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Swan Song

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  52,004 ratings  ·  3,207 reviews
“We’re about to cross the point of no return. God help us; we’re flying in the dark and we don’t know where the hell we’re going.”

Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen—from the President of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York
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Paperback, Reprint, 856 pages
Published November 10th 2009 by Gallery Books (first published 1987)
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Alex Agranovsky The Stand is one of my favorite books, and King (as he usually does) makes his characters come alive. They feel, talk and develop like real people.…moreThe Stand is one of my favorite books, and King (as he usually does) makes his characters come alive. They feel, talk and develop like real people. I've read about 15% of Swan Song before abandoning it, and the characters are cartoonish, very stereotypical for 1980s books/movies. The writing style is nowhere close to Kings, and felt very forced and artificial, closer to Dan Brown than King. I felt like my time was being wasted.
All personal taste, of course, but this book (and potentially, author) is not for me.(less)
Cheryl Oh my goodness, this is not YA material. I had nightmares the entire time I was reading it. It is a very brutal, albeit I think realistic, look at…moreOh my goodness, this is not YA material. I had nightmares the entire time I was reading it. It is a very brutal, albeit I think realistic, look at what would happen to those few members of society who survive a nuclear holocaust. Definitely not YA. (less)

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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
$1.99 on Kindle today 6-10-17



Once again, thank you to goodreads friends for finding me another book to love!

There are so many people I fell in love with in the book. Also, Mule and Killer! Let's just begin. . .



The book is about us stupid humans trying to bomb each other into extinction, but I digress.

I fell in love with Sister Creep, Swan and Josh. I also loved Artie and Paul and Mule and Killer and . . . . there are so m
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Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
This is one of the darkest post-apocalyptic books I've read in a while... totally satisfied that craving.
I may have had a few bad dreams about it!

What I would have liked knowing beforehand:

- Nuclear war with Russia
- There are fantasy elements in here
- Yes, it's long...
- There's a war going on so if you're not really into military fiction... won't be for you!
- Overall it was almost too realistic...
- Did I say it was really dark?

I
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Dan Schwent
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if the apocalypse that befell the poor souls in The Stand was nuclear instead of viral in nature and the whole thing was written in a style more like Richard Matheson's than Stephen King's? Well, you'd probably have Swan Song.

Comparisons with the Stand are inevitable. Both are about the survivors of an apocalyptic event and both have a devil type figure walking around stirring things up. Swan Song doesn't have that final battle between good and evil thing going like the Stand di
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Jeffrey Keeten
”The sky was filled with waves of moving, blinking stars. Wheels of light rolled across the darkness over the trailer court, and streaks of yellow fire zigzagged upward into the haze that obscured the moon. Thousands upon thousands of fireflies were passing overhead like galaxies in motion, their signals forming chains of light that stretched from west to east as far as Swan could see.”

”The sky was filled with waves of moving, blinking stars. Wheels of light rolled across the darkness over the trailer court, and streaks of yellow fire zigzagged upward into the haze that obscured the moon. Thousands upon thousands of fireflies were passing overhead like galaxies in motion, their signals forming chains of light that stretched from west to east as far as Swan could see.”

 photo apocalypse_zpsbn5ibjzt.jpg

It would be pretty, right? All those missiles streaking across the midnight sky. The end of the world wrapped in the gossamer of sparkling, awe inspiring enchantment. Once the guidance system tells these glowing tubes to descend to the earth, they explode into these nearly perfect, cylindrical, fiery mushroom clouds that reach for the sky.

”It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”---R.E.M. (Oddly enough that song was released in 1987, the same year as this novel.)

Well, maybe not so fine. I’ve had debates about end of the world scenarios. People talk about what they would do to survive, but my hope is to be at ground zero. I like culture and civilisation and don’t really want to scramble about in a Mad Max world. Of course, if by some chance my book lined ivory tower were to survive, I would really appreciate it if someone would drop off a bit of food and a bottle of red wine occasionally.

