Author: Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Publication Date: 9/6/77
Blurb (GR): A disturbed high-school student with authority problems kills one of his teachers and takes the rest of his class hostage. Over the course of one long, tense and unbearable hot afternoon, Charlie Decker explains what led him to this drastic sequence of events, while at the same time deconstructing the personalities of his classmates, forcing each one to justify his or her existence
Holy hell, I had no clue what I was getting into with this one. I am a SK lover and King’s earlier Richard Bachman books are some of my favorites. (readThe Long Walk and The Running Man if you haven’t) I happened upon this one rather randomly and couldn’t stop reading it. It is out of print, for reasons that will be absolutely clear by the time you are done reading the next paragraph. (SK and his publisher both agreed that it was for the better)
Written in 1977, Rage starts of with a bang (pun intended), when Charlie Decker gets called to the office, mouths off, lights his locker on fire, then shoots two teachers. He holds his entire class hostage and the rest of the book is basically a psychotherapy session wherein he and his classmates tell stories of times when they “got it on.” (no sexual connotation) Are we all a little bit crazy? I have no clue.
The shared experience of the hostage situation was weird…but not unrealistic. It is amazing to see how people react in stressful situations. I mean, there is a body lying in the room and everyone is basically shooting the shit, but I could buy it and that is what is kind of scary. It’s that moment when everything is so serious and you’ve gone beyond the seriousness to some sort of relaxation. King writes, “When you’re five and you hurt, you make a big noise unto the world. At ten you whimper. But by the time you make fifteen you begin to eat the poisoned apples that grow on your own inner tree of pain…You bleed on the inside.” God, how sad is it that ?
When I saw the movie Se7en, I remember thinking it was crazy to imagine a government keeping tabs on what people are checking out at the library. This is the type of book that would be on those hypothetical lists. (hypothetical? :-)) There are at least two instances of teenagers taking guns to school and holding their classmates hostage after reading this book. Do I think it is dangerous? No, not any moreso than all the other crap we are bombarded with daily. Impressionable teenagers will find their inspiration from somewhere else. And this book is more of a commentary on how parents affect their children for better or worse. The takeaway should be not to exhibit violence in school but to keep lines of communication open, not be a shitty parent, and to treat your classmates like human beings. (is this even possible in high school?)
Stephen King is the ultimate storyteller. I swear, on nearly every page, I’m either chuckling, underlining, or completely aghast. He is like that friend that we all have who can tell a story about something completely benign and have you rolling on the floor with laughter or make you cry just by recounting the plot of a sad movie. I’m sad that more people won’t get the chance to read this book. If you can stomach it, definitely find a copy.