Button, Button: uncanny stories

Matheson, Richard


Tor Books, New York. 2008. 208 p.


Well, I don’t know where to begin or end with this book. I will say my reading of it started out very promisingly. It came highly recommended from a co-worker who I thought had flawless taste in books, and when I heard this author wrote I Am Legend and the first story from this collection, “Button, Button” is going to be a major motion picture, I really thought it couldn’t be better. Maybe I was wrong.


The book is basically a written version of the Twilight Zone. These stories were originally published in the 1950s and 60s, so they definitely has the Zone feel about them. You know, twisted stories that start off mundane and become horrifying or plain bizarre. So at first I was intrigued and excited. I like a good suspense or thriller. Sadly, I fear this book contains much of either.


The collection begins with “Button, Button,” which had so much promise, but I was disappointed almost immediately because I knew exactly how the story was going to end. It may have been quite shocking back in the 50s, but nowadays, I feel like people have read or seen almost every twist imaginable. I still read the story, but I can’t say I did because I was intrigued. I just wanted to try and finish the book. (Note: I didn’t finish it. I hate to put a book up here that I didn’t even finish, but in a way I think it’s worth noting the book still, because maybe not being able to finish something is just as helpful of a review as one that raves about a book.)


The next story was not quite as predictable, but at a point you kind of know where it’s going. Again, it may have been ahead of its time 40 years ago, but I don’t think it carries as much punch now. It’s called “Girl of My Dreams” and follows a woman who has dreams of future happenings, usually involving total strangers who encounter terrible endings. Her husband exploits her abilities for money by finding the people whom she has dreamt about and tells them if they pay them, his wife will tell them how they meet their ends so they can avoid the situation. The husband is cold and mean to his wife, and only feigns affection so she will stay with him and continue sharing her dreams with him. Let’s just say, this story doesn’t end well for anybody.


So it was after this story that I was already a little tired of Matheson’s book. I was talking to some of my co-workers about the stories and my dissatisfaction, and one of them who had read a little further told me about one of the subsequent ones I hadn’t gotten to yet. After she told me the whole story, I remained unimpressed with the book, so I decided to give up ever finishing it. I usually finish books I begin, but with this one I felt like there is so much more to read out there, so why waste my time with this one. Part of me wants to finish, and I may someday, but if I’m going to be honest, this one just doesn’t do it for me. I’m interested to see what the movie version of “Button, Button” (it will be called “The Box” and it’s scheduled to come out in 2009) will be like, because to me it seems challenging to make a full length movie out of this premise, but hey, by 2009, I may have finished Button, Button and loved it.