Riding the Bullet, like The Plant, was originally released on the web in digital format. The novella, now included in the Everything’s Eventual collection, was Stephen King’s first venture with internet publishing and, unlike The Plant, was made into a made-for-television movie like many of King’s other fictional works such as The Stand and, more recently, Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
The story follows the character of Alan Parker, a college student who must travel to his mother’s bedside following a near fatal stroke. If it truly is the journey and not the destination, then Riding the Bullet delivers.
Fixated on the destination before him and what sort of state he will find his mother in when he arrives there, Alan pays little attention to the world around him as he makes the journey to Lewiston, Maine much to his detriment and, of course, the reader’s enjoyment.
After bumming a ride from a foul smelling driver and, eventually, opting to walk instead of continue with said driver, Alan meets another driver by the name of George Staub, who just happens to share his name with that of a deceased man whose tombstone Alan came across while trekking on foot. It is within the first moments of this meeting that the story turns from a tale of a young man trying to reach his dying mother to that of a young man struggling with fear of the unknown.
As can be expected, George knows a bit too much about Alan’s life just to be a stranger. Continuing toward Lewiston, George presents Alan with an impossible choice: let George take Alan to the underworld now or sacrifice his own mother. It is within the next moments that Alan must face what emotion runs more hotly through his blood: his fear of death or his love for his mother.
Again, King seems to draw off the classic Twilight Zone tales penned by Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson in the fifties. Riding the Bullet, while sticking to formula, remains a worthy read, keeping the reader in suspense until the last words drop from the page.
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