As a friend told me when I was trying to explain to her my fascination with this novel, she told me I was biased. And I guess I am biased because I’ve been reading Stephen King since I’ve been in the sixth grade starting with IT and then Gerald’s Game. In retrospect, I really shouldn’t have been reading those books when I was so young, almost twenty years ago mind you, but there it is. I am a fan of everything King has written. I’m not his #1 fan (Misery reference) but I’m close.
Having said that, the novel I’m now reviewing is one of my favorite of Kings. If I had to rank it among his other work, because everyone ranks everything these days, I’d have to rank it in my top ten King novels.
The novel centers around a police investigation into the brutal murder of a young male child. For those of literary weak stomached this might not be for you. In the early part of the first section there are police transcripts of the dialogue between the investigators and the eye witnesses. Each claim that the murder suspect was the one they spotted leaving or going to the scene of the crime. Then there is the forensic evidence that all points to that very same murder suspect. The problem is that once arrested, the suspect provides an iron clad alibi for his whereabouts that day, in particular to the time of the abduction and murder of the young boy. This, of course, is where King takes the readers on a different tangent where what the character’s faith in modern science is challenged by the supernatural force that is The Outsider.
There are just a few aspects of the novel that I would like to touch on. The first is the detail that King is famous for, and sometimes harshly criticized. The detail that King employs in this novel is necessary to paint a vivid picture for the readers. The brutally of the crime at the beginning, while grotesque and horrifically detailed, only serves to show what kind of monster the police believe the suspect to be. From that point on, there are moments that King has created such a clear picture in my head that I had to shut the book for a moment and watch a happy video on YouTube.
Another aspect of the novel I enjoyed were the character development throughout the novel. One of the main characters, Ralph Anderson, is such a set in his way type of detective that he couldn’t believe in the idea of the Outsider right up to the point of encountering the being. His world, universal, view on what is and what is not is constantly challenged and you see that change Ralph. Each character ranging from the minor characters all the way to the major characters are fleshed out to a degree that I felt empathy for the characters when they suffered and occasionally died.
King is never one to shy away from killing his darlings and when characters do bite the bullet, it’s always a surprise. Some of the deaths were such a shock that I had to cue up those happy YouTube videos again.
The last thing I’d like to touch on what I really liked about the novel was the surprise entrance of a character from one of King’s other novels. King typically involves characters, symbols, plots, and other aspects of his other novels. This one though was so major that I laughed out loud when I realized who he was crossing over into this tale. The crossover fit so naturally and so smoothly that King might as well of added a sub title for The Outsider with the title of the cross over character’s book but add a .5 at the end. I wouldn’t deprive what character or book(s) that King crossed over because that would ruin the surprise and joy the reader would get when he/she reaches that particular moment.
If I had to be critical of King for one thing in the novel, it would be that it was heavily influenced by Brian Stoker’s Dracula. Whether King intentionally planned it that way or not, the plot is essentially the same, modernity verse supernatural theme is present in both, and the use of letters in Dracula and the use of police witness interrogation transcripts in The Outsider is also similar. The vampire is even mentioned by name in King’s work. When friends ask what I thought of the book I call it the modern day Dracula. Now having said this, it is both a good and a bad thing towards the book. That’s all I’ll say on that.
Overall, the book is a must buy for both King fans and fans of horror. Or really for those that like a good supernatural who done it mystery novel. Kindle price is a bit high in my opinion which caused me to purchase the book in hardback at Walmart for about the same price. Believe me though, it’s worth the price tag. If you read one book during the summer, I’d suggest this book over any other. Just make sure that you have something handy to defend yourself when you open your front door and find a doppelgänger of yourself.
Have you read King’s new novel? What did you think of it? What do you think of King in general? Leave a comment below and make sure to share with all your King friends!