The Outsider by Stephen King

Mr. King you made a frankenstein, and I don’t mean it as a complement.

Genre: horror
⭐️ Stars from Goodreads: 4.2
⭐️ Stars from me: 3

Dear Mr.King,

Who can I suggest your book to? Shall I say it’s for those who love detective stories and for those who love horrors, but these two groups should read different parts of the book, then meet in the middle, hug each other and have dinner?

I understand it is my fault that I expected Miss Marple from a book that said “Stephen King” on its cover. Only, the book danced along the classic lines of a nicely knit detective story, for the most part of it. Like a naive idiot I was piling up evidence, reading between lines and suspecting all characters at once. Then, suddenly, Miss Marple started growing horns, a scaly tail and whatever other attributes that are usually ascribed to creatures from the netherworld. Just for the record, it’s a metaphor.

For the remaining part of the book I was sent on the unbelievable trip of star watching. That is, I was watching stars falling from the rating I was initially ready to give to The Outsider. There were originally four solid stars, then three and a half, then I had to battle with myself to keep at least three. I have no problems with horrors, but I object to being ambushed by a scaly Miss Marple while I was unsuspectingly picking up clues to solve a crime with her. Do you see what I mean? It would be the same if I gave you a bowl of ice-cream scoops with a spoonful of aspic hidden beneath. Why would I do such a thing? I would have to be either a prankster, or a sadist or a chef with two unmatchable dishes and with an urgent need to get rid of them. Is that what happened to your book?

What I enjoyed was the swarm of characters interacting. They just can’t shut up, can they? I don’t know what black magic you use to keep the creatures locked within the pages, but on those pages they definitely acquire minds of their own. I’m sure those are living beings, I cannot imagine a person being able to create such intricate dialogues, even if the person is Stephen King. There was absolutely no use in those characters explaining the story lines to each other, but I couldn’t stop watching them do this. They gave zero interest to the fact that I just learned what had happened, they needed to recite the story to each other again! Completely unnecessary for the plot line, but what an art of a dialogue!

Mr. King, it’s a bit awkward that one of your characters is trying to remember if John Lennon was already dead when she was younger. It’s not even important how many years younger. She’s somewhat my age, and I saw John Lennon only in black-and-white as he was long dead before I was born.

The desynchronization between what the main character Ralph does and what you say about him is quite uncomfortable. He behaves like a narrow-minded bully, who doesn’t let in any other version of events but his, no matter the amount of evidence that he might be wrong, and yet you call him “a person of two minds” who at one moment even “wants to believe, but can’t”. Nothing in Ralph’s behavior or words suggests he wants to believe any other opinion but his own! On the contrary, whenever Ralph gets the microphone back he restates that to him there’s still no other truth but his. This kind of literary gaslighting is disturbing.

I found another moment quite unexpected. It’s a very old trick to use a clichéd scene and then to refer to it as clichéd in the attempt to rinse the cliché off the scene. When people hold hands and run from bullets “like a group of friends in some romantic movie”, when a person helps his abuser back to his feet, “like in a Bible story”, those are clichés and the attempts to cover them up. When cliché is played around as a conscious move, it can sound forgivable to many. It is still a cliché, though, and the move is a cosmetic repair to the scene.

I also have a question to Will Patton, the narrator of the audiobook. That’s the question I started googling even before I finished the book. What the HECK is wrong with Holly? I now discovered that she’s a character from other series, so is there something that happened to her that made her sound like that? Honestly, part of the time I was sure the plot twist would be that she’s a robot. Why does she speak with a voice of an old Apple computer? “I…might! have? sooome neeeeew information? for! you…” I got so exhausted hearing these schizophrenic jumps in timbre, I nearly dropped the book. Holly’s deformity is even more surprising taking into account that other voices are made so perfectly, the performance felt like a radio play! I loved knowing who the following action would be about because the voice would already change into the character’s accent and mannerisms even before the character himself went on stage. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Will Patton was once called a Narrator of the Year.

Overall, after finishing the book, I felt like those fans of Lost TV show who patiently waited for the finale to get all answers only to find out that nobody cared enough to give them any, and the main purpose of the series, all along, was just to keep the audience glued to the story while it lasted. The Outsider is not that dissatisfying, but it came close.

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