Thinner, by Richard Bachman

I’m always a little confused by authors who use pseudonyms but are also like, “I am totally this person,” so people will read their books. Like I’ve cataloged a few books that are authored by NORA ROBERTS (writing as J.D. Robb) or… someone whose name I forget where her author bio is like “This Person is the pseudonym of That Other Person.” Why are we bothering with the pseudonym, then?

All this is to say that I didn’t actually realize this was a Richard Bachman book until well after I started listening, because everything I looked at was all STEPHEN EFFING KING all the time. It is also to say that when people know they are reading a Stephen King book it is a little weird to hear the narrator talking about how it’s like he’s in a Stephen King book, but according to my friend Cory this is not an unusual thing to happen in a King novel. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Aaaaanyway the novel. I had actually thought this was a short story, because the plot β€” a heavy guy gets cursed to become thinner, which is cool until all of a sudden he can barely eat enough to survive β€” did not seem like a story that could be sustained over 10 hours(!). And indeed, there were a few parts where I was like, “Okay I get it let’s move it along now?”

But on the whole the story was delightfully horror-ful. It starts with a guy, Billy, who’s like, “That creepy gypsy guy was creepy. Why did he say ‘THINNER’ at me?” And then he’s all losing weight, and you find out that the creepy gypsy guy said that because Billy ran over the gypsy’s daughter who ran out into the street and so he was found not guilty of manslaughter or whatever except that then it turns out that maybe he wasn’t quite so not guilty after all? And maybe the gypsy isn’t only targeting him? But Billy is a lawyer, so he’s gonna fight back, even if he has to drive all the way up to Maine (you knew Maine was in here somewhere, didn’t you?) to find these gypsies and bitch at them. Because that’s really what it boils down to.

And really, the driving up I-95 bit could have just been completely excised from the story, because I really do understand that gypsies are creepy, and also why is it that everyone is like “Man, I haven’t seen a gypsy in like 25 years” and then at the EXACT SAME TIME like “Oh, gypsies. You know how they roll.” Do you? Are you sure?

But the whole cursing aspect is interesting, and Billy’s visits to the other afflicted-types are quite creepy, and the ending is the only possible ending I would have accepted for Billy so it’s fine that it’s pretty well telegraphed. Also, I knew I liked Joe Mantegna, the audiobook narrator, from his work on the teevee, but seriously that man can read a book. He did some fantastic voice work to the point where I was sometimes like, “Isn’t Joe Mantegna reading this book? Who is this guy? That is Joe Mantegna? Are you sure?” I think he should probably read every Stephen King book, because he can make with the spooky and terrifying. Maybe he should do a version of The Turn of the Screw! How much would it cost to commission that?

Recommendation: On the whole, I enjoyed my ten hours with Stephen and Joe. Especially Joe. And while I think the novel should be much much shorter, I do still think it’s worth a read if you’re in the mood for some gruesome.

Rating: 8.5/10 (bonus points for Joe!)
(RIP Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge)

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8 thoughts on “Thinner, by Richard Bachman

  1. Steph says:

    So what you're saying is that you think this book could have been thinner? Ha! Sorry, I just couldn't resist…

    I don't get the pseudonym thing either. I mean, I guess I can maybe understand it if you're a well-known genre author and decide to write a book in a completely different style , because you may not want people's preconceptions of you as an author in genre 1 influence how they approach the book from genre 2. But once you start printing both of your names on the covers of your book, well, the jig is up…

  2. Kailana says:

    I'd understand pseudonyms if they then didn't advertise exactly who they. That being said, I understand the JD Robb/Nora Roberts thing because there is a bit of a difference between the things they write.

  3. Alison says:

    Steph, I am almost dismayed that I didn't come up with that joke myself. I am clearly off my game!

    And to Kailana, too, I often wonder about those sorts of things whether, say, J.D. Robb just wasn't selling as well as the publishers wanted and so they're like, “Nora Roberts sells way better than this! …Wait, I feel an idea coming on!”

    Roberts's pseudonym makes sense, because if you pick up a Roberts book and get a Robb book instead, you're gonna be like, “Dude, Nora Roberts sucks now,” or whatever. But this book read like any King book I've ever read (which is admittedly not many), so I'm really thinking it was just an excuse to name-drop himself. πŸ™‚

    Wait, Wikipedia says it was actually a) a way to write more books before James Patterson proved you (well, “you”) could write 8 zillion books a year successfully and b) a sort of name vs. talent competition, which failed when people figured out who Bachman was too quickly. I kind of like that! But maaaaaybe he shouldn't have name-dropped himself, is all I'm saying. πŸ™‚

  4. Amanda says:

    I was really surprised to see you say it felt too long, because Thinner is the shortest King book I've ever encountered! Maybe it just didn't translate to audio well.

  5. Alison says:

    Amanda β€” Well, yes, compared to other King books this thing is a pamphlet. BUT, compared to a) the short story I thought it was and b) the actual amount of story in the story, it's a pretty long book!

  6. dooliterature says:

    Haha, I would never have thought that a story about someone losing weight could be scary. Those gypsies, what will they think of next? πŸ™‚

    Great review! After all the Stephen King reviews for the R.I.P. challenge, I'm almost convinced I'll have to start reading some of his stuff. Almost.

  7. Alison says:

    dooliterature β€” Well, it's not scary so much as utterly creepy at times. And if you are going to read some King, I highly recommend the early stuff, before his name recognition and book length ballooned out of control! My favorite is still Misery, which I convinced my husband to read by exclaiming “Eek! SHE JUST HOBBLED HIM!” If that gives you any indication of how the book goes. πŸ™‚

  8. dooliterature says:

    Haha, I think I've seen enough about the movie to know where you might be going with that reference! So creepy! And yes, the shorter the book the better, probably. I'll put Misery on my list and see if I ever get around to reading it. πŸ™‚

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