Friday Reviews: Riding the Bullet by Stephen King

Riding the Bullet by Stephen KingRiding the Bullet

Stephen King

Stephen King makes his first splash in ebooks with Riding the Bullet, written shortly after his accident in 1999. A novella, it later appeared in the collection Everything’s Eventual.

Alan Parker gets a call at school that his mother has had a stroke. Despite her admonition to wait until the weekend to come see her, Parker hitchhikes home. Eventually, he stumbles into a graveyard and ends up hitching a ride with George Straub, ironically a man whose tombstone George just saw. Straub eventually reveals that Alan has a choice to make: Either Alan rides The Bullet, a bizarre coaster at a nearby amusement park, with Straub, or his mother does. It’s implied that Straub is tasked with taking one of them to the afterlife by riding the Bullet (hence the title.)

As a short story, this one is ultimately unsatisfying. The ending is so ambiguous that all the tension is sucked out of the last third of the story. Basically, we’re left with a hitchhiking kid who falls asleep in a cemetery for a short while as he hitchhikes home. There’s nothing to suggest if it was a dream or real, something King usually does a good job depicting, even when it can go the other way.