What a major disappointment! I’ve had Cujo on my list for quite a while – I love Castle Rock, and I had heard good things about this one, but I did not dig it. It had some classic Stephen King problems, alongside the classic Stephen King vibes.
After a 200-pound Saint Bernard is scratched by a bat, he goes rabid and torments a poor side of Castle Rock and a small cast of characters. All of them seem to feel personally attacked by said dog; they each have reasons they think they’ve been targeted by Cujo’s wrath, almost as if Cujo is more than just a rabid dog…
Before I say anything else constructive, I absolutely need to say that Tad is one of the most annoying characters, maybe ever. While I own the physical copy, I elected to listen to it from my local library (Libby for the win, friends!) and the narrator gave him this shrill voice reminiscent of the kid in The Babadook. If you know, you know. So maybe his incessant whining and cries for mommy are less annoying if you read them off the page, but if I heard him say “I want Daddy!” one more time, I was going to get to him long before Cujo was.
Moving on, this book had some of that classic King rambling. I think of Pet Sematary and how the guy went on about a deadfall for like 100 pages. There are a lot of storylines in here that I actually don’t feel are crucial or helpful to telling the story, like the Sharp food company problem with Raspberry Zingers. It doesn’t actually do anything for the problem or the resolution, but it sure as hell takes up a lot of page space, and the only logical reason I can see for King doing that is to further expose the misery and current backstories of his characters. But it’s just done in so, so much detail.
I also fail to see too many “horror” moments in this book. Cujo is a good problem, I’ll give him that, but relatively speaking he doesn’t get a lot of screen time (or page time?). I think this novel could’ve been infinitely better if we had expanded on that. Every time we were actually following or facing Cujo, the story improved tenfold. And in particular, it could’ve been better if he had expanded on the connection to Frank Dodd. Frank Dodd was a deputy in Castle Rock who was actually strangling women years prior to Cujo’s reign in town, and at the beginning and at some point near the end, they almost allude that he has possessed Cujo, not that he is rabid (though he does test positively for rabies…?). I’m not doing outside research on this piece of the puzzle prior to writing this expressly because I want to relay it as I interpreted it, which is to say that it was not included much at all, to my disappointment. If that was his aim, it misses its mark.
Cujo feels merely like a fill-in story to further express the misery that grips Castle Rock. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, and it’s far from what I would consider good horror unfortunately. I’m curious about others’ thoughts, if you’ve read it!
Have a great weekend, friends!