The Mist by Stephen King
Published by Scribner, 2017 (first published in 1980)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In this classic from the master of horror, a town is engulfed by a dense, mysterious mist that hides a mass of deadly creatures. A group of survivors holed up in a supermarket must find a way to escape whilst navigating the growing tension within the group, fuelled by a religious zealot who believes nothing but a human sacrifice will end the bloodshed.
Unlike much of King’s work, The Mist is a fairly brief tale that drops readers into the action without fuss or fanfare. Though we are given slight hints as to the mist’s origins, the deliberate lack of context or resolution ensures the reader feels as unmoored as the characters. Despite the novella’s relative brevity, however, King still manages to create a tangible atmosphere. As with the best creature-based horror, it’s the culture of mistrust and the extremity of mankind’s selfish desire to survive that become the protagonists’ biggest threats.
Physical descriptions of the monsters are fairly scant, but that proves highly effective in this instance. With sightings often brief, frantic encounters amidst a haze of ‘thick as pea soup’ mist, we remain as tense and ill informed as the characters; the full extent of the horror left to the power of our imagination. The imagery we are given is more than enough to spark the desired fear and revulsion – tableaus that are sure to linger in the mind.
A needless sex scene aside, my only other critique of this feels unfair but unavoidable. Having seen the 2007 film adaptation many years ago, my reading experience was coloured by how truly haunting the film’s final sequence is. Unaware that things had been changed from page to screen, I was fully prepared for the utter devastation that unfolds in the movie. As such, I was caught off guard by the much subtler and more ambiguous ending presented here. Both work in their own ways, but I can’t deny the discrepancy between expectation and reality.
Taut, swift, visually evocative, and fun to read, it’s easy to see why this remains one of King’s most well-known offerings, and why it’s still worth checking out all these years later.
If you’d like to give The Mist a go, you can find a copy on Book Depository by clicking here. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!