Gwendy’s Final Task (The Button Box #3), by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Eight stars

Completing their collaborative trilogy, Stephen King and Richard Chizmar bring Gwendy and her mysterious button box back for another adventure, complete with a new challenge that could prove more daunting than meets the eye. After years living with her button box as a memory, Gwendy Peterson is visited once again by the elusive Richard Farris. After much secrecy, Farris mentions that he has one final task for Gwendy that involves the button box, which must be completed post haste. Peterson has made a name for herself, now a member of the US Congress and is headed on a space mission. With the button box in hand., Gwendy takes her task seriously and hopes that she can fulfil the final wish Richard Farris asked of her, saving the world one final time. King and Chizmar end the series with this great story that works well alongside the previous two.

At the age of twelve Gwendy Peterson was visited by a man in a black bowler hat. Richard Farris offered her a small box with many buttons, but warned that with this gift came a great deal of responsibility. Gwendy accepted this, as series readers know well from the previous two pieces, as she explored the powers of this box and what it meant for her.

Decades later, Gwendy has taken on many other responsibilities in life including as a sitting US senator, as well as being prominent around her home state of Maine. When she is asked to join a space mission, she is eager to see what that will mean and how she might be able to influence those around her.

Richard Farris appears to her with a task, to take the button box once again for a final mission. It would seem that the past seven holders of the box have met horrible demises and he is worried about the future of the button box. He asks Gwendy to take possession of it and take it along with her into space, where it can be disposed of properly.

After a few catastrophic events prove to Gwendy that the box still has negative powers, she prepares to take it up with her into space. Gwendy learns that there are others who want to get their hands on it, hoping to use the box’s powers to advance themselves in ways they could not accomplish on their own. Gwendy will have to make some serious choices, as she orbits Earth, hoping to make Richard Farris proud and ensure the world is a safer place. A great end to the trilogy, in which King and Chizmar left the reader thinking a great deal about the power of suggestion and how control can sometimes be too much for a single person to handle.

I remember picking up the novella that began this series, thinking that it was an ingenious idea by two established authors. The collaborative efforts of Stephen King and Richard Chizmar brought about this unique story that has many interesting twists to keep the reader engaged. Chizmar worked well on bridging the novella with a full-length novel and now both authors are back to tie everything off nicely. With a great story and some effective plot twists to keep the story moving along, King and Chizmar solidify their collaborative efforts with this series finale.

Gwendy Peterson has come a long way since her appearance at age twelve, when she was first handed the button box. She’s matured and developed a life of her own, which is paralleled by the added responsibilities put upon her by repeated time with the box. Her backstory and character development work hand in hand throughout this final story in the series, which pushes the reader to really come to understand Gwendy on many levels. Complementing her are some strong characters who pave the way for a climactic ending, just what the authors had in store for series fans.

When authors are able to work well together, the fruits of their labour are usually beneficial for the reader. Such is the case here, with Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. Both have established themselves before and bring this renewed connection to craft a strong story for all to enjoy. A great narrative pushes things forward, never sure where things will go, and the characters are usually quite unique. King and Chizmar keep the reader guessing with twists in the narrative, such that there is little time to rest and ponder, as something is always happening. Short chapters serve as teasers, while longer ones develop the storyline effectively. While there was a great deal of jumping around to provide context for Gwendy Peterson’s life, it is done properly and proves easy for the reader to follow throughout. It is sad to see the series end, but I wonder if this is the last we have seen of the King-Chizmar team!

Kudos, Messrs. King and Chizmar, for bringing a wonderful conclusion to the series. I like what I have seen and can only hope that there is something else brewing soon.

Gwendy’s Magic Feather (Button Box #2), by Richard Chizmar

Eight stars

After a successful collaborative effort with Stephen King, Richard Chizmar takes the lead in this sequel that brings Gwendy Peterson back into the middle of an adventure that has dire consequences. It has been a while since the reader saw Gwendy, who is no longer a teenager, but a full-grown woman. She finished school and soon became a popular author, riding the wave of much success as she found herself in writing. When a friend’s tragedy hit home for her, Gwendy took up the cause of helping those with HIV. A successful run for Congress has her representing one of the congressional districts in Maine. Just before Christmas 1999, Representative Peterson returns to her office to find a silver coin on her desk and the long-forgotten Button Box in one of her cabinets. Armed with what could be quite the weapon, Gwendy is not sure what to do, but realises that she cannot ignore this. While she keeps the box hidden, she enjoys the holiday time with friends and family in and around Castle Rock. When two teenage girls go missing, the town is in an uproar. Gwendy worries, but also has family issues that require her attention. When she receives a special gift from her parents that Christmas, Gwendy remembers her youth when she had a magic feather that she felt offered her special powers. As the end of the year approaches, another girl goes missing and Gwendy is trying to determine if it is someone she knows. She also discovers new and haunting powers that she possesses, which could help her hone in on the person responsible for the disappearances. A great novella that complements the opening piece well, while also making loose ties to some of Stephen King’s other books set in the Castle Rock area. Recommended to those who enjoy mystery pieces with a twist, as well as the reader who enjoys shorter reads.

