Sass Warning: Low/Mild

  • Title: Thinner
  • Author: Richard Bachman / Stephen King
  • Published: 1984

Thinner is one of five novels penned by King under a pseudonym, to test whether his books would be as well received if they weren’t linked to the King “brand”. It is about Billy Halleck, who is cursed to become thinner and thinner, after accidentally hitting and killing the daughter of Tadzu Lempke, a ‘Gypsy’*, with his car. Halleck begins to lose weight at an alarming rate, and further macabre events follow.

*This slang term refers to Romani people who originated from India, and took to a travelling lifestyle. Europeans incorrectly assumed that, because of their physical and cultural differences, these people must have been from Egypt.

First things first, Lempke and his family are Romani. Thinner does not challenge any negative racial stereotypes – indeed using the word ‘Gypsy’ is indication enough – and in many places conforms to negative stereotypes.

For example, Lempke is physically disfigured, thus making him a scarier antagonist. His family also dabble in curses, magic and the supernatural and their travelling business is treated as suspicious and untrustworthy. Moreover, the narrative of Thinner seems to push Halleck’s biased view against the ‘Gypsy’ group, a view which I struggled to (and ultimately couldn’t) share. I can only hope this negative representation of a racial group stemmed from a place of innocent ignorance.

The issue of race in Thinner is not the element which dissatisfies me most, but I wanted to mention it so there were no discrepancies about using the word ‘Gypsy’.

When I started reading Thinner, my initial thought was that it was a quick-paced story, (it’s one of King’s shorter novels) with a creepy premise.

Because he wrote under a pseudonym, there are a few fun self-aware moments such as:

“You were starting to sound a little like a Stephen King novel for a while there, but it’s not like that.”

“it starts to sound a little like Stephen King again, wouldn’t you say?”

(Thinner, page 115)

However, once the curse had taken its toll upon Halleck, as well as manifesting upon a few other characters in different ways, I felt the plot began to slow down.

Rather than a novel about the gruesome deterioration of Halleck’s body or some horrific supernatural occurrences, Thinner became a novel purely about a manhunt from Lempke, with lots of phone calls, interviews, and the exchanging of documents (exciting stuff).

The final confrontation with Lempke and the ‘Gypsy’ camp was somewhat exciting, but short-lived.  Furthermore, the nature of the curse completely changes in the last few chapters, making the ending Thinner infuriatingly unsatisfactory.

Thinner is the Stephen King novel I enjoyed the least, which is a real shame because normally King provides solid character development, engrossing plots and genuine horrors – all three of which were lacking in this novel.**

**The Stephen King illusion had to shatter eventually.

I’ve had a quick scan of other readers’ reviews on Goodreads and it would seem my sentiments are echoed similarly there.

If you’d like to read a really good Stephen King novel, you should probably choose something else.


Thanks for reading!

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– Judith


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