A few years ago I went on a Stephen King reading binge and one of the books I ran into that I drew a particular interest in was Cujo. You see, I watched the film adaptation of Cujo as a child and it frightened me. This huge dog was infected with rabies, and he became the ultimate killing machine. Well, perhaps not as ultimate as this particular canine, but still rather terrifying.
I picked up the novel one night and I read it. Honestly, it didn’t read smoothly and it felt like one of King’s weaker works. Checking up on when he wrote this, I came across a few statements that this was a time during his career where he was drinking heavily and likely doing plenty of coke. He was so inebriated, that he said that he couldn’t remember writing the novel. It’s a shame, because as one of his early, mainstream works, the book could use a little of the writer’s insight.
The novel starts slow and finishes slow, but I still recommend the read. It’s not a long book by all means, and it has some palm-sweat-inducing moments. The process of Cujo’s assault on the Trentons is long and arduous, but the end pays off well. The novel, unlike the movie, actually humanizes Cujo, and is steadfast in reminding the reader that Cujo is a good dog, but the effects of his rabies infection gradually take over. Through some clever narration from behind the eyes of the Saint Bernard, we can see that Cujo is being controlled by an alien force. As humans, most of us are terrified of being under control of something like this, and we feel sorry for Cujo. Unfortunately, many of us are one Team Human and we root for the dog to be put down.
There are other elements to the novel that are chaotic. Dysfunctional families, adulterous couples, and a guy with a very stalker-like behavior, seem like filler to ensure Cujo is a novel. Honestly, this could have been a 100 page novella, a la, The Mist, but I suppose King was filling in those contractual obligations.
I give Cujo a 2 out of 5 stars. It was a difficult read because the pacing was weird and King’s insistence on focusing on other characters outside of the book’s primary plot was too distracting. Every time I read about anything that wasn’t dealing with the survival of the mother and her son, I felt that I was being forced away from the better part of the novel. If you are a fan of the film, you should give it a read just to analyze the differences between the film and the book.
The Dark Tower Watch
Stephen King is responsible for one of the greatest stories of our time, The Dark Tower. In this series, many of his works are referenced or directly linked to this universe. In the case of Cujo, his name was mentioned to Stephen King (Character in The Dark Tower) and talks about the differences between the movie and the novel. Roland, the protagonist of the series, mentions that Cujo means “Sweet One.”