A Thousand Flappers and Hobbledehoys

My name is Doug Wykstra, and this is some of the stuff I've read and watched.

The Outsider: Review

Stephen King’s recent novel The Outsider contains the best opening 150 pages I’ve read from King in quite some time, followed by 350 pages of some of the most disappointing, conventional, “large group of characters bands together” plot development I’ve read since Black House. At the beginning, it really felt like King had his fastball back: starting the story with a mystery, then gradually introducing the possibility of the supernatural, felt like a cool new twist on the sort of stories I’m used to getting from him.

And it was cool, to a point. The way the story seems to proceed on perfectly rationalist ground in its opening, with the characters grasping for any sort of logical explanation for how a man could be in two places at once, feels like a classic detective novel. When the possibility of a shape-shifter is initially introduced, the novel itself feels as though it is resembling the titular creature, morphing from a crime novel to a horror novel before our very eyes.

But past that point, it goes back to standard King, and while standard King is far from bad, it’s also a bit…familiar, at this point. And ever since Dreamcatcher or so, it’s relied just a bit too much on the trope of a ragtag band of people, most of whom are generally somewhere around the middle-age spectrum, all coming together to confront evil. This particular trope in King novles reached its high point in The Stand and never got quite that good again. It feels like he got off hot with the beginning of his book, then got a little stuck, and rather than give himself time to work through it, just finished it off in the way he finishes off a lot of his books in this century.

There’s some interesting ideas in here, the initial hook most of all, the monster second-most of all, the setting of the climax third-most of all. And all the characters we meet are granted the benefits of King’s usual generosity, an old woman named Lovie who would be a third-tier caricature in any other book feels as complete and fleshed out as most primary characters after half a handful of chapters. There’s insights into addiction, meditations on belief, even some acknowledgment that, in the modern, super-connected world, it’s hard for the pockets of small-town horror that King normally mines to even exist anymore. But man, part of me wishes he’d kept this in a drawer until he was willing to be a little more brutal.

Interested in reading this? I’m an Amazon Affiliate, meaning that I link products from Amazon, and if anyone clicks those links to buy the product, they pay me a commission. If you’re interested in purchasing Book Title, just follow the link below:

The Outsider: A Novel

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This entry was posted on 13 October 2019 by in Elegant Extracts and tagged , , .
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