Before “In The Tall Grass”, Stephen King collaborated with his son, Joe Hill on another novella called “Throttle”. It drew heavy inspiration from Richard Matheson’s “Duel” and has even gotten a comic book adaptation.
The story centers around a gang of bikers as they are terrorized by a psychotic truck driver. We do get a fairly solid introduction to the gang before the trucker even appears. This not only allows the reader to connect, but it also does play a role in to the motives behind the actions. This isn’t like “From Dusk til Dawn” where all of a sudden, something supernatural shows up and the tone completely shifts.
Much like “Mile 81” or “A Face in the Crowd” this is a quick read. Once again, you’ll be able to breeze through it in about an hour. While it isn’t quite as fun as “Mile 81” it was gripping and it kept me engaged for the entire duration.
While the gang isn’t exactly a heroic bunch, you do grow to like them to a certain extent. They’re not outright malicious or ruthless, but they aren’t squeaky clean either. They’ve broken the law and they dabble in drug dealing. When one of the bikers actually does kill a character, it is taken seriously as something of a moral event horizon that causes a divide in the group as they aren’t comfortable with it.
It also becomes clear that the group views each other like family. This connection becomes even more believable as a few of the characters are veterans. The main character even goes to great lengths to make the truck driver pay for killing members of his crew and is even willing to risk his own life if it means he gets a shot at taking the other guy with him. It was oddly heartwarming.
There’s also a pretty good turnaround where the group goes from running scared to going on the offensive. Even though they aren’t armed per se, they decide to take the fight to the truck driver. I do enjoy those moments where the gauntlet officially gets thrown down in situations like this.
I do have to wonder why one of the bikers threw his machete at the windshield. Granted, they’re probably unnerved, and he is racing on his bike so getting a good angle might have been rather difficult, but I’d think aiming for one of the tires would’ve been a better bet. He could have flattened one and forced the truck to pull over or at least slow it down significantly. It’s armchair quarterbacking, I know, but that thought still crossed my mind.
This was a pretty solid read. I liked it much better than “In the Tall Grass”. It had stronger prose, better characterization, and was much more suspenseful. I’d say that this is a far better indicator of the sort of work that one should expect when father and son join forces to put a story together.
Also, another good thing, the story is just the story. There’s no excerpts from books that were released years ago. Yeah, there are some advertisements, but that I can live with. All in all, I’d say that this story is worth checking out. I’m also curious to see how it fares in comic form.