Author: Stephen King
Page Count: 696
It seems as though this is one of those books where opinion is divided. Personally, I liked it a lot, and while there were a few long-winded bits that probably could have been trimmed down, this is Stephen King that we’re talking about. He’s basically known for it, and I kind of expected it and so it wasn’t a letdown. He’s also known for not always having the greatest of endings, but I think it worked pretty well here.
To be honest, as much as I enjoyed reading a novel about a sort of alien invasion, I think I enjoyed the characters more. It’s a little bit like the opposite of The Tommyknockers, a book that King himself isn’t a fan of but which I quite enjoyed, in that in The Tommyknockers, I remember the story but not the characters. Here, I almost remember the characters more than the story.
There are also a lot of parallels with IT to enjoy here, too. Parts of the story are set in Derry, we follow a group of friends both as children and as adults, and there’s even a direct tie-in thanks to a reference to the Losers Club and a piece of graffiti that read, “Pennywise lives.” You’ll probably want to read IT first though, if only because it’s one of King’s better-known works. It’ll also make sure that you’re ready to tackle a behemoth like this before you start.
It took me a week to read this, which is quite a long time for me, but I also enjoyed it and so I was quite happy to savour it and to observe it over a longer period. I also buddy read it with Stacey from Stacey’s Stories, and so we were able to chat about it as we went. We both enjoyed it, and while I’ll admit that it’s not the best of King’s novels, it’s still definitely worth reading, especially if you’re a completionist like me.
One of the things that I liked was the depiction of the byrus, which is essentially the name of the alien disease that spreads across Maine, infecting homo sapiens as it goes. It’s deeply unsettling and while it didn’t exactly keep me awake at night, it certainly made me think. I even thought it did a good job of showcasing a realistic response from the US government, as well as for the characters who were caught up in it all.
But it was really the characters that took centre stage here, and I thought it was wonderful to see them develop. They were broken, wounded people, but they were also held together by a common thread and some common memories, which they’re ultimately forced to revisit in a sort of strange dreamscape that takes place mostly in the imagination.
King’s pretty good at doing that, and it’s happened elsewhere in some of his other books. I feel like it was done better here than it was in most though, and while it did perhaps go on a little longer than it needed to, it was still a pleasure. It never felt like I was flagging with it, even when I was halfway through and it felt like the end was nowhere in sight. It didn’t matter because I was busy enjoying the world, if “enjoying” isn’t too harsh a term to use.
So would I recommend this one? Well perhaps, depending upon how long you’ve spent reading King. It’s definitely not the best place to start if you’re new to King, but if you’re a constant reader (King’s term for the people who read all of his books), it’s also not one to miss. I’d say it’s somewhere in the top half of his work, but nowhere near the top 20%.
As for me, it definitely hit the spot, and it’s given me the bug to crack on with more of King’s books, even though I don’t have many left. Up next, I’ll pick up The Outsider, because I have a copy of it lying around. But I’ll have a break first.