Carrie is an interesting first book. Technically, it was not Stephen King’s first book. It was his first published book. He took it up as a challenge from a female friend to write a book where the protagonist was a woman. In one of the interviews, King has said that it have women liberation kind of an angle. King had thrown the idea of the book written on paper in a wastebasket, where his wife picked it up. She thought that the idea had potential and urged King to write the book.
Carrie is a very unusual child. She is raised by a mother who is a religious fanatic who thinks that Carrie is a cursed child. Carrie goes to a local school where she is not a very popular child but has a desire to be one. She is unusual in a different sense, she has telekinetic power, power that lift and move things just by thinking about it. The author makes us think that the powers are triggered by an incident in the school that is described by King in a way moving style.
The format the narrative of the book is very interesting, containing several different types. There is a third person narrative that seems like an omniscient narrator kind of a tone. There is a narrative that is in form of excerpts from a book written about the incident. There is another narrative which is again from a book written by one of the other student from the school. And finally, there is an article written by another student in some newspaper of magazine. The variation in narratives works pretty well in building up the anticipation and King is a master at describing actions and events in such a manner as to keep you at the edge of the seat.
The characterization of the protagonist is done really well and you can say the same thing about the supporting characters. Carrie’s mother is sketched really well, which is partly an explanation of why Carrie is the way she is. Other students, the main ones especially come alive. The culture of the town, the school, the teenagers at that point in time – all of these come alive in King’s writing. King is very good at descriptions of scenes as if they are from a movie. You get a feeling that you are watching the movie.
The climax arrives somewhere near the middle of the book and due to all the anticipation built by King, it is a little underwhelming. So is all the narrative that follows the climax. After that, the book becomes monotonous. It would probably feel much better on a screen since most of that stuff is very visual, but just imagine the all the destruction that appears in Avengers – Age of Ultron described in words. I felt that the first part of the book was amazing but the later part just did not live up to the hype created so well by King.
What can you learn as a writer from King? The art of multiple narratives that talk about the same thing, giving you multiple ways to look at an event. Narratives that hide things to build suspense. Building intertwined events that give a sense of the doom. King is a master in building the suspense and an atmosphere of doom. All the while in the first many pages, you get a sense of impending ruin. He is also a master in giving a holistic treatment to a character, however evil or disgusting it may be. He gives a very balanced treatment to Carrie, and you feel supportive of her at times, as if what she is doing is the right thing to do if you had been through the circumstances she has been through. He does not seem to write for an audience, but several type of readers would love the book.
I would rate it 3/5 with a recommendation for people who like supernatural horror of a mild manner. It is also recommended for people who like twisted young adult books.