the mist book cover

There’s Something in the Mist

Author: Stephen King

After a strange storm David, his wife, and his son Billy examine their property and begin repairs. The day is hot. There is no power, no radio signal, nothing but ominous quite, downed trees, and those strange, uniform clouds over the lake. But everything will be fine when the electric company makes it to town, when civilization begins to put itself back together. Until then David and Billy team up with a previously horrible neighbor to make an emergency supply trip into town. They never make it home again.

Huddled in a supermarket when the mists descend and strange things begin to call in the dark, a hapless group of survivors watch people go into the mists and never come back, watch tentacles squirm out of the darkness, and watch the windows shatter under the pressure of strange creatures. As time goes on and no one comes to help, they are left to wonder. Is this fallout from the nearby military base – the one everyone has heard some many strange stories about? Is this the end times – a final judgment from God? Or something else entirely. Alone, afraid, slowly being picked off one by one, it becomes hard to define what is most terrifying – the things in the mist or the humans that are starting to turn on one another.

I remember being wowed by the intense atmosphere and imagination of the movie that came out of The Mist, and when I saw it available on Audible, I knew I had to have it. I’ve been slowly working my way through King’s work and have a distinct preference for his earlier works (for the most part) – Christine, Pet Semetery, Cujo, From a Buick 8, etc. What I found here is classic King, but sped-up, more rapidly paced, and perhaps a little darker than usual.

The entire mood of The Mist is sonorous, palpably paranoid and claustrophobic, enough to keep readers hearts’ sped up, ears attuned for unnatural sounds, just waiting for the waking world to shift into the inevitable nightmare. It’s appealing and hopeless and beautiful, all in that trademark King way. It’s also desperate and unlike the movie there is no tidy, albeit shattering, ending. The film was mostly true to the book – mostly – but there are some big differences. These are the differences that made me, surprisingly, like the film just a bit better.

David here is not that likable of a character. Ensue **spoiler warning**

Within twenty-four hours of being away from home, trapped in the supermarket, wondering if his wife is alive and calculating how and if he and his son can escape back home, David drops everything to have an affair with a young woman. Yes, for real. He thinks – knows somewhere in his animal brain – that this wife must be dead. But instead of grief, or rage, or anything recognizable, he becomes obsessed with a sexual encounter, leaving his fearful toddler to follow-through on his ill-timed fling.

**end spoiler warning**

man walking in the mistThese actions make David a character that audiences – especially female audiences – struggle to empathize with. The story is so good that we try anyway, try to forget this major character issue, but it’s difficult.

Then, there is the end. It’s different from that in the movie. It’s far less devastating, but also more nebulous. We have a guess about what might have happened, but mostly it just ends. Everything is left in the air, sans explanation, and it’s just not as satisfying as the futility and agony of the movie ending.

Despite its problems The Mist is still quality King work and one of my personal favorites of his creative story ideas. It’s creepy and raw, filled with atmosphere and King’s sordid, beautiful, delinquent imagination. Check it out.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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