This was my seventh King book, and was the first that left me feeling let down. Was it horrible? No. It was simply bland. Unrelentingly bland. The only thing that kept me reading was my enjoyment of King’s writing style. But the plot was never surprising, the reveals were heavy handed, and the characters were mostly flat and cliche. There were a couple of exceptions, of course, especially in the forms of Jerome and Holly, but for the most part I was just let down and quite honestly a bit bored by what I read.
I don’t generally harp on characterization choices made by authors, but the sexist and racism that raged through the veins of King’s antagonist in the novel were just too overblown to be convincing. Yes, I’m sure there are people in the world how harbor such a vehement hatred for anyone who looks different than them or urinates in a different position than they do, but that level of venom would be nearly impossible to hide 24/7, as Mr. Mercedes does. I know that nearly impossible isn’t the same thing as actually impossible, but I just couldn’t find him a believable character.
Bill Hodges, after whom this trilogy is titled, was a bit of a disappointment, as well. Here is a man who served is city for 40 years as a cop, and has earned his place at the “good ole boys” table. I understand how with his age and former profession he could be a bit of a backwards thinker. But every time he was able to view a woman as more than whatever cliche King used to define her as a character, that alteration of viewpoint completely blew his little mind, which gets annoying after a while. I hate when guys can’t see women as more than props or a pair of boobs or a motivation for a man’s deeds or a stereotype at which to roll their eyes and elbow each other knowingly. Men not viewing women as actual people is super frustrating, but I understand that some authors use that as a character’s weakness. Unfortunately, in this particular novel, that view was so prevalent that it didn’t feel attached to any particular character as much as it felt like the view point of the author. I’ve read enough King to know that isn’t the case, but I can see where it could be a deterrent to other female readers who pick up the book.
Besides the rampant sexism and heavy handed use of racism to paint the antagonist as evil, I also had issues with the plot itself. There were no surprises. Every time a twist took place, I could see it coming from a mile away. Also, whenever one of the protagonists figured out what the antagonist was up to, or vice versa, the way they came to those conclusions seemed way too convenient. This game of cat and mouse felt less like a chess match and more like students cheating off each other’s tests. Also, as I said previously, I was bored, which has so far never happened to me while reading a King novel. But this book felt like an episode of Criminal Minds or a similar show, except that it didn’t know when to end. As I discussed with my friend Mary as we buddy read this book, I can dedicate an hour to a predictable crime show, but asking me to devote 14 hours to one is just too much.
Long story short, I won’t be finishing this trilogy. I just have no interest. It felt juvenile and clunky and unlike writing I’ve become accustomed to when reading King. Does this mean it was a horrible book and that you should stay as far away from it as possible? Of course not! I know a lot of people who loved this trilogy, and I still found it readable even when I was bored. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean you won’t love it if you decide to pick it up.