Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Posted 8 April, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 28 Comments

Tags: ,

Pet Sematary Title: Pet Sematary
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1983; Pages: 576
Genre: Horror
Rating: Golden Oldie

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads

In Short: What to tell you? Of course I didn’t know what the book was about and sometimes imagination can be worse than anything you read on a page! So, let’s just say this is a tale about a sweet young family, a dangerous country road, a frisky pet cat, and the cemetery. What does that do for your imagination?

Why I Read Pet Sematary: Oh, you know, Jill (from Somewhere in a Book). The usual suspects. I can’t resist a Kingalong (apparently we’re doing Misery in June…right Care?). The Catuck above is my #Gangstercat(s)


Thoughts in General: I was scared to start Pet Sematary, especially since it’s difficult to find on audio and I knew I would have to read during the dark hours of the day. My imagination can go to dark places and I’m prone to “seeing” things in the dark (there are still some images from The Shining or It that haunt me). It became clear after reading the first couple of chapters of this one, though, that the heavy foreshadowing would help get me through the darker moments in the book.

Pet Sematary contains all of the elements I’ve come to love and expect from King novels. First, the characters who are so fleshed out that you become voyeurs into their world. I cheered on Louis Creed, I yelled at him, I was angry at him, sad for him. In many respects he reminded me of Jack Torrance from The Shining but I always always rooting for Louis rather than against him. While not quite as developed, Louis is joined by a strong cast with his wife and his neighbor Jud. Not to mention the little ones who creep into the story. I love reading the dialogue between King characters–even when they’re being utterly irrational. Ayuh.

And then the world building–with Pet Sematary this is less-so about a town and it’s people but more about the history of the pet sematary and the lands beyond the deadfall. In Pet Sematary, King gets to the root of desperation in the midst of grief and the history/area becomes a character that helps propel the events forward. Plus his descriptions are just so damn vivid–which makes for a memorable read but one that kind of seeps into nighttime dreams!

One thing that I really loved about Pet Sematary is that it grabbed my attention immediately and held onto it all the way until the very last sentence of the book. While I could guess at some of the events (seriously heavy foreshadowing), I was still caught off guard and kept on my toes. Watching the mental evolution (or deterioration) of King’s characters is always a fascinating one. Whereas sometimes I think King has a tough time wrapping up his stories, Pet Sematary stayed strong through the entire length. But damn did that last little bit have me yearning for more!

“The graves in the Pet Sematary mimed the most ancient religious symbol of all: diminishing circles indicating a spiral leading down, not to a point, but to infinity; order from chaos or chaos from order, depending on which way your mind worked” (387).

Bottom Line: In terms of the few horror books I’ve read by King, this is one of my favorites. Does it beat my experience with IT? Probably not, but it’s up there! Pet Sematary wasn’t nearly as frightening as I thought it would be, and it has made me eager to read more of King’s “scarier” works–I think Carrie and Misery will be my next.

What’s the most frightening [King] book you’ve read?


28 Responses to “Pet Sematary by Stephen King”

  1. Okay, so my first thought was Ninja Cat! Then I realized it was a bandanna. Evidently I need to hang on the streets more often. ;-)
    So. Scary? Eh…I’m still waiting for The One. My newest hope is Tommyknockers…maybe later this year? I’m on the fence with Misery, although I’m sure I’ll join just for the fun factor. But I’ve already seen the movie, so I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my thoughts.
    Also…I can’t leave without commenting on Louis. I posted tonight, too, so you’ll have to read my post to see why, but I can’t stand him. Bad Louis. Bad, bad, bad Louis. For awhile, I actually like Jud more. Then that changed and I lost all sympathy for both of them.
    I might need to do a post on how certain life experiences can change how you react to books. ;-)

    • I don’t want to dash your hopes, but I doubt you’re going to find The Tommyknockers all that scary. I really enjoyed that one, but I wouldn’t call it scary, and I really doubt you will either.

    • I’m curious to read your thoughts on Louis. I HATED Jack Torrence…HATED him and while I think that they both had some mental deficiencies, I had to like Louis a bit more. Though he certainly is no Jake from 11/22/63 (or Barbie).

  2. I remember thinking Pet Sematary was terrifying when I read it a long time ago (like as a high schooler, maybe?)…I wonder what I’d think of it now. It ended up turning me off to King’s horror. Though, I do love his thrillers now.

    • OH man–not sure I could have read this in high school! I’ve definitely gained some grounding since then. Back then I was still scared of trolls under my bed. ;) You should join us for Misery in June! King is more fun when read with a group.

    • It definitely had moments–but the foreshadowing really does help make it palatable. I really enjoyed this one!

