- Author: Stephen King
- Publisher: Doubleday
- Release Date: November 14, 1983
- Pages: 374
Pet Sematary: “Sometimes, dead is better.”
Let’s get this out of the way first. Pet Sematary is not a scary book. It is ominously creepy at most but what lingers over this book from the beginning till the end is the concept of death. The story is about Church (the cat in the story) coming to life, and that is something you would avoid doing in real life (unless you are the owner of the Grumpy Cat, that cat is a goldmine), but there is more than just death discussed in this novel. I wouldn’t tell you what proceeds after Church comes back to life because it would be giving away too much of the story.
The central concept and theme that is scrutinized thoroughly in this book is the idea of death. Now and then, it can be in an entire chapter or a page, you will notice the situation of death, consequences of death, or the life that is after death being discussed. The constant discussion of death in this novel doesn’t lessen the effect of mortality the characters experience. Instead, it makes the events more brutal, more heartbreaking. All of the time that is spent on talking about dead things would come alive, and you will be forced in a despondent situation, the same situation that our characters are put into; it might be a book about death, but it has the humanistic traits which make it less fictional and more real.
The characters are not without faults either. Dr.Louis Creed sometimes feels less like a doctor and more like an author; it almost seems like Dr. Creed exist because the person who has the most interaction with dead people (after grave diggers) are doctors. Sometimes, he doesn’t think like a doctor would and interprets some situations like he is an author. You can notice these the most when he tries to understand a concept. He won’t think in a rational doctor way but rather like he already knows that something is wrong, and he is willing to accept it. Doctors should have the most experience with what death because they witness it at one time or another, and there is always an accountable scientific explanation about what happens in certain circumstances. Louis Creed doesn’t seem to care about those statements, and he draws conclusions almost instantaneously.
What saves these characters are the same thing that breaks them, faults. They are human and just like humans they experience tension, regret, backlashes, defects and remorse. The characters have so many human faults in them that it became almost impossible not to feel a little sympathy at one point or another. The story even goes a bit further and dwells into the problems of marriage. I am no married guy, but King defined the marriage of Louis and Rachel Creed so eloquently, it feels real. The tension, the secrets, and the feuds that are present in a marriage gives the characters (especially Rachel Creed) a great depth as they struggle to overcome their marital problems while coping with vicissitudes.
Pet Sematary is one of Stephen King’s most personal novels. He went too far, became too invested, and too personal with this story that he has to lock it away in his drawer hoping that it would never be published: well, I am glad that it did. It almost feels like a long anecdote if you would research about what King’s process was at the time of writing it.
I have read quite a few Stephen King books (thirteen including Pet Sematary), but it is only in four of those (including this one) books that I have seen King push the characters to the limit of their breaking point. He spends almost all of his time in developing and growing these characters that whether you like it or not, you will get attached to them, either because of their horrid situations, or because you’re just a psycho. (No offense, of course.)
You would imagine that the nature of a horror book would be somewhat unnatural and disjointed, but the characters in this book are every single person that you have or have not met. These characters are not fictional but as real as we can be, and that is the part where the creepiness crumbles in and chokes the life out of you page by page, situation by situation until your face turns blue and your eyes roll out.
“Okay, Louis! Your uncle was an undertaker: stop mentioning it again and again.”
The story carries an ominous feeling throughout the book; from the beginning right until it finishes, you can tell that something is always wrong. Even when it is Christmas, or the characters are having a party, there’s no sense of joy or happy because something is always lurking around the corner waiting to demolish everything that gives the tiniest odor of joy.
One thing I would say about Pet Sematary is that it is not a scary book unless you find the purring of the cat scary. It carries an ominous feeling, something bad is about to happen then something bad happens and then it picks it up again like a police dog picks up a scent of something after he lost it for a while. It is not terrifying but rather terrifyingly disturbing. The mere concept of the story is enough to give you an uneasy feeling, but when you go ahead and read it, it takes a step further and goes out of its way and twists its ideas and thoughts upside down and the result is spine-chilling.
When the book got to its end, it was already odd and harrowing, but when the book finished, I was horrified. I had a dark ending in my mind because that’s typical Stephen King but what I finally got was something as dark as the black hole; it sucked me right in and then I was nothing.
“Soil of a man’s heart is stonier; a man grows what he can….and tends it.”
Cats are cute. Cats are fun. Cats are jolly. Cats are creepy, and ‘creepy’ is the right word to use here because there is a difference between creepy and scary, Church is creepy, but he is not scary.
￼Dead is dead. You can not bring someone who has passed away; they go into the world different than ours, and they never come back. It can be a very uncomfortable subject to talk about especially when you have experienced the death of someone that you knew or loved. But, if you had one chance to set everything right, one chance to bring them back to life, would you do it? Will you bring back the dead if you can?
“Lazarus, come forth!”
Pet Sematary is a perfect metaphor for death. The concept of passing and it’s consequences and what kind of toll it takes on a human mind is elaborated and explored in this story, and it is ferocious. You wouldn’t be scared, but you will find yourself gently closing your eyes, but opening them as wide as possible with a disgusting look on your face, when you realize what you have just read; it’s disturbing.
Also, was it just me or anyone else thought the real spelling of Cemetary started with an S?