After all that, it turns out I'm not so sure about Gerald's Game. On the one hand, I was really taken by the tightly focused and comparatively compact plot. On the other, having read it before and knowing what was coming, the second reading made it feel a bit baggy and overwrought. For a large part of the reading, I wondered whether, to maximise on the compactness, it would have better served as a short story. As I reached the closing chapters, I decided that he'd packed it out well enough to warrant the novel length; and then I came to the ending and it all turned to shit.
I'm quite surprised by the selectivity of my memory of a book I first read almost twenty years ago. Although hardly any of Jessie's 'hard time' came as a surprise, the last section had departed from my memory banks altogether. While the mind often suppresses painful memories, it seems mine just blanked out this lump of cack. Showing us what lay behind the curtain on this particular threat, almost subsidiary to the crux of the narrative, seemed a huge mistake. While I'm generally behind the grounding of the threats to our protagonists in the real and tangible rather than supernatural, I'm happily compelled by psychological terrors. The number of times, after reading a novel or watching a film, that I've dashed across the landing when returning from the bathroom in the dead of night or decided that I could live without something I'd left downstairs until the next morning, fairly attests to that.
If the book does have anything going for it, I'd say it contains King's most graphically gory scene that I've read so far. So there's that.
I said in my opening entry for Gerald's Game that it was significant to me that it was the last of the books that I'd previously read. I didn't bother trying to explain why. Jesus, I'm lazy. It's because you can't unsee something you've already seen and when it comes to books or films, it's the first time that counts. Of course, you can go back and appreciate the mastery of the plot's construction and unfolding, but it never casts its spell on you with the same efficacy twice. It only gets one chance to take your hand and ask you to trust and submit to be led where it dares. That's part of the beauty and the root of my undying love for storytelling, so with that in mind, my embarking on the second half* of his works is exciting.
*at this point anyway. The goal posts will no doubt move slightly as King continues to publish works.