If there's one word I would use to describe Mr. King's latest, it's "propulsive". Sometimes a book is good, you like it, but you can set it down, walkIf there's one word I would use to describe Mr. King's latest, it's "propulsive". Sometimes a book is good, you like it, but you can set it down, walk away, savor it. Other times, like with Mr. Mercedes, you can't put it down - you have to know what happens next. I sat down this morning to read maybe a few dozen pages, to try and stretch the experience out until the end of the month and payday, and here I am, four hours later, finished and jazzed with the energy that comes from a good book.
The climax relies on King's reputation as an author of horror, as well as the fact that you've hit so many reversals and twists along the way, such that you genuinely don't know what's going to happen next. And holy cow, the book surprised me right up to the very end. Restrain yourself from reading the last page first!
There are several characters that could be seen as problematic, particularly the young African-American character, given King's past performance with black characters in his books. A few reviews I'd read expressed some tutting concern about it, but I think that, taking into account those past performance, King takes a gentler hand than you'd expect from those reviews. I understand King's reasoning for the quirk, and even when you wince here and there, King absolutely does better now than he did with Odetta Holmes a quarter century ago. At the very least, it's less prominent than the complaining reviewers suggest.
A major theme of Mr. Mercedes is the past shaping the present, and the importance of choice in creating a future. Every character has a past that informs their present, but ultimately, the only important thing is what they do choose right now. Characters suffer good luck, characters suffer bad luck - but how they choose to react to that luck shapes every iota of conflict that drives this story.
Is it King's best work? Probably not. Is it a King in decline? Absolutely not. Is it a book that uses a handful of clichés to do some of the heavy lifting? Yeah, sorry. Is it a book that practically compels you to keep reading and find out what happens next? Without question...more
Written in 1949, Earth Abides is one of the foundations of post-apocalyptic literature - and yet, despite its era and the ultimate form its children tWritten in 1949, Earth Abides is one of the foundations of post-apocalyptic literature - and yet, despite its era and the ultimate form its children took, the end doesn't come via nuke, as we might expect. This subversion of the modern reader's expectations runs throughout, from earliest days to what must be nearly a century later. There are certainly a number of unexamined assumptions that date this apocalypse to the 40s, but mostly they're assumptions made by and within the characters, and give the novel a veritas that is often lacking when men try to peer into the future.
George Stewart, judging solely by this book, loved the Earth and loved the men and women who lived there. He embraces what is beautiful and what is ugly in both in equal measure, and his book is simultaneously elegy for the old world, and celebration of the new world that will arise.
This one goes alongside Zelazny's Lord of Light and Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind stories as a story that affirms and shapes my inner world.