It’s been a while since I’ve read any Stephen King novels; I adored him as a teenager. I loved scaring myself silly before bed and trying to sleep whilst anxiously worrying about the monsters under my bed, down the drain, possessing my pets, taking over cars…ah, the list goes on! As a teen his stories send me to places I’d never dreamed existed (and then took me to places in my nightmares!). As I grew older his ‘moment’ (for me) passed – he wasn’t as ‘cool’ as he used to be and although I didn’t know it at the time I suspect I’d clicked onto the somewhat formulaic nature of the books I was selecting that were penned by him.
I think King is a living literary genius, and whilst he’s not my ‘go to’ read at the moment I still admire what he did for me as a teen and even now cannot fault many of this short stories, especially “The Bachman Books”.
But, on to this more recent work. I choose to read this novel as it had been too long since I sat down and reacquainted myself with Mr King. This most recent meeting reminded me why I missed him, and also why he’s not really my type of date anymore.
The Positives: King has an epic, flawless set up. His characters are so rich, deep, flawed, likable, relatable, hateable, understandable…so quickly that you’re pulled into their world and enmeshed in their lives thoroughly before you even realise. Part of me wonders if this is because there is a ‘sameness’ to his settings (but I’m pretty sure that’s me just double guessing myself….I’m pretty sure he’s amazing at this). Somehow you’re never left wondering as to why his characters do the things they do, or behave the way they behave. I love this about his writing!
The Negatives: As with most of King’s books there’s a real requirement for you to leave your inner skeptic at the door – some of his story lines are on the lower scale of disbelief and others are so far out of the realms of possibility (I hope!) that I just struggle to really connect with the story. This novel was one of those “bridge too far” books for me.
The basic premise of this book is that a terrible crime committed and there are many, reliable witnesses who will testify “whodunit” – the problem is the culprit denies he committed this act, and surprising has a alibi. A really strong alibi – he wasn’t even in town and he too has witnesses to prove it. Things get pretty crazy, pretty quickly and at the early stage of the book I was enthralled and couldn’t wait to be taken on a reality challenging journey – even when things got a bit wacky I was OK with it, but as the full story was revealed I was disappointed. The defining element was just too much for me to swallow – and I was disappointed; in myself.
I know if I read this book as a teen I would have bought the story hook, line, and sinker…but now, perhaps, I just too old and cynical. Maybe I just don’t believe enough to make this believable. And it’s a short-coming of mine I think, because this read like a true King novel from my youth and I’m sure that those who still love King will be impressed with this new novel.
So, I’m sorry Stephen, it’s not you, it’s me. You’ve remained true to my teenage dream and sadly I’m the ones who’s changed. I think its best, that for now, we don’t see each other anymore.
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.
King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game and It.King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.