Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Later by Stephen King

Title: Later
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 512
ISBN: 9781789096491
Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Published: 2 March 2021
Genre: Horror / Crime
Source: Library

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine - as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

It's been ages since a book kept me up reading long past midnight. Later, the latest novel by Stephen King managed to do just that. It sucked me right in and I lost all track of time while in the grip of the brilliantly crafted narrative. I kept putting off going to sleep. Just one more chapter. Just one more page. I'll sleep later. When I finally came to my senses it was 2AM and I had 3 hours left before I had to go to work. I guess you'd expect nothing less from Stephen King.

Later follows the story of Jamie Conklin a teenage boy gifted with a supernatural ability. As he slowly comes to grips with his ability he is drawn into the harsh reality of the world. A world filled with crime and malice, and those that would use him, and what he can do for their own ends. It's a story about facing your demons in whichever form they may come.

Stephen King excels at capturing the innocence of youth and the transformation which occurs when that childhood innocence is lost forever. I adored Jamie and his story, and I was captivated until the very end. Constant readers will be happy with all the small easter eggs and references to the greater King universe. 

At its core this is a horror story, but it's a far more subtle variety of horror than most of King's other works. The supernatural twist he brings to crime works very well and makes for compelling reading. The ending is satisfying and open-ended enough to hint at some marvelous future possibilities.

"You get used to marvelous things. You take them for granted. You can try not to, but you do. There’s too much wonder, that’s all. It’s everywhere."

There is one thing that I'm ambivalent about. Near the end there is a revelation about a familial connection where Jamie's father is revealed. This felt unnecessary and didn't add to the story, in fact I felt it actually detracted from it. The story might have been better if this was left out, but it does serve to challenge our preconceptions.

Jamie Conklin has cemented himself firmly into my pantheon of favourite Stephen King characters. I hope we see much more of him, hopefully much sooner than later!

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