Throttle, by Joe Hill and Stephen King

Eight stars

Trying to fill a day-long gap before tackling a major reading project, I discovered two short stories about the issues of road rage. Having read the first—Richard Matheson’s Duel—I turned to this piece by father and son duo, Stephen King and Joe Hill. This piece is supposedly influenced by Matheson’s earlier work, packing just as much punch in a story about modern road rage. The spin makes it just as enjoyable, but equally unique. As an outlaw biker gang talks about a missed opportunity to score a pile of money when their meth lab explodes, they fail to notice a trucker sitting in his rig. By the time the trucker’s presence is noticed by the apparent leader of the rag-tag group, it’s time for the truck to hit the road. In a sort of panic, the bikers take it upon themselves to ensure their criminal ways are not discussed or reported to anyone. They take after the rig, in hopes of offering a lesson in permanent silence. However, this faceless driver is anything but docile, playing his own game with those on two wheels in a piece that pushes road rage to a new and bloody level. As the race is on, both sides seek to exert their own dominance, but there can only be one winner, as the Nevada highway stretches out before them. A great spin on the Matheson piece by these two stalwarts in the horror genre. Recommended to those who need a quick dose of King/Hill magic, as well as the reader who enjoyed Matheson’s piece (as I did) and wanted to see a modern reinterpretation.

I always love a good King story and his collaboration with his own son makes for an even better piece. I almost feel as though Richard Matheson deserves a shout out here, as though his initial creation of this road rage idea should not go unmentioned. King and Hill portray a modern version of the battle of the roads, where motorcycles have come to prove their own form of dominance. Offering the ‘War vet gone bad’ as the biker, the authors spin an interesting backstory of drugs and murder, as they seek to evade the law. When their past is overheard, they spring into action, trying to scrub out any witness (auditory in this case) to their crimes before seeking a new way to make some illegitimate cash. The race on the road becomes the central theme, though the reader will be just as surprised as the bikers about what awaits them. This is no Sunday afternoon drive! The authors pull Matheson’s clash off the page and inject more blood and horror, seeking to push the limits of the horror genre, while keeping things realistic. Strong character development and a well-paced narrative keep the reader on the edge of their seat as they flip pages, if only to see who will become the victor. I am pleased to have stumbled upon both the Matheson and King/Hill short stories, as they complement one another so well.

Kudos, Messrs. King and Hill, who built on a short story from long ago and made it their own. I enjoy your collaborative efforts and hope to stumble upon more when I need a fix!