(2020) Stephen King, Hodder,£7.99, pbk, 132pp, ISBN 978-1-473-69153-7
Horror novelette. A man keeps on losing weight without looking any different. Meanwhile, couple Deidre and Missy, owners of a fine dining experience have moved next door and he does not like it that their dog is fouling his lawn.
A man losing weight? You might think that Stephen King is revisiting his novel, Thinner, the one that blew his Richard Bachman cover, but this owes more to legendary science fiction and horror writer (and screenwriter) Richard Matheson, as the book has a dedication ďThinking of Richard MathesonĒ, and if that isnít a big enough clue then the fact that the lead character here is called Scott Carey, the same name as the main character in Mathesonís novel, and film The Incredible Shrinking Man, then the game is well in truly up.
This one is a short novel Ė only 132 pages long Ė or a long novella, if that takes your fancy, told over six chapters, but in some cases there are blank pages between the chapters and each one starts with an illustration by Mark Edward Geyer, which are very simple and effective, showing us where we are in the story arc or where we are in the calendar year. Each chapter has a title which also tells you where we are in the story, although King canít resist calling the last one ďThe Incredible Lightness of BeingĒ.
Letís get things clear, this isnít a horror novelette, novella, short novel, whatever. Itís not horror at all, itís a gentle fantasy, slightly whimsical, but wonderfully told story. King, is after all, a master story teller, although some reviewers and people leaving comments on Amazon have felt short-changed, possibly because they were expecting a novella of the likes that appeared in ďDifferent SeasonsĒ or ďFour Past MidnightĒ and this is far from a chilling, or gripping tale. Others have been unhappy about the length, the fact that there are blank pages, illustrations and a large typeface Ė letís be clear this is a book that you could read under two hours, possibly an hour.
Whatís it about? Well, we are back in Kingís Castle Rock, where Scott Carey is losing weight, no matter what eats. He can put on several layers on clothing, he can hold weights but he still weighs the same, and while he isnít getting physically smaller, or thinner, he is losing density. Heís spoken to a friend and retired doctor, Bob Ellis, but doesnít want sent for tests, thinking he end up becoming a scientific guinea pig, a curiosity, someone to be studied and tested, and therefore losing his freedom.
If that wasnít bad enough, heís having a slight, but escalating battle with his new neighbours whose dogs are doing their business on his lawn, which they deny, until Scott arrives on their doorstep with the proof. His neighbours are two married women who are opening a restaurant in the town, which isnít going down with some of the locals, itís clear because of the prejudices of the locals that the business is going to struggle. One of the women is friendly, one is cold and aloof, but despite his worsening condition, Scott decides to help and even takes part in the local half marathon. Except one day because of his lack of density he is going to struggle to perform even the simplest of tasks, and what will happen to him then? Interestingly, Castle Rock is set in a post-Trump world where three quarters of the townsfolk voted for the new President. Itís a changed world out there.
Elevation isnít particularly deep, but a story by King is always worth reading even if the plot isnít a page turner and the two female neighbours arenít drawn in any real depth. I liked it, but there will be others who will loath it, or simply be indifferent to it, but I think itís an interesting addition to the canon of the King.
See also Arthur's take on Elevation.
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