Book review – Stephen King “The Outsider”
Danish release: October 26th 2018
Originally released May 22nd 2018
The memory foam underneath my body seemed to get uncomfortably warm. Absentmindedly I kicked off the duvet, as I turned a page in the book. From the night lamp behind me, the shape of my head lingered across half the book, that was mildly shaking. My hand, that held it, was getting tired. I should shift hands, but my eyes kept running across the lines and words of the crispy white pages. Just this chapter, and I will shift. I realized that I was almost holding my breath and closed my eyes for a bit to get my lungs back up to speed. As I opened them again, it dawned on me that the book was covering the view to the open door to the hall way. The hall way was dark, as always at night. Suddenly I felt a need to lower the book, so I could see the door and the first few feet of the hall way. I hesitated. Not a lot, but long enough to open my mind to the idea, that someone would be standing there.
No one did.
I smiled a little, felt my eyebrow go up in a slightly selfmocking way. Took a breath and let the words travel inside my brain again, where they created the most magnificent and yet unnerving images. When I read or think, my visual way of thinking allows me to see a movie instead. It takes me in and swallows me completely. I forget the time, the tasks ahead or simply don’t hear the phone ring. It quite the gift when I’m reading, painting or trying to understand something – not so much when people are telling me embarressing hang-over stories of vomitting and shitting themselves. My mind – sadly – does not discriminate.
What was that?
I turned my head to check. In the corner of my eye it seemed like something dark passed by really fast. I held my breath. My eyes wandered across the closet, the carpet and the plastic box of beauty products that I had not yet sorted. Nothing was there. Everything was quiet.
I looked at the windows. The reflection of the bedroom ceiling and the top of the closet created a ghostly front layer to the dark waving shadow of the tree outside. Could someone be sitting in that tree? I suddenly felt watched and as I tried to shake it off by getting up, to get to the kitchen for some water, I for a second anticipated the feeling of sweaty fingers around my ankles, coming out from under the bed. Inadvertently, for a seond, I caught myself raising my arm, fist clenched, ready to strike.
Nothing happened. After having soothed my throat with water and gotten back into bed, I looked at the open book beside me, next to the pillow. I wanted to finish the last 250 pages. But my imagination, on the other hand, was starting to play tricks on me.
This was a bad idea. No more horror stories past midnight! Not even if it’s Stephen King and The Outsider, we’re talking about!
A little boy is found brutally sodomised and murdered in the small town of Flint. All evidence, including eye witness statements, point to Terry Maitland, the local hero, the popular baseball coach. In full public display, appalled by the nature of the crime, the police decides to arrest Terry Maitland at the baseball stadium with full audience, leaving the town in shock and the wife and two daugthers of Maitland devastated and isolated. The small town cries for a death penalty (or worse) as the evidence further builds up against Maitland. The case seems straight forward – until Maitland accounts for his alibi that turns out to be more than rock solid; Maitlands lawyer providing equally as persuasive evidence of his innocense as the police has on his guilt.
Slowly, the investigator Ralph Anderson realizes that a natural explanation does not exist and that whatever evil commited the horrifying murder on the little boy is still on the loose.
The layers of fear
Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. You’d expect nothing less by a King novel, but just to clarify: as a reader you are taken from the initial fear of the brutality of the murder, and slowly being lowered down in the darkest of caves (this more literal, than you’d know before the read). What struck me most through the first 100-150 pages was the confusion about the guilt. DID he do it? Or didn’t he?
What I find extremely well depicted is the way the public can be the “superior court room” (if you’ve spent any time on social media, you will have come across this, whether being aware of it or not) – and how that can lead to further misguided assumptions – and sometimes deeply tragic outcomes. In a day and age of fake news, media sensationalism and bloated drama, this novel in its layout touches base with one of the more important issues in our justice system today: how can we ensure the “innocent until proven guilty” with everybody being on social media and having a voice to be heard? How do we prevent premature judgements? The Outsider, from that point of view, is highly relevant and will linger in the back of your head as you in the aftermath of the reading fill up on the news stream on the different social platforms.
But hold your crazy horses – it doesn’t end here!
The Outsider seems, for the first half of it, pretty straight forward and down to earth – and yet, you can taste the evil lurking in the corners. Which is why I had to put the book down in order to get myself some sleep – it’s not that incredibly scary things happen…but something doesn’t add up and you find yourself with an aching stomach, because although you have NO fucking proof of WHAT is creepy – it is STILL creepy in all it’s simplicity and ordinarity. That part takes you to the place, where only few horror writers can take you and Stephen King is one of them.
It takes you to that place, where YOU are starting to look underneath your bed before you go to sleep. Or doublechecck the windows.
I gotta say though, as a bonus info to fellow aspies outthere: you just might end up loving Holly! Personally I can only say, I would love to read more about Hollys adventures in her detective firm.
In memory of IT
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a replica of IT. And still it reminds of IT in the layout – people from various backgrounds coming together to find and fight the evil. But you do not sit with the feeling of it being a replica, because so many things are entirely different. And yet there are similarities. See, this is why book reviews are a bitch to write, because I can’t really tell you WHY, because I would inevitably end up spoiling the book for you. But let me just reassure you; with 600 pages (Danish version) it’s shorter than IT, more efficient and still every bit as scary. If not scarier – due to the fact, that it pulls on dilemmas and perceptions of reality, that it’s not really that hard to find in real life as well. Or maybe I was just to young, when I read IT, to appreciate the contextual layout. I don’t know. I just know, that I don’t want you to be hesitant in reading the book, just because I started talking about IT – you SHOULD read it – just as any man convicted should be allowed his day in court. I guess what I’m saying is: if you liked or loved IT – this is a must-read!
My issue with The Outsider
Honestly – I can’t tell you.
Ahhw, COME ON! Then why mention it? You don’t know do ya?
It’s not that I don’t know, but it is so tightly linked to an essential part of the book, so there is no way I can explain this without giving away things, that you really need to discover for yourself.
Rest assured; it is not a failure in the storyline or something that wasn’t explained.
I think it’s just really a matter of how I personally prefer horror stories to end.
The way it progressed and culminates is no new thing in the Stephen King universe, so if you usually don’t have any issues yourself, this is not going to affect your reading either. That is a promise.
It hardly affected mine; and mostly it’s probably due to my Asperger’s and visual imagination and the fact that my imagination was a little scarier than the book. And I know I’m being cruel, but I need to stop myself here, because…no, read it for yourself. And when you’ve done that, you can always catch me on Twitter, IG, Facebook – or at the Contact section of this blog – to let me know what YOU think.
Bare in mind though – no spoilers! Have a little respect for the people who have not yet read the book and who are looking forward to the thrill – don’t spoil it for them.
To sum things up, the overall view didn’t have any surprices: I was every bit as scared as I expected to be, every bit as entertained and the one thing, I had an issue with, is not by far the first time with Stephen Kings novels. No surprices sounds boring, but I promise: in this case it just means “living up to the expectations”.
So get your credit card out, because it’s time to do some shopping…
Where to buy…
or just go check out his official website at StephenKing.com