Off the Shelf

“From a Buick 8”

By Marcus Pan

From a Buick 8Ok kiddies, I’ve really been hitting the recent book releases for you here. This the sixth book in Off the Shelf that has been released within the last year or two…enjoy it while at lasts because I am now reading something that came out when I was a toddler just for shits ‘n giggles.

Stephen King…what a fucked up individual this guy is for all the things his brain thinks up. For many years he’s been pushing out horror and, in some cases, fantasy and over the course of his career his work has even touched upon science fiction and explored such things as infinitesimal smallness and cross-reaching psycho-reality issues such as the well known perception-as-reality credo. From a Buick 8, recently released (2002), isn’t one of King’s standard horror fare that his long-time fans may remember. Instead King takes us on a jaunt into yet another realm – almost purely science fiction. Stephen King is probably the most prolific writer that has appeared in the Off the Shelf column, this being something around the eleventh review of one of his books. Expect more of course as I tear a bit through my old pulp pile. But From a Buick 8 was given to me by my father and came with rather uplifting reviews and this actually marks the fourth or so book he’s gotten me and who’s reading we shared.

Taking a storyteller format, From a Buick 8 tells you a tale of a young man, father recently deceased by a highway accident where he was performing his duties as a state trooper, who spends time at the barracks where his father worked doing various chores in an attempt to be close to his old man that has passed on. In a shed out back the kid discovers an old – strange – Buck 8 Roadmaster. Enthralled, he asks why it’s holed up in the shed…and is told a multiple-year story that of course involved his father heavily.

The Buick 8 came into the (re)possession of the Troop D barracks in Pennsylvania(1) after it rolled into the gas station on Humbolt Road and the driver, a strange guy in a black hat and trench coat(2), promptly disappeared to leave it there. The cops of course come out and before bringing it to their shed since the owner never returns, discover that it’s not quite your usual kind of car. It’s…a little bit off, so to speak. The engine isn’t quite an engine, and there’s too many port windows and the car is so clean you could use it as a mirror to pop a zit on its hood – just to see the schmutz slide off like melted butter on a stripper’s ass.

The car turns out to be something…more. It has this tendency to spit out strange things from a strange place, and even somehow reaches tendrils of intelligence out into our world to tug small links in different people’s chains of life. This is all well and interesting – the funny leaves from alien trees, a one-eyed alien bat thingee and even a pink-haired monstrosity that might have been the other “place’s” equivalent to humanoid. The main problems come when the car decides to suck things in…two folks if I’m correct and a bunch of animals that the young man’s now deceased father used to put on the hood, on the seat, in the trunk…just to see if they would go or stay.

The story itself is rather good – which is heartening since one of the last stories of King’s I read was rather poopy(3). And while I still itch for him to get back to his supposedly seven-part Dark Tower(4) series which made it up to IV thus far, I’m not above saying that From a Buck 8 wasn’t a bad try at sci-fi for a man usually known for crazy clowns and rabid animals. The ending is a little anti-climactic, but the story is definitely interesting enough to merit a recommendation. It will certainly get you thinking and has one of the best brain-twisting lines I’ve read: “Maybe we see it as a Buick 8 because we need to see it as something.” Perception, anyone? Give this version a try if you have some time…

(1) Interesting…not a Maine story from the horror master for once.
(2) Flagg, anyone?
(3) Rose Madder, reviewed in Legends No. 109.
(4) Dark Tower I, II, III, IV were reviewed in Legends #94, #95 and #96 respectively.
“From a Buick 8” by Stephen King
Cover Illustration by Tom Hallman
Copyright © 2002 by Stephen King
Published by Scribner
Pocket Books printing December 2003
ISBN: 0-7434-1768-2

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