Book Review: The Mist

The Mist (1980) by Stephen King

That sound wasn’t coming from the market. It was coming from behind me. From outside. Where the mist was. Something that was slipping and sliding and scraping over the cinderblocks. And, maybe, looking for a way in.


After a deadly storm, David Drayton and his son Billy find themselves trapped in a grocery store when a thick, eerie mist blankets the small town of Bridgton, Maine. Coupled with the growing paranoia and otherworldly creatures that lurk within the depths of the fog, David and a small band of resilient survivors must use their wits to fend off the darkness and escape.

Review

Right from the get-go, The Mist throws us into the eye of the storm as the Drayton family seek shelter from a thunderstorm that ravages their lakeside home, setting up the novella’s theme of the chaos of weather phenomena and forces beyond our control.

After the storm it is ominously hinted that an unnatural mist is moving across the lake, foreboding the primary conflict of the novella.

Another major theme of the novella is mass hysteria. We see the fear of what lurks in the fog affect people, with some taking proactive measures to defend themselves; some remaining stubborn in their disbelief of the supernatural, trying to rationalize the mist and the shadows within; some succumbing to hopelessness; and some turning to an extremist religion to help cope with the horror witnessed. As time passes and the danger from the mist grows in the grocer’s, the stranded survivors become more irrational as the fear sets in. Feeding off of this fear, Mrs. Carmody, a religious nutjob, rallies a mob hell-bent on human sacrifice to appease whatever divine wrath has brought down the mist.

King ties together plenty of high-octane scenarios and much the same as in Misery, manages to keep things moving despite most of the book taking place in the same location. There is a constant process of fleshing-out as we’re introduced to new people and tidbits of backstory narrated from David’s perspective. For the most part I enjoyed this interweaving of lore into the story; however, at times the information verges on superfluous and awkwardly cuts into the action.

The origin of the mist and its creatures remains mostly unexplained, and while this will undoubtedly cause a case of contention for some readers, I thought it added to the sense of mystery and supernatural tension – the idea that an unknown force of nature unfolds bringing with it doom. There is the suggestion that the mist may be the result of a top-secret military project gone wrong, something referred to as the Arrowhead Project by a few characters in the book, but this never goes anywhere and is used more so as a point of speculation among the fearful survivors.

Pros:

  • A lot of interesting and high-intensity scenes paced throughout
  • The premise provides plenty to work with – anything could emerge from the fog
  • The story is told in a very clear-cut way, making it easy to visualize
  • A variety of monsters from tentacled giants to unreal bugs and flesh-winged beasts

Cons:

  • A lot of questions remain unanswered in the shortness of the novella
  • Ambiguous ending that leaves much to the imagination
  • The frequent use of many named characters dipping in and out of focus can make it hard to follow who’s who
  • The tidbits of backstory sometimes break pacing

The Mist was an exhilarating read full of action, suspense, and supernatural weirdness to keep me hooked. The short novella can be read in a day or two and packs quite a punch despite its lack of longevity. Although it lacks a concrete ending and not everything is explained, much like the mist itself it lures you in with its intrigue and is a worthwhile read of flash and a little filler.

~Giuseppe Gillespie Feb’ 2023

Verdict:

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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