You know, I didn’t really remember that the middle of this series didn’t really have much to do with Brady Hartsfield, AKA Mr. Mercedes. Or that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson — the heroes of the previous story and of the trilogy — didn’t even come into it until late in the game. Connected by Jerome’s little sister, no less — she’s mentioned earlier on than they are.
The funny thing about this story for me is that while King has written many, many stories about writers, this is the only one I can think of that’s about readers. I’m not sure if there are actually many stories about readers at all. At least not readers as readers, as opposed to people doing other things who just happen to be readers. Peter Saubers and Morris Bellamy could be A Tale of Two Readers. They both had the same love of reading. They both found inspiration and motivation in the same stories. And they each took that in very different directions from each other. It’s quite something.
As someone who’s much more of a reader than a writer — especially of fiction —I’m excited to read a story about readers. I love when King talks about reading because he gets it in a way that few people seem to get it, at least as far as this bookworm can tell. Consider:
“For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!”Stephen King, Finders Keepers
I’m aware that it’s a cliche, but this was the Lord of the Rings series for me. Oh, I was no doubt a bookworm before then. But an uncle of mine loaned me this set when I was maybe 11… probably to get me out of his hair at the time. He knew I liked books, so here are some books; go away. It probably wasn’t that cold — it was a nice hardback set that many people would have been hesitant to loan out, especially to a child. There was probably actual kindness and good intent there. On the other hand, that particular uncle didn’t like kids, and I was probably bugging him at the time, too. Whatever it was, it worked because I opened that first book and just fell in. I read them, then when I finished started right back with the first one and read them again. And again. I knew they were loaners; frankly, I was afraid of being asked to give them back before I’d had enough of them. I was too absorbed to consider that I could probably just go to the library and get them or that someone would probably buy me at least cheap paperbacks if I asked. I didn’t want to let go of those specific books, and if I was going to have to, I guess I wanted to memorize them first. I still don’t know when I’m going to get tired of the story. I’m actually re-reading it again now.
My point is that I know this feeling. I know what it’s like to open a book and just have it catch your mind on fire, especially the first time. I know how you chase that feeling, too — and chasing that feeling is a lot of why I’m here. Stephen King gets it, man, and not only that, he can create it. Like he did for me here.
Of course, not everyone reacts the same way to the same thing, even if it inspires both. Morris and Pete remind me of two guys who watched… let’s say, The Sopranos. And one of them comes away thinking about what a great show it is, what issues it raised, what questions it answers, and what questions it leaves open. Plenty of inspiration to take from it, you know? Lots of big thoughts. And the other guy, he’s inspired too… because he wants to be Tony Soprano. So, you know, he imitates his favorite art by cheating on his wife and making money illegally? He could be a smart guy who also thinks a lot about the show’s questions and messages, but his takeaway is completely backward. I feel like you saw a lot of that with Breaking Bad, too. Or Fight Club. Morris and Pete both got inspired, but Morris got the totally wrong message.
It’s a really great book, actually; even if the ties to the trilogy it’s part of seem a little loose sometimes. It does make it all come together mostly, and it seeds in bits to remind you that there’s a larger story and more of it is coming soon. My major complaint is the rape that Morris ended up in prison for. Did it have to be a rape? Being blackout drunk doesn’t make someone a rapist who wasn’t a rapist before. Why did we even need to go there? Couldn’t he have gotten in a fight bad enough to be charged with attempted murder or something? I dislike rape as a device to drive the plot without any actual care for the victim. I don’t mean Morris’s care — he never takes any real responsibility, and I read that as intentional — Morris never takes responsibility for anything. I mean the author’s care. The rape victim isn’t even a character, just a plot device to get and keep Morris in prison. It’s aggravating.
Otherwise, though, this is an interesting second book. It would make a great standalone. It diverges so much from the first and what I remember of the last book that it’s a bit of an odd second entry in a trilogy, but that’s OK (we have another trilogy with an odd second entry coming up later. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it’s interesting.)