End of Watch. Once again, I’m sorry to say that there’s not much good to be said about this one. It’s a real downer, and I waited several weeks after I read it to write this review, because I didn’t want to ruin it for anyone. Problem is, I also don’t want to have to reread it, and unlike some other books, my head doesn’t want to hold on to it. My major issues were how irritating it was that King returned to drugging people to give them psychic powers (he did it in Firestarter, too, but Firestarter was a better book) and that Holly Gibney seems to have some form of autism, or something incredibly close to it, and it’s given the “Rain Man” treatment. (I’m not sure if this is a term used outside of the autism community, so I’m going to define it: it’s when someone with an appreciable “on screen” mental/behavioral handicap is given “magical powers” to compensate – a sort of savant-ism.) Holly only has the positive sides of the disorder, other than a certain social awkwardness, and that really reflects badly on the autistic people of the world. She can make snap intuitive judgments, seems to have an amazing memory, and whenever she rambles, it’s always relevant to the plot. Real autism just doesn’t have a lot of screen space, and seeing Stephen King skirt around putting some of the ugliness out there for us is just sad. Or maybe that’s me. It’s probably me, but Holly’s character chopped a lot of my enjoyment out of this book.
Okay. From the top, End of Watch is the third and final story to the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch.) Like Finders Keepers, the story is mainly propelled along “cyber detective” routes. (Mr. Mercedes had electronic elements, too, but they were much more prominent in FK.) This time, the vegetative Brady Hartsfield has been souped up on a wonder drug that has left him telekinetic (why is beyond me, he doesn’t use it) and also, capable of taking over the minds of the weaker-willed, like a hermit crab, if they climbed right in with another hermit crab and took over. He uses this ability to his hosts’ detriment from the Bucket, the brain injury ward he lives in, and then makes a discovery: a hypnotic game demo makes it much easier to enter other minds and set off a kind of suicide cascade. Not being content with life semi-comatose, Brady starts setting up a system to do just this, using an outdated game console and a few old friends. He makes a gift of the game consoles to a few people on his personal hit list and then he’s in business, and the business is trying to make a body count higher than the one he would have had at the concert in FK.
The story is web-thin and drags, not much like Stephen King at all. It does not bound gleefully from point to point: it sort of circles a few and lazily flashes neon signs over them. There was little enjoyment to be had in the book for me, and little closure. The story references cancer as well as suicide, for those who are sensitive to the topic. It also features somewhat heavy drug use (mostly oxycontin.) The series ends with Bill Hodges’ death (spoiler, sorry) but there’s no finality in it. He failed to come alive in this chapter of his life, which saddens me, because I always did enjoy Stephen King for characterization. His casts have quirks and workarounds and life – except this time. Maybe the guy needs a year off – or maybe this book was too edited. It lost its soul somewhere, is all I know.