I remember reading the collaborative novella a few years ago and being highly impressed. I have loved Stephen King’s work for as long as I can remember, particularly for the tangential writing with a purpose. When I learned that this sequel had been published and that Richard Chizmar did so alone, I was eager to see if he could keep up the same quality. He did so, while spinning some of the central characters and facts to work effectively decades in the future. Gwendy Peterson is now a successful woman who has impacted the larger community without losing her small-town sense. Now married to a man she loves very much, she also also a strong connection to her parents while fighting for her constituents in Washington as well. Her return for the holidays and trying to handle the reemergence of the Button Box propelled the story forward effectively and allowed the reader to see a little more about her character as she matured into a successful woman. Other characters help shape the story, some returning but many new to the mix. The banter worked well and kept the narrative clipping along. The story flowed and even with a late entry of the titular magic feather, things came together nicely. There was a mix of mystery and personal growth embedded in the plot, which flowed so well. Short chapters pushed the story along and Chizmar used an odd King-esque style that drops hints throughout, forcing the reader to be highly attentive to get everything from the story. I can hope for another instalment of these series, though I am not sure how Chizmar might do so. Then again, I love a good surprise!

Kudos, Mr. Chizmar, for a wonderful piece I devoured in a single day.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Gwendy’s Button Box & The Music Room, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Seven stars

Gwendy’s Button Box:

A wonderful collaboration between ‘King of Horror’ Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, who have been long-time friends but meshed their literary ideas into a single piece. This story is peppered with the New England flavour for which King is so well known and an innocent story that turns on a single item, something Chizmar surely influenced after being handed control of the story. Gwendy Peterson is an energetic girl who seeks to change herself before heading into middle school, where the teasing she has undergone will only get worse. When a mysterious man, Richard Farris, engages her in conversation, Gwendy soon realises that this is not a man who seeks to do her any harm. Rather, he has a special gift for her, a mahogany box affixed with eight buttons, their convex surfaces and varied colours quite alluring. Farris explains the importance of each button, warning her away from pressing the red, unless she is sure of what she wants, as it packs quite the punch. With that, Farris is gone and Gwendy is left to fend for herself. She hides the box from everyone else, pulling it out only to feed off the delectable sweets that are compartmentalised along one side. As the story progresses and Gwendy ages, she becomes tempted by the buttons, or at least the red one, and seeks to experiment. The result is anything but peaceful, but Gwendy knew that was a distinct possibility. With events around her playing out, Gwendy is left to wonder, could she be solely responsible? An interesting novella that pulls the reader in from the start and posits some interesting theories. A wonderfully entertaining read for any who enjoy some of the less macabre King work with this new spin that Chizmar brings to the writing process.

I have long been a King fan and can only hope that there will be more stories like this. King and Chizmar took on a seemingly innocent plot and allowed it to evolve and take shape, to the point that the reader is left to wonder just who Gwendy Peterson might be. She has moments of teenage naïveté that are contrasted nicely with some darker thoughts, especially when she knowingly uses the ‘red button’. However, there is little attempt by the authors to turn her into anything sinister. The same goes for Richard Farris, who balances precariously on the fence from being that creepy ‘man in the shadows’ to an innocent stranger who seeks to offer up something interesting, akin to the magic beans that Jack received for his cow. King and Chizmar take the story from there and allow Gwendy to apparently control her destiny, while also placing much burden at her feet. Did her pressing the button lead to various newsworthy calamities? Without going too far off the beaten path, King and Chizmar force the reader to wrestle with destiny and the influence of choices on the larger scale. Call it The Butterfly Effect through the eyes of a teenage girl. A wonderful story that packs a punch and offers up much entertainment, one can only hope that King has more of these ideas rumbling around and that Chizmar is on hand to help spin them, in the years to come.

Kudos, Messrs. King and Chizmar for this wonderful novella. I am impressed and the early hype is right; you two are a wonderful team!

The Music Room (written solely by Stephen King):

Pulled from a collection of short pieces that seek to flesh out what is going on in a popular painting, Stephen King offers up this for his readers. It is the low point of the Great Depression, with people starving and suffering just to make enough to eat. However, the Enderbys have found a way both to survive and entertain themselves at the expense of others. Various ‘guests’, picked up by Mr. Enderby, are placed in a sound-proof closet, left to fend for themselves, How will they make it? No one is quite sure. While the Enderbys consider themselves only thieves, picking the pockets of those who enter the room, the reader might have other ideas, as what goes in does not come out in the same form. An interesting tale, though not long enough to expound some of King’s true abilities.