From a Buick 8
First edition cover
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|September 24, 2002|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
From a Buick 8 is a novel by Stephen King. Published on September 24, 2002, this is the second novel by Stephen King to feature a supernatural car (the first one being Christine, which like this novel is set in Western Pennsylvania). According to the book sleeve: "From a Buick 8 is a novel about our fascination with deadly things, about our insistence on answers when there are none, about terror and courage in the face of the unknowable." The title comes from Bob Dylan's song "From a Buick 6".
Stephen King says that he was inspired to write this book on a car trip he took in 1999. During the trip, he stopped at a gas station in Western Pennsylvania. While looking around, he slipped and almost fell into a stream of water. The thought that he might not have been discovered until a much later time led him to the plot of the story. In the novel, King describes a fatal automobile accident, and coincidentally, King himself was the victim of a bad accident that almost killed him in June 1999. However, he said that he did not change any of the details in the novel to match his accident.
The novel is a series of recollections by the members of Troop D, a state police barracks in western Pennsylvania. After Curtis Wilcox, a well-liked member of Troop D, is killed by a drunk driver, his son Ned begins to visit the barracks. The cops, the dispatcher and the custodian quickly take a liking to him, and soon begin telling him about the "Buick 8" and its title. It is in some sense a ghost story in the way that the novel is about a group of people telling an old but unsettling tale. And while the Buick 8 is not a traditional ghost, it is indeed not of their world.
The Buick8, which resembles a vintage 1953 Buick Roadmaster, has been in storage in a shed near the barracks since 1975, when it was left at a gas station by a mysterious driver who then disappeared. The car, they discover, is not a car at all. It appears to be a Buick Roadmaster, but the steering wheel is immobile, the dashboard instruments are useless props, the engine has no moving parts and ignition wires that go nowhere, the car heals itself when scratched or dented, and all dirt and debris are repelled by it.
Sandy Dearborn, now Sergeant Commanding of Troop D, is the main narrator of the book, and tells the story to Ned, discussing various things that have happened with the car, and his father's fascination with it. The car will frequently give off what they dub "lightquakes," or large flashes of purple light over an extended period of time, and will occasionally "give birth" to strange plants and creatures that aren't anything like what they've seen in their world. Two people have disappeared in the vicinity of the car—Curtis Wilcox's former partner Ennis Rafferty, and an escaped lowlife named Brian Lippy they picked up for drunk driving and being under the influence of angel dust. It is later suggested in the book that perhaps the Buick was a portal, between our world and another.
After hearing the story of the Buick and how it has been kept secret by Troop D for so long, Ned becomes convinced that the car was somehow related to the death of his father in a seemingly random road accident. After all, the gas station attendant who first reported the Buick sitting in front of the station was the same man who, years later, would kill his father. Sandy cautions him to keep from obsessing over the Buick ("There are Buicks everywhere," he warns), but after leaving Ned at the Troop D facility to eat at a diner, he realizes Ned never asked about one subject, actually avoided asking about it...whether anyone considered destroying it. He realizes that Ned is determined to destroy the Buick...and that the Buick, in fact, wants to use that impulse to take Ned into the world it connects to ours.
Sandy returns to the shed to find Ned sitting in it, Ned having poured gasoline under the car and holding a pistol and a match. Just as Sandy pulls Ned out, the Buick transforms into a portal, trying to draw both Ned and Sandy inside of it. The rest of the staff arrive on the feeling that something bad may happen, all of them helping recall the story of the Buick's origin at their station, and manage to pull Ned and Sandy free, but not before Sandy glimpses into the world on the other side of the Buick. He sees Lippy's Swastika necklace and cowboy boot, along with Ennis's Stetson and Ruger.
One last story is told, revealing that destroying the Buick actually was discussed. However, they come to theorize that the Buick functions as a sort of regulator valve, drawing in and out between the two worlds...and that destroying it would do much more harm than good, releasing whatever malign power is maintained by it. They decide that it is safest to watch over the Buick, in the hope that whatever force that powers it will eventually dissipate and expire.
The book closes with Ned joining the police force after dropping out of college, and he pulls Sandy over to shed B. The Buick's windshield is cracked, and remains cracked without healing itself. Ned believes that the Buick will one day fall apart, having expended the last of its energy in that final attempt to draw him over to the other universe.
- From a Buick 8 at StephenKing.com