Sunday, April 30, 2017
Stephen King is kind of a jerk and that's why I like him.
Charlie the Choo-Choo is the story of a little train that wants to get ahead, but it's a children's book written by Stephen King (under the nom de plume Beryl Evans) so it's not exactly a soothing story for a scary night.
Also, everything after this point is a spoiler so if you haven't read the book and don't want the story ruined go ahead and stop reading now. If you DO want to read this blog just highlight the paragraphs below to see them.
The story as it's written is a very straight little engine that could kind of story - Charlie just wants to do his best and chug along, and he is happy to help out his human engineer.
BUT. But. The book is terrifyingly illustrated, every single image is creepy as fuck and looks like a train that's getting ready to jump off the page and eat the reader. I kept waiting for the book to take a turn, for Charlie to jump the rails and kill every passenger, for his firebox to overheat and explode while his inhuman laughter rattled endlessly through his stack. And it just kept not happening.
Additionally I know that this story takes place in the universe of the Dark Tower and I know that trains in midworld have a somewhat fraught history.
When I finished reading the little book (it took maybe seven minutes the first time, it's a real, legit children's book) I felt a bit lost just because I'd been so nervous through the whole story and suddenly that tension evaporated. It felt ungrounded. I actually really enjoyed the surprise and I think knowing the end is happy will make it easier to appreciate Ned Dameron's wonderfully icky illustrations on future readings.
This isn't the story I was expecting, but it managed to freak me out in just the way I anticipated.
If you'd like to buy Charlie the Choo-Choo you can find it here.