I really had a good time with this one. I finished it over two months ago now, but unlike my experience with Eternals, I remember it vividly and fondly. I just have one tiny beef with it, and it’s a beef I’ve recently had with King before, but more on that later.
Jamie Conklin is our narrator, a kid who can see dead people (King wisely acknowledges the Haley Joel Osment shaped elephant in the room). It’s a talent he (and his mom) have mostly come to terms with. My favorite bits of the book were actually the stories not having to do with the main antagonists, but the ones where he interacted with ghosts as he was growing up, and the ripples into his mom’s life as a result (I’m thinking in particular of one scene involving one of his mom’s authors that had me riveted to the page–she’s an editor).
I also thought the main antagonist was scary in a classic King way, and the resolution of it was both satisfying and creepy. (And definitely open to a sequel, even if he never writes it, it’s more satisfying that way. This might only make sense once you realize the significance of the title.) The randomness of the evil really appealed to me. And the wrench of Jamie’s mom’s dirty cop ex-girlfriend getting herself involved I thought was a nice wrinkle in the plot. Not a dynamic I’ve seen before, and an interesting one.
And now for the beef. Stephen King is old now. He just is. And he loves writing about kids! And for the most part, he’s great at it. But occasionally, especially recently, if he tries to write in the first person in a contemporary setting, it can ring false. He just can’t kick his 1960s and 1970s slang! I kept thinking, kids today don’t think like that! Or talk like that! I mean, I don’t actually know what kids today think or talk like, but I know what they don’t. I had this same problem with one of the stories in his last book, If It Bleeds. In “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” I was similarly enjoying the overall story but kept getting pulled out by the narrator’s anachronistic vocabulary. But, ultimately, this is something I can overlook if the story is otherwise good, which I thought it very much was here.
If you’re looking for a spooky afternoon of storytelling, you could do much, much worse than this book.