“Gwendy” Final Task” is the third book of a trilogy that began with “Gwendy’s Button Box” written by world-renowned author, Stephen King, and co-authored by Richard Chizmar. The novella was published on May 16, 2017 by Cemetery Dance Publications, and takes place in the fictional setting of Castle Rock, Maine, which King has used in a number of his other works. On August 22, 1974, twelve-year-old, Gwendy Peterson meets the mysterious, Richard Farris, a man of an undetermined age, at the Castle View Recreational Park. The meeting was more than a polite exchange of pleasantries, it became the start of a relationship that would go on to span over fifty years of Gwendy’s life. The catalyst for the relationship takes place, when Farris gives Gwendy a ‘button box,’ which he assures the young girl is not as benign as it seems.
The box is adorned with eight buttons, all different colors, six of them represent continents, Antarctica is excluded. There is also a black button, which must never be touched. Gwendy will come to refer to it as the cancer button. While Farris refrains from specifics as to what would happen if pushed, he intimates that it would culminate in destruction. The other button on the box, the red one, will grant the user anything their heart’s desire, but there is a cost associated to using it for good fortune. Furthermore, there is a slot in the middle, and two small levers on each end of the box. The one on the left produces chocolate which contains wonderful benefits to the person who eats them, while the one on the right dispenses mint condition, Morgan silver dollars. Farris offers a few words of warning, gets up and leaves. In so doing, it begins Gwendy’s first time as the guardian of the box, which will alter the rest of her life.
The next time Gwendy is entrusted with the box, is in “Gwendy’s Magic Feather.” The second book in the series was a solo effort by Richard Chizmar, and was published by Cemetery Dance Publications on November 19, 2019. Gwendy’s life has moved forward twenty-five years. She’s married to her husband Ryan, a foreign correspondent. Additionally, she has become a successful author, and is serving as a member of Congress representing the people of Castle Rock, Maine. Before Congress is set to go on a holiday break, the box is returned to Gwendy. This time it is not Farris who gives it to her, it is merely left for her, with no explanation as to what to do with it, or why she has been entrusted, once again, to be its guardian. Making matters worse for Gwendy, when she returns home to her district, she learns that two girls have been abducted, the only evidence that has been recovered are teeth, which prompts the media to call the person responsible ‘The Tooth Fairy.’ What role, if any, will the box play, to help capture ‘The Tooth Fairy?’
In the third book “Gwendy’s Final Task,” the box is given to Gwendy, once more, this time by Farris, who, from his appearance, looks as if his own death is imminent. Published by Cemetery Dance Publications on February 15, 2022, Stephen King returns to co-author the conclusion to the Gwendy trilogy. Farris, this time delineates an exact reason why he wants Gwendy to take the box. The sixty-four year old, now serving as the junior Senator from Maine, is not the person she once was. For one thing, while she doesn’t show signs of outward ill health like Farris, she’s dealing with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. Her condition is one of the obstacles that could stand in the way of her completing the mission Farris gives her.
The story in “Gwendy’s Final Task” takes place between the years 2019 and 2026. In the intervening years prior to 2019, the button box had owners, but none that were as good with it as Gwendy was. According to Farris, there is only one person who he trusts to take care of it, and do what must be done, and that’s Gwendy. She is tasked with destroying it. Farris lets Gwendy know that those who seek the box, can’t be allowed to possess it, because they’d be interested in the complete destruction of everything. The only place that the powerful beings won’t be able to reach it, is in outer space. The novel seamlessly shifts between Gwendy’s journey into space, as well as a number of flashbacks, which impart to the reader, how everything in Gwendy’s life has coalesced to the current moment, as she’s getting ready to blast off into space, in an attempt to complete her mission.
Even in space, the button box might not be safe. Gareth Winston, a billionaire, who has paid for passage on the rocket ship, she is on, (its destination a space station shared by many nations), is someone who Gwendy absolutely doesn’t trust. She is suspicious of him from the outset. Is her distrust of Gareth her mind playing tricks on her, or is he a genuine threat to her mission? Gwendy has a vision of Winston, while on the space station, which places him in the car, that killed her husband in a hit and run, which is brought up earlier in the story. The supposed accident, and lack of answers, as well as anyone being held accountable, has haunted Gwendy, to the point where she has her friend, who works for government intelligence investigate the matter. Could Winston and her husband’s death be linked? Even Gwendy can’t fathom how there could be a connection. Will she get help in finding out who killed her husband? Can she stay in her right mind long enough to complete her task for Farris, which in essence, will save the world?
Fans of King’s work will more than likely enjoy the inclusion of the town of Derry, which plays a role in the plot. Pennywise, while not in any way central to the story is mentioned, and does lurk on the periphery. There is also the inclusion of Sheriff Norris Ridgewick, who has appeared in several of King’s works. In addition, there are direct connections to the “Dark Tower” books, which will be immediately recognized by those who King affectionately refers to as his ‘constant readers.’
I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book, if you haven’t read “Gwendy’s Button Box,” and “Gwendy’s Magic Feather,” you’d be doing yourself a disservice; there are references that won’t be known to you. The story amongst the three books was well connected. Certain readers will likely be turned off by a number of derogatory political remarks, depending on how a person typically votes, and what party they identify with. Overall, a well paced and fitting end to the trilogy, that King and Chizmar fans will likely embrace.