Book Review: Gerald’s Game – Stephen King (1992)

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Gerald’s Game – artist unknown

“I’m a space cowboy
Bet you weren’t ready for that
I’m a space cowboy
I’m sure you know where it’s at
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”

Steve Miller Band, Space Cowboy

** spoiler alert ** I have owned the same copy of Gerald’s Game since it came out in mass market paperback, which would be around 1992 or 93. It’s the small paperback version with the red cover and the image of the bedpost with the handcuffs attached to it.

At the time, I was working for a pet supply company and would serve as a vendor for grocery chains. In this line of work you get to meet the other vendors and one of them was a guy that supplied grocery stores with books and magazines. As for who buys books in the grocery store is a discussion for another time but consider that smut is banned yet something like Gerald’s Game was allowed…if only because the smut/gore is spelled out long ways.

Anyway, during mundane conversation I expressed an interest in Stephen King and this book in particular. The book vendor was delivering fresh copies of Gerald’s Game and was gracious enough to tear off the cover of one of them and hand it to me. He wrote it off as “damaged” and the rest is history, well , sort of.

So that’s how I came to own Gerald’s Game. I say “own” because I only just recently got around to actually reading it, here, some 22-years later. I’m a procrastinator – sue me. It’s been on my shelf for two decades now and seen its own share of bookcases, boxes and cities.

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My tattered copy.

I’ll be honest; this book intrigued me not just because I’m an avid King fan but because of the possibility of the kinky sex aspect that the cover promises. And maybe that’s why I took so long to actually reading this damn thing – because you learn early on that the “kink” is over with after only a few pages. After that, you’re left with only yourself inside of the protagonists head for the remainder of the book…and that is quite maddening.

As others have stated, 50 Shades, this is not…though I would never bother to read that drivel. This is not a “sex” book, in the sense that most would imagine – heh. Those who have made to the end will know exactly what I’m talking about.

And that’s the thing about Gerald’s Game; you have to make it all the way to the end to get the payoff (no surprise there). This story is an immense tease, which is, by all intents and purposes, its intent. The book itself is a metaphor for: be careful what you ask for…

I think most people go astray with this story because you get trapped in the same way as the protagonist. Jessie is trapped by the handcuffs and you are trapped inside of her head. You, essentially, become her prisoner just as much as she is one herself.

Some people have chalked this up to poor storytelling but I would chalk it up to masterful story telling. You really do experience what it’s like to be trapped; only you’re stuck in a person’s head rather than cuffed to a bed.

We get to experience the slow process of going nuts…and it takes its toll on you as you go.
I tired of this vehicle after a while and was ready to abandon the book completely. To be quite honest, I did abandon the book, right before she decides to “free” herself from the cuffs. It was too much. I’d had enough of her and the voices in her head.

I also had a strong distaste for the molestation stuff in this story. Again, masterful writing but probably too masterful…for me, these kinds of things are better left to the imagination and not spelled out, blow for blow.

No, the only thing that made me go back and “finish” this book was the Space Cowboy. Not only did I Google for information on him, including image searches, but I perused quite a few reviews and even Wikipedia looking for more, hell, any info on him. I wanted, no…needed more.

King, teases us with the Space Cowboy just as much as the cover does with the promise of some kink. You indeed get both…but not in the way you expect.

I shall never hear Steve Miller’s “Gangster of Love” the same way again…or The Jonzun Crew’s “Space Cowboy” for that matter.

No, Raymond Andrew Joubert aka The Space Cowboy, is the real treasure of this story and one, in my opinion, that King should have done more with.

If you’re familiar at all with the macabre, then you’ll know that King pulled much of his influence for Joubert from actual history. Do I know this for a fact? No. But it’s pretty obvious.

It was around this same time in the early 90’s that discovered that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was not a true story but based on a much more twisted one involving a man name Ed Gein.

Ed Gein, much like Joubert in Jessie’s mind, has influenced and cropped up time and again throughout the annals of horror history. He is Leatherface, he is Norman Bates and he is just about every other cross dressing, sexual deviant, cannibal, serial killer that was ever dredged up by way of the boogieman man industry. Seriously, you can trace them all back to one guy.

But the way in which King describes and invents Joubert’s character is deserving of its own story…Ed Gein looked normal enough but after reading about what he did, you’d expect him to look like The Space Cowboy. That we had to spend several hundred pages in between the Space Cowboy parts, is a shame and what I think primarily troubles this book. I’d much rather read about him that the molestation stuff.

So, yes. I peeked. I skipped. I Googled. And then I discovered that the only way to get the “full” dirt on Joubert was to finish the book. So I did…backwards. Ha!

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I skimmed the pages backwards until I came to the part where Jessie confronts Joubert in the den and then finished the book normally from there on out. And I’m glad that I did! Because, man! The Space Cowboy is one terrifying sonofabitch! If you’ve read this book to the end then you know why…if you’ve ever imagined things in the dark then you truly get my meaning.

The last pages to this book satisfy the itch you have the first several hundred…sort of. I was pleased to get some closure and grisly details but with such an evil and twisted fucker like Raymond Andrew Joubert, it leaves you wanting more!

Joubert reminded me also of the creatures in From Beyond, with the pineal gland thing and also a little bit of Barker’s Hellraiser. Again, this is the early 90s. He is a lot of things but as I’ve already said, he is influenced from Gein so that makes sense.

It remains to be seen if he will ever be heard from again but you get the sense that, much like the characters in King’s Doctor Sleep, Joubert is more than just a man. I would love a sequel to this but one in which we get Joubert’s story.

So, I gave this book 3 stars. I’d give it 3.5 if I could. It took me 22 years to read it. It was not at all what I expected and I think it marks the beginning of King’s evolution as writer. Many people prefer his older material and this book is somewhere in between.

Would I recommend this book? Hell yeah. But only if you can stomach the slow and churning insanity that you have to take on to get through it. It’s not for everyone.

The ending, however, was worth it. But know that if you did finish it, the Space Cowboy will embed himself into your subconscious and that’s something I’m not sure you’re gonna like.

My rating: 3 stars.