Gwendy's Button Box Review

Gwendy’s Button Box is a collaborative novella by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. It takes place in Castle Rock, Maine, a place very near and dear to our hearts. We follow Gwendy Peterson after a very odd encounter with a man named Richard Farris. Gwendy’s Button Box is the first novel in the Gwendy’s Button Box Trilogy.  For the first time ever, Stephen King has given his blessing for Castle Rock to appear in these consecutive novellas, with Gwendy’s Magic Feather written exclusively by Richard Chizmar. Castle Rock is a fictional town of Stephen King’s creation, and it appears in many of his works. Gwendy’s Final Task is the last book in the Button Box Trilogy, and Stephen King comes back to co-author the final book in this installment, which will be released February 2022.

What is it about?

Gwendy’s Button Box brings us on a trip down memory lane to Castle Rock in 1974. Gwendy Peterson is a seemingly ordinary 12-year-old girl, who has taken up jogging with hopes of quieting the ever-present bullies at school. On this particular summer day, there is a strange man dressed in a black suit and hat sitting on a park bench. This man, Mr. Richard Farris, calls Gwendy over to him and tells her they need to palaver. While Gwendy is suspicious of this stranger at first, he does not seem to pose a threat. This strange man in black presents Gwendy with a box that he claims has incredible powers. The box belongs to Gwendy, but with that tremendous power comes a deadly responsibility.

What worked?

Stephen King’s ‘Constant Readers’ may be concerned with how a co-authored book may change their beloved town of Castle Rock. Fear not! Richard Chizmar’s influence flows seamlessly bringing a new tale to a location and characters we know and love.  In the words of Stephen King in Needful Things, this novella has all the feels of, “You’ve been here before.”

Possibly the most exciting part of any Stephen King story is spotting all those Easter eggs! While this novella is short in length, it is chock-full of familiar names and places. Richard Farris is a fascinating character, who has the same initials as the notorious Randall Flagg. While Randall Flagg is most widely known as the antagonist of The Stand, many Stephen King fans know that his reach extends far beyond that one book. Randall Flagg also plays a large role in The Dark Tower multiverse and he is apt to show up any time, any place, with many different names

Whether or not Richard Farris is in fact Randall Flagg appearing to us on another level of the Tower remains to be seen… (as a wise young boy once said, “there are other worlds than these” The Gunslinger, Stephen King), but added to the intrigue of this story in a large way.

What didn’t work?

There is little within the work to critique, and if anything, fans will be clamoring for more. Thankfully, those new to the series have both Gwendy’s Magic Feather and the upcoming release of Gwendy’s Final Task to look forward to – it is going to be a long wait till February!

Easter Egg Central – “You’ve been here before.” 

Sheriff George Bannerman – He appears in this novel, his name is usually used alongside Sheriff Alan Pangborn’s – but this novel takes place before Pangborn’s time. George Bannerman appears in several novels, including The Dead Zone, Cujo, Different Seasons and earns himself a mention in Needful Things, The Dark Half and Elevation.

Gwendy Peterson – Is there perhaps a relation to Frankie Peterson, the victim of the vicious assault that starts out Stephen King’s novel The Outsider?

Frankie Stone – There may be a relation here to Abra Stone who we met in Doctor Sleep.

Richard Farris – Is this Randall Flagg? Randall Flagg has appeared under several pseudonyms, mostly with the same initials RF. Randall Flagg is the notorious antagonist of The Stand and The Dark Tower series. He also has a large role in Eyes of the Dragon, and is alluded to in several other works including Hearts in Atlantis and Insomnia. His other aliases include Russell Faraday, Richard Fannin and Raymond Fiegler – to name a few.

Fun Facts

The conception of the novel came from a conversation between Stephen King and Richard Chizmar – in which Stephen King mentioned that he had a Castle Rock story that he just couldn’t finish:

“I had a story I couldn’t finish, and [Chizmar] showed me the way home with style and panache,” King said in a statement. “It was a good time, and I think readers will have a good time reading it. If they are left with questions, and maybe have a few arguments, all the better.”

The initial premise was King’s, then the two writers spent several weeks bouncing pages back and forth.

“Steve sent me the first chunk of a short story,” Chizmar says. “I added quite a bit and sent it back to him. He did a pass, then bounced it back to me for another pass. Then, we did the same thing all over again – one more draft each. Next thing you know, we had a full-length novella on our hands. We took a free hand in rewriting each other and adding new ideas and characters. The whole process took about a month.” [Source: Entertainment Weekly, February 28th, 2017]

Stephen King chose for the audiobook to be narrated by Maggie Siff, whom he knew from the hit TV series Sons of Anarchy. The audiobook of Gwendy’s Button Box includes a conversation between Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, and Stephen King mentions how much of a fan he was of Sons of Anarchy, and got to do a cameo in one of the episodes. He states that even though he never was in a scene with Maggie Siff, who played Tara on Sons of Anarchy, he thought she was a great choice to narrate Gwendy’s Button Box. King apparently had great fun in this particular cameo, and it is definitely worth a watch! You can find him in Season 3 Episode 3 of Son’s of Anarchy, where he plays the role of “Bachman” and is hired to dispose of a body.

Overall Thoughts

This was a fun and exciting read that has this Constant Reader chomping at every bit to get started on Gwendy’s Magic Feather! With a short length and action-packed story, I think this is a book anyone would enjoy. I would recommend it both to people who are intimately familiar with Stephen King’s work, and to friends who are new to the genre or do not normally like to read.

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