Review of "Cain Rose Up" by Stephen King

"Cain Rose Up" is a short (very short) story in Stephen King's "Skeleton Crew" anthology. It is the story of a young man who decides to go on a killing spree from the window of his college dorm. He uses a rifle that he snuck into the school. The interesting thing about King's rendering of the topic, and a common theme with this topic and Stephen King, is that the story does not drag you into the horror and sadness of victims. It brings you into the world of the killer, who you must presume is something of a victim himself.

The main character of "Cain Rose Up," Curt Garrish, says goodbye to some of his dorm mates, as it is the end of the year, makes some internal observations about them, locks his door, gets his gun and starts shooting out of the window. It really is that short of a story. In the end, you do not even know how far Curt eventually goes, though you know he already has a few victims. It takes a minute after reading the story to realize that it was a good story. It is so brief that you have so many questions, but then you find yourself answering all of those questions from experience. Unfortunately, college killing sprees are not fiction.

One of the main questions "Cain Rose Up" poses to the reader is why did Curt do it? People seem to want to talk to him, as evidenced by the dialogue in the story. He has a father who buys him things and he has good grades. His inner dialogue and visions are somewhat disturbing, but the reason for this and the reason he manifests them outside of his mind is never mentioned. This leaves the reader with the interesting opportunity to fill in the blanks.

Was Curt like Charles Whitman who had psychological issues, a brain tumor and a drug problem? Was he like Seung-Hui Cho, who had been rejected by girls and who had nursed his own psychological problems under his school's radar? You just do not know in this story. Like Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk about Kevin," "Cain Rose Up" reminds us that homicidal youths have a tendency to slip through the cracks.

Shelly Barclay

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