Josh Hutchins, a world weary professional wrestler known as the Black Frankenstein, is on his way to Garden City, Kansas, for a match when the world decides to end. Someone would think that Kansas would be a good place to be for a post apocalyptic event, with its small population and lots of desolation. It would be my state of choice, especially for a zombie apocalypse, for those reasons and the fact that the horizon goes on forever in every direction. Line of sight, right? From my tower window I can see those lurching, slobbering brain eaters coming from miles away.

Unfortunately, there are strategic military reasons why the Russkies would want to blow up Kansas, and they have more than enough of these glowing tubes of destruction to wreak havoc in every state of the Union. Josh finds himself, after the fallout, the guardian of an orphaned nine year old girl, whose trailer trash name is Sue Wanda, but fortunately, she has been nicknamed Swan.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Well, try having an apocalyptic event, and you will find out.

Now Swan is a very special young lady, and as she grows up over the next seven years, her natural affinity for growing plants evolves into something quite spectacular. “‘Everything can think and feel, in its own way,’ she replied, and she looked up at him. The eyes in her young face were very old, Josh thought. ‘Bugs, birds, even grass—everything has its own way of speaking and knowing. Just depends on whether you can understand it or not.’”

Josh, in the midst of all this destruction and hardship, has had his own epiphany about life. ”Josh opened his fist and drew his arm back. The insect kept going, out of the light’s range and into the darkness on its purposeful journey. Who am I to kill such a thing? he asked himself. Who am I to deliver death to even the lowest form of life?”

Swan, you see, can bring apple trees back to life. She can plant corn seeds in infertile, radiated soil and make it grow. She is the most important human being on the planet, and there are people looking for her.

There is Sister Creep, well not as creepy as her name would imply, is seeing visions and knows she must find Swan to give her something she will need desperately in her coming battle against pure evil.

There is Colonel Macklin who, with the help of his teenage henchman, Ronald Croninger, has built what they call the Army of Excellence (AOE) and are marching across the midwest killing all who refuse to join them and stealing the food and supplies of everyone they encounter. Assimilate or perish.

There is one creature more insidious than Macklin and Croninger and their whole army combined. You can call him Friend, *shudder*, or The Man with the Scarlet Eye, or The Man of Many Faces, or if you want to try to think of him as something more human, you can call him Doyle Holland. He knows he has to destroy Swan because she is a beacon of hope amongst the chaos. “‘Hope hurts me,’ he said. ‘It’s a disease, and you’re the germ that spreads it. We can’t have disease at my party. Oh, no. It won’t be allowed.’”

So what is Doyle exactly? He isn’t a man. A demon? The devil? He can shape shift, manipulate, control minds. He takes credit for all the chaos and evil in the world.

Doyle can feel the power of Swan, and she can feel his weaknesses. It is an unsettling meeting. ”He blinked uncertainly, and in his eyes Swan saw fire and savagery, a core of pain past human suffering and so furious that it almost ripped her own heart to shreds. He was a scream wrapped up in straw, a little, weak, vicious thing gnashing inside a monstrous facade. She saw what he was made of, and she knew him very well.”

Swan is also suffering a radiation inspired malady, as are many people, that is called a Job’s Mask. ”Her head was covered by gray growths that had begun as small black warts, had thickened and spread over the passage of years, had connected with gray tendrils like groping, intertwining vines. The growths had covered her skull like a knotty helmet, had enclosed her facial features and sealed them up except for a small slit at her left eye and a ragged hole over her mouth through which she breathed and ate.” They can feel their faces shifting under the growths. (view spoiler)

The epic post-apocalypticThe Stand by Stephen King was published in 1978, and this novel was published in 1987. Some could say Swan Song is an ode to King; some will say it owes a lot to the King novel, and some would say they enjoyed The Stand more. I have read The Stand recently, and I must say that I enjoyed Swan Song much more. The writers chose different ways to destroy the world. It doesn’t really matter what destroys civilization the point of post-apocalyptic stories is what the writer makes of the wreckage and hopefully the redemption. King had his religious prophets, and McCammon had, for me, a much more compelling character in an earth goddess trying to lead humanity back on the path to civilization. I liked the plotting and flow of Swan Song better than the plot devised by King for The Stand.

