Review: Gwendy's Final Task

4 stars
An absurd but entertaining conclusion to a flawed trilogy

As a twelve-year-old, Gwendy Peterson met a stranger who gave her a magical box that can destroy the world. That’s the premise of the Gwendy trilogy by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar.

The first book, Gwendy’s Button Box (review), was a fine story that stood on its own as a morality tale. The titular button box can fulfill wishes and wreak destruction—including at the planetary scale. As child custodian of the box, Gwendy used some of its powers, but was never corrupted by them.

In the mediocre sequel, Gwendy’s Magic Feather (review), Gwendy became a celebrated author and elected Congresswoman, and the box once more played an (ultimately anticlimactic) role in her life.

In Gwendy’s Final Task, the mysterious man or being who originally gave her the box tasks her to get rid of it once and for all. Because it’s a magical box, throwing it into a volcano won’t do. It must be…shot into space!

And so it is that Gwendy, now a Senator, finds herself on the way to a space station, with the button box locked away in a steel box marked “CLASSIFIED MATERIAL”. The spaceflight is organized by a SpaceX-style private company that is hoping to monetize space tourism.

That explains why one of the other passengers on board is an obnoxious billionaire. It doesn’t explain why the man seems to be completely obsessed by what’s in the steel box. Meanwhile, Gwendy is literally losing her mind to early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The setup is ridiculous, but it mostly works. The enclosed environment, combined with Gwendy’s dwindling mental faculties, builds suspense. King rewards his constant readers with plenty of references to other works, including the Dark Tower series many consider his magnum opus.

The ending leaves no doubt that this truly is the final book in the series. That’s probably for the best. If you’ve made it to the second book, the conclusion is definitely an improvement, and I would recommend picking it up. If you’ve not started the trilogy yet, there are much better works in King’s oeuvre.