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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sheep Review: Mile 81 by Stephen King

At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It's a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It's the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who's supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play "paratroopers over the side." Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.

Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn't been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says "closed, no services." The driver's door opens but nobody gets out.
Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls "the ultimate insurance manual," but it isn't going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.
Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton's cracked cell phone near the wagon door — and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids — Rachel and Blake Lussier — and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon...
Whoa, this is a hell of a blurb which pretty much sums up the whole novella <G>. The thing that King does well is take the ordinary and throw in a freaky monster. In this story a young boy who got ditched by his older brother heads out for his own adventure. He goes to an abandoned rest stop at mile marker….you guessed it! 81. This is where the monster shows up in the form of a mud-covered station wagon that eats people in a gruesome way (duh, this is King). It acts like a Venus Fly trap for humans, lures them in and BAM! Dinner is served.

This was an okay story. The manner in which the car “gets” people is pretty cool, but there is a lot of focus on the mundane actions of the boy Peter. Kind of dragged for me. Not sure it was worth the $3 on Amazon. I would wait for it to show up in one of his anthologies.

2.5 Hungry Sheep!

Check out Stephen King's website


  1. Like the sounds of this one - reminds me of "From A Buick 8". King rules when it comes to making monsters out of the everyday.

  2. King has really been dropping the ball lately....

  3. King ALWAYS puts a lot (too much?) emphasis on the mundane, even when it's not important to the story. That's part of why he gets criticized for being so verbose. Sometimes it works for him, sometimes it doesn't.

  4. @Spaz - exactly. When he sets his stories in an "alternate" world then his verbose tendencies add to the story (The Stand, Dark Tower series) but when it is about my everyday world, meh...been there done that; give me some monsters!