They are both epic length novels each weighing in at around 1000 pages, but for me Swan Song was more smooth sailing than The Stand. I read Swan Song extremely quickly, in just a few days, while I lingered over The Stand for a couple of weeks. In this heavyweight bout, the winner is…Swan Song in the glowing green trunks.

May there really be an earth goddess among us waiting to save us from ourselves.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
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Stephen
4.5 to 5.0 stars. I am a big fan of The Stand by Stephen King and I thought it was the "standard" in apocalyptic fiction...UNTIL NOW. Swan Song is THE BEST apocalyptic science fiction book I have ever read. At over 950 pages, this book could have been a chore to get through but that was not the case at all. I flew through it and never found my attention wandering or my interest waning. A truly spectacular novel with a superb cast of really good peeople and REALLY BAD PEOPLE!! Highest possible re ...more
Becky
Taking a quick glance through reviews of this book, they seem to have two things in common. One, they all start with a reference to the book's size. And two, they all remark about the comparisons to The Stand.

And now mine is no different.

Holy SHIT, this was a long ass book... but it doesn't at all compare to The Stand, in my opinion.

Was it good? Yeah, good, but for a book this ambitious and huge, I expect more than just good. Part of that is that I think I'd have appreciated it a lot more had
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Fabian
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Percentage composition of previous or later works of postapocalypse (of a sort) in the DNA of R. McCammon's enormous horror epic "Swan Song":

41% The Stand novel
10% The Road novel (which is actually, in itself, like 7% Mad Max--a source which must NOT go completely ignored)
10% Blood Meridian novel (so about 60% of S.S. can be found in King & McCarthy alone)
10% Lord of the Rings (6% Two Towers battle + 4% magic ring emblem)
5% Lonesome Dove novel
5% Dawn
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Bark the Overwrought Keyboard Warrior
I read this book back when it was first published in the ‘80’s. I was still in high school, had big frizzy hair, wore too much blue eyeliner and pretty much hated my life. I spent most of my free time haunting the local Osco drug for the newest horror paperbacks to escape it all. When I saw this huge tome (900+ pages) I scurried back home with it thinking I had just hit the jackpot. And I had. It turned out to be one of the best horror novels I’d ever read and I was reading a lot back then. This ...more
Joe Valdez
The next stop in my end-of-the-world reading marathon was Robert McCammon's post-apocalyptic epic Swan Song. Published in 1987, nine years after Stephen King's The Stand, the story follows two bands of survivors -- one representing good, the other evil -- as they make their way across what used to be America while a supernatural being no less than Old Scratch himself seeks to undermine the good souls and shift the battle onto the side of evil. Yes, kids, eeriely similar to The Stand. More on that later.
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RedemptionDenied
The Kindle edition is currently on offer: £2.05p in the UK, possibly $1.99 in the States (it's showing as $2.69) - and $1.99 in Canada Considering the price it's usually going for - the current price is more than copasetic.

I bought it eons' ago, and still haven't read it, yet. I'll have to rectify that, sometime, soon. Hopefully.
Sadie Hartmann Mother Horror
So in a month and a half, I finished Swan Song.
This epic, apocalyptic story has been a part of my life, forever in the background of my mind for so many days, it will feel weird for awhile to not be continuing on in the journey-but I know that it doesn't really completely go away. Now it's a part of the framework.
I've heard a lot of people compare this book to Stephen King's The Stand.
I have no idea why, other than this is a story that is both apocalyptic and horrific. There is
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Mike (the Paladin)
Well, I approach this review with some trepidation. A large number of readers here love this book, including a "Goodreads friend" whom I usually agree with...(sorry Stephen, Stephanie, Rose). But I just didn't care for it. I found it a "poor man's The Stand". The book is full of stereotypes, cliches and tropes. There are old hackneyed ideas "guns are BAD", if you look nonthreatening your less likely to be threatened, war is evil...on and on. Some of the story telling put me in mind of the old "what wou ...more
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)

Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Every now and then, you come across a book where it seems that the complexities of life have been disassembled from reality and reformed within the pages and text. A story that, sometimes in its simplicity, captures the moving parts and varying angles of spirituality, psychology, physiology and sociology like a prism, separates them by colour, strength and depth. Then uses the differing colours to paint a kaleidoscopic tableau that opens our minds to that whi
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Lou
An epic story it made me reminisce of other epic stories with similar good versus evil characters, like those of Lord of the rings and the dark tower series.
The black Frankenstein, is what he used to be called in his wrestling days, known as Josh and the Bag lady known as Sister creep are two memorable characters that are courageous with plenty of heart. They really made the story that much more great, and obviously Swan a young girl who is a main character through the whole story. She can
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Bradley
Maybe if I'd have read this one before I had read The Stand or Lucifer's Hammer, I might have given this a full five stars, but epic length and nuclear holocaust doesn't automatically make a perfect book.

However. If you like your dystopias full of a long buildup and full cast and a slow decline into being in the evil camp versus learning you're in the good camp, then I totally recommend this book to you. It's the journey more than anything else that makes this a good read.

And then th
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I have read some 15 years ago The Stand by Stephen King. There are some parallels that could be drawn between that story and Swan Song. Both novels are dealing with the collapse of civilization following an apocalyptic event (virus infection in one case, nuclear war in the second) , both are set in the North American Midwest and follow the struggles of scattered bands of survivors. And both books feature supernatural beings as avatars of the forces of Good and Evil fighting for supremacy.
<
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Maciek
Now this was a big monster of a book. Swan Song is huge, huge like the Xbox. My copy spans 850 pages and is hard to carry around because of its size - it'll never fit into a pocket and will take significan space when deposited in a bag (why it was released by a publishing house named "Pocket Books" then?).
It's about the end of the world. Written in the 80's, when words like Cold War were used often, it's no wonder that in the novel the relationship between Soviet and American governments has d
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carol.
Feels like The Stand, only with greater amounts of mysticism and nuclear war instead of disease.

Not quite sure why McCammon needed to jump 7 years into the future. Further degeneration of societal breakdown? Need to age the lead characters? What was he thinking? If the nuclear winter lasted 7 years, I think there'd be almost no one left--there's only so much scavenging one can do for canned food and gasoline. Shelf life, people, shelf life. That jump tested my patience. Fairly believable until
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Zoeytron
'All that was is lost.' The trees are burning in Central Park. Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building - gone. Mountains of ruined debris tower over everything. Wait . . . the electric lights on the marquee at the Empire State Theatre are still merrily twinkling, the movie house itself seemingly untouched. Currently showing is the film 'Face of Death', while a lone cinema patron sits in the front row giggling manically.

Swan is a little girl with an old soul and a knack with growing
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Jen (Book Den)
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Here's the bottom line: Swan Song is one of my favorite books of all time. It stills impacts me every bit as much as the first time I read it.

Swan Song is very dark, and it's scary, but it's also one of the most beautiful and hopeful books I have ever read.

Weighing in at 956 pages, it's a huge story in every sense of the word. There are characters you will hate and fear as well as characters you will fall in love with and care about long after you've finished reading. The
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Karl
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dark_harvest-own
This is copy 252 of 650 signed numbered copies.
David
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Magical girls with magical green thumbs, Randall Flag-I mean, the Man with the Scarlet Eye
Okay, I have to say this up front; in many ways, Swan Song is a very stupid book. It's highly derivative of Stephen King's The Stand, to which everyone compares it to, for good reason, and Robert McCammon is no Stephen King.

