Publication Date: September 6th 1977
1 OUT OF 5 STARS
“Two years ago. To the best of my recollection, that was about the time I started to lose my mind.”
Charlie Decker is ready to get it on. After years of slowly descending into a disturbed mental state he murders his teacher and takes his class hostage. Over one tense afternoon Decker and his classmates examine their lives.
For a novel about a tense school shooting scenario there’s a surprising number of pages not devoted to the tense school shooting scenario. A majority of the book is anecdotes from Charlie and his classmates about their past experiences and most of those are only vaguely interesting. There’s a lot of focus on sex and masturbation just for the sake of being vulgar not actually advancing any aspects of the story.
It’s easy to see why this novel was pulled from print. Although it doesn’t really demonstrate a realistic school shooting scenario Decker is definitely who some school shooters would like to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen King, who wrote this novel under his Bachman alias, also pulled the novel for it’s less than stellar quality compared to his other works.
Decker fails to feel threatening or psychopathic. He doesn’t demonstrate any of the mental defects that school shooters tend to have and he just feels like a bit of a brat. The other students reacted in a very strange way to the horror and it all felt pretty low stakes for a thriller. It was mostly Charlie’s inner monologue sometimes interrupted by other people’s stories and very briefly stopped by an incompetent police force.
It’s shocking to read a bad novel by a great author, but it is what it is. There is nothing satisfying about reading this novel. There is no suspense after the first few pages. Charlie Decker is a dreadful protagonist and a lackluster villain. You can’t root for him but he’s not worth fearing. The plot doesn’t really go anywhere and essentially the story boils down to “no one understands me, what a cruel world, popular kids suck and my life sucks wah wah wah”.
It’s difficult to read a book where the protagonist is so unlikable and essentially monologuing his childhood throughout a supposed “thriller”. It’s one of King’s weakest works. Though its involvement in school shootings is regrettable, Rage being out of print is no great loss to the literary world and King has many better books in his collection.