Jason's Reviews > Swan Song

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
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Jan 14, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-2012, e-books
Read from April 22 to 27, 2012

5 stars

Well, after decades in my queue,I finally did it, I read Swan Song, the massive classic post-apocalyptic tale from Robert McCammon. This is one incredible journey and adventure for us to share with a bunch of wonderfully realized fictional characters. McCammon does not hold back from laying blame for the destruction of the world on us, on our society, on the time periods Cold-War. He passes judgment on people, on cultures, and on countries as a whole, and taken in context, it added to the overall devastation and destruction. Swan Song is a very long novel, but not once during the read did I feel it. I was never bored, never looking for an ending, and I was immersed in their world every time I powered on my Kindle.

This is not a zombie book! It is however a book about immense loss, about a world undone, and about a race that is on the border of extinction…

“Around her were the crushed hulks of cars, taxis and trucks, some of them melted together to form strange sculptures of metal. The tires on some of the vehicles were still smoking, while others had dissolved into black puddles. Gaping fissures had burst open in the pavement, some of them five and six feet wide; through many of the cracks came gouts of steam or water like gushing geysers. She looked around, dazed and uncomprehending, her eyes slitted against the gritty wind. In some places the earth had collapsed, and in others there were mountains of rubble, miniature Everests of metal, stone and glass. Between them the wind shrieked and turned, spun and rose around the fragments of buildings, many of which had been shaken apart right to their steel skeletons, which in turn were warped and bent like licorice sticks. Curtains of dense smoke from burning buildings and heaps of debris flapped before the rushing wind, and lightning streaked to earth from the black heart of roiling, immense clouds. She couldn’t see the sun, couldn’t even tell where it lay in the turbulent sky. She looked for the Empire State Building, but there were no more skyscrapers; all the buildings she could see had been sheared off, though she couldn’t tell if the Empire State was still standing or not because of the smoke and dust. It was not Manhattan anymore, but a ravaged junkyard of rubble mountains and smoke-filled ravines.”
Like most other McCammon novels this book shines by showcasing its wonderful protagonists, and spot lighting just how bad our antagonists can be. The characters have wonderful names. The names of the towns visited and featured all seem to signify something more. There is a great deal that is mentioned by McCammon’s writing by not putting it into written word at all. Symbolism, deep meaning, and heavy subjects are strewn through this novel. The characters even come out and talk about such things:

““It made me think about sand,” Sister told him. “That sand is about the most worthless stuff in the world, yet look what sand can become in the right hands.” She ran her fingers over the velvet surface of the glass. “Even the most worthless thing in the world can be beautiful,” she said. “It just takes the right touch. But seeing this beautiful thing, and holding it in my hands, made me think I wasn’t so worthless, either. It made me want to get up off my ass and live. I used to be crazy, but after I found this thing… I wasn’t so crazy anymore. Maybe part of me’s still crazy, I don’t know; but I want to believe that all the beauty in the world isn’t dead yet. I want to believe that beauty can be saved.””

Even though a great deal of controversial topics are featured and even made into a focus, they are never done in a “down your throat” type of manner. Religion, the Cold War, Race, Class, Sex, and more are all made objects of this story but never really overdone. McCammon walked quite a few fine lines adeptly and never left us feeling offended or put out. His characters all followed the straight line where the good guys were really good, and the bad guys really bad. My only real disappointment in character development was that I felt that I was given more backstory and personality traits of our antagonist Macklin, then we were our wonderful giant hero in Josh(Black Frankenstein).

The magic in this book is done with a subtle touch and never left me feeling like saying “Oh come on!” Swan and Sister had equal roles with magic and I loved the way that it slowly unfolded throughout this long story.

“Was Mr. Moody right?” Swan asked.
“Right about what?”
“He said that if I could wake up one tree, I could start orchards and crop fields growing again. He said… I’ve got the power of life inside me. Was he right?”
Josh didn’t answer. He recalled something else Sly Moody had said: “Mister, that Swan could wake the whole land up again!”

“I was always good at growing plants and flowers,” Swan continued. “When I wanted a sick plant to get better, I worked the dirt with my hands, and more often than not the brown leaves fell off and grew back green. But I’ve never tried to heal a tree before. I mean… it was one thing to grow a garden, but trees take care of themselves.” She angled her head so she could see Josh. “What if I could grow the orchards and crops back again? What if Mr. Moody was right, and there’s something in me that could wake things up and start them growing?””

Many reviewers over the years have written about the parallels of Swan Song and Stephen King’s The Stand, although I agree with many of them, I will not go into them here. I will however mention that this book made me think about my long adventure of The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker. Sure, Black, Red, and White are not your traditional post-apocalyptic books, but they are damn close to being them. The huge common thread is the spiritual one, the religious one, and the meaning of being human. It is done so much more gently in the Swan Song than in aforementioned trilogy, but to me, it is equally important and thematic.

Many parts of this book moved me. I will never forget the scene when Swan comes off the front porch to be reunited with Josh. I loved Macklin’s internal dialogue and his conversations with the shadow soldier. Sister has a huge and unforgettable personality. Let us all never forget that Nuclear Missiles are bad, and apples and corn are good.

On final note, I did hate the final chapters of this novel. A disgustingly morose story, and deadly journey in this adult oriented work, should never have had such a perfect fairy tale ending, complete with the words “Once Upon a Time.”


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03/08/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Bob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob Milne Great book. I read it just after the original edition of the The Stand, but before reading the The Complete & Uncut Edition. Definitely ranks up near the top of my post-apocalyptic reads.


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