Originally published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman
Rage is the only Stephen King story not currently in print. After a series of "copycat" incidents, SK and the publisher agreed it would be best to no longer keep this story accessible. It was originally released under The Bachman Books. A collection of four novels penned by SK under his pseudonym Richard Bachman.
The story centers around Charlie Decker. A loner, and frankly, miserable High School student. He is an outcast at school (due to a recent issue of violence against a teacher) and hates his home life. He has a volatile, at best, relationship with his father. And to cap off his banner life, he is about to be expelled from school. So, he decides to take the "system" into his own hands one day. He shoots two teachers and takes the students of a classroom hostage. In the time that follows, while police are trying to gain control of Charlie and the situation, an interesting shift in the story takes place. The students being held hostage start to understand why Charlie is doing this. They start to sympathize with Charlie in an odd sort of Stockholm Syndrome scenario? The climax of the story is when the students being held hostage, gang up on one of the other students to demonstrate how he needs to learn the lesson Charlie is trying to portray with his act of terrorism. They attack the other student so severely he is left catatonic.
I wish I could remember my original thoughts on this story. I can't remember the first time I read it for the life of me. Knowing me, I loved it. Now, I am jaded by being a parent. I hated it. I couldn't understand Charlie. He is quite unlikable as a character in general. It is impossible to gain any sympathy for him as he seems to not have any care or remorse for what he is doing. Maybe my opinion is altered because I worry on a daily basis that my kids may inadvertently piss of the wrong kid and pay for it later. Or, God forbid, they head down a path of angst and become this angry bitter person who feels they need to get back at the world. Crazy? Knowing my kids now it would seem so, but that doesn't mean it may not happen and I don't worry about it.
The ending, of the class attacking a fellow student to teach a lesson, is horrifying. But maybe that is the point? That we all have a terrible evil side to us? Some of us can control it, while others cannot like Charlie. Maybe the point of this story is the fact I am NOT supposed to like it. It is far from pretty, that is for sure. It is scarier than any "monster" SK can dream up because this CAN happen and has! I can understand why the publishers and SK decided to stop printing it. As an author, I wouldn't be able to sleep knowing my work may be the influence for something like this happening But is that right? No author can claim responsibility for how someone interprets their work, and even self censorship is still censorship. I can think of three or four books off hand right now, that have been published since with a similar plot. Why does one resonate with those troubled souls while others do not?
I didn't like rereading this story. It hits too close to home now. I didn't like seeing how all the students sort of "followed pack" and ganged up on the lone hold-out. I also think SK may be a genius. I think I am taking from the story exactly what he wanted his readers to feel.