can’t wait to explore—and prove to George and his friends (who call themselves the “Rip-Ass Raiders”) that he isn’t just a little kid.

Upon getting to the rest stop, Pete finds a half full bottle of vodka and takes a few nips—you know, so he can give George and the Rip-Ass Raiders an accurate report—promptly overwhelming his ten-year-old body. Eventually, he nods off on an old mattress inside the rest stop building.

After Pete falls asleep, a nondescript station wagon makes its way into the rest stop, barreling through the orange barriers blocking its way. Then, its driver’s side door opens…but no one gets out. The entire car—including the windshield and even the interior—is covered with mud, obscuring the make and model; it has no license plates. The open door seems almost to beckon.

What is the secret of this mysterious car? Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, will soon find out. So will Julianne Vernon, the entire Lussier family, and Maine State Trooper Jimmy Golding. Eventually, Pete Simmons will wake up to a horror he could never have imagined. But perhaps he, unlike the others, will be able to stop it.

Okay, I just have to say how much I am LOVING iBooks on this stupid iPhone that I didn’t even mean to buy. I feel like I am betraying everything I believe in by enjoying using (basically) an e-reader, but it was really freaking awesome to be able to have this book basically in my pocket. Of course, I couldn’t have had it any other way, since it was only released as an e-book—which is another reason I’m so glad I have this phone and this app.

Normally, when it comes to Stephen King, I generally prefer his huge, chunky books, like It and The Stand. While I like his short stories, they just haven’t always been the easiest things for me to get into—although I think part of the problem is that I get too into them, and feel let down when the story ends before it really seems to begin. But Mile 81 seemed like just the right length. It probably only took me about two hours cumulatively to get through (less the first time), but it was a simple plot that wrapped up quite nicely, in my opinion.

It’s too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel, so I can’t really compare it to much else of King’s work that I’ve read…the only thing I can think to compare it to is The Mist (a novella King wrote that was first published in a horror anthology called Dark Forces in 1980), which I read a few years ago and enjoyed, but Mile 81 was tons better, in my opinion. I kind of felt that The Mist could probably have been longer than it was and better fleshed out—perhaps a two-part book with part one being in the grocery store and part two beyond—because it was a pretty complex story. Mile 81 was simple: evil car. Sound familiar? I wonder what it is with Stephen King and evil cars…

Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick read and you do have an e-reader (or an iPhone) and are willing to spend the $2.99 for a great story, you should download this one. King fans will immediately recognize (and love) his unique narrative voice and well-crafted characters. Enjoy!


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