Review and summary/synopsis of Christine by author Stephen King originally published in 1983
Spoiler Free Review
Weirdly enough, this is the first Stephen King book I’ve ever actually finished. I know many of you cannot fathom a world in which that is true but it is. I’ve been too busy reading his son, Joe Hill’s books instead.
I asked around and everyone said to read IT. I’m sure that’s a very fine book but I’m stubborn and didn’t want to commit to 1,000 pages to give this bestselling author another try. I had one friend who said he liked Christine and it was available instantly from my library so here we are. Honestly, I even have a copy of IT sitting right there but it’s freaking huge. It’s an enormously heavy hardcover. I’ll have to get a digital copy when I decide to attempt that one, sorry.
All I knew about Christine going in is that it’s the one about the murder car, a red 1958 Plymouth Fury to be exact. I haven’t seen the movie and I knew I could go in fresh.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. The story unfolds in an entertaining way and most importantly, the deaths are freaking brutal. I like my horror gory thank you very much!
Christine goes deeper than just demon car kills people. It has a lot more story to it than that and I enjoyed reading it. The characters get developed just enough for you to care about them a little and that’s enough for this kind of book.
I had a few issues with the personalities of some of the characters and the language they use. Mainly, that there’s some pretty sexist parts that I can’t ignore. No matter how minor or “of a different time” it is, it is my duty to point out sexism, racism, or other issues when they occur. Since Christine spends a lot of time using derogatory words against women and blaming their moodiness on their periods it’s mandatory that I speak up against it.
With that pointed out my only other major problem with the book was the narration. The book starts with one of the characters, Dennis, as the narrator. But for the entire middle third of the book he’s removed from the story line and isn’t present to witness the events so he’s just not the narrator anymore. No one is, just some out of body third party narrator.
It’s very odd to me that Dennis needed to be a narrator at all. The whole book could’ve been told in third person and it wouldn’t have changed the context at all. We still could have known how Dennis and everyone was feeling. I just wouldn’t have been confused when the switch occurred but it wasn’t ever actually pointed out.
But it was largely a fun read. And since this is considered to be one of King’s far lesser works I would certainly be willing to give one of his “masterpieces” a shot somewhere down the line.
If you’re already a fan of King’s definitely don’t discount this “lesser” work.
3/5 cars 🚘🚘🚘
The horror novel was adapted into a 1983 movie by the legendary John Carpenter. Same year as the book? That was fast! As any King fan knows, his books are basically destined for the big screen, it’d be harder to find one that wasn’t adapted into a film or miniseries.
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Christine Book Summary
A goal I’ve had for some time has been to finally read a whole Stephen King novel. That may sound odd to many of you but I’ve never actually read one.* I tried ages ago and couldn’t get into him so I just kinda never tried again. So this year I decided to give it one more shot. Through a series of events I ended up with Christine of all choices on my kindle.
*Since this review originally posted I’ve read more 🙂
Christine is the one about the car. That’s basically all I knew. I haven’t seen the movie so I figured this would be a good way to read some King without too many preconceived issues going in. Should I watch the movie now? Let me know in the comments.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. It has some issues with structure and sexism but it was largely entertaining and I really didn’t hate reading it.
The story is mainly about Arnie but it opens with his friend Dennis as the narrator, telling the reader about this crazy year that Arnie got his car.
Arnie is a shy pimple faced teen who happens to see an old Plymouth Fury on the side of the road and sees potential in it that no one else could.
Arnie buys the car from a cringe inducingly offensive old man. Dennis hates the idea the whole time and immediately has a bad feeling about the car named Christine.
Arnie intends to fix Christine up using his summer job money and automobile know-how but his parents refuse to let him keep his new obsession at the house so he rents a space at a local mechanic’s garage.
A bully from their school, Buddy Repperton, also spends time at the garage and ends up smashing one of Christine’s headlights. Arnie rages out over this and ends up getting kicked out of the garage. The bully is one of the common tropes that King uses in his novels. We’ll see a good handful of those throughout. Is it a cliche if he invented it?
The cranky old man (another Stephen King mainstay), Lebay, who sold Arnie the car dies suddenly and Arnie insists that him and Dennis go to the funeral. At the funeral the brother of the deceased pulls Dennis aside and tells him that the car is evil. But he does so in a way that sounds oddly sexist. It all seems to be an allegory for toxic relationships with women who don’t let you have your way and use up your money.
Later, Dennis and brother Lebay meet up to discuss what is happening. He fills Dennis in on the history of Christine. Lebay’s 6 year old daughter choked to death in the backseat and Lebay’s wife killed herself with her exhaust fumes.
