Dark Fiction Review: Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

A menacing little story that ends a little too HEA for the likes of me.

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar
Horror Novella
Audiobook 2 hours & 42 minutes
Released May 2017

Stephen King teams up with long-time friend and award-winning author Richard Chizmar for the first time in this original, chilling novella that revisits the town of Castle Rock—paired on audio with King’s Edgar Award–nominated story “The Music Room.”

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974, twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong—if time-rusted—iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

Then one day when Gwendy gets to the top of Castle View, after catching her breath and hearing the shouts of kids on the playground below, a stranger calls to her. There on a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small, neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told—until now.

My Thoughts

I listened to this as an unabridged audiobook read by Maggie Siff who starred in Son’s of Anarchy. I never watched that show because there’s no monsters in it (I know, I am a terrible person, no need to tell me) so I don’t know her work. I learned this from listening to the Q&A with King & Chizmar at the end of the audio. Methinks they might’ve been enamored a little with her work on the show. She’s a little flat at times but overall does a decent enough job with the material but, honestly, I’ve heard better narrators and her performance wasn’t anything to get all that excited about.

Since this is a short story and I am a lazy bum I’m going to be brief. One lovely summer day when Gwendy is a tween doing her best to get healthy and shed herself of a nasty nickname by exercising herself silly, she spies a strange man who offers her a very special button box. This box, he sinisterly promises, will dispense magical chocolates that will curb her hunger. It will also spit out silver coins that’ll help put her through college. Well, Gwendy is a smart girl and she takes that box home despite her misgivings about keeping a box that has a potentially very dark side . . .

This was an eerie little story more magical realism than horror but I enjoyed it even though I wish it had been longer. I kept waiting for something dreadful to happen and eventually it does. It is partially a King story, after all! Honestly, I would’ve liked to have seen even more dreadful events and to have had a darker ending but I did get that in the second story included in this audio “The Music Room”. That story gets five stars. It was short, comical and as pitch-black as it gets.

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  1. I'm not sure about this one. I've kind of fallen out of love with Stephen King over the years as I haven't much liked his more recent work. I still love his early books though. Really pleased to have a nice audio cd of It to enjoy!

    1. Go for the audio, if you decide to read it. It includes an extra story that I loved as well as a mini interview with both of the writers.

  2. I felt this one could have been longer as well. I honestly think King does better when he's writing huge tomes (Except Under the Dome where I loved the first 1000 pages and hated the ending In fact, I sometimes wonder if I actually finished that book because I remember the ending being so horrible and it couldn't have possibly ended like that right?). This did sort of had a HEA didn't it? I just found out this past weekend I'm going to see Joe Hill on the 28th. Not quite King but almost the next best thing!

    1. OMG was Under the Dome really that long? I listened on audio years ago. I doubt I ever would've finished it had I tried to read it in paper. This one did have a HEA but it didn't feel right to me. I'd love to meet Joe Hill but I know I'd only stand there speechless and starstruck.

  3. Unfortunately King isn't the only well known author I have some difficulty with lately. But, I will still give it a go...some time.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  4. I always read his books. Lately I haven't enjoyed some of them like I used to. But....I will eventually read this.

    1. It's definitely not horrible but I don't think it's going to rattle around in my head like some of his work does.

  5. this sounds like something I would enjoy now. I'm in a mini slump. too tired to read at night so a short Magical realism story by King [which I never read because his books are way too long] could be the one!

    1. I hope you love it if you find some time to read it. His tomes take me eternity to read!! I have to do them on audio now or they'll suck up all of my reading time for a month.


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