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Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story Mass Market Paperback – July 8, 1992

4.3 out of 5 stars 486 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With the "Last Castle Rock Story" King bids a magnificent farewell to the fictional Maine town where much of his previous work has been set. Of grand proportion, the novel ranks with King's best, in both plot and characterization. A new store, Needful Things, opens in town, and its proprietor, Leland Gaunt, offers seemingly unbeatable (read: Faustian) bargains to Castle Rock's troubled citizens. Among them are Polly Chalmers, lonely seamstress whose arthritis is only one of the physical and psychic pains she must bear; Brian Rusk, the 11-year-old boy whose mother is not precisely attentive; and Alan Pangborn, the new sheriff whose wife and son have recently died. These are only three of the half-dozen or so brilliantly drawn people met in the novel's one-month time span. As the dreams of each strikingly memorable character, major and minor, inexorably turn to nightmare, individuals and soon the community are overwhelmed, while the precise nature of Gaunt's evil thrillingly stays just out of focus. King, like Leland Gaunt, knows just what his customers want. 1.5 million first printing; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

The old horrormaster in top form, this time with a demonic dealer in magic and spells selling his wares to the folks of Castle Rock, scene of several King novels including The Dead Zone, Cujo--and how many others? King locates his hokey Our Town in Maine, but as ever it's really Consumerville, USA, with everyone's life festooned with brand names. The cast is huge and largely grotesque, since King--wearing a tremendous cat's-smile--means to close the book on Castle Rock and blow it off the map in one of his best climaxes since Salem's Lot. Editing here is supreme. King braids perhaps a dozen storylines--with hardly a drop of blood spilled for the first 250 or so pages--into ever briefer takes that climax in a hurtling, storm-ripped holocaust whose symphonic energies fill the novel's last third. Perhaps only five characters stand out: Leland Gaunt, a gentlemanly stranger who opens the Needful Things curiosity shop; his first customer, Brian Rusk, 11, who sells his soul for a rare Sandy Koufax baseball card; practical Polly Chalmers, who runs the You Sew `n' Sew shop, welcomes Gaunt with a devil's-food cake, and buys an amulet to relieve her arthritis; her lover, Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who buys nothing but is haunted by the driving deaths of his wife and son; and Ace Merrill, coke dealer in a bind, who becomes Gaunt's handydevil and gets to drive Gaunt's Tucker, a car that's faster than radar and uses no gas. As he has for hundreds of years, Gaunt sells citizens whatever pricks and satisfies their inmost desires. But the price dehumanizes them, and soon all the townsfolk vent their barest aggressions on each other with cleaver, knife, and gun: Gaunt even opens a sideline of automatic weapons. By novel's end, the whole town is on a hysterical, psychotic mass rampage that floods morgue and hospital with the delimbed and obliterated. Then comes the big bang. Mmmmmmmmmmmm! Leland King's glee, or Steven Gaunt's, or rather--well, the author's--as he rubs his palms over his let's-blow-'em-away superclimax is wonderfully catching. (Book-of-the-Month Main Selection for Fall) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 731 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Book (July 8, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451172817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451172815
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.5 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (486 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
In tradition of 'Salem's Lot, Stephen King writes Needful Things through the view of many characters, not just one main character, and keeps the reader guessing throughout the entire novel what will happen to which character. It works so well in Needful Things that I found myself reading madly and gaping my mouth many times. Truly a gruesome and horrifying experience, in Needful Things, King creates great characters, Alan Pangborn, Norris Ridgewick, Polly Chalmers, Nettie Cobb, Hugh Priest, Ace Merrill, John LaPointe, and maybe the best villian he has ever created in Leland Gaunt. The way he makes Gaunt so low key and friendly, and evil at the same time is wonderful. He also ties in all his other novels which have taken place in Castle Rock such as Cujo, The Dead Zone, and the novella The Body, very well. Sure, you'll be flipping back to see what character did what to whom when the novel takes its turning points, but that's the fun of it. How King can write so many things in 700 pages and keep the reader hooked and interested. And of course, the ending in which evil does not fully lose. God I love that! Needful Things, one of Stephen King's most entertaining books. A must read!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
P>I first reviewed this book several years ago. It was one of the first books by Mr. King that I had read. I loved it.
Now that I've had the chance to read much more of his work, what do I think of it now?
It's still great.
This is one of his best cast of characters assembled here. Alan Pangborn, Norris Ridgewick, Henry Payton, Ace Merrill...everyone is very real-seeming and three-dimensional.
But as is often the case in good fiction, the villain steals the show. Leland Gaunt will entrance the reader as much as he did the people of Castle Rock, while simultaneously making you loathe him utterly.
This is interesting, because most of King's villains are able to evoke *some* sympathy for the reader; Randall Flagg, IT, and Tak are just a few examples. So what's the difference? Why are those three--among others--capable of being rooted for while Leland Gaunt receives only boos?
Randall Flagg, IT, and Tak only want to kill you, and they have semi-indentifiable motives. Gaunt, however, simply wants to be entertained by the carnage and chaos. He'll steal your soul and sow havoc in the same way that you or I would turn on the TV. He'll manipulate whole towns simply for his amusement. Thus it is that King does an excellent job of portraying him as a demon who deserves nothing more than absolute destruction. Overall--still great!
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Format: School & Library Binding
Many of Stephen King's readers (including some of the author's diehard fans) agree that the author's novels lost some of their pizzazz around 1987 or so. Although King's ability to create believable characters has remained strong throughout his career, he seems to have grown tired of the horror themes that inspired his earlier works.
Needful Things is a bright spot among the post-Pet Cemetery novels. Despite the formidable length of the book, King's tale of a curio shop that caters to people's innermost desires is captivating from beginning to end. As another reviewer pointed out, the premise of the story is not exactly original--but this doesn't make Needful Things any less entertaining.
The story is set in familiar King territory: the small town of Castle Rock, Maine. SK interweaves a number of complex subplots within the dark underside of small town life. Near the climax of the tale, the story switches rapidly from one subplot to another, practically compelling you to turn the page to discover what happens next.
Although I liked Needful Things overall, there were a few points that could have been improved:
-SK once stated in an interview that he would go for the gross-out if he couldn't scare the reader outright. (I am loosely paraphrasing a very old interview here.) Many of Stephen King's earlier works contained some genuinely spooky scenes. (Who can forget the woman in the bathtub in The Shining?) However, SK's later works tend to rely increasingly on B-movie gore. Needful Things contains a few too many descriptions of blood and guts, and a couple of scatological references that could have been omitted. I'm an adult and I've read worse, so these passages don't bother me--but this isn't the kind of writing that King enthralled me with in Salem's Lot and Carrie.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A simple clever idea neatly executed.

If the devil came to your town or city to destroy your community, how would he go about it? This book provides a convincing and entertaining answer to that question. Mr Gaunt is new in town, new yes but he knows the residents only too well, he knows more about them than they know, he understands their pressure points and the price of each of their souls.

The cleverness of this book is that it is so believable, the genius of Gaunts game lies in the differences between human beings, when he sets out to make one person destroy another he plans his moves exquisitely, breaking Wilma's windows seems relatively mild to the boy he selects for the job, yet to Wilma, it is calculated by Gaunt to make her homicidal with rage. Animal rights mean little (morally) to the man he selects to kill Nettie's dog, yet to the lonely, vulnerable and unstable animal lover Nettie, it turns her into a monster. Smaller misdeeds are turned into terrifyingly larger ones with great profit for the Devil Gaunt. Everyone has different values, everyone's endurance limit is different, and so like a row of dominos the town begins to lose it's mind.
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