Mile 81 by Stephen King (Scribner, 2011), is simply ridiculous. Twice I stopped reading it to read a self-published debut horror novel by an unknown author.
It’s a long short story, more of a novella really, that details the events surrounding an abandon rest stop along I-95 at mile marker eighty-one. It begins with a ten-year-old boy who finds a bottle of Vodka therein, and we are treated to his thoughts in detail as he looks at pictures of naked women. Eventually he falls asleep and the story then becomes about a human-eating alien disguised as a broken down car that drifts into the rest stop and munches on several adults who come near enough to touch it.
Stephen King frequently gets dirty with his child characters. This is evident throughout his work even from the eighties. Why he also feels the need to have this child looking at dirty pictures and drinking vodka when it seems to have no particular purpose within the story is beyond me. But when it comes to King, a lot of what he writes is beyond me.
I don’t recommend this book unless, like me, you have been following King for a long time and just feel duty-bound to read whatever he publishes. At the back of this novella is an excerpt from his upcoming novel, 11/22/63, and it seems the writing in that is quite good. So, I suppose come November when it’s released, we may get a chance to read some of King’s best work yet. But Mile 81 is not it.