Rating: 3 stars
“Once upon a time, not so long ago, a monster came to the small town of Castle Rock, Maine.”
Cujo used to be a big friendly dog, lovable and loyal to his trinity (THE MAN, THE WOMAN, and THE BOY) and everyone around him, and always did his best to not be a BAD DOG. But that all ends on the day this nearly two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard makes the mistake of chasing a rabbit into a hidden underground cave, setting off a tragic chain of events. Now Cujo is no longer himself as he is slowly overcome by a growing sickness, one that consumes his mind even as his once affable thoughts turn uncontrollably and inexorably to hatred and murder. Cujo is about to become the center of a horrifying vortex that will inescapably draw in everyone around him—a relentless reign of terror, fury, and madness from which no one in Castle Rock will truly be safe…
As an avid reader who doesn’t mind horror novels, this book didn’t meet my expectations. I didn’t mind the premise of the story because I love dogs and a dog turning rabid with rabies sounded right up my alley. Instead, Cujo made me feel more sad than horrified, which wasn’t something I was expecting.
However, I did have some enjoyment with this story. What I liked about this book was the premise. A dog who’s very loyal to his family one day goes chasing after a rabbit only to get rabies and tries to kill any human that gets close to him. I found this plot to be interesting because as someone who loves animals, I was invested in finding out how Stephen King was going to make this story more horrifying for his readers.
I also enjoyed how Cujo became associated as the monster Tad was starting to see in his closet in the beginning of the story. When Tad, Vic and Donna first meet the Camber’s dog Cujo, both Vic and Donna are weary of their son interacting with him. Both of them already saw him as a monster before he became infected with rabies. So it made sense later on in the story that he was the monster Tad saw in his closet. It was a nice parallel for these characters who already began seeing Cujo for the creature he became.
While this story wasn’t all that frightening, I did enjoy the horror elements King incorporated into the book. From monsters in the closet to somnambulism and a dog that turns wild, I thought these elements in the story made it a much more interesting read. You see all of these elements of horror in this book via the characters in the story. For example, you find out from Charity that her son Brett used to have a serious case of somnambulism that seems to return in the book while they are away from home. He’s seen walking around the house in a trance feeding their dog Cujo. This scene foreshadows that something bad is about to happen even though none of the characters have any clue what that’s going to be. It’s horrifying because you as the reader already know that Cujo is infected with rabies.
I think what I enjoyed the most about Cujo is that I felt sympathy for him. He never had a clue that his whole life was going to change all just because he chased after a rabbit. In this story, I felt sympathy for him because he was just so care free up until the point he got bitten. He was just a normal dog who suddenly turned into a monster. And I felt for him once that happened. He was in pain from that moment until he died, which to me was more sad than terrifying. In essence, this book made me sympathetic to Cujo because it made me more aware of how rabies impacts animals. It gave me a better understanding of rabies as a disease so I feel like I learned something new while feeling for Cujo.
However, there are a lot of things with this book I didn’t particularly enjoy. For one, I hated how the story switched back and forth between characters. While I normally don’t mind books that have multiple points of view, I felt like in this story it just dragged the plot along. Once Cujo was infected with rabies and started his killing, I felt like there were certain moments that didn’t need to be in the story. You as the reader know already that certain characters aren’t going to be in town when everything really begins, but I didn’t feel like we needed to see exactly what they were doing. This bothered me because the plot of the story didn’t pick up or interest me until close to the middle of the story. So the rest of what I was reading just felt like filler up until Cujo’s rabies took over.
I also didn’t like most of the characters in the story besides Cujo and the two children in the story Tad and Brett. None of the adults in the story had much in the way of character development and I just didn’t particularly care about anyone in the story. I liked the children in the story because they still had their childhood innocence, but none of the adults were people I really wanted to get to know. I think it had to do with the adults having no idea what was going on around them while the children seemed to have more of a sense that something bad was coming. Either way, I wasn’t fond of too many of the characters so I didn’t really care what happened to them.
I especially didn’t care for how it all ended. I was hoping that the ending would be seriously grim with Cujo killing all of the characters in the story, minus Tad and Brett. Instead, it was sad because Cujo deserved a lot more than what he was given and I felt a little terrible for Vic and Donna. I think this is why I had a hard time seeing this book as horror because all the moments I wanted to feel scared I felt sad instead. I felt sad for Cujo who went from a friendly dog to a monster in the blink of an eye. And I felt bad for Tad and Brett, both for different reasons I can’t reveal without spoiling the story.
Overall, I did enjoy reading Cujo because the premise is interesting and the horror elements King did incorporate into the story made it a more fascinating read. But the plot was bogged down with too much information , characters I wasn’t particularly invested in, and an ending that made me more sad than scared that I did have a hard time continuing to read the story to find out what happened next. The idea behind this book made me fascinated to read it, but its execution didn’t meet my expectations at all so I came away from this book disappointed that it didn’t meet its full potential. However, I haven’t read too many of Stephen King’s books so the way I feel about this one isn’t going to stop me from reading more of his work.