Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Review: Later

Later Later by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A young boy sees dead people. No, not THAT young boy, and Bruce Willis is not involved.

Jamie Conklin seems like an ordinary kid being raised by his single mother in New York during the late ‘00s, but Jamie has the gift/curse of being able to see and communicate with people who died recently. While it causes him to sometimes see the grisly aftermath of somebody’s demise, it also allows him to do things like help a grieving neighbor whose wife just died learn where she had left her wedding ring. Jamie’s mother has wisely told him not to talk about his ability, but when she desperately needs to talk to a dead man, Jamie is pressed into service. Unfortunately, Jamie’s mom also tells her girlfriend, a cop who doesn’t do things by the book, and when she gets into trouble on the job she wants Jamie’s help and won’t take no for an answer.

Like the other times that Uncle Stevie has done a book for Hard Case Crime, this has a supernatural element and isn’t the kind of straight up hard boiled story they usually do. I also didn’t care much for King’s other recent books where he’s tried to blend thrillers with horror which left me fully prepared to dislike this one. So I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it.

For one thing, it is not The Sixth Sense rip-off that a quick plot summary makes it sound like, and King blends the supernatural with a crime story more naturally than he has in other things. It helps that it’s short, especially by Uncle Stevie standards, at less than 300 pages. Things move along at a brisk pace, and that makes it a solid page turner. He just had a cool idea for a story and banged it out with no padding to it at all.

I was also pleased that King did such a nice job at writing it from Jamie’s point of view. It seems like he’s really struggled to write younger lead characters these days, and his protagonists who are supposed to be in their 30s or 40s often come across as elderly people. Writing kids is something King used to do really well, and it was nice to see that he still has that touch.

This is one of those times that I really wish Goodreads let us do half stars because this would be the perfect example of a 3.5 for. Pretty good, a lot of fun, and well worth a look, but not quite great enough for a full 4. Overall, it was a nice reminder of the old Uncle Stevie magic even if it’s not going to make anyone forget about The Shining.

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