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Onyx reviews: From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

In a scene that seems lifted directly from real life, Officer Curtis Wilcox is struck by a drunk while giving a citation to the driver of a sixteen-wheeler with a flapping tire. The confluence of events, the reality of something very bad happening to someone for no apparent reason, is reminiscent of King's own encounter with a reckless driver three years ago. Especially eerie is that King wrote this scene and the rest of the first draft of From a Buick 8 shortly before his accident.

Curtis Wilcox left behind a teenage son, Ned, who has been hanging around the station since his father's death, doing odd jobs and learning how to run the dispatch radio. It's a connection to his father. Inevitably, he stumbles across Shed B and its mysterious contents—an old Buick Roadmaster. He questions Sandy Dearborn, the troop's commanding officer, about his discovery.

Troop D has kept a secret for over twenty years. Curtis Wilcox and his partner Ennis Rafferty found the old Buick abandoned outside a gas station. The driver, a mysterious figure in a trench coat, just walked away from it, vanishing in the tangled terrain behind the station. They immediately realize that the Buick isn't really a car. What's under the hood could never function as an engine. Scratches to the finish heal themselves. The vehicle is towed back to the station and installed in Shed B. Before the day is out, Ennis has vanished, never to be seen again.

Over the course of the following decades, Troop D keeps watch on the mysterious car. Occasionally, the temperature in the shed drops, presaging the vehicle's mysterious activity. Bolts of energy emerge from it. And, sometimes, things worse than energy. Indescribably horrible creatures, things that defy logic in our universe. Other times, the vehicle threatens to suck things from our universe to...someplace else.

On the back doorsteps of the squad house, Dearborn and the other members of Troop D recount the bizarre history of the Buick to Ned Wilcox. He has reached an age where he deserves to know about something that was very important to his father, they believe.

In his inimitable fashion, King breathes life into the characters as they take turns telling the tale. The novel alternates first-person narrators, each with a singular take on the story, each with an easily discernable voice.

Buick tells something about the legacy fathers leave behind to their sons. It also examines the unexplained. Where the Buick came from, where it leads and what happens to those who have encountered it...all these are questions without answers. Sometimes things just happen, King says. There aren't always pat explanations.

This is a brief novel by King standards, and tightly focused. The men of Squad D are reminiscent of the guards of The Green Mile, an insular group that maintains its own secrets. A fraternity. The book reads like a campfire tale, perhaps a shaggy dog story, until the novel catches up to the present and Ned learns for himself the power and the inexplicability of the Buick in Shed B in a harrowing finale.

Its author has described From a Buick 8 as the last Stephen King book. That doesn't mean King is retiring from writing...but it may mean that the reliable appearance of his books at least once every year has ended. King claims that he no longer feels the need to publish everything he writes. Only time will tell.

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