Review: “The Mist”, by Stephen King

The Mist has to be one of my favourite short stories of all time and I find myself picking it up and rereading it more times than any other book in my library.

The Mist was first published within a collection of stories in the book called Skeleton Crew and later in 2007 it was published as a standalone book. The book that I read for this review is the later one.

The reason why I like this book and the only reason why I picked it up is due to a game a called Half-Life. I was and still am a big fan of the Half-Life franchise and when I researched about its origins I found out the story was based on this book.

We start off with our main character, David Drayton, and his wife looking out over a big lake from the porch of their home. The weather has been humid and David informs his wife that a storm is on its way.

As they retire for the night the storm starts to build up with winds and cyclones making the lake look like a raging sea. As the lights go out due to a power outage David has a vivid image of the picture window looking out over the lake blowing in and shredding his wife and five year old son Billy. They all go down to the basement for the night and try and sleep through the storm.

As they wake the next morning they are greeted with blown over trees and a nice big fat trunk sitting in their living room. Outside we have more blown over trees scattered across the drive way and downed power lines. The main destruction is on the shore of the lake where a dead tree is laying where the boat house should have been. We learn that this old tree belongs to Brent Norton his next door neighbor. There is no love lost between the two as they had a court battle over a property dispute last year which David won.

Over the other side of the lake a thick white mist is engulfing the mountain top and is slowly drifting out over the water. David and his wife take in the view and state that it is very unusual for mist to settle on the lake.

David believes its best to exchange insurance with Brent Norton. Here we meet Norton fighting with a chainsaw trying to get it to start. David explains that Brent’s appearance has changed due to the death of his wife. They have a quick chat about the fallen tree and we learn that Brent’s sports car took a pounding in the storm.

David returns to his yard and starts cutting up trees so he can get out to the main road to go shopping. We learn that David and his family built the house he lives in and that all of his family members where artists. As David cuts up trees he has a long distance conversation through his son with his wife in which we learn that all of the radio stations on the eastside of the lake are all off the air – where the mist is!

After a while Brent Norton asks if he can borrow David’s car to go up the road to get a few things but he offers to take him along to the supermarket as he is going that way himself.

So we have David, Billy and Brent all going off to the supermarket and this is where we say good bye to David’s wife and we never see her again. The three go on a small journey where we learn that all of the radio stations in the area are all off the air.

As they arrive at the supermarket it seems that everyone in town had the same idea to stock up on essentials. Here we have our first introduction of Mrs. Carmordy walking into the market decked out in her brightly coloured clothes.

David asks Norton to go on ahead and start shopping whilst he tries a landline to call his wife. David realizes that the landlines are down so he catches up with Billy and Norton who are going through his shopping list. David takes over and asks Norton to go and pick up his stuff.

David joins the cue for the checkout and explains how long it is by listing all the products as the line flows through the store. I don’t really like the way the products are listed with the brand names because when I read this all I get is a blurred can of soup or bag of catnip in my head. If Stephen King just said dog food then I would picture the brand of food that I am familiar with.

They join the line regardless and again Stephen King names the brands of the products as we move slowly towards the checkout.

Here we have our first frightening experience with a man running into the market screaming that something has taken his friend. Most of the people in the market up and leave, taking a few of the name branded goods with them. With only a handful of people left in the supermarket the mist starts to engulf the parking lot and the front of the supermarket. It flows across the huge front window blocking everything out and as the whole the market is engulfed in the mist we have an earthquake that shakes the entire building.

David takes a trip out back into the warehouse to find his sleeping son a cover or futon. As he explores the back he notices a generator roaring away stinking up the place. He turns it off leaving him in pitch blackness and he starts to hear noises coming from outside scraping across the warehouse walls and loading door.

He finds his way out of the warehouse and meets Ollie who is one of the supermarkets mangers, two other shoppers and a bag-boy. They all enter the warehouse and start having a discussion about fixing the generator. The bag-boy volunteers to go outside to unclog the vent but David tries to talk him out of it. The two shoppers egg the bag-boy on and basically tell David to stop spouting his fears about when he was lost in the dark earlier.

As the main door to the loading bay opens the mist starts to slip in but it’s not just mist that floats across the loading dock. A number of huge tentacles sliver their way in and wrap around the bag-boy and start to drag him out leaving a nightmarish experience for the characters and the reader.

Outside back in the market David, Ollie and the two shoppers discuss what happened and how they should go about warning everyone. David tries to enlist the help of Brent Norton but he doesn’t take it the news as David expected. This is where we first meet Mrs. Carmordy spouting her religious doomsday speech. Norton refuses to even entertain the idea that such a horrific act happened and from this event the remaining people in the store split off into groups.

As the hold up in the supermarket continues we are introduced to a few more characters. Amanda Dunfrey a green-eyed woman who gives a gun to Ollie, Billy’s teacher and babysitter who takes care of him whilst daddy is off saving the day.

