A masterpiece! One of King’s very best: unforgettable characters, chilling scenes of sadistic horror, a relentless almost unending climax, even a fully satisfying ending. This is a hell of a story, but that’s not all. King also uses this book to give us generous lessons on novel writing. A comparison of the first draft of Paul Sheldon’s new novel Misery’s Return, to his ‘Annie inspired’ rewrite, shows writers the way it should be done… Don’t mail it in! Do the work! Challenge yourself creatively. Always deliver the best possible version of the story that you can!
Paul’s (really King’s) long reflection on the value of the “gotta” (making readers feel that they “gotta” keep reading… that they can’t stop, no matter what else is going on in their lives) is a revelation of one of the most prized secrets of the writers craft.
Still, for me the strongest part of the book is its subtext. Both Annie in her way and Paul Sheldon in his are skating dangerous close to trying to be God, or at least playing God. (In catechism 101 they call that original sin.) Annie takes it upon herself to dole out life and death, feeling that she is being merciful to those poor unfortunates. Maybe she feels she’s even answering prayers. Certainly she’s taking into her own hands acts that other generations would have ascribed solely to the deity. Paul goes a step further, he doesn’t just want to take on the mundane chore of deciding on who lives and who dies, he wants to create universes, build whole worlds, populate them with creatures of his own making, structure events and give them meaning. He revels in the process, and in doing so dramatizes the point that so many creative people feel, (though they may not be fully aware of it) that the act of creation is one of the most rewarding, addictive, liberating, pure, divine acts that human beings are capable of.