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The Regulators Paperback – February 16, 2016
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An evil creature called Tak uses the imagination of an autistic boy to shift a residential street in small-town Ohio into a world so bizarre and brutal that only a child could think it up. It's as two-dimensional and gaudy as a kid's comic book, but for this reviewer, The Regulators is a gripping adventure tale about what happens when a mind fixated on TV (especially old Westerns and a cartoon called MotoKops 2200) runs amok. As Michael Collins writes in Necrofile, "[Stephen] King offers his readers a glimpse of the true evil of popular culture ... which has no design or intent, only an empty need to sustain itself. King is, I think, about the canniest observer of what America is, and that he generally writes horror ought to give us pause from time to time." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Why revive the Bachman byline more than a decade after Stephen King was found lurking behind it? Not for thematic reasons. This devilishly entertaining yarn of occult mayhem married to mordant social commentary is pure King and resembles little the four nonsupernatural (if science-fictional) pre-Thinner Bachmans. The theme is the horror of TV, played out through the terrors visited upon quiet Poplar Street in the postcard-perfect suburban town of Wentworth, Ohio, when a discorporeal psychic vampire settles inside an autistic boy obsessed with TV westerns and kiddie action shows and brings screen images to demented, lethal life. The long opening scene, in which characters and vehicles from the TV show Motokops 2200 (think Power Rangers) sweep down the street, spewing death by firearm, is a paragon of action-horror. The story rarely flags after that, evoking powerful tension and, at times, emotion. The premise owes a big unacknowledged debt to the classic Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life"; echoes of earlier Kings resound often as well?the psychic boy (The Shining), a writer-hero (Misery, The Dark Half), etc. But King makes hay in this story in which anything can happen, and does, including the warping of space-time and the savage deaths of much of his large cast. The narrative itself warps fantastically, from prose set in classic typeface to handwritten journals to drawings to typewritten playscript and so on. So why the Bachman byline? Probably for fear that yet another new King in 1996 in addition to six volumes of The Green Mile and Viking's forthcoming Desperation might glut the market. Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is certain: call him Bachman or call him King, the bard of Bangor is going to hit the charts hard and vast with this white-knuckler knockout. Main selection of the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild and Science Fiction Book Club.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
A juxtaposition of the two covers reveals one picture - a menacing suburban landscape overlapping a western ghost town overrun with critters. But the two novels (almost 1200 pages of late nights and disturbing dreams) are each complete in themselves.
"Desperation" is set in a tiny Nevada mining town of the same name and "The Regulators" takes place on one block of an Ohio suburb. What the two novels share is their characters and the same elemental evil force, Tak, which has escaped from a deep mine shaft.
Although King has saved himself some work here - the characters have essentially the same personalities and backgrounds in both books - neither book provides a clue to anyone's fate in the other. The books are not sequential but alternate versions, alternate lives.
In "Desperation" the characters are assembled by Collie Entragian, an outsize cop whose initially strange mix of friendliness and menace is eerily chilling. Apparently at random, he stops passing motorists and carries them off to jail. Some, however, don't make it all the way to jail, and it gradually becomes clear that Entragian has murdered everyone in town. But something weird is happening to the cop, too. He is literally and gorily falling apart.
In "The Regulators" the characters are already assembled as neighbors on Poplar Street. Their glorious summer day is shattered by the arrival of a crayon red van and its armed driver.
Collie Entragian, a former cop drummed off the force on trumped-up charges, attempts to protect his neighbors and preserve the crime scene but the violence quickly escalates out of control. As the street begins a nightmarish metamorphosis into something out of the worst of children's television and old westerns, the strengths and weaknesses of the inhabitants begin to work on all of them - Johnny Marinville, the successful author of children's books, haunted by a dissipated past and a too-vivid vision; Cynthia, the new clerk at the convenience store, whose two-toned hair and irreverent wit obscure a core of decency; Tom Billingsley, the retired veterinarian; Steve Ames, a young man drifting through life, picking up skills.
And then there's Audrey Wyler, the young widow with the autistic nephew, Seth. No one's seen her in a while and at first they scarcely notice her continuing absence amidst all the mayhem. But Audrey's particular hell has been a long time coming. There's a thing in Seth that can bend people to its will and the world to its malevolent vision and it's growing stronger.
In "Desperation," aging Johnny Marinville is only inches away from his former dissipation and still trying to reform his life without giving up his roue image; Steve Ames is the general dogsbody following Marinville on his cross-country tour; Cynthia is the plucky hitchhiker Steve picks up; Tom Billingsley is an old alcoholic veterinarian from Desperation (and why didn't Collie kill him? we wonder) and Audrey is a mining engineer who has managed to hide out from Collie.
The Carvers, also present in "The Regulators" are reversed in "Desperation" - the parents are the children and vice versa. Thus, David, the child touched by God whose role is pivotal in "Desperation," is just an early adult corpse in "The Regulators."
The child - his individual strength as well as innocence and purity of vision - are key in both books. And in "The Regulators," King adds a twist - good and evil battling it out within the same small body.
As always, King's writing zips along and no one can beat him for sheer terror - the opening chapters of "Desperation" are scarier than any of the gore which follows. But the sheer volume of horrors numbs the reader's imagination eventually. In a lesser writer's hands both books could fizzle but King's characters are human beings and we care what happens to them. With King, you never know if the good guys are going to make it until the last page is turned.
I had already read Desperation, the companion book to this volume, and came away with the feeling that I had just experienced a pretty good King novel. It also was far from his best but I enjoyed it none-the-less. So, naturally, I turned to this book, The Regulators, hoping for a similar experience. Stephen King is well known for marketing gimicry, pushing the envelope in the publishing business. At first it was through using brand names without permission. Then it was the alternate ego, Richard Bachman, followed by the serial novel (Green Mile) and now it is a "dual novel." Frankly, I don't think it worked this time. I just couldn't get the parallel between the two books/settings. Same names but different people and places. What was the point? Really, they are two seperate books.
In this novel, King definitely displays his famous talent for scene setting. The opening chapter is one of the best I've read, setting the stage for the coming horror. The plot was also pretty good, although the evil 'Tak' seemed somewhat ordinary. King uses a great mechanism to deliver the horror this time. The manifestation of the mind of a small autistic boy. The horrors come in the form of all of those things that frighten young children and, consequently, frighten us. The text is sprinkled throughout with other tidbits as well that help to tell the story: letters, postcards, diary entries, even a script. Another King tool to attack from all directions.
But somehow, it didn't all flow well together. There were so many characters that I lost track of who was who and as they started to die off, I found myself not caring too much who was left. Perhaps I was a victim of having read Desperation first. I guess I was expecting the same characters to survive.
Overall, a middle-of the road King entry. King purists will want to read this one but King samplers should pass.