Two college students take part in an experimental government drug trial that leaves them with unexpected mental powers. A few years later, after marrying, they have a child who inherits their abilities as well as new and destructive.. talents. Charlie McGee, the offspring of the aforementioned government test subjects, is a human Zippo lighter. She can raise the temperature in a room and light just about anything on fire using only her mind. Her father, Andy McGee, can “push” others to say, think or do specific things albeit at the expensive of his own health and comfort. Once the government gets wind of young Charlie’s abilities, they want to get their hands on their new little weapon of war.
I thought this was great. I really didn’t want to be all like, “modern Stephen King is just nowhere near as good as early King”, but I have to. I have to do it again! There’s just no comparison. I’m not saying that all of King’s early work is perfect and untouchable, but he just seemed to be firing on all cylinders and even his less than stellar work from that time period beats the pants off of most of his present day work.
I think one of the biggest differences when comparing his older work to his newer stuff is the calibre of villains. John Rainbird, the novel’s chief protagonist, is an evil son of a bitch. There are no redeeming qualities here. When you find out just what he has in store for young Charlie, there’s no way you’re going to want to see this guy escape the novel unharmed.
And the ending is immensely satisfying. King builds and builds to an unavoidable confrontation between Charlie and her adversaries leading to a hell of a body count. Let me tell you, some of the deaths here are very graphic and memorable to say the least.
My one gripe about it is that it does feel a tad long. As far as King’s novels go, it’s on the shorter end, but I feel like he could have lost a few pages here and there. You probably didn’t need to know that much about a few of the Shop employees considering they’re just fodder for Charlie’s unhinged rage.
With Firestarter, King just crafts a more enjoyable, more engaging story than most of his modern work (11/22/63 and possibly Revival being the two exceptions). The characters here are more memorable and the stakes feel higher. Given how little I hear this one mentioned, it definitely belongs in his underrated and underappreciated category.