In between attempts to fix up the car Arnie has developed more of a personality and has become inexplicably more attractive. He gets in another fight with Buddy and Buddy gets expelled. Then Arnie finds himself dating the most attractive girl at school, Leigh Cabot. Dennis is quite jealous.
Dennis gets himself into a really gnarly football accident and finds himself in the hospital with many broken bones and the temporary inability to walk. This is where the book stops being narrated by Dennis. It’s very odd to just switch narrators for the whole second third of the book.
But since Dennis is taken out of the action he would not be privy to many of the next events to occur. In the hospital though he does find himself bonding more and more with Leigh. They mostly bond over a mutual understanding that Christine is evil but they can’t yet articulate how. It’s just that gut feeling of something being wrong.
Because the really crazy part was that she felt Christine was watching them. That she was jealous, disapproving, maybe hating.Stephen King – Christine
Leigh ends up giving Arnie an ultimatum. She refuses to make love to Arnie, especially inside of Christine, and no longer even wants to ride in Christine as an everyday vehicle. Arnie is extremely hesitant to give up any time spent in his car.
He has also started realizing that Christine is getting repaired suspiciously easily. Things have been fixed and replaced that he hasn’t fixed and replaced. Curious.
Since he hasn’t been able to keep the car at the garage he’s been parking her at the airport. Buddy finds this out and grabs his jerk friends and a bunch of cocaine and go destroy the ever loving hell out of the car. Ah the 80s.
Arnie and Leigh discover the remains of Christine complete with a disrespectful bowel movement taken on the dashboard. Arnie loses his mind.
After taking some of his anger out on his parents he goes to visit Dennis in the hospital. Dennis finds his behavior unnerving and threatening. He thinks he could really hurt someone over this.
Turns out Christine is also pretty unhappy with being destroyed. Good thing she can heal herself! She drives out on her own and absolutely slaughters one of Buddy’s friends. Just really horrifically annihilates him. It’s brutal.
A detective is on the case for the boy’s murder and he suspects Arnie but can’t make the evidence line up.
Leigh finally reaches her breaking point when she nearly chokes to death inside the car. They break up when Arnie chooses Christine over her.
Christine keeps finding opportunities to go out and murder. She wisely waits until Arnie has a strong alibi and then drives herself to commit seriously graphic murders. She kills Buddy and two more of his friends. But by this time Arnie has returned her to being parked in the garage and the owner sees her return with no driver.
Arnie has been working for the owner of the garage as a drug mule in exchange for the parking spot. They both get arrested for the illegal smuggling ring.
With Arnie safely in lock up Christine kills the garage owner, the only one who can say she’s involved in the killings. Not that anyone would believe it anyway. Who’s going to buy a story about a murderous sentient car?
Around this point Dennis is released from the hospital and becomes the narrator again. Him and Leigh meet up and exchange information about Christine. They end up kissing and are quickly falling for each other through their shared trauma.
Meanwhile, Arnie appears to be possessed by the spirit of old man Lebay and the detective who was investigating him is murdered. Arnie then catches Dennis and Leigh together and is very unhappy about the situation. Classic jealous love triangle trope.
Dennis and Leigh set up a very elaborate trap for Christine involving a rented tanker truck. Christine arrives at their trap with Arnie’s freshly murdered father in tow. Leigh gets badly injured and Dennis re-injures his legs.
But they do manage to smash up Christine and think that that’s the end of it. At the hospital while they recover from their injuries they learn that while they were smashing up Christine, Arnie and his mother were killed in a car accident across town.
In the final chapter we flash forward to discovering that Dennis and Leigh grow apart. The trauma was too much for them to keep reliving it together.
We also see the last of Buddy’s friends killed by a car all the way across the country. Could it be a newly healed Christine?
I was happily surprised that the book had a lot more to it than just ooo spooky demon car! When read at surface level it really was an entertaining page turner with some pretty gruesome death scenes, just as you would want in a horror novel.
When read more symbolically however, I had some issues with the sexist undertones. Additionally, the book throws around a lot of derogatory terms for women as well as spends an unusual amount of time mentioning menstruation. Honestly, any amount of time felt really strange for this book.
I’ll set aside the sexist issues in the “product of another time” category for this one though. There are definitely worse offenders out there to focus more anger on to.
What it comes down to is that I actually liked reading Stephen King’s book about a murder-mobile. Really, that’s more than I expected, so I’ll give King the benefit of the doubt and not put him aside forever.