Gwendy’s Button Box by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King
Welcome back to Castle Rock, Maine, home to numerous Stephen King stories. Clearly nothing bad is going to happen here. Gwendy is twelve when she meets the man in the little black hat. A slightly pudgy girl, Gwendy is determined to slim down before school starts up in the fall. The Man in the little black hat seems to know all about her, and he offers her guardianship of a strange little box with multicolored buttons. The Man explains that the box controlls everything. And while it will give her what she needs, it can also take things away.
This is a perfect little book, only 175 pages, but Chizmar squeezes a hell of a lot of stuff into this book. We see Gwendy grow up, and the relationship between her and the mysterious box grows and changes with her. The box is almost like a character in and of itself, a constant, lurking presence suffusing the entire story with a subtle menace. Gwendy herself is a fully realised character, complex and sympathetic.
I know most people either love or hate short stories and novellas, but if Gwendy’s Button Box is an indication of what the genre can do, then bring ’em on!