This is going to be a short one because I don’t have much to say about it. I didn’t hate it, so I don’t want to spoil it. But I didn’t love it, either, so there isn’t much to gush about. Shorter version of a short review: if you like whisper-subtle horror that leads to a truly bizarre climax, absolutely read this book. If you like Stephen King in general, consider picking this one up.
The novel opens with an idyllic scene from a small town on the eastern edge of America. It’s Stephen King, though, and that goes without saying. A six year old boy (Jamie, our main character) meets the town’s new preacher, a young man named Charles Jacobs. We are also introduced to Jacobs’ beautiful wife and young son. Red flags for days. It’s not a spoiler to tell you they die, it basically tells you as much on the back flap of the book. And, obviously, right? It’s at that point that Jacobs abandons his faith and tells the town (from the pulpit, no less) that they’re fools to believe in God.
What follows is a brutally real recounting of Jamie’s life after Jacobs leaves town. He joins a band, finds drugs, joins a different band, gets addicted, gets ousted from yet another band, and finds himself homeless. He stumbles through a carnival looking to score heroin and runs into Jacobs instead. The former preacher is running some kind of magic show there. He tells Jamie he can cure his addiction with electricity.
And that’s about all I’m willing to say. It gets pretty twisty from there. It doesn’t, however, get scary. I’ve always adored Stephen King and I don’t begrudge him expanding his craft. Murder mysteries and experimental fiction are all worthy endeavors. I even like them, most of the time. But when I saw the cover, and read the short reviews, I expected old style Stephen King. Or even his more recent oppressively creepy work that doesn’t deliver scares but more the feeling that nothing will ever be all right again.
Read this book for Stephen King’s impressive style and unique voice. Or for the story of two men whose lives become perpetually intertwined because of one good deed. But if you want to be scared, pick up something by King’s son, Joe Hill. I’m reading 20th Century Ghosts right now and it’s damn terrifying.