Before I get into this review of Gwendy’s Button Box, I will admit that I am probably going to be a little biased. At the risk of conjuring up a Misery-esque level of creepy intensity, I am probably one of King’s biggest fans. Definitely not enough to kidnap him and force him to write me a story, but you get the picture.
I don’t typically read short horror stories. I really enjoy getting into the depth of the characters and being immersed in a lot of action, which typically isn’t achieved in the short story form. Needless to say, it was not my first choice to give this story a try. The fact that Stephen King was 50% of the collaborating team was the only reason I picked it up, never having the opportunity to read anything from the other half of the horror duo, Richard Chizmar. But, I like to consider myself open-minded, so I gave it a shot, and I definitely was not disappointed.
Spoilers beyond this point! You have been warned.
“Gwendy’s Button Box” opens when twelve-year-old Gwendy is out for her daily run up a series of cliff-side stairs in the city of Castle Rock. At the top of the stairs, a strange little man with a black hat talks to her. Alarmed at first, she begins to talk to him and he gives her a gift, a small box with levers and colorful buttons on the top. The levers, when pulled, produce either delicious chocolates or valuable coins. However, the buttons on top unleash destruction, most notable of which is the red button, which gives the person who presses it the desire of his or her heart, and the black button, nicknamed “The Cancer Button,” representing its ability to unleash utter destruction. The man, before he leaves, tells her that the box “…gives gifts, but they’re small recompense for the responsibility.” Even at her young age, Gwendy understands the immense power and responsibility of the box. She hides it, and the possibility that it might be discovered serves as a source of stress during her youth.
As Gwendy grows up, she finds that she lives a very charmed life – her grades are superb, she is the most beautiful girl in school, and she excels in sports. She knows that the power of the box is responsible for the good in her life. However, the box continues to linger in the back of her mind as she begins to fully realize her immense responsibility to keep it safe. Gwendy, even though she possesses the triad of temptation – beauty, wealth, and power – struggles to be a good steward of the power she is entrusted with, even though its temptations are a source of struggle for her.
What I Thought
This story certainly did not disappoint. I hung on every word, both wishing to get to the end to see what happens, and wishing that the story would continue on forever. It had to have been one of the most well-written horror stories I have read in a long time, and the collaboration between King and Chizmar was truly amazing. I loved the story’s condensed, fast-paced style, and I can honestly say that if I had my own button box, I would use it to make more stories like this one.
On a side note, I listened to the audio version of the story. Maggie Siff, (“Sons of Anarchy”) narrated the story and did a truly splendid job. The audio was wonderful to listen to, and Siff definitely brought the character of Gwendy to life.
Why You Should Read It
Need I say more? Get it from Amazon and see for yourself! Let me know what you think in the comments.
Final rating: 💀💀💀💀💀/5 skulls for this one!