Top critical review
Woah, a book that's almost entirely filler.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 2, 2010
Maybe I was just spoiled by reading It and The Shining over the last year, but Pet Sematary didn't do anything for me. I'd read many lists that countdown King's best 10 books, and the one that would always be in the top 5 was Pet Sematary, so I bought it. Halfway through the book, I was getting bored. 4/5 into the book, I'd read maybe 9 pages a day, not having much will to finish it. And now that I finished the book tonight, I can say that this is one of those cases where the movie's better. Ironically, the movie was only made because King demanded that he write the screenplay, and they follow it. Watching the movie is like getting a good summary of the book, because at least 400 pages here are filler. And those people that complained about the acting? Hey, it's not their fault the characters in this book aren't that interesting.
But for those who haven't seen the movie, Pet Sematary is about the Creed family: Louis and Rachel, and their children Ellie and Gage. They move in to a new home after Louis gets a job as a doctor at the local college, and on his first day, a student is brought in after being hit by a car, and he dies. It's a pretty bad experience, to say the least, but things get worse when the patient warns Louis about something he doesn't understand. The next night, Louis has a dream that the patient takes him to an area beyond a 'barrier' at the pet cemetery (misspelled as Pet Sematary by the children who've brought their pets there over the years), and tells him to not go beyond the barrier no matter what. But we all know how well orders like that go, especially when it's about something so full of mystery. We later learn about what exactly is past the barrier, and the history of the location from Louis' neighbor, Jud Crandall, who has some dark secrets of his own that he wants to share with others.
It's hard to give the book much of a summary because most of the action is limited to two major events: going to the area past the Pet Sematary, and a major accident that involves the family about halfway through the book. Oh heck, here come the spoilers, so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want it ruined, eventhough it's pretty obvious from the get-go what'll happen, especially with how much forced foreshadowing King gives us. The area beyond the Pet Sematary is an Indian burial ground, and it turns out that those who are buried there come back to life. But not as they were before they died: they come back a sort of smart stupid, for lack of better term. The family cat, Church, is killed one night, and Jud takes Louis to the burial ground because Ellie, who just started kindergarten, can't quite handle the concept of death, plus she's very attached to Church. Church comes back, but more clumsy and slow than he was before. He smells horrible too, no matter how many times he gets a bath. Later on, Gage is killed when he runs out into the road and is struck by a semi truck. Rachel and Louis of course can't handle this (what parents could?), but Louis goes the extra mile and buries Gage at the Indian burial ground. Jud warned Louis that while most animals buried there came back ok, there was one case where a person was buried there, and nothing good came from it.
I'm sure I'll get blasted by King fans who check up on the pages for books they like and make sure no one says anything negative about a book of his that they like (way to abuse the 'helpful' voting system there guys), but again, I didn't get anything out of this book. Louis is a very, very boring character, and we never get much background on him. He's a doctor, when he was younger he'd work with his uncle who was an undertaker, and him and his wife are seemingly constantly 'in the mood' now that they have a new home. Even when the horrible accident happens, there's not much description of what's going on in his mind- just descriptions of how sad he looks and other things going on. I got bored reading the same things over and over again, and was about ready to skip to the next chapter, hoping to get some plot progression or actual character development. The only characters I connected with much were Jud, since King always does a good job of making an interesting older character, and Ellie because of her dreams/premonitions. Louis has got to be the most plain, boring main character I've read about in my life. He's the Nicholas Cage of book protagonists. I never really felt bad for him.
And this book is just plain overwritten. There's a description for nearly everything, from a matchbook to a doorbell design, to Louis' medical bag. And if I drank, I could've had a drinking game by having a round every time I read something about how a character peeled their lips back and frowned, or whenever the overused 'the soil of a man's heart is stonier' line was used. Oddly enough, there are a lot of typos in the book too, including some blatantly obvious ones like a comma right after a period...at the end of a sentence like this., I felt like I was reading some bootleg version of the book at one point since they'd keep showing up. Finally, what was with the ending? 'seemed like even Mr. King lost interest by that point and threw something together just to get this over with.
I feel a bit bad for giving the book 2 stars, because in the introduction, King talks about how this is the only book of his that scares him, and gives us a good background on the events that inspired the story. It was very touching, and I got much more out of the short intro than I did reading the entire book. You could get away with skipping nearly the entire middle section, and essentially not miss anything. So much of the book is just describing things, and Louis being boring. It's crazy. I've only read about 7 Stephen King books now, but It stands as my favorite by far. I'd place Pet Sematary at the bottom, below Hearts in Atlantis and The Gunslinger, though I liked both of those much more. Read this only if you're interested in seeing what changed in the movie, but just know that things are drawn out big time here. Hopefully I'll have better luck with Cujo.