  3. I was just commenting on Jill’s post about how I don’t find his books with supernatural elements “scary.” I do, however, find some of them damn creepy. I don’t know how to explain the difference, but it makes sense in my pathetic brain. :P I still think this is a creepy one, though not nearly to the extent I did when I first read it decades ago. Misery, on the other hand, I did find scary. Because it was believable. (Or at least that’s my remembrance of it all these many years later.) Looking forward to rereading it. Not to warn you off from the book or anything, but I don’t think you’re going to find Carrie terribly scary. I liked it okay, but wouldn’t call it scary. But then different strokes, huh? Aside from Misery, one that sort of scared me and definitely creeped me out was one of his novellas, Apt Pupil (I think it’s in Different Seasons, but I could be wrong about which collection it’s in). Anyway, I totally loved reading this post, Trish! And loved how different yours and Jill’s reactions to Louis were!

    • I think when I mean “scary” I just mean the books that I had been avoiding. I’ve learned that my imagination and anticipation is so much more frightening than anything I’ve found in the pages of his books (though IT did scare me quite a bit). But now I realize that all I”m missing out on is King’s fantastic storytelling.

      I know just what you mean about the more realistic books being scarier than the supernatural ones. I haven’t read anyone else’s posts yet as I hate to have mine accidentally influenced, so I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone’s thoughts!!

  4. Ayuh. Great review. I thInk maybe that the heavy foreshadowing is particularly effective and needed as it also allows little surprises while getting hit with the hard stuff.

  5. Susan in TX

    I remember It and Pet Semetary being fairly intense, but I read these nearly 30 years ago when I was in my teens. I read The Stand when I was a newlywed, but I don’t remember a thing about it. Then, I sort of quit reading King during the baby/toddler years. I would peek around dark corners more cautiously and didn’t like walking around in a dark house after reading King, so I had to give him up for those years. ;) I do remember liking Christine and Misery. I can’t help but wonder if seeing the movies post-reading the books has muddled my memory though? I also remember that Kathy Bates was a perfect Annie Wilkes in Misery – she scared the mess out of my husband. :) Do you watch the movies after you’ve read the books? I am currently about 1/4 of the way into 11/22/63. I had forgotten just how well King builds suspense.

  6. For me, The Shining is 100% King’s best/scariest novel (doesn’t count the short story collections). However, the caveat is, I haven’t read It yet. Maybe this year. I have It and Needful Things penciled in this year TBR.

  7. Ti

    Of all his books, IT is the scariest for me but that’s because it’s the clown at the center and clowns scare the bejezzus out of me.

    I loved Duma Key for its protagonist and simple story. I LOVED it. It had elements of scary but only because you really have no clue what the heck is going on until the very very end but it’s good and one of his sleeper books. No one seems to talk about it.

    The beginning of The Stand scared the hell out of me but then I was not so scared after the first third of the book.

  8. Pet Semetary is the ONLY King horror movie I’ve seen and it was enough to swear me off on his horror books for life. I DID read and LOVE The Stand, but I still can’t see me trying this one. I just…I just can’t, OKAY???

  9. When I was in third grade I watched this at a slumber party and it seriously gave me nightmares for months if not years! I avoided anything scary for years and years. The only thing I can think is that since it had just come out that maybe the mom didn’t know exactly what it was. One day I will read this book. Really I will!

  10. I know now why I don’t call myself a “book reviewer”. It’s because I can’t write the way you do! Or you guys (since I’ve read all the reviews on the Kingalong). You really did a wonderful job. In my post, I think I said… I liked it. It was creepy. ACK!! (am laughing at myself now because that’s pretty much what I said). I do LOVE Stephen King tho. And they don’t even had to be ‘creepy’ books. He is such a good writer! His character descriptions are unrivaled. I will do the Misery read-a-long in June, but right now I’m going to tackle “Bag Of Bones”. I’ve never read it. “The Stand” is my all-time favorite!

  11. You are a brave lady! I don’t do scary books (or movies) because I have some seriously vivid dreams and I need my sleep. :)

    I do hope to pick up 11/22/63, though, because I know King writes a good story.

  12. Flora

    I read Pet Sematary about 20 years ago, and I loved it (as I did all of King’s books). I just wish I remembered why. I guess it’s time to reread it.

  13. I couldn’t find a copy in time for this one, but it has me thinking about my next King novel. Have you all read Salem’s Lot already? If not, this fall????

  14. I really did love this book when I read it a few years ago. It is really one of my favorite books by him. The movie is a cornball fest. I haven’t read King in a while… just trying to get some of the other books off my plate then I’ll start The Shining/ and Dr. Sleep.

  15. This is one I never got around to reading. If you say it’s not too scary, then maybe I’ll give it a try. I think I’m getting too old to get spooked from my books. Oh, and I’ll echo Debi’s comment about The Tommyknockers. So not scary. Creepy, yes. But nothing like It or The Shining.