Short Story Review: Stephen King’s “Riding the Bullet”

Al Parker hitchhikes on Maine back roads as the moon rises in the sky, racing his worst fears after getting a call that his mother has had a stroke. But his journey becomes a matter of life and death when Al realizes that the gravestone he just tripped over belongs to the man who picked him up off the side of the road.

“Riding the Bullet” may be most famous for being on of the first pieces of fiction available for download from the internet. In the introduction to it in the short story collection “Everything’s Eventual,” Stephen King says that he believes the novelty of an internet download was a bigger hit than the story itself.

I found this story to be more “campfire tale” spooky than genuinely scary. Of course I might feel differently if I someday find myself on the side of a country road in the middle of the night.

The first person point of view really allowed me to connect with Al. His fear became personal, and I watched him go from afraid for his mother’s life to outright terror when he makes the startling realization about the man who picked him up outside the cemetery. That point of view also made understanding his motivations easier. A third-person narrator would have told the reader how Al felt and why. Instead, the reader gets to hear Al’s words from his own mouth.

As always, the images in the story are fantastic and immensely memorable. I’d recommend this story to anyone who’s a fan of Stephen King’s writing or simply enjoys a good spooky tale.

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