Friday, November 11, 2022

[Review]—"The Gwendy Trilogy" by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

The Gwendy Trilogy paperback box set, authored by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is now available from Gallery Books, just in time for the holidays. The novellas in the collection are Gwendy's Button Box (published in 2017), Gwendy's Magic Feather (published in 2019), and Gwendy's Final Task (published in 2022). 

Since the early 1990s, I've been a fan of Stephen King, and although I was aware when Cemetery Dance Publication first published Gwendy's Button Box, I didn't show much interest in reading it at the time. What was the holdup, then? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought the novella would be published later with other Stephen King short tales in a "collection" edition, but that never turned out to be the case. In 2019, Richard Chizmar's solely written novella, Gwendy's Magic Feather, was published. Aside from putting it on my Amazon wishlist, I had little desire to read it. Then, this year saw the release of Gwendy's Final Task, and I must have been living under a rock since I wasn't aware of it until I came across it at a Walmart during the summer. I picked up the book, glanced at it, put it back on the shelf, and promised myself I would get it next time. Spoiler Alert: All copies were gone by my next return. Note to Self: If you see a book you want, purchase it right then and there—or you'll regret it later.

As you probably tell by the title of this post, I have read The Gwendy Trilogy, courtesy of Gallery Books. It's preferable to read the novellas back-to-back—that's my advice after reading the trilogy. 

The shortest and quickest read of the three is Gwendy's Button Box. The initial premise—a little girl named Gwendy who receives a mystery button box—was created by Stephen King. As Mr. King was writing, he ran out of ideas for the narrative, put it aside, and started working on something else. About two years later, he received an email from Cemetery Dance creator and editor Richard Chizmar asking to work together on a story. That story ended up being Gwendy's Button Box.

The protagonist, Gwendy Peterson, is a 12-year-old girl who resides in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, in the summer of 1974. A strange man named Richard Farris is wearing black pants, a black coat, and a black bowler hat while sitting on a bench on a warm day when Gwendy comes across him. After some small talk, he informs her that he has chosen her to be in charge of keeping a little mahogany box hidden from the outside world. The box features colorful buttons representing the continents of the world and a black button that, if touched, can cause apocalyptic results. Gwendy will receive rewards for protecting the mysterious box throughout her entire life.

Except for the foreword, "How Gwendy Escaped Oblivion," Stephen King did not contribute to Gwendy's Magic Feather. Richard Chizmar jumps ahead in the story to Gwendy's 37th year, when she is a published novelist and married to a photographer, living in Washington, D.C., where she works as a representative. Her life looks virtually perfect until the button box reappears. Around the same time, a couple of the girls from Castle Rock go missing, and Gwendy uses the box to search for them.

Stephen King returned to write Gwendy's Final Task with Richard Chizmar, and it's the trilogy's strangest and longest story, even integrating elements of Derry (the town Pennywise the clown tormented in IT) and The Dark Tower. Oh, did I mention that this story is strange? Gwendy, now in her 60s, physically travels into space to end the button boxes' mayhem. Yes, King and Chizmar completely embraced Hellraiser: Bloodline for Gwendy's Final Task, and I, for one, thoroughly relished it.  

Is The Gwendy Trilogy without flaws? 
No, not even close. 

The first novella, the best of the three, is a simple coming-of-age story; the second is more of a dramatic thriller, and the third is a horror show with multiple "wtf" moments. 
Some readers could be confused by the final turns and perhaps disturbed by how frequently contemporary issues get woven into the story; others might even find it boring. 
It's best to read the novellas back-to-back—I'm feeling deja vu. Yikes. 

I may be the odd reader out, but despite a few pacing issues and one too many Easter eggs, I enjoyed The Gwendy Trilogy. ╌★★★★☆

1 comment:

  1. I was not aware of the Gwendy trilogy until today! Thanks to your rating of it, I will purchase it.


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