So I did the audio on this one, and I definitely think that affected my reading, for the better. Will Patton is a good narrator (he’s the same one who narrated the Bill Hodges trilogy). Sometimes books are significantly affected by a good or bad audiobook narrator, so I just wanted to say up front that I think that is going on here for me, and I think you should know that going in. I probably would have been less forgiving without the audio.
Some slight spoilers below, but if you’ve read the blurb, you’ll probably be fine.
This book was a really engaging reading experience. The first half especially is so filled with creeping dread, and impossible situations. I was fairly certain I knew where it was going on pretty much from the beginning, just from having read other King books and tons of other genre books, but it still more than held my attention. He really does a nice job here creating characters you root for. Especially Terry, the little league coach accused of a heinous murder. At least for the first half, you know some fuckery is going on, but you’re never entirely sure if you should be rooting for Terry or not, if the fuckery is coming from inside him, or from without. The first half is also mostly told in the format of excerpts from police interviews, so you piece together what’s going on slowly, and from multiple angles. I found it very effective.
More spoilers below, probably don’t read further unless you don’t care about minor spoilers or have already read the book.
I’m a little puzzled by the reviews expressing surprise that the second half of the book embraces the supernatural. I thought it was extremely obvious that’s where it was going from the beginning. Stephen King isn’t the kind of guy to create some elaborate plot wherein a man can be in two places at once, or some grand conspiracy. His explanations will always be simpler than that, full of human emotion, and monsters in the dark. I also didn’t mind when Holly from the Bill Hodges books showed up. I like Holly, and I was glad to see how she was doing a couple years after what happened with all that. But I also think the story might have been better off with a newer character who fulfilled the same function? Perhaps not, though. While the book over-referenced the Bill Hodges trilogy, in my opinion, it might have been redundant to create a character who fulfilled that same function and behaved the same when you already had one that would do. Particularly since the journey some of the characters go on in this book is one that Holly has already gone through. She makes a nice foil for the others.
My one real issue with the book is that once the full reveal was done, I was underwhelmed. The monster for me turned out to be all surface, and I would have liked King to go deeper with it. I’m not sure what exactly that would have looked like, but it wasn’t really enough for me that the monster seemed to exist and act “just because,” even though it was really creepy and provided for a nice, scary plot. I would have liked deeper meaning and emotion.