I am someone who gets overly excited when I know Stephen King has come out with a new book. I know I can expect a great stories that can creep me out. When I saw Gwendy’s Button Box, a book co-written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, I knew I absolutely had to read it. Guess what? I totally loved this book!
This book is more along the lines a of a novella- it’s only 164 pages long with rather short chapter. However, the book does have big ideas! This the first time I am reading anything by Chizmar, and so at at times, I could sense when it was King’s writing and when it was not King’s writing. This doesn’t really hamper the reading of the novella and the story is interesting enough to warrant a read.
1974. The story is about Gwendy, who lives in Castle Rock, Maine. Castle View is a high point in the town and there are three ways to get there: Route 117, Pleasant Road and the stairs known as Suicide Stairs. It is these very stairs that Gwendy uses to get to the top. It just so happens that on one of these days when she reaches the top, she meets a visitor: a tall, strange looking man dressed in a suit with a bowler hat. His name is Richard Faris, and he hands her a little peculiar box with two levers, and eight coloured buttons. He entrusts Gwendy to take care of the box, and in return she will gets little gifts. However, he warns her to not press the red button, for the consequences will be disastrous. This is the last we see of the Man in Black.
Gwendy is most curious about the box and the buttons, especially the red one. Everytime she pushes a button, she can get what she wants, but then something else happens somewhere in the world as a consequence. Is it a coincidence? Is it her fault? Is it related to Gwendy’s action?
The novella follows Gwendy’s life as she progresses through middle and high school into her adult years. All the while, the box is kept well hidden in her chest of drawers. She does ultimately presses the red button, and falls into a moral dilemma. Is she at fault? Is she guilty? Is she evil?
The book depicts the huge What-If conundrum, and even makes us think what we would do if we were in Gwendy’s shoes? There is that huge dilemma as well: will Gwendy be a responsible person and not push the button, or would she be tempted to use her God-like powers and push the buttons to her desires?
The novella also doesn’t fall into the horror category, but more so under the suspense/ mystery category.
The book is very short, which made for a quick read (I was able to read this overnight) and although it’s a thrilling ride, I found myself wishing the book could go a little deeper (something that I feel King’s novella Elevation was able to do). There could have been a deeper exploration about perhaps Gwendy developing a sinister side to her personality when she contemplates on pushing the buttons.
Ultimately, the novella is about power, responsibilities and consequences, and one of the best conflicts I’ve seen in a book. All of these elements are touched upon brilliantly. I just wish it could have gone a little deeper with Gwendy’s personality.