Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Brief Review of "Gwendy's Button Box"

And when I say "brief," I mean brief.

Gwendy's Button Box hit shelves yesterday, and thanks to the magic that is Amazon Prime, I received my copies (one hardback and one audiobook) mid-afternoon.
I waited until the end of the night to sit down with it, though, and that turned out to be okay, because I read it in one sitting.  I say "one sitting," but technically, there were several sittings in there.  The breaks were laundry-related, and I'm classifying them as pauses in the entire process, not in the actual reading.  So I'm claiming it was "one sitting," and by damn, we're all gonna have to be okay with that.
Anyways, I enjoyed the book.
I don't actually want to say anything more than that.  I went into it almost dead cold in terms of plot knowledge, which is how I like it.  I have no intention of spoiling anything about it -- which is not to say that there's any kind of a Serling-esque plot twist to be spoiled (there isn't [unless there is and this is just a ruse to throw you off the scent (it isn't)]) -- even by hinting at specifics.
Which prompts a question: what am I going to say here?
The answer prompted in return: not much.  "Brief," I said, and I meant it.
So here are a few salient facts, vague though they may be:
  • It's a novella.  Not a particularly long one, either.  The audiobook -- to which I have not listened (I'm getting this info off the box) -- runs 2.5 hours.  For comparison's sake, the audiobooks for the novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" runs nearly four hours.  "Little Sisters of Eluria" is about the same length as "Gwendy's Button Box," roughly 150 minutes.  The Gwendy's audiobook, however, also contains a reading of "The Music Room," which runs nearly 13 minutes, and a conversation between King and Chizmar, which runs another 6 minutes.  So what I'm saying is, as novellas go, this is a pretty short one.
  • Statements made by both King and Chizmar point to the fact that King came up with the concept for the story, hit a wall and couldn't figure out how to end it, then turned it over to Chizmar.  Chizmar came up with an ending, but he and King bounced the story back and forth (the entirety of it, not merely the ending) and turned it into a genuine collaboration.  So to me, it mostly just reads like King.  His voice isn't insistent like it sometimes is, but the story's style is not at all inconsistent with some of recent short works.  There were a few places where I found myself thinking, "I bet that's a Chizmar sentence," but I didn't think it in a negative manner.  It's a solid piece of prose, and if you had any fears that King's voice might get lost in the collaboration, I'd say let 'em go.  [For you Chizmar fans out there wondering the same thing about Richard's voice, I cannot address your concerns, being unfamiliar with his work.]
  • It's a story set in mid-seventies Castle Rock.  I don't want to say much about that, but will say a little, because I feel it'll be to the benefit of your enjoyment of the story: the setting matters not even a little bit.  I wouldn't go so far as to accuse this of being a trifling use of the town, but I would go so far as to imply it.
  • In terms of the content, the novella could have fit relatively well in either Four Past Midnight or, arguably, Full Dark, No Stars.  In fact, if you removed "Fair Extension" from the latter, this would make an acceptable substitute as well as an interesting lead-in to "A Good Marriage."  (Don't read too much into that last bit; it's just a reflection of the presence of coin-collecting in both novellas.)
  • I enjoyed reading it, and will look forward to returning to it at some point, but my snap judgment is that it's a minor addition to the King canon.  That's okay; not everything can be 11/22/63, and not everything should.
Beyond that, guys, I don't currently have much to say.  Go check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.
Coming up soon(ish) here: an updated ranking of King's books.  I promised a commenter I'd put that on the fast-track, and so I shall.  See you then!


  1. Mr. Burnette:
    This review told me next to nothing about the book, which is just the way I like it. It did, however, give me the impetus to go and get a copy. Thank you.
    Who the heck is Richard Chizmar?

    1. He's a writer and (I believe) the founder of the magazine Cemetery Dance, as well as the publishing house of the same name. He's having a pretty good week!

  2. Thank you for keeping that promise to me!

    I read it in one sitting, too. Interrupted a re-read of IT for one night. Enjoyed it!

    1. I have been thinking about rereading "It" before the movie comes out. I reread it a few years ago, but there's no such thing as too many times with that one. I think I might use this as an excuse to listen to the audiobook; supposedly it's terrific.

      You are welcome for the upcoming post! I've been wanting to do that for a long while now, and just keep putting it off. But I actually began work on it today by doing an initial set of rankings; so give me a week or two and I'll have it hammered out.

    2. Can't wait to read that post! Also, the IT audiobook is excellent.

  3. Reads post...grows puzzled.

    Reads post again, to make sure nothing was missed...same result.

    Echoes of an old Craig Ferguson Late Night interview with King:

    Ferguson: I gotta say, I feel like ya left me hangin' here.

    Still, I'll take your word for, as this has actually spurred my curiosity.


  4. How awesome does this look??? extra bonus tracks and everything!

  5. Mr Burnette I recently stumbled on your blog and have really enjoyed it.

    I just now finished Gwendy's. I have to say there was a point where I thought I knew where it was all going and actually put the book down, thinking don't need to hear all that.

    I know this is a spoiler free zone so I won't elaborate on that thought too much, other than to say I picked it up again and ended up being glad I did. And I was actually kind of touched by its simplicity.

    1. I'd be curious to hear what you thought was going to happen! I'm glad you ended up enjoying the book; I did, too.