Imagine you wake up one day, get on the scale in the morning, and find you weigh two pounds less than the day before—even before a morning BM. Then, in the afternoon, you find you weigh two pounds less than you did that morning. No matter what you eat, you still lose weight. That would be AMAZING, right? …or cancer (shit!). Now what if it wasn’t an illness, like cancer, and your body just kept losing weight? How would you respond? What would you do? To be honest, I’d be pretty fucking excited—Imma eat all the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!
But wait, what if the weight just keeps coming off? Will it ever stop? What happens then? What would you do?
These are the situations and questions posed to Scott, the lead character, in Stephen King’s new novella, Elevation.
Now, let’s take a step back to talk about why we are reviewing this book. Growing up, I could not and would not read any Stephen King books. They scared me. I tried, but they just freaked me out too much. My dad was a huge fan and when I was about 11, he handed me Cujo and said, “Read this, it’s fun! It’s about a dog.” For those of you who have read Cujo, you know what a dick statement that was. I started reading it and got about 50 pages in before I suddenly found myself with a crippling fear of dogs that lasted well into my late teens. It was not a fun book, and I never finished it to see what happened. He laughed and laughed. Meanwhile, I had nightmares about sweet little golden retriever puppies eating my face off. Thanks, Pops.
Then why, you may be asking, would I be okay with a Stephen King book now? In the last few years, not everything he has written has been horror. In fact, he has started veering away from horror altogether and getting into more supernatural thrillers and mysteries. He wrote the Mr. Mercedes detective trilogy and also, earlier this year, released The Outsider. I lovingly devoured all of these, so when I saw Elevation was coming out, I read the description and one-clicked. Easy breezy.
Elevation is classified in the genre of horror—even being nominated by Goodreads in that category. The thing is, it is most definitely not a horror book. I would call it more of a supernatural genre with LGBT themes. It is about 160 pages, and I loved every single one of them. I found myself absolutely engaged in what was happening. I don’t need to tell you how talented of a writer he is, but I will say this…for our followers that are indie authors, or are dreaming of becoming an author, read this book. There are two main reasons I say this: First, he is an amazing storyteller (obviously), but watch for how he advances the story in a variety of informal ways. Reading how the main character navigates the perilous situation he finds himself in feels both realistic and at times, even funny, without having a perfect timeline. Second, for me, this is one of the best examples of something Erica and I talk about often with each other in regards to what makes for a good book—showing vs telling. Stephen King is a powerful writer, but in Elevation, he demonstrates what it truly means to “show” something happening vs “telling” the reader something happened.
Elevation is entertaining, engaging, and quick. It took me less than three hours to read, and I am not a very fast reader. It feels like it would be perfect for those situations where you just finished an amazing epic book (like The Nightingale—thanks Becki and Heidi for that rec.), you’re in a book funk, and you need something fun and different to be your transition into the next epic tale. Elevation fits that role perfectly.
My advice: Read it. Once you’ve read it, reach out to me. There are metaphors, themes, and all those other Erica-the-Super-Editor words that I can’t think of, throughout this novella that have stuck with me, even now, a few days after finishing it, and I’d love to discuss them with people who have different insights.
I had a similar early experience to Stephen King: I watched It as a kid. Can we just say no to spiders, please? NO. Scarred for life, I tell you. But then a friend recommended Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and I saw a new side to Stephen King. Short stories that are both engaging and thought-provoking (and, yes, sometimes scary, but not SPIDER SCARY). To this day—more than twenty years later—I still think about “Rainy Season” from this collection. It’s a story about a couple who goes to visit a town and is warned about a yearly occurrence—the downpour of frogs. They think it’s a joke—I mean, wouldn’t you?—but then it happens and, well, the couple soon realizes they should’ve heeded the warnings. I bring this story up because Elevation reminded me just how skilled Stephen King is. As Matt pointed out, King is a masterful writer who, in just 20K words, can spin a tale that is all-encompassing and unforgettable.
King does one of my favorite things in storytelling: he shows what’s beneath the surface. He tells about the layers of people without getting preachy or pushy. The doctor who is hesitant and skeptical in his old age. The feisty neighbor with a chip on her shoulder. Her spouse who is repentant and awkwardly kind. The bigoted townspeople. These characters prove their worth through their actions—and not because King tells us who they are. Like Matt said, King shows, not tells.
I loved King’s descriptions—or lack thereof. I don’t know Scott’s eye color. I don’t know Deirdre’s hair color. I don’t know who wears glasses, who drives what car, or what a storefront displays. He gives readers the space to form their own conclusions. And the result is that you see yourself, you see people you know, take on these forms. Everything feels familiar and real.
Reading Elevation took me back to the time when I read Providence (by Caroline Kepnes—see our previous review). They both have unusual supernatural elements that are more relatable and realistic than they are of another world. And also similarly, they both allow you to make your own assumptions—at every point in the story.
What would I do if I were losing two pounds a day without an end in sight? I’d seize the day. Aren’t you curious to see whether Scott does the same?
Thank God Erica can’t watch It. I think being pro-clown is absolutely grounds for “Irreconcilable Differences”!
Two things come to mind reading Erica’s review:
First, I think it speaks volumes that we both spent so much time talking about a novella. It really was that interesting of a read.
Second, there is one piece we haven’t talked about and that is how much this book relates to the world around us today. Erica mentioned the characters having their own strong characteristics, but I think there is also an underlying statement about our society and where we are today. Elevation takes place in Castle Rock, Maine—a city made up by Stephen King that he has used for other books, but it also takes place in our current political environment. References made to “trumpian” ideals are discussed on the surface only once, but I think the entire story could be a commentary on our society today.
If so, releasing it exactly one week prior to the midterm elections seems to be more than a coincidence.
Go check it out! And if you have read any of his other books, watch for the Easter Eggs. They are awesome.
To purchase a copy of or read a synopsis for Stephen King’s Elevation, click here.