One thing that bothers me throughout the story is how Billy who is five years old speaks. Sometimes he comes across as a five year old and then sometimes he comes across as an adult with the way his dialogue is structured. I for one have a son who six years old – as of the writing of this review – and he has never questioned things in a way that Billy does in this book. In fact my boy would completely shut down if he couldn’t get what he wanted which would lead onto a tantrum.

After a while Brent Norton and a number of his people decide to leave the supermarket. At the entrance he is met with objections and Mrs. Cramordy who again spouts her rhetoric. David asks Norton to tie one end of a clothesline around his waist to see if he makes through the mist. As expected he refuses but one of his people takes it and ties it around himself. As they leave David plays out the line and after a bit the line starts to run out faster. With a scream from within the mist and a gigantic roar David pulls the line back in. The end of the line that was tied around the man is a dark red with no man to be seen. Everyone panics and this gives fuel to Mrs. Cramody to preach that hell has opened up and godl has released his demons onto them.

The first night in the store is greeted with bug like creatures that land on the front window panes of the store. After a while a huge pterodactyl like creature brakes into the store and causes havoc. David burns this creature alive and watches as it takes flight dropping bits of itself over the supermarket.

The horrific experience with the creatures gives Mrs. Carmordy life. Throughout the book she is the only one who seems feed on the terror and belief in what she says as everyone starts to take on the image of despair and panic. Now she has a group of follows listening to her preaches which include sacrifices to make the demons go away.

After a while Ollie asks David to come out back with him so he can show him the bodies of two soldiers hanging from the rafters. Throughout the book we are reminded of a military base up in the mountains where the mist generated from. The story from the locals was that they were working on a top secret project called “The Arrowhead Project”. Many of the locals believed that they were working on something that could shift dimensions and such – exploding atoms.

David starts to have interment feelings for Amanda and they both go to the manager’s office and have a quickie. This confuses me and I don’t really understand why Stephen King added this in the book. Perhaps the sense of losing your mind also plays games with your hormones?

As Mrs. Carmordys popularity increases David and his group decide that they should try and make a break for it and get out of the supermarket before Mrs. Carmordy chooses someone for her sacrifice. But before they try they decide to make a test run over to the drugstore opposite and with a handful of people armed with a tennis racket, a mop handle, a handgun and a shopping basket full of bug spray they are off.

They make it to the drugstore which is a scene of carnage with headless bodies and violet coloured shirts what once where white. The scene suddenly changes and the reasons behind the carnage become evident. They all make a break for it back to the supermarket but are picked off one by one by dog-sized spiders shooting acid webs. Only David, Ollie and the lady carrying the shopping basket make it back to the supermarket.

After a hellish event at the drugstore we are still on a mission to get out of the store. Ollie and David talk it out and decide to leave a few supplies under the checkouts so they can leave in the morning.

They wake and David, Billy, Ollie, Amanda and the old basket lady head to the checkout where the supplies are but Mrs. Carmordy is standing ahead of them with the bags on display. She goes in a rage jumping up and down screaming about them being unbelievers and that is from their number the sacrifices must come and orders her followers to grab Billy and Amanda. The group is rushed but is suddenly halted by gun fire. Mrs. Carmody has been shot and it was done by Ollie. David and his group walk out of the store and head for his car.

On the short run to David’s car Ollie is attacked by some gigantic scorpion thing and taken off with. David, Billy, Amanda and the basket lady stumble into the car before the spiders can get them. David decides to drive past the supermarket for no other reason but to boast they have made it out and to middle finger them all!

The drive down to David’s house to get his wife is cut short by a huge tree blocking the road. David realises that he can’t get to his wife and has a cry. They continue south to try and get out of the mist but everywhere they go the road is cracked and caved in. At one point in the travels a huge brontosaurus type creature walks over them leaving tracks as deep as a car in the road.

The ending of the book is with David writing a diary entry saying that they are held up in a gas station with Billy, Amanda and the basket lady sleeping in the other room whilst he writes. He finishes off by saying that he will try and head south as he believes he heard a sound, a voice, from the radio but he was uncertain of it but he must try to get out of the mist for Billy’s sake.

My Final Thoughts

In total I really enjoyed this book and I do find myself picking it up more often than any other book in my collection. But even though I like it I do have a few problems with the story and it’s more to do with brand naming of products and how Billy’s dialogue changes from a child to an adult at times. I can only go on my experience with my son but he hasn’t mastered English to a level of a native speaker of an English country so to speak.

The over religious rhetoric by Mrs. Carmody showed me how people can cling to anything when civilisation crumbles all around.

The ending was really good and I enjoyed how Stephen King didn’t end it with a “we got out of the mist and all is well” in fact it leaves you with a feeling that you can decide for yourself on how the book ends.

From a rank of 1 to 10 I put Stephen King’s The Mist at a 9.

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