The new short story "A Face in the Crowd" is on digital shelves today (here's a link), and yours truly stayed up late just so he could write a review.
And it really IS going to be a brief one, because, as with a great many short stories, there simply isn't a heck of a lot I could say without being more spoilery than I'd like to be.
So come along with me and let's see what I have to say. Cause I, for one, damn sure don't know yet...
This is a good, solid story; in baseball terms, it's a leadoff double.
And with that sports analogy out of the way, allow me to answer a question many King fans -- especially fans not living in the U.S. of A. -- probably have: there is virtually no prior knowledge about baseball necessary to enjoying, or even understanding, this story. Certainly less than was the case with "Blockade Billy," and probably even less than with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. There are occasional baseball references, and the occasional bit of terminology, but they are purely background details, and are in no way vital to the story at hand.
Here's the setup: Dean Evers is a widower living in Florida. He's a Boston Red Sox fan, but since he's relocated, he finds himself -- more and more frequently -- turning in to Tampa Bay Devil Rays games. One day, while watching a game, he sees a former dentist of his sitting a bit behind home plate. Which is odd, since the dentist, if he was still alive at all, would be in his nineties. Thing is, he doesn't look that old...
And that's the point at which I stop giving you any details.
I should confess that I've never read any fiction by Stewart O'Nan before, so I can't tell you whether this story matches his work. It matches King's pretty well, although as with "In the Tall Grass" (and "Throttle," which he also wrote with Joe Hill) there IS a slight sense that something seems different. This is in no way a bad thing; King's voice and O'Nan's voice seem to match quite well, and at no point did I feel as if one had written this sentence and the other hand written that. Instead, the whole story just flows, and does so smoothly.
I have a few final thoughts. They aren't particularly spoilery in nature, although you could definitely make educated guesses about the story based on those thoughts. So, if you really want to remain a blank-ish slate on the subject, you might want to bail out now. I'll provide some amusing lolrus photos -- classics, these -- to serve as a transition.
Nooooooo! My bukket!
Cracks me up every time.
Anyways, the final thoughts I wanted to put down (for now) are these:
For one thing, the story this reminds me of more than anything else is "You Know They've Got a Hell of a Band." That and "The Reach." Neither is a perfect comparison, but they both occurred to me at various points. "A Face in the Crowd" is nowhere near as good as "The Reach," and it might not be as good as "Hell of a Band," either, but it's not too terribly far behind that one.
I was also reminded very vaguely of Duma Key, which is partially because of the Florida setting, but also partially because it is the story of a man on his own who begins seeing weird things. "A Face in the Crowd" does not go to the same type of horror that Duma Key contains, but it, like that novel, is quite melancholy. In some ways, this is one of the first times I've read a story by King and felt like it was the work of an old man. There was some of that in "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive," a story King published last year, but there it felt a bit like an old man feeling young; this feels like an old man feeling old.
This, of course, puts me in mind of the fact that some day, I'll probably turn on my computer and get online and see a headline -- or, more likely, 179 Facebook notifications -- informing me "STEPHEN KING DEAD AT AGE ___." That's going to be a shit day, too. It makes me even more appreciative of the fact that he's still working, still prolific as hell, still talented as hell, still stretching himself; to resort to another baseball metaphor, he's working on a complete game, and there's nobody warming up in the bullpen yet, because there's no need.
He's still pitching like a champ.
And hey, there's no rule that says I won't kick the bucket first. None of us ever know quite what the day has in store, do we?
All I know is that this day brought me a perfectly fine new Stephen King story, and that makes it a pretty good day.
And, for those of you worried about the lolrus:
Dontcha love a happy ending?