Brutal. It's the first word that comes to mind when thinking of how I feel about Mr. Mercedes. It's not among King's best work, but it has a certain q...moreBrutal. It's the first word that comes to mind when thinking of how I feel about Mr. Mercedes. It's not among King's best work, but it has a certain quality that sticks with me after I turned the last page.
It helps that the villain, the man who in the opening pages plows a Mercedes sedan through a tightly-packed group of early-morning job seekers, is a truly nasty piece of work. In the pages of Mr. Mercedes we learn much about this character's history, and instead of making me sympathetic towards him, it just made me cringe. Which, of course, is exactly how King wanted me to feel.
The story of Mr. Mercedes is, in many ways, typical King material, despite there being no supernatural element. An ordinary detective, now retired, receives messages taunting him about one of his few unsolved cases. The person sending the messages knows details about the case. Instead of taking it to his former colleagues, the retired detective decides to dig deeper on his own. The rest of the story comes from both the detective and the killer as they escalate and test each other's limits.
While sometimes predictable, King propels us through his story with his usual talent for creating ordinary characters and putting them in extraordinary consequences, and for not pulling punches. Make no mistake, this is not a book for the squeamish. King goes for the jugular in Mr. Mercedes, and leaves us with an ending that is both satisfying and open-ended.
This may not be the best King book I've read, but the steady, confident hand and familiar storytelling style I've come to know so well are both found here. It may be brutal, but it's a book worth reading.(less)
Never let it be said that Simon Plaster shies away from the hard subjects. Quite the opposite, really - by the time he's done, nobody is left unmarked...moreNever let it be said that Simon Plaster shies away from the hard subjects. Quite the opposite, really - by the time he's done, nobody is left unmarked by his double-edged pen.
In Ticks the topic at hand is global warming - sorry, "climate change" - and all the science and politics and bickering that comes along with it. Just as in Gospel the lynchpin of our story is one Henryetta, a small-town reporter for the town she shares her name with - Henryetta, Oklahoma - just doing her level best to break a big story and win one of those Pulitzer Prizes.
This time, it seems like she might have a shot at it, with a local Grassroots Association making a bid to save the planet and make a little extra scratch for themselves along the way, citing everything from "the Goracle" Al Gore to the "K-yo-to Protocol." Complicating matters are a local professor obsessed with saving the tick population from extinction, a green activist social climber looking to save the world with a flourish of her hefty checkbook, a door-to-door salesman with a history of also-ran politics, and a country lawyer turned city lawyer, then back to country lawyer. Throw in a few celebrity guests before the ending - from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bill Maher to Madonna - and you've got all the markings of a Simon Plaster tale.
What a mess, right? Damn straight it is. Taken as a microcosm, the politics and viewpoints down there in Oklahoma get just as convoluted as they do on the world stage, the only difference being that everyone's agenda in 'Ticks' is about as plain as the sweat on their brow in the hot sun. And poor Henryetta's caught in the middle, trying to figure out the right story to tell, trying to decide where she herself stands in the whole canoodle.
What's sure is that no-one is safe from Simon Plaster's sharp wit and sharp words. Politics, religion, popular culture, and even modern fashion are subject to some deft skewering in these pages. No matter where the reader stands on the issue of climate change, they're sure to find common ground with some characters, sure to recognize others, and sure to get royally ticked off by at least a few. And if they're anything like me, they'll be laughing along the whole way, because it's all so utterly ridiculous, it could almost be the real deal.
Here's the lessons I took away from Ticks. When science and reason fail to sell a big idea, then maybe what you need is a salesman. City mice and country mice aren't really all that different under their fur - they're all pretty selfish and equally susceptible to tick bites. Saying something is settled and declaring the debate over doesn't make it so. Sometimes it's the smallest things that can solve the biggest problems. The road to Henryetta is often paved with shady intentions...but not always.
And if you want a shot at one of those Pulitzer prizes, you just have to write the best story you can, be honest, and let people decide for themselves. I think there's hope for Mr. Plaster yet.(less)