When I say it's derivative, I don't mean I think McCammon was deliberately imitating The Stand, though I can't imagine he was unfamiliar with King's novel, and assuming he was, it's kind of amazing how many obvious similarities there are that he didn't see fit to alter a smidgen. In Sw
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Jenna
One of my trusty goodreads friend's recently recommended Robert McCammon to me and I am so grateful she did (thanks Jennifer!). I will be honest though that when I read "Boy's Life" that I zoned out at times because it seemed to become too wordy at times but I didn't find that to be an issue at all with Swan Song. Wow! Robert McCammon is truly a very talented storyteller and I was immediately wrapped up in this dystopian story of survival after a nuclear holocaust.

Most people, includ
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Latasha
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this was fantastic! I listened to this for a buddy read. I never would've picked this book out myself. I'm not really into the apocalyptic scene. but I'm sure glad I joined them! it's so intense through most of the book.

listened to this again in 2017 and loved it just as much this time as I did the first time.
Randy
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I came close to liking this. Look, the dialog is...awful. There are weird factual errors. For example, wolf packs roaming the I80 corridor near Hazleton Pennsylvania. I live here. I can tell you...not even close. But I have a bigger problem with this text.

Okay, so here we have a writer that takes Chekhov's 'Loaded Gun' postulate, tears it out with his teeth, rips it up, craps on it, then puts it in a burning paper bag, drops it on your porch, knocks on the door and runs away. What do
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Emma
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalypse
Talk about 'condemned by faint praise'! This book was okay. It was too long and too predictable.
I enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book but when I realised the author really was going to go for the saccharine ending, the wind was taken out of my sails.. Until then my only real niggling doubt had been the plausibility of some of the story line. Would there really still be so much canned food and fizzy drink lying around after 7 years? Would they really still have gas left for their vehicles? W
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Kandice
I enjoyed this, and I feel almost bad giving it three stars instead of two, but there were a few things that bugged me enough that I just had to. There has been a nuclear holocaust (seems to be the theme of my reading lately) and we see the aftermath through the eyes of what eventually become two main groups. Simply put, the good guys and the bad guys.

Almost every review I've seen compares this to The Stand by Stephen King and there's a good reason for that. In The Stand it's a disease that b
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Efka
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seems like everyone, who have read „Swan song“ had compared this book with Stephen King‘s „The Stand“ and has an opinion that it was either much better, or much much worse than the illustrious bestseller by „The master of horror“. I might be a bit unpopular here, but I didn‘t find that much of a difference in quality. True, I still think that „The Stand“ is a better book, but that doesn‘t automatically mean that „Swan song“ is bad – it's just different. Of course, these two are also quite different book ...more
Jennifer
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was far more engaging than The Stand and better written. That is my opinion. I was engaged from the first chapter. I might have cried a little at the end of the book. My heart was in my throat at the beginning of the novel with the vivid description of a nuclear holocaust. There is no war, it is just the end of everything. The various stories of survival of our characters, "good and "bad", kept me reading. It touched my claustrophobia in a way that I had to stop reading for a few minutes he ...more
Evans Light
Okay, I made it! Finished SWAN SONG tonight.

If reading anything negative about this book would make your head explode, then stop reading now. You've been warned. Just my opinion, and I'm entitled to it.

Overall, I would say this book was only about a 3 and a half star read for me. I can definitely see why so many people love it, and I imagine it would have been a hell of a lot better for me personally had I read this back in the late eighties as a teenager when the cold wa
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3,379 followers
Robert Rick McCammon was a full-time horror writer for many years. Among his many popular novels were the classics Boy's Life and Swan Song. After taking a hiatus for his family, he returned to writing with an interest in historical fiction.

The sixth book in his Matthew Corbett historical fiction series, Freedom of the Mask, was published in May 2016.

His next novel, a standalone book called The
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“Once upon a time, man had a love affair with fire.” 71 likes
“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.” 44 likes
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