Title: Gwendy’s Button Box
Authors: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
If you had the power to destroy something, would you do it?
If no-one ever found out it was you, would you be able to resist pressing that button?
If someone had a box with unimaginable power, what should be done with it?
If you found out, would you tell anyone?
Gwendy’s Button Box is the first book I’ve read by Stephen King, an author I have been meaning to get into for years. I imagine that this short novella would serve as a nice introduction to Stephen King, compared to some of his much longer works. Gwendy’s Button Box is effectively a fable about power and control. With eerie overtones and an interesting concept, it was a quick read that packed a punch.
The story is set in the fictional town of Castle Rock in Maine. A few of King’s novels are set in Castle Rock and I find it interesting that this short story has links with some of his other works, despite the characters and events not necessarily crossing over. I find the fact that so many of his stories are linked in this way fascinating and these towns – the most famous being Derry, Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot – almost seem to act as alternate/fantasy worlds in and of themselves.
But back to the story. Stephen King is perhaps most famous for horror writing and whilst this novel doesn’t necessarily contain any physical monsters, it is still a frightening tale because of its implications. A potential for destruction that is always tucked away but omnipresent. In a theme similar to several other works (think Jekyll and Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Lord of the Flies) this novel seems to explore the darker side of human nature and uses this as the source of horror. The monstrous element of this story is the hint of the brutality of human nature: human beings’ capacity for a hidden evil streak.
The novella is co-written with Richard Chizmar, an anthology editor and short story writer. Between both King and Chizmar, they have managed to create a short but eerie tale about the implications and consequences of humanity’s quest for power and also the unpredictability of human emotion and humanity’s capacity for making mistakes. Similar to Pandora’s Box, temptation takes the lead and we are left with several “what ifs” as the story reaches its bloody conclusion.
P.S. My music choice for this week is Burnt Norton (Interlude) by Lana Del Rey. This song is only short but I love it – the lyrics are based of a poem by T. S. Eliot. Hope you love it as much as I do!