The only reason why I am giving this a grudging two stars is because of the Easter eggs to other King works. If not for that, this would barely get a 1. What kills me with this story honestly is that if you have not read the Dark Tower, Castle Rock books, and IT you are going to be totally lost. I ended up just wishing that King had done a last book on the Dark Tower series, or maybe done a third book in the Talisman series, anything but do this final book starring Mary Sue, otherwise known as Gwendy. The character development in this book was sparse. I think we finally get maybe a sentence or two of dialogue from Gwendy’s husband, but he was just a plot point. The setting of this book takes mainly in space (yes really) and the whole thing was tedious. I should have felt something by the time we got to the end, and I really didn’t until we get to read a common saying in many of King’s works “there are other worlds than these.” But those words just filled me with nostalgia and yearning for earlier and better books.
“Gwendy’s Final Task” follows 60 plus year old Gwendy, who is now a Senator from Maine. We have a quick scene showing how “the Box” has come back into Gwendy’s position with a fear that something is making those who are in possession of it, want to push the final cancel button that ends everything. When Gwendy realizes that she is going to need to destroy the Box, she takes a risk doing it when she is in space for a jaunt with NASA (yes this is really happening, I didn’t write this, don’t come for me about it). The story follows Gwendy’s political career and what she finds out about those who are hunting for the Box.
Gwendy is just….sigh. I don’t care about her. She’s just there to move the story along. I don’t rate her as high as other Stephen King female protagonists like Susannah Dean (the Dark Tower), Susan Delgado (the Dark Tower), Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne), and Susan Norton (Salem’s Lot). I loved the first story starring her character and each subsequent one since then has been a disappointment. I think it’s because King and Chizmar don’t quite know what to do with her. They just made her uber Gwendy and she’s gone from being a member of the House of Representatives, to a best-selling author, and now a Senator from Maine. I wish that King and Chizmar had kept her more grounded instead of doing these big leaps with her that didn’t feel true to the character.
We see some familiar people/places in this one, such as Sheriff Norris Ridgewick, (Needful Things, Bag of Bones, Lisey’s Story, etc.) We also return to Derry which has been central to many of King’s novels. I assume that this book may be a reason why there is going to be a prequel showing Derry and I just hard sighed. I felt like the book skipped over too many things and that overall this was a loose idea that never really settled.
The other characters are paper thin though. I am too tired to look up Gwendy’s husband’s name, but he didn’t feel real, so any grief she had about him didn’t do much for me. We have the astronauts and billionaire that Gwendy goes into space with and once again, everyone was paper thin. I found myself wondering what was going on and when things started to click in place I was like ehh this could have stayed in the drafts.
The writing was King like and not at times. I honestly wonder if King and Chizimar took a dart board and just tried to figure out how to loop things into fitting with the Dark Tower and other books. I am usually happy about that, but this book it felt ham fisted.
For Constant Readers here are some King Easter eggs:
- Low Men in Yellow Coats (Hearts in Atlantis, Black House, The Dark Tower)
- Clown (IT, The Dark Tower)
- Derry, Maine (IT; Secret Window, Secret Garden; Bag of Bones; Everything’s Eventual; Dreamcatcher; Full Dark, No Stars; and 11/22/63)
- The White/Gan (The Dark Tower, Insomnia, IT, The Talisman, Black House)
I can say that the flow is good, it’s the only thing that kept me reading. The chapters are short/choppy and the book runs back to before (when Gwendy ran for Senator) to the now (Gwendy in space).
The setting of this book kind of made me laugh. Has any King book taken place in space before? This may be the first. We are in the year 2026, and COVID-19 is still a thing, but with vaccines people have moved on. We have Donald Trump and the current GOP in this world and it made me shake my head. I don’t really care about Stephen King’s politics or him talking about them via characters in his books. I know some readers got mad about it, but it is what it is. I think he’s going to keep inserting Trump in his books because he writes about terrible things all the time and I think he can’t quite grasp how Americans fell for someone he sees as worse than Greg Stillson (The Dead Zone). I also thought that King was taking a swipe at the whole rich men space race that was going on a few months ago in this one too and showing why he thinks it’s stupid to uplift billionaires.
The ending just didn’t make a lot of sense. I just leaned into it at that point. I don’t think it’s clever when an author is like yes I am totally using an deus ex machina to not really have you look too deep at this. Don’t get me started on the whole we supposedly knew how Gwendy’s story was going to end (see book #1) that did not come to pass which also got handwaved away. I wish that I could have felt something at the end. As I said earlier, it wasn’t till the epilogue and I read “there are other worlds than these” that I did.