by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
Published: September 1977
When you’re five and you hurt, you make a big noise in the world. At ten you whimper. But by the time you make fifteen you begin to eat the poisoned apples that grow on your own inner tree of pain.
4 out of 5 stars
Rage is the first book that Stephen King wrote under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. It is no longer in print. It involves a school shooting, and a few different students in actual school shootings had copies of the book in their locker or their friends said they were influenced by the book. After an incident in 1997, Stephen King decided to have the story fall out of print. I was a bit wary searching for this book to read, but I did want to read everything as part of my Stephen King Project and also wanted to read it before forming an opinion about it. I found a used copy of the The Bachman Books that still has it since it has been removed from current versions of that collection as well. I am so glad I found it and read it because I really enjoyed the story, way more than I thought I would.
I will admit that it was jarring to read about the protagonist, Charlie Parker, coming into a classroom and shooting his teacher. I cringed when I read it and wondered if I wanted to continue reading, but it was not a long book so I persevered. It was not long before the mood of the story shifted. Charlie was not interested in shooting his classmates or really anyone, but he did not want to be interrupted while he went through his internal agenda and teachers (or adults) would get in the way. It was not the most logical reasoning, but Charlie was not the most logical character. It is well established that his mental health is in question even before he takes that first shot.
His goal while he takes one particular classroom hostage is to have them actually talk freely. It takes a while for it to happen, but as the day goes on, the students open up. They confront one another, spill secrets, shy people have the courage to speak, and it feels like a really messed up version of The Breakfast Club. Then, Stockholm syndrome kicks in when almost all of the class starts to empathize with Charlie.
I never empathized with Charlie while reading it, but did not feel like I was supposed to empathize with him. I found him to be an ass, but I think that was the point. At times, he says he isn’t making the excuse of blaming his parents while also trying to blame his parents for making him that way. I didn’t buy that, but I didn’t have a problem with it either. The stories that Charlie told about his upbringing and what he felt made him the way he was that day, along with the stories that other students told were really interesting. While I was entertained by the day the students spent together sharing their fears and dreams, I was waiting for the inevitable end that I knew had to be coming to the situation.
The ending is probably the only part that was the most unrealistic, but I didn’t have a problem with it. It fit the story since parts of it were not completely believable, but I was drawn into it and went along with it. I wish this book was not out of print because, even though it was not originally printed under Stephen King’s name, by reading his collection in order, it was one of the first times that I was in awe at how good he is at storytelling. I experienced that while reading The Shining, but I was also scared most of the time while reading. Here, I wasn’t frightened, but drawn into the story all the same.