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Book Review: Thinner by Stephen King

Skeletal man gripping own face.Summary:
Billy Halleck is an overweight, high-powered lawyer in a wealthy Connecticut town.  He’s getting a bit irritated at his wife and a bit frustrated with his weight, but he loves his teenage daughter.  One day, a band of gypsies come to town, and Billy accidentally runs one of them down with his car, killing her.  His law firm and the cops, naturally, get him out of the manslaughter charge, but nobody can protect him from the lead gypsy’s curse, uttered while stroking one finger down his cheek, “Thinner.”  Now he’s dropping weight no matter how much he eats, and he must race against the clock in an attempt to save himself.

Review:
A book about gypsy curses could easily slide into racist territory, but in fact Thinner actually criticizes the treatment the gypsies have received in the United States over the years, in spite of them not always being the most sympathetic characters in the book.  They may be a bit non-mainstream and overly quick to exact their own vengeance, but Billy Halleck and his cronies are a much more frightening type of bad.  They’re the bad that comes from too much money and power.  The bad that comes from being so self-centered and over-indulgent that you’ve stopped noticing the rest of the world exists.

So, the social commentary is good and not offensive, what about the horror and thrills?  That is, after all, what one reads a King novel for.  The grotesqueness definitely builds gradually over time, making this much more of a thriller than a horror.  At first Billy’s weight loss is welcomed.  He was, after all, overweight before.  Gradually, though he starts to freak out about how much weight he’s consistently losing in spite of eating as much as he possibly can.  He starts to investigate and discovers two others with their own unique and, frankly, much more frightening curses.  Although the beginning may feel a bit slow, that is exactly as it should be.  Billy goes from normal life to life under a curse to racing against  the clock to save his own life.  The horror builds perfectly.

That said, this still doesn’t quite read as sophisticated as some of King’s later work.  It does almost seem like a bit too obvious an allegory.  A bit too obvious a statement being made.  In spite of the story providing chills, it’s not quite terrifying or mind-blowing.  It’s a fun read, but it’s no Dark Tower.

Overall this thriller provides chills, horror, and a good social commentary.  I recommend it to fans of horror and thrillers alike, although slightly more to fans of thrillers.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Harvard Book Store

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