For the long-awaited conclusion to the Gwendy trilogy, Stephen King and Richard Chizmar reach the final frontier of “don’t push that button!!” horror to bring us the last installment of The Gwendy’s Button Box Trilogy. These books are well-known for being close to the heart for many, as the previous two novels take place largely in Castle Rock, one of the most iconic locations in King’s literature. Gwendy’s Final Task goes above and beyond when Gwendy’s quest to save all worlds blasts us off into THE great beyond.
For those that are unfamiliar with the trilogy – fear not! We are here to get you up to speed.
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
For those who need a quick refresher,Gwendy’s Button Box debuted in 2017 as the first collaborative novella between Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. Gwendy’s Button Box stirred much excitement among King fans, taking us back to visit Castle Rock, which has not appeared in a full-length novel since Needful Things in 1991. One of the most delightful things about this trilogy were the recognizable names, places, and other easter eggs scattered about for readers to discover.
What the heck is a Button Box?
Gwendy Peterson is just twelve years old in 1974 when she is approached by a mysterious stranger by the name of Richard Farris. It is then that Gwendy is gifted the “button box,” which Farris informs her is not as benign as it seems. Most of the functions of the box seem harmless enough, for example, pulling a small lever will produce animal-shaped chocolates. Farris advises these will help Gwendy lose the baby weight the boys at school have been teasing her about, and also seem to heighten mental acuity. Also seemingly harmless is a second small lever on the side of the box that when pulled produces an 1891 Morgan silver dollar. The more ominous functions of the box are the buttons themselves, however, which Farris takes great care to warn her about.
The button box has eight buttons in total, six of which each represent one of the seven continents on Earth (Antarctica is excluded as it is unpopulated for the most part). The last two buttons are a bit more obscure, a red button and a black one. The red button is the only one which can be pushed more than once and promises to grant the one who pushes the button anything that they desire – but at great cost. While the button box at first seems fun and a bit like a magician’s party trick – Gwendy quickly learns those buttons are dangerous. Any button aside from the red one will cause a disaster of unequivocable proportions in the country represented by the button – and the black button (which Gwendy has come to refer to as The Cancer Button) will perhaps end life as we know it. Gwendy realizes just how dangerous these buttons are when overwhelmed with curiosity – she inadvertently causes a massacre in Guyana after pressing the red button.
Gwendy’s Magic Feather by Richard Chizmar
For Gwendy’s Magic Feather, released in 2019, Stephen King grants poetic license to Richard Chizmar in an unprecedented event. Chizmar proceeds to flawlessly continue Gwendy’s tale, and when we meet her next – she is a US congresswoman working in Washington D.C. The year is 1999, and the Button Box lands quite dramatically back into Gwendy’s life after not having seen or heard of it since her early college days. In fact, it just appears in her office closet one day, which is of course in the White House. The main takeaway from this novella, now that the “rules” of the button box have been established, is that Richard Farris doesn’t want any one person in charge of this box too long. It is well known that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and it seems not many are up to the task. The button box exudes a power of its own, one that must be resisted at all costs.
Gwendy’s Final Task by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
There has been an overflow of fan speculation with Gwendy’s Final Task on the horizon, especially once many die-hard King fans got a look at the cover art. Is that the Dark Tower in the background? Will we finally learn just who Richard Farris actually is and if he is perhaps Randall Flagg reincarnate, as many have speculated? Not only that… but Gwendy’s Final Task takes us back to DERRY, perhaps an even more iconic location than Castle Rock itself, where one of King’s most well-known and most terrifying novels, IT takes place. But wait! There’s more! NOT ONLY are we going to Castle Rock and Derry, (and perhaps the Dark Tower?) no, friends and neighbors – we are also going into OUTER SPACE – where no Constant Reader has gone before! There is so much going on in this novel, it likely sounds ridiculous, but King and Chizmar work some serious magic to make this perhaps one of the most emotionally powerful novels since The Dark Tower VII was released.
Readers are treated to an exciting reveal right off the bat, learning the name of the space shuttle is the “Eagle-19” and funded by…. none other than THE TET CORPORATION. Dark Tower fans, line up – you are in for a wild ride.
Gwendy’s Final Task opens in 2026, in a time where the Coronavirus crisis is a-ways behind us, and there are only a few people in the crowd hanging around still wearing masks. We find Gwendy next door to Cape Canaveral, Florida – all suited up to be launched into space of all places! And guess what’s going up there with her?
Gwendy’s Final Task is the first full-length novel in the trilogy, and we bounce back and forth between the current “Year of Our Lord 2026,” and the final months of 2019 – when Richard Farris pops back into Gwendy’s life for an unexpected (and unwelcome) visit. This normally ageless stranger is now looking quite a bit worse for wear, as it seems the troublesome button box has been in the wrong hands for quite some time now. The call of the black button is stronger than ever, and there’s only one person that Farris trusts to be the keeper of the box.
The journey to follow as we accompany present-day Gwendy (Now a US senator of Maine) on her trip into the great beyond while simultaneously learning of the goings-on that have led her to this moment will have readers captivated from start to finish. Forces working against Gwendy have led her to some serious trouble in Derry, Maine and it seems that the fate of all worlds is in her hands right now.
Stephen King and Richard Chizmar partnering up for this final book makes for the perfect storm of creativity. Chizmar has said they write in a style where King will send him a few chapters, and then he will write a few of his own – continuing this process back and forth for the entirety of the novel. Their process is seamless, and it would be impossible to tell where King writes and Chizmar picks up. The level of description in this novel is mind boggling, and this reviewer MUST know if any astronauts were consulted to achieve the level of detail in this book. Stephen King in particular is well known for the high level of detail in all his writing, but one has to wonder where him and Chizmar got the information to achieve this for this particular novel.
In Stephen King’s non-fiction novel On Writing, King advises, “Write what you know.” Sure enough, many of his books feature writers as protagonists, and very often we find ourselves reading about some strange occurrences in Maine – but has there been space vacation we are unaware of? It sure as heck seems so – with descriptions of space and zero gravity being so aptly described.
The tie-ins to the Dark Tower universe, as well as the entire King multiverse, will have lifetime fans of King buzzing for a long while. But the best part of this trilogy is the readability for fans who have not been along for the ride the entire time, the first two novellas are bite sized and readers will have no trouble getting themselves up to speed, and even this final novel is a decent length compared to some of King’s other works.
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
This reviewer struggles to find the words to bring justice to how absolutely incredible and powerful this book was. Readers will likely have not experienced such a sob fest since the release of The Dark Tower VII, but this reviewer will not divulge whether they were happy tears, sad tears, or perhaps was peeling an onion while reading the book. That being said, it has been both an honor and a privilege to review this book.
Richard Chizmar has gained a large following on Facebook as the head of Cemetery Dance Publications, the personal time and effort he puts into his fans is something one does not see often anymore. He is active in so many Facebook groups and adds a personal thank you or like every time someone pays him a compliment on both Facebook and Twitter. Richard Chizmar’s latest novelChasing the Boogeyman has gained him some serious clout as a standalone writer, and not just someone riding on the heels of Stephen King’s success. While Chizmar may not be a household name (yet), this guy is certainly going places. One thing is for certain, and that is the conclusion of The Gwendy’s Button Box trilogy will keep fans talking for a very, very long time.
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Lisa is a lifetime horror fan and Constant Reader originally hailing from upstate New York. She is certifiably obsessed with all things Stephen King, her love of reading and writing matched only by her love of dogs. After spending many years in the world of dog training and pet sitting, she has chosen to pursue her childhood dream of a career in writing.