Overall rating: 4/5
Genre: Horror, thriller, noir fiction
Read if you loved: It by Stephen King, The Shining by Stephen King, Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Content warnings: Gore, substance abuse, incest (brief)
Jamie Conklin has always been different. He can see the dead. While his mother urges him to keep his gift hidden, unexpected threats to their family’s precarious financial situation require a solution that only his abilities can provide. But at what cost? When a less-than-savory NYPD detective with a murky track record turns to Jamie for help, he soon learns that his actions have consequences, and not everyone who is dead is prepared to leave quietly. After all, this is a horror story. In Later, King revives the uncomfortable yet riveting dichotomy between childhood innocence and horror that enraptured readers in his classic It, but furnishes it with a modern, true-crime twist.
This was such a fun one-day read. At less than 250-pages, King’s conversational first person narrative is so engaging and witty that I could not put it down. I have only read It and The Shining from his vast body of works (this will be changing soon), and Later felt so nostalgic as it contained echoes of both his classics. Jamie, especially in earlier chapters, reminded me so much of Danny. His wide-eyed innocence conflated with the morbid nature of his gift infuses the story with that classic sense of unease that drives the tension forward. The bildungsroman elements reminded me so much of everything I loved about It – with the horror scaled down a notch. If you’re not a huge fan of horror, know that this book reads more like a thriller/mystery, and the horror only really picks up in the last 30%. The first person past-tense that the book is written in is very subtle in mitigating the scare-factor, so it’s a great book to dip your toes in if you want to explore the genre.
While there aren’t specific aspects I can point to and criticize per say, this book just didn’t…blow me away? It was good! But as I’ve noted by now, it wasn’t exactly novel (pardon my pun). It felt comfortable and familiar, and while that isn’t a bad thing, it also won’t be a book that sticks with me in the long run. It felt like a good palette cleanser between the two depressing historical fiction books I’ve chosen for this month and it most certainly did its job.
Later is such a quick, easy, and fun read, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good thriller. If you have been wanting to switch up your reading, step out of your comfort zone, or just need a break from life, this can provide a well-timed escape with ample adrenaline to pump you up. More than ever, I’m eager to pick up more of King’s books because I enjoy his writing style so much, and the way he creates suspense is nothing short of masterful. Do you enjoy Stephen King’s books? Which is your favorite?