Later by Stephen King – A Book Review

I erroneously declared years ago that Stephen King’s best fiction writing days were behind him. As with Elevation, he continues to prove me wrong.

I thoroughly enjoyed Later for a few very simple reasons. First, it’s a short, concise, fast read. Second, it sticks to a main plot and does not deviate at all. Third, it’s a flat-out good story.

When you first start reading Later, you’ll be a little concerned that you’ve already experienced this story. It’s about a child who sees dead people. Of course, nobody has their finger on pop culture’s pulse more so than Stephen King and he references The Sixth Sense very quickly in Later. He is fully aware this premise has already been explored. However, because this book is part of the Hard Case Crime imprint, it tries to focus mostly on a crime element.

The main character is a young boy named Jamie who is recruited by his mom’s cop-friend, Liz, to help stop a mad bomber from killing hundreds. Why bring in the boy, you ask? Because the mad bomber is dead but the bomb is still set to go off. At that point, Stephen King can’t help himself and the already supernatural premise becomes more about seeing dead people than crime, but that’s okay. He could have published this book separate from the Hard Case Crime imprint, it’s not necessarily reliant on a crime or a hard-boiled mystery, but it works just fine as it is. I’m certainly not complaining!

Well, on that note, I do have one small complaint. It’s briefly mentioned early on that Jamie doesn’t know who is father is–it was something of a throw-away line. King’s only narrative detour arrives when he tosses in a monkey-wrench at the very end regarding that father. For me, it proved really distracting and detracted from the overall story. I would have left it out and leave well enough alone, but I’m obviously not King’s editor.

Overall, though, I truly loved reading this book. Short fiction Stephen King is a powerhouse–all that imagination packed into a tiny container. It’s honestly so much fun. If you’re a King fan, Later is top-notch King. If you’ve never read King (which is unlikely, I know), Later would be a wonderful first experience. The narrative voice is on point, the story is interesting, the pace is perfect, and it’s just creepy enough without scaring the pudding out of you.

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King – A Book Review

This is a 178-page piece of pulp fiction written by arguably one of the greatest writers in American history.  Say what you will about Stephen King, you must admit he is a master at his craft.  That being said, when I finished this book and read his afterward (always a highlight of his books, in my opinion), he said that most people would either love this book or hate this book, with virtually no one taking the middle ground.

I’m one of those middle grounders.

This book was written for the Hard Case Crime imprint, a publisher dedicated to writing little paperback mystery/crime books that hearken back to the old days.  There was a crime, yes; there were a great many clues to the crime, yes.  However, this book focused more on three characters who happen to be interested in the crime than in the actual crime itself. 

Now, ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me in a King book at all.  After all, King is a genius when it comes to characterization.  I will always maintain that his Roland of Gilead is one of the most interesting characters created . . . ever.  But, for an imprint called Hard Case Crime, I was expecting more noir and less conversation about the crime.  And those characters he spotlights, while very charismatic, still seemed to be missing something to make them completely dynamic.  The dialogue felt a bit too easy, and the characters a bit too obvious.  I still loved them, nonetheless, but not as much as other King characters.

As always, his setting is expertly rendered, giving you just enough to see the water, smell the air, feel the chilly breeze, taste the fish and chips, and hear the voices.  Less is more, and King has a firm grasp of this notion.

All in all, this was an entertaining read.  Most of you folks could probably finish it in a day or two, and you’ll keep turning page after page.  But, I think King is right, by the end of the book, you will either love it or hate it.  Unless you’re like me, and see little things you both love and hate, appreciating the good and the bad.  After all, few of us could ever entertain the notion of doing better than Stephen King at writing.