The disadvantage in a mist is a lack of visibility, but what will happen when inside the mist are creatures lurking to devour you? Once you go into the mist, you scream and screech until your throat goes numb and everything is silent again.
Story – “The Coming of The Mist.”
The novella by Stephen King begins with a thunderous storm. David Drayton’s family is living on the outskirts of Bridgton, Maine. After the storm, a giant tree falls inside their living room. David tries to remove the trees on the outside of his house. Soon after, to get some supplies, he goes to town with his son Billy. As he takes one last look at his wife, Steff, she raises the clippers in her hand, bidding them a good-bye for the last time.
As the mist takes over the world, the rest of the story plays out as David and Billy are stuck in the grocery store with a bunch of other people, afraid, scared of monsters they haven’t seen, and are yet to see.
King wrote a valid explanation for the existence of the mist and the creatures in it. There is no ghost, no supernatural force, but something scientific, and it’s plausible. The creatures themselves are not overdone. Let’s say if spiders, exposed to some nuclear radiation, they would look something like the ones King has laid before us. Now imagine that with every other creature out there.
The writing is well paced. It does feel, however, that the material King had in his mind might have worked better as a novel than a novella. He writes great characters, but they need time to nourish and develop. In some of his shorter stories, he has disposable characters to creep you out. That’s what a short story is for, but trying to fit a character, David, meant for a novel into a small piece just doesn’t work. King’s signature technique involves ordinary people being pushed to their limits as they cope with fear and tragedy. His forte is characters and to see him fail here is difficult to digest.
Characters – “Problem of some magnitude.”
As I said above, King writes great characters, but David Drayton is, probably, his weakest one. He needs attention, but it’s hard to stand him out when there are dozens of other people that need our attention as well. The perspective is the first person, but circumstances don’t allow us to stay in his brain for a long time before snatching us back to the immediate situation of alert.
One big caveat David’s character has is his invulnerability. People get hurt around him, but he remains unscratched until the end. He has a bigger role than character development; he’s our eyes and ears, he has to dictate the events to us, which isn’t an excuse to leave him out of harm’s way. The journal type writing style doesn’t work according to King’s intentions; there’s no connection with David due to the lack of time.
The remaining characters stand out because they are unpredictable. Everyone has their agenda, movie, or family waiting. In the middle of this is Mrs. Carmody- the best character in the whole novella. Have you ever seen an old lady shopping and smiling in a grocery store, buying chocolate for her grandchildren? Well, she’s like that. Until she’s not. As the mist takes over, she begins to talk about hell, death, and sacrifice. She becomes a devilish cult leader in a forth-night.
The other characters are disposable. They have a strong personality and presence in the story, but you know they are not here to stay for long. You can easily recognize who is going to die as soon as they come forward. It’s predictable, but it seems intentional.
Should You Read The Mist?
Creating mood and atmosphere is a difficult task, and it’s essential. King creates both and delivers a slow and suspenseful reveal of what lies beyond the mist. It’s not pretty, but you must have known that. The Mist might and might not have worked well as a novel; it does work, however, as a brilliantly generated mystic horror.
The Mist was recently adapted into a television series of the same name. The show airs on Thursdays at 10/9C on Spike.
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