The Outsiderby Published 22 May 2018
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton|
From #1 New York Times bestseller Stephen King, whose brand has never been stronger, comes one of his most propulsive and unsettling stories ever.
An eleven-year-old boy is found in a town park, hideously assaulted and murdered. The fingerprints (and later DNA) are unmistakably those of the town’s most popular baseball coach, Terry Maitland, a man of impeccable reputation, with a wife and two daughters. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland coached, orders an immediate and public arrest. Maitland is taken to jail, his claim to innocence scorned. Maitland has a foolproof alibi, with footage to prove that he was in another city when the crime was committed. But that doesn't save him either.
King constructs a propulsive plot, and a race against time to uncover the identity of a terrifying and diabolical killer who has left victims—and “perpetrators”—across the country, and who is on his way to his next horrific act.
King’s psychological suspense is at its most riveting in this extraordinarily dramatic and eerie story. He is devastatingly vivid on the experience of being falsely blamed—the effect on the accused, the spouse, the children; the suspicion of friends, even the most loyal; the impossibility of ever being innocent again (if you are lucky enough to live). He is also masterful at showing us that supernatural monsters are startlingly like human beings who do monstrous things.
"The Outsider" Reviews
Absolutely loved THE OUTSIDER by @StephenKing - Murder, baseball, and gut-wrenching suspense. This is classic King at his best.
Here there be spoilers. I know this review is marked with a spoiler tag, but one can never be too careful. If you’ve yet to finish The Outsider, turn back now.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This novel should not have worked. At least, it should not have worked when written by modern-day Stephen King. Don’t get me wrong; I am as big a King fan as they come, but even I must admit he has been on a bit of a losing streak lately. The back half of the Hodges trilogy was wonky and unfocused; Sleeping Beauties, the collaboration with his younger son Owen, was a slog, and I couldn’t even finish it. So when I read the synopsis of this book — a young boy is brutally murdered in a small town, and a local baseball coach is the main suspect — I shrugged. I didn’t think it sounded bad, just . . . ho-hum. When compared to books like Pet Sematary or 11/22/63, the concept didn’t seem to measure up.
I was wrong, though, of course. Didn’t you see my rating? This book gets a perfect score, from me.
One of my favorite things about this book is the change of setting from Maine (or the nondescript midwestern city that served as the backdrop for the Hodges trilogy) to Flint City (a subtle nod to the Flint, Michigan water crisis? perhaps), Oklahoma. And by the time this long novel winds its way to the climax, the reader has been transported to southern Texas for a dusty, country showdown that recalls the best moments of Desperation. This changing of scenery causes King’s creative juices to really flow, and there is a certain freshness to the narrative and characters. Though a ingredients, flavorings if you will, from past works are present, this is a wholly unique work in the King oeuvre.
A few things I want to discuss:
This novel contains some of King’s ballsiest writing, period. Terry Maitland, the baseball coach accused of murder and rape, is known to everyone in the small town and is looked upon as a local hero, friend — until his public arrest, that is. The evidence against him is just too strong (as is the evidence proving his innocence). King builds his character up as a sort of martyr, taking time to fully flesh him out and make the reader care about him, ache for him — only to kill him a little less than halfway in. Until that point, Terry is (to this reader’s mind) the main character, and I thought he would come out the hero. No. He is killed in a pretty bad way; in fact, his execution is King’s prose at its most cinematic and popping. My mouth fell open; I don’t think King has ever done that before, killing the main character off partway through a book. The old boy still has tricks up his sleeve.
I also want to mention the Outsider itself. As an antagonist, he is delightfully Kingish: a supernatural creature that can read minds (at least partially), take the form of people, feeds on sorrow and fear. King utilizes this monster splendidly, not using it too much or too little; a few scenes involving it genuinely terrified me.
But is it more than a simple monster? Maybe; maybe not. One glance at King’s Twitter feed shows that one of his major concerns is politics, and that much is evident in past works such as Hearts in Atlantis. I can’t help but wonder if the Outsider is an allegory for Donald Trump: a manipulative “outsider” that wrecks a small town (Flint — though, of course, the water crisis began under Obama, but I digress) and manipulates people, turning them against one another. In that way, this novel bears a striking resemblance to Needful Things, the villain of which was a stand-in for Ronald Reagan.
I am thoroughly pleased with this novel. It is the one I have been wanting since Revival. By combining the crime drama of the Hodges trilogy with the supernatural horror of his best 1980s work, Stephen King has created a total winner — one that is sure to be on many a “best of the year” list in December.
For me it looks like something between The Green Mile and Mr. Mercedes, but I'm not sure what to expect yet. I only know that I'll read it the minute it's out there!
This book is so creepy. Like, relentlessly creepy. And if you thought (like I did) that he couldn't top Brady from the Mr. Mercedes series...well, we both had no idea this was coming down the pike.
On a related note, I was happy to see the connections to Mr. Mercedes (yes, I'm keeping this vague, because we learn some things and I don't want to spoil anything) but I also very much enjoyed all the new characters. I hope we spend more time in this universe.
This is honestly one of the most disturbing books I've read in ages. It's deeply unsettling and got under my skin in a way that doesn't happen that often. I'm not sure how parents would do (a lot of bad things happen to children) but it was hard enough for me. Be aware of that going in. (And consider for a second how bad a content warning in front of a Stephen King novel would be, because generally speaking, it'd be understood, right?)
At any rate, if you can brave it, this is an incredibly enjoyable (and scary) experience. Highly recommended.