Later by Stephen King
The book I’d like to talk about is the latest Stephen King novel I’ve read so far, “Later”. I read the book in January. And I had hoped to write the review in January… but it came out later.
Six-year-old Jamie realizes that he has the unique ability to see recently deceased people. But when some adults learn about this ability, they, of course, try to use it for their own purposes. And these purposes, of course, are not always good.
The first thing I’d like to start with is the structure of the novel. I’ll be honest: when I found out that “Later” was going to be a three-hundred-page novel, I thought: is this really a novel or was King writing another novella and just got carried away? And after reading the book, I have to state the fact that in my personal opinion “Later” is a novella. Moreover – quite linear, without a pronounced antagonist, without any significant plot branches.
The back story takes a huge number of pages, and the ending – rather dragged by the ears. I remember once reading King’s interview about the book “The Stand”. He said at the time that he was at a dead end with the plot, so he decided just to kill half the characters with the explosives. In “Later” something similar happens. About halfway through the book, when the plot starts to get frankly bogged down, King use the same thing again and again. And he does it in some unrealistically large quantities.
This is where the book’s shortcomings end.
King is King, so we are in for an interesting, unfolding through the lens of a 6-year-old boy’s perception of the characters, which is given a huge amount of time. However, it’s hard not to experience deja vu. The boy who sees the dead, the abusive alcoholic parent (here is was split in two persons), and the mentor uncle. Remind you of anything? “The Shining” for example…
Genre and Story
As for the genre – can’t say it’s a straightforward horror. It’s more of a mystery. And even then – it’s more a story about people, their vices and virtues in a mystical wrapper. Yes, in some places there are a few well-written creepy episodes. But there was only several ones. The book, like all of King’s novellas(yes I said novella), is more about American life, about how ordinary and not so ordinary Americans survived crises, both public and personal.
Well King is still King in the way he writes and presents the story. It reads very easily and interestingly, so that you can quite safely close your eyes to the frank minuses.
It was nice that King once again mocks the narrative, as he once did in Sleeping Beauties. Here a lesbian woman can be a corrupt cop with a drug addiction. You won’t see that on Netflix.
The final twist, however, has little to do with the story. More accurately, I wouldn’t say that the question that King gives the answer to on the final page was raised in any strong and loud way. Because of that, there’s no sense that you’ve solved any mystery in the finale.
If we would talk about an idea – here King does not cheat himself. Once again, the universe is infinite and the world is not black and white. A gift is a curse. A curse is a gift. An enemy can be a helper and a helper can be an enemy. And then there is fear. Fear of the unknown. And this fear will not dissapear. Never. But most importantly, there is later. That time when we will understand something very important. Something we didn’t understand before. Something we don’t understand now. Something we will understand later.
Instead of the summary
I’d like to answer the question: is “Later” really good old King? I hate to break it to you – but no. It’s not. “Later” is much closer to “Joyland” than “Carrie” or “Cujo.” But does that make this book bad? To me, it certainly doesn’t.