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Firestarter by Stephen King

Firestarter (1980)

by Stephen King

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (73)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
I'm a sucker for reluctant heroes, even those of the child variety. This book is definitely a product of its time and would be written/play out quite differently today. Still, it was an interesting exploration of ethics, unwanted mantles, and government nonsense. ( )
  mediumofballpoint | Mar 4, 2019 |
Stephen King at his best. With a few exceptions King isn't good at big-picture stuff. When he doesn't take the time to build up a good central character all you can focus on is the absurdity of the situation, or we get treated to a cast of people so mammoth that even over 1,000 pages gives them each little more than walk-on roles. Except for the pages and pages of evil, women-hating men. Those guys are terrible, but could they be a little different from each other? King gives himself and others very good advice about the importance of concision and rewriting in 'On Writing' but he very seldom listens.

But this review is about 'Firestarter', which is fantastic.

Stephen King is in control of his writing here. 'Firestarter' is more SF than horror with its shady government agencies carrying out secret experiments on broke college students. Turns out crazy-strength LSD won't turn your brains to mush, but it will screw around with your chromosomes. Two members of the experiment have a child and the ever-observant Shop waits for a chance to absorb the family into its organization. The book starts 12 years after the experiment and keeps a brisk, paranoid pace as father and daughter try to outrace agents from The Shop and allow Charlie to come to terms with her terrible gifts. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
(Original Review, 1980-09-21)

The popularity of "occult" novels haunts the science fiction community. We of all people are expected to pay serious attention to stories based on semiliterate misreadings of religious apocrypha. Not based, mind you, on either testament of the Bible, but on superstitions which Catholic, Protestant and Jewish theologians can tell you are mostly transformations of ancient pagan beliefs that have not yet been shaken off the skirts of genuine religion.

Books like "The Other" and "Rosemary's Baby" are exploitation novels at a level undreamed of by even the editors of Spicy Space Stories or Gruesome Demoniacal Monthly. And literarily they haven't the faintest connection with any form of the Speculative Fiction genre. So now you're expecting me to say something bad about Stephen King's "Firestarter" (Viking, $13.95). And I could - it's sloppily written, it's plotted to wring every hair-raising potential out of creaking stairs, branches tapping on windows in deserted houses, lurking watchers in the shadows and all that other Gothic stuff - and it drags its feet. But those are details. Go get it. Tell 'em I sent you. It's good.

King is a bright young man who has figured out how to become a consistent best-selling author. That objective has caused him to bend his appreciable writing talent to the writing of books filled with old horror-movie clichés, in the correct expectation that this would sell them to makers of new horror movies. But underneath it all, he's fundamentally different from the other "occult" wordsmiths, whom he has outdone in popularity with earlier novels like "Carrie," "Salem's Lot" and "The Shining." He is a Speculative Fiction writer, which means that though he throws in the horror scenes with unabashed persistence, he is in the meanwhile asking hard, logical questions and offering at least partial answers.

I don't mean to scare anyone away from him, but the fact is that King is obviously too good for the trash bestseller market. The story in this case centers on "Charlie" McGee, a little girl who can start fires just by wanting to. The daughter of two former college students who volunteered for a hallucinogen-testing program, she and her father are hunted through a long hide-and-seek sequence by The Shop. The Shop is a clandestine federal agency which makes the worst excesses of the CIA look benign. The Shop has already killed her mother in an overanxious attempt to interrogate her. After it captures Charlie and her father, it ruthlessly handles them in ways that eventually force her to bring out her powers in a violently melodramatic climax.

But under all that page-turning foofaraw are some very sharp characterizations, and some relatively deep considerations of power and its uses. There's also a portrait of a relationship between Charlie and her father that goes quite a bit farther into parent-child love-fear that you will ever see in the eventual movie version. Readers won't find much new in the "scientific rationale," but they might find something more in the book than they expected.

I still feel very equivocal about it; it's borderline SF in the popular tradition, like CARRIE and THE DEAD ZONE, but in some ways I found it weaker than either --- unlike THE DEAD ZONE, FIRESTARTER wasn't convincing enough to keep me from arguing with it every few pages. King seems to be "discovering" writing techniques gradually and putting them to work one at a time to make each book a little more complicated than the previous one. I also thought the ending was an awful copout, but there was just enough surprise in it that I won't spoil it here.

P.S. The government cover-up is important, but it's not the sole motivation of the book; given the treatment, I'd say "horror" is as good a description as "SF". The government cover-up is in effect part of the horror (there's this homicidal seeker after truth, see . . .). ( )
  antao | Nov 10, 2018 |
Mysterious and sinister government agencies... an eight-year-old girl with pyrokinetic powers strong enough to destroy the world... what's not to love?! ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
Andy McGee and his young daughter Charlie are on the run from a secret government agency known as the Shop. Why are they being hunted? Because they both have amazing abilities that this shadowy agency want to study, harness...and if possible, control. Andy has the ability to "push" people, better stated as a mental domination where he can make people think what he wants them to. His daughter Charlie has the ability to start fires...simply by thought. With these powers they simply want to lead a normal life and stop running, but the Shop is relentless and will go to any means to have them. As the stakes...and the temperature...rises to a boiling point, King shows that a good read hot off the press...can be quite hot indeed. ( )
  Emery_Demers | Jul 30, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
King, Stephenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boutsikaris, DennisReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christensen, HarroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lahtinen, Aarne T. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"It was a pleasure to burn." -- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
In memory of Shirley Jackson, who never needed to raise her voice.
First words
"Daddy, I'm tired," the little girl in the red pants and the green blouse said fretfully.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
You are about to meet the sweetest, most irresistible little girl you've ever known - 8-year-old Charlie McGee.
She's everything that a proud father like Andy McGee could want - and all that he can fear. For Charlie was born with the most destructive power a human being has ever commanded - and somehow she must be saved from both herself and from those in high places who want to use her as their weapon.

Meet Charlie - and see what happens when innocence and beauty unite with evil and terro.
FIRESTARTER is the mesmerising and menacing story of a sinister government agency, a fateful drug experiment, and a pigtailed girl named Charlie, who has an unimaginably terrifying gift: the power of pyrokinesis.
Haiku summary
Her power's constrained!
No, just seems that way because
thermometers melt.


Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451167805, Mass Market Paperback)

Innocence and beauty ignite with evil and terror as a young girl exhibits signs of a wild and horrifying force.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:32 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Young Charlie McGee is a very special girl. The result of scientific experimentation on her parents, she has the ability to create fires wherever and whenever she chooses, by force of will alone. On the run from sinister government agents with her telekenetic father, she only wants to forget her monstrous abilities, and live a normal life. When the pair are captured, Charlie must decide between saving her father and using her fiery powers at the whim of a government only interested in using her ... as a weapon!… (more)

» see all 12 descriptions

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