Literature: Gerald's Game

First edition cover

A horror novel by Stephen King. The setup is rather High Concept — during a bondage game proposed by husband Gerald, things go south. Gerald himself ends up dead, and protagonist Jessie Burlingame finds herself in a whole heap of trouble when she's still handcuffed to the bed.

Definitely not to be confused with Geri's Game.


But you said these tropes sounded like fun:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Jessie's father calls her "Punkin".
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Prince's intuition is described by King in a way that doesn't feel that farfetched.
  • Amoral Attorney: Gerald is slowly revealed to be one.
  • Attempted Rape: Causes Jessie to kick Gerald in the groin, giving him a fatal heart attack.
  • Better Than Sex: When Jessie finally gets rid of the handcuffs, she feels ecstatic, and thinks that if sex was even half this good, people would be doing it on every street corner.
  • Body Horror
  • Bondage Is Bad: Surprisingly averted; it's the motivation that can be bad, yes, but not the act itself. Of course, you probably won't want to run off and play with some handcuffs right after reading this.
  • Chained to a Bed
  • Creepily Long Arms: One of the more noticable traits of The Space Cowboy.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The Space Cowboy's attire is littered with the bones of past victims.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jessie was like this... until her father sexually molested her.
  • Dangerous Key Fumble: Befalls Jessie when she tries to escape in her car.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: Jessie never is sure whether or not there is someone in the shadows, watching her at night.
  • Determinator: In between increasingly unsettling and haunting flashbacks that go way back to her childhood, the book is sectioned with Jessie's various attempts at releasing herself from the handcuffs.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Due to her angle on the bed, Jessie is mostly able to only hear Prince eating Gerald's corpse. Mostly.
  • Hearing Voices
  • Humanoid Abomination: How Jessie sees The Space Cowboy, in her dazed and near mad state.
  • I Love the Dead: The creepy stranger Jessie sees is Raymond Andrew Joubert, a necrophiliac serial killer and cannibal, who regularly broke into crypts and mortuaries for years and violated male corpses.
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: How Goody Burlingame, the more submissive voice Jessie's head, tries to rationalise Gerald's attempt at rape.
  • Kinky Cuffs: After a while, Gerald only finds Jessie sexually attractive if she's tied to the bed. Unfortunately, he likes to use real handcuffs. However, he could only get the type made for males; this is what makes Jessie's escape possible.
  • Life or Limb Decision: Not exactly, but close enough. Jessie eventually breaks a glass and effectively scalps her hand, so blood would serve as a lubricant and allow her to pull her hand through the cuff.
  • Living Shadow: How Jessie percieves The Space Cowboy
  • Looks Like Orlok: The creepy stranger, mostly.
  • Meaningful Background Event: References to a dark barking in the woods are spread throughout the first two chapters or so.
  • Parental Incest: And not just confined to backstory either. No, King tackles this ugliness head on.
  • Psychological Horror: In spades.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Insane and mortally wounded woman chained to a bed, a naked, half-eaten corpse lying on the floor, a carnivorous, emotionally volatile dog, and an ominous stranger covered with human bones standing in the corner of the room? You just hit the jackpot.
  • Signature Style: Stream-of-consciousness writing? Italicized, parenthetical snatches of phrases representing the main character's little brainfarts? Multiple contexts for the same phrase, all of them disturbing? Must be a Stephen King book.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The couple break one of the most intrinsic rules of bondage in that the restrained person must always be able to escape or call for help if the restrainer is incapacitated for any reason. Likewise metal handcuffs are not recommended for the same reasons.
    • Killing the only other person who even knows where you are is, to put it mildly, a highly unfortunate accident to have.
  • Vomiting Cop: Sheriff Norris Ridgewick throws up, when he finds what is in the truck of Raymond Andrew Joubert, a necrophiliac cannibal (for example, a sandwich with a human tongue). A character says that "the State Police would have torn him a new asshole if he'd puked on the evidence. On the other hand, I'd have wanted him removed from his job for psychological reasons if he hadn't thrown up."

Alternative Title(s):

ptitle6i2bph 46, Geralds Game