Synopsis: “You can’t do anything…It’s gone too far. You understand, Halleck? Too…far.”
Attorney Billy Halleck seriously enjoys living his life of upper-class excess. He’s got it all—an expensive home in Connecticut, a loving family…and fifty extra pounds that his doctor repeatedly warns will be the death of him. Then, in a moment of carelessness, Halleck commits vehicular manslaughter when he strikes a jaywalking old woman crossing the street. But Halleck has some powerful local connections, and gets off with a slap on the wrist…much to the fury of the woman’s mysterious and ancient father, who exacts revenge with a single word: “Thinner.” Now a terrified Halleck finds the weight once so difficult to shed dropping effortlessly—and rapidly—by the week. Soon there will be nothing left of Billy Halleck…unless he can somehow locate the source of his living nightmare and reverse what’s happened to him before he utterly wastes away…
Truth be told, I’ve not looked forward to writing this review. I find writing reviews for 3-star books almost tedious, and certainly not enjoyable. It’s fun writing about books I love, and it’s fun ripping to shreds books I hate. Books that warrant an average rating are just that — average. And I struggle with reviews of them. Never before has that been more true than in the case of Thinner, by Richard Bachman/Stephen King. That makes me a little sad, too — I’ve enjoyed writing every review in my Stephen King reread project thus far. Luckily, I definitely have some fun ones (Skeleton Crew, It, Misery) coming up soon.
I think what made this reading experience a little different than, say, reading and reviewing Pet Sematary or The Shining is the fact that I’d never read Thinner before, despite having owned it for years. In fact, it was in the stack of my first King purchases — I bought them at an old, out of the way used bookstore in Decatur, Alabama. I think I bought Dreamcatcher and Different Seasons and The Running Man along with Thinner. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was probably in there, too. I tried reading each of those to little success — it wasn’t until I read Christine a year later that I became the Stephen King fanboy I am today. So, yeah. I’d had a little experience with Thinner (I think I read the first chapter before giving up and never going back to it, until now), so I had no prior relationship with the story. I went into this thing like a virgin, baby. Did that impact my eventual rating of this book? Eh, maybe a little. But not much. Truth be told, no matter how many times I read this book in the future (and I suspect that number isn’t too high) I feel it will never earn more than a solid three stars from me. It happens.
So! What did I like and dislike about this one? Well . . . King wrote this one as Richard Bachman, so it’s deliciously dark and full of sharp edges. That is a given. I dig that a lot. The ending is one of King/Bachman’s best. Our protagonist, Billy Halleck, is a likable enough guy — albeit woefully underdeveloped on the whole (and that goes for every single character in this one). The story has little to no filler, which is another Bachman characteristic. Ginelli’s plotting and revenge is fun to read, even if he’s nothing more than a half-baked retread of Rainbird from Firestarter. The concept itself — an overweight guy rapidly losing weight — sounds lame, but in King’s hands it works wonderfully. This guy can make haunted cars and soda machines believable and menacing, for chrissakes.
Something that really disappointed me about this one is the missed opportunity for King to make some biting social commentary. C’mon — it’s about an overweight, rich lawyer getting cursed to rapidly lose weight. The guy can no longer enjoy every American’s two favorite things — food and sex. I went into this one expecting musings on and mockery of American greed, a’la Needful Things. I think King/Bachman tried doing that a bit here, but it gets lost in the mix. It’s unfortunate. I love it when King gets in his Dickensian, full-on social commentator persona; it shouldn’t be a surprise that the ’90s is my favorite Stephen King decade, as far as his writing goes. Yeah, I’m one of those weird fans.
This isn’t a bad read. It’s good for passing time, I suppose, but it’s certainly not an essential entry in the King catalogue. If you’re looking for a great Bachman novel, search out The Long Walk or Roadwork. Ironically enough, the Bachman novel that ‘feels’ the most like King (i.e. this one) is the one I like least. Weird. All in all, this is the epitome of an average read.
Not many, as this is a Bachman novel. However, at one point a character describes what’s going on with Billy as ‘something out of a Stephen King novel.’ Seriously, did he want his pseudonym to be found out?
“Some guys– a lot of guys—don’t believe what they are seeing, especially if it gets in the way of what they eat or drink or think or believe. Me, I don’t believe in God. But if I saw him, I would. I wouldn’t just go around saying ‘Jesus, that was a great special effect.’ The definition of an asshole is a guy who doesn’t believe what he’s seeing. And you can quote me.”
I’m skipping The Talisman for now (I’ll hook around and get it and Black House when I’m finished rereading everything else), so it’s looking like Skeleton Crew. Yay! I love King’s short stories. Usually.