Book Review: "The End of the Whole Mess" Short Story by Stephen King

(Short Story in an Anthology)
My Rating: 

Plot Tease
Bobby Fornoy, the genius younger brother of the story's narrator Howard, discovers that the water in the small Texas town of La Plata contains a chemical that suppresses the agressive side of human nature. Tormented by the cruelty of humanity with nuclear war imminent, Bobby works to put a stop to it all. But his pursuit of world peace turns deadly when an unexpected complication comes to light.

Book Review
The End of the Whole Mess (EotWM) is one of the first works by Stephen King that I have read. The characters in it affected me more than nearly any other short story I've ever reviewed. Within the first few lines, Howard makes it clear that together the brothers doomed most of humanity, and that he doesn't have much time left to live.

The narrative is an attempt to explain what his brother wanted, down to his last shaking breaths. I can count on one hand the number of times I have honestly cried for a character. The Fornoy's are on that list.

The last pages of this story will give you chills. King puts so much emotion and regret into these words, it's the best. Howard's voice is so desperate, and Bobby's intelligence is keen and searching for the good in people.

The character development progresses quickly, but in a very fulfilling way. Howard begins with his baby brother's first adventures, and tell the story all the way through to the end of their lives. As an individual, Bobby has a certain fantastic innocence that invades everything he does.

Combine that with his genius intellect, and he is a very interesting young boy. When he realizes that humans like to destroy each other (read: nuclear war), it strikes to his heart.  He cannot let it be. Not where believes he can fix it. It is almost madness that takes over him near the end - a sacrificial drive to stop other's pain.

Howard evolves less noticeably. Oddly enough, his voice as a boy and his voice as an adult seem very similar in some conversations. His character puts itself on the back-burner in the face of his brother's genius and heart. In reserve, however, Howard hides the true depth of his emotion. As he gradually loses control of himself, it begins to spill out in side comments and devolvements.

What is left standing is a soul that is raw and regretful, edge with a sort of need to rewind the clock and do things differently. But his love for his brother remains the same. That is the most vivid force in the short story. It will bring you to tears: in that awesome, "I love these characters" kind of way.
"My name is Howard Fornoy. I was a freelance writer. My brother, Robert Fornoy, was the Messiah. I killed him..." - The End of the Whole Mess
This is a short story and is only available in various anthologies. I've chosen to link book Wastelands, because not only does it contain this piece of Stephen King gold, but it is full of lots of other great dystopian tales as well. In some cases you can also find the story to read online. I'd recommend a Google search.

Have you read this short story? How did you feel when you got to those last words?

Cost to buy Wastelands: New $12.35/Used $4.33 (Wastelands is available on Kindle.)
Buy this book from

No comments:

Post a Comment