Released exactly a week ago, The Outsider is a horror novel by one of my favourite authors; Stephen King! The year has been really busy for me and I haven’t really found a way to incorporate leisure reading into my new routine. However, the release of this book popped up on my Flipboard feed and right there, I decided it would be my first book review this year. If you read my Book and Movie Review: IT, you’ll know I’m intrigued by Stephen King and I live for a good scare.
Now let’s dive in. I didn’t read any synopsis of this book and had no idea what to expect, so you can imagine my terror when, right there in the first chapter, I arrived at the crime scene to find that the victim was a child, a teenage boy, assaulted, mauled and sodomized with a whole damn tree branch?! In the words of the author, which were repeated often enough throughout this book, “…He was on his stomach and the branch was sticking out of his bottom…”. I had to do a double take. What in God’s name did I just read?
Danger and fragile innocence goes very well, if you are trying to scare the audience. But gruesome sexual violence against children, that takes things to a whole new level. I came back to my initial conclusion that for Stephen to think this up, he is creative in a very… disturbing way.
An investigation begins and the hunt for the killer is on. Eye-witnesses say it was Terence Maitland; the Little League Coach. Everyone knows Coach T and they saw him help red-haired Frank Peterson with his bicycle just before he was found dead. Coach T is also seen in a very bloody shirt asking for directions and claiming to have a serious nose-bleed. Finger prints and blood tests confirm that Coach Terry is our killer. But Coach Terry says he was out of town for a Conference at the time of the murder and there’s video and physical evidence that proves this. He swears his innocence with his dying breath.
The question becomes: How can one man be in 2 places at the same time?
This book is fast-paced and unsettling, hard to get off your mind even after you put it down. Took me only 3 days to read it, all 576 pages. Comparatively, it’s not a big book.
This book is not as entertaining as it is disturbing. It is creepy in its insight at our willingness to believe the worst about people we know. Majority of us carry around this presumption of guilt even when official investigations on a case haven’t been concluded. We make assumptions to fill in the parts we can’t understand, and force the story to be told even when we know that we are ignoring crucial facts that invalidate our perspective.
I feel like this book might be particularly disturbing for parents, who have to worry about the people who their kids must interact with on a daily basis. “Don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t cut it anymore. The criminals are often people children already know and trust. Being aware that there are dangers in this world and you really can’t protect kids all the time, makes this book very unnerving.
Finally, It brings up a lot of personal questions with respect to the power of identity its theft. What if there is another you out there? A doppelganger? Can he or she waltz in and ruin your life? It also has you questioning our belief in physical evidence, our dependence on forensics, our limiting standards of facts, and what Reality is. Is something considered “REAL” only if it can be proven? Is it possible that there are some realities that exist but we don’t the ability to prove then yet? Does this make them any less real?
Regardless, I really liked the connection the author made between the Mr. Mercedes series and Detective Bill Hodges. If you haven’t read Mr. Mercedes, it’s about a guy who drives right in to a large group of unemployed people waiting outside a company with hopes of getting work, crushing and killing many, while injuring others. I think a baby was killed…or something like that. But that’s another story entirely.
The Outsider is a great story with brilliant twists and turns and is eventually quite enjoyable. I hope it gets adopted as a movie like IT but I think a mini-series will do better by the book. If you’ve got the time and stomach, I certainly recommend you read it.
Have you read The Outsider by Stephen King? Let me know what you think in the comments!
As always, thank you for reading!
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