[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
[There have been some seriously ugly covers for this book, btw.]
“Outside a peaceful town in central Maine, a monster is waiting. Cujo is a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, the best friend Brett Camber has ever had. One day, Cujo chases a rabbit into a cave inhabited by sick bats and emerges as something new altogether.
Meanwhile, Vic and Donna Trenton, and their young son Tad, move to Maine. They are seeking peace and quiet, but life in this small town is not what it seems. As Tad tries to fend off the terror that comes to him at night from his bedroom closet, and as Vic and Donna face their own nightmare of a marriage on the rocks, there is no way they can know that a monster, infinitely sinister, waits in the daylight.”
A first few things. This is actually only my third [possibly fourth?] King book. I’ve read his Eyes of the Dragon, IT, and I thiiiink Carrie? [I get confused because I’ve seen allllll the Carrie movies and their sequels, but I’m pretty sure I did read the actual because I specifically remember her description being nothing like any actress who has played her. AKA she is not at all attractive in the book, like not even remotely unlike most of her movie portrayals]
I’m actually not a huge fan of his stuff just because I’m not the biggest fan of his writing style, which is why I haven’t actually read more of his books. I do like his stories otherwise, though. I’ve watched a ton of his movie/show iterations. Reading Cujo is my attempt to try and fix that. With King’s new comeuppance and his movies/shows based on his books getting remakes [or in some cases movies/shows for his stories that were never touched before.]
Cujo was also an interesting [re]start for me apparently, since it was the one book that King doesn’t remember writing when he was binging on various substances. From my memories of his other books I read [it’s been quite a few years though, I’ll say], it didn’t necessarily feel like his other stuff either.
Up front, Cujo is sad as Hell. I vaguely remember watching the movie forever ago, but I don’t even know if I finished it. I also figured it was a good start for reading the book so I didn’t remember the movie instead. [I’ll be watching it now that I finished the book though]
Whereas in what seems that King relies on the paranormal of any sort, this book doesn’t really delve into that. There was a hint of it at the beginning, and a hint at the very end, but nothing concrete, really. There were some tiiiiny sprinkles in between there, but it was all arguable, and nothing to make me believe it was truly concrete.
It ultimately seems like a standard ‘real horror’ story. Cujo is a huge St. Bernard [200+ lbs] who starts out as a very loyal, very dedicated dog who loves and looks after children, especially his pre-teen owner, who he calls ‘His Boy.’ He gets bitten/scratched by a bat when going into a cave, and unfortunately gets rabies.
Rabies slowly but violently takes over him, causing him to become a true horror to the town. Other than the fact that that in itself is incredibly sad, and that a boy has to experience seeing his dog’s descent into madness and realizing what the dog has done, but there are multiple parts written from Cujo’s perspective.
He hates being called ‘Bad Dog’ and wants nothing but to be a ‘Good Boy.’ He expresses this more than once, when he realizes his thoughts and impulses are starting to change towards violence, that he’s acting as a Bad Dog, but he can’t control it, which pains him as a Good Boy.
That really, really got me. More than once. Fuck you, Stephen King. [middle finger here]
In normal King fashion in the meantime, he likes to make you hate characters that ultimately meet their end via the jaws of Cujo, for some of that sweet, sweet schadenfreude. There’s just a general huge old man asshole character, a wife-beater/child abuser, a cheater in a marriage, etc. However, there’s also quite a few innocent victims that either die or indirectly victims of Cujo’s reign of terror. There’s also quite a few extra shitty characters that I wish I would have swapped out for some of the innocents to actually fall into King’s plan, that somehow make it out alive. Building up these characters also takes a huge chunk of the book, in fact I specifically noted to myself that it isn’t until over 100 pages in [out of 300], that shit starts to hit the fan with Cujo.
What ultimately dawned on me with this book through, is that it’s interesting to go back and read horror stories based in ‘older’ time periods, but also not that far away. The setting of Cujo is in the 80’s [like it was written], and nearly all of the tension and horror is based around that no one has access to communicate in emergency situations. People are trapped and suck in places and situations that would be resolved instantly… if they had a cellphone. It would have been a hell of a short book if even one person would have had a portable phone in the story, though. There’s multiple points of tension that all would have been negated if in current times. Though I guess if it were to be remade in current times [which would be kinda weird being as rabies vaccines are required by law in these times, and sometimes vets will even hold your animal ransom until you get them vaccinated or report you if you don’t] the equivalent would be a dead cell phone or no reception.
One thing also, is… I feel like with every book I read by King, I get more and more suspicious of him being a creeper in more than just being a really weird guy who writes weird stories. I was traumatized enough by that one particular scene in IT [you know what I’m referring to], but in this book the hovering creepiness is there too. A mother at one point is looking at her young son’s butt for an awkward amount of time, including mentally commenting on the shape of it through his pants. Then there’s another point where a man who is in his last throes of life after being ‘Cujo-ed’ remembers two things: 1. Did he have sex with his wife the night before? and 2. His about-to-be-7th-grade daughter’s ‘budding, developing breasts.’ One right after the other. The latter actually jarred me so much that it took me out of the story in the middle of a really intense scene and I literally whispered ‘what the hell?’ aloud. It’s weird. You’re a weird man, King. And I’m suspicious of you.
Ultimately, I liked the book. I give it credit because the scenes with Cujo, even when he’s mentally gone and rabies has taken over completely and he could be mistaken as a demon dog [I feel like the synopsis and trailers for the movie push so hard for that but it’s just… not really there in the actual book] made me feel really bad. It definitely got me right in the feels multiple times. It didn’t make me scared so much as make me want to go hug my cats and all my friend’s dogs and bury my face in their fur and be sad. It’s sad to think that this still happens to people’s pets even today. I ended the book with a ‘Well… now I’m even more sad.’
“It would not be amiss to point out that Cujo had always tried to be a good dog. He had tried to do all the things his Man and his Woman, and most of all His Boy, had asked or expected of him. He would have died for them, if that had been required. He had never wanted to hurt or kill anybody. He had been struck by something, possibly destiny, or fate, or only a degenerative nerve disease called Rabies. Free will was not a factor.”
Go hug your animals, even if you don’t plan on reading the book. But especially go hug them if you do. Also get your pets vaccinated, jfc.
I give Cujo 4/5 Monsters in the Closet
“The wind held long conversations with the gutters. A rind of white spring moon rose in the sky. Somewhere far away, in some still meadow of night or along some pine-edged corridor of forest, a dog barked furiously and then fell silent.”
“Her head was high wine and deep iron. The world danced. She was the harpies, the Weird Sisters, she was all vengeance – not for herself, but for what had been done to her boy.”