Elevationby Published 30 Oct 2018
Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.
In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face—including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.
Set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. The latest from legendary master storyteller Stephen King, a riveting, extraordinarily eerie, and moving story about a man whose mysterious affliction brings a small town together—a timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences.
This was... really disappointing.
I love a good Stephen King book. From the classics like The Shining and Carrie, to the recent The Outsider and Sleeping Beauties, I just think he's a really great storyteller with a knack for strong character development. But Elevation didn't even feel like a King story to me.
The characters in this story are such one-dimensional stereotypes. I know it's a novella, but maybe it shouldn't be if you can't write some life into your characters in less than 200 pages. Scott Carey is a bland Good Guy™ who trips over himself trying not to offend anyone or make a fuss even when his body is literally becoming weightless. The vegetarian Lesbian Couple™ are made up of sweet foodie Missy, and abrasive runner Deirdre. Side characters play the role of Homophobic Trumpers™ and Benevolent Doctor™.
Elevation's story is a little weak, too. Scott finds he is losing more and more weight, even though his body isn't getting any smaller. He also has the curious ability to render weightless the people and things he touches. With his weight decreasing every day, he is forced to consider-- what happens when he reaches zero?
It could have been interesting, but I felt the direction the story took was unsatisfying. Scott's bizarre condition ends up bringing people together - the gay couple and the homophobes - in a way which was too heavy-handed and overly-neat for my tastes. Unlike some readers, I like that King is political in his books and I have no problem with him dropping in a Trump insult or two, but the political message here felt forced and poorly-done.
"Why can't we all just get along?" is a sweet message - and perhaps one we need right now - but it needs a better story and fewer stereotypical characters to save it from being too sentimental and contrived. It doesn't get that here.
Also: I have no idea why this book is categorized as "horror".
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Please read this review *after* you've read this book for yourself. For some brief, non spoilerly thoughts, I did a mini review on my Instagram.
SPOILERS & PLOT DETAILS BELOW
I'm always excited when I hear of a new Stephen King book (of any length, genre, collaboration, collection) hitting the market. I like to wait until the day it releases to go to my local bookstore and find it--this time I went to the University of Washington, Tacoma campus bookstore to buy it. Exciting times. I was surprised by its cute, compact size and attractive cover design. Sidenote: It's a bitch to photograph with its very shiny dust jacket.
Also surprising is that somehow I managed to avoid reading any plot summaries for this one. I knew it was a novella but I wasn't temped to read more about it.
I read the inside flap in the car on the way home from the bookstore and my heart sank a little.
"but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble."
To be perfectly honest, I've grown a bit weary of Stephen King and Joe Hill's political commentary in their stories. It's not because I don't want to hear it or that I believe we should keep our real lives and fiction separate (although reading is a break from it all and a necessary reprieve so it is an intrusion when I desire to unplug from the negativity) but it's because I don't find Hill or King to be very good at mixing their fiction and politics. They lack finesse. It's too obvious and too cliched. *Super* heavy handed.
ELEVATION, for example is stuffed with ridiculous cliches and stereotypes.
Vegetarian, jogging lesbian couple where one partner is "icy cold" and the other one is "fragile"?
Close-minded "Trumpians" who won't support a restaurant because a gay married couple own it?
Bad blood between neighbors because of dogs pooping on the lawn?
A kindly retired doctor with savory advice? A do-gooder with a mysterious illness and an agenda to save his town from homophobia--can't we all just get along??! It's this nice man's dying wish!!
This story was so thin the politics stuck out like a sore thumb. Literally zero backstory of any of the characters. I didn't care about anyone to the point of investing or caring about what would happen.
(For a better horror story celebrating gay marriage-read A CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay. Tremblay perfectly painted a beautiful family with loving, meticulous detail and really approached the subject with normative subtlety so that it felt authentic and real not a poster gay couple to preach the author's politics-but REAL PEOPLE)
Another pet peeve of mine was how many times the main character ogled the physical attributes of the lesbian couple-their legs, their form fitting clothes, their short shorts, their hair, their eyes...ALWAYS THEIR LEGS. Really annoying and unnecessary. It was as if King didn't know how to describe the women's looks without doing it through the eyes of a man who is attracted to them. Lame.
It was so lame I began marking in my book every time I saw it.
Anyways, this was a huge disappointment. King is very vocal about his political opinions, which is fine, I just wish he'd save it for his Twitter and write in his wheelhouse.
PS. NOT HORROR. I have no idea why it was nominated for best horror.
After a couple of recent monsters (both size of book and characters within), King gives us a novella that reads quickly and could easily been a part of a short story collection. In fact, I think it is considerably shorter than several of the novellas in his collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons. But, it is a decent little mysterious story if you need a King fix.
Let’s set the record straight on something right up front – this is very far from being a horror story. I have seen it designated as horror and nominated as horror in the Goodreads Choice Awards (where I have now voted for it, even though it is not really horror, because I have not read any of the other selections). It is a good little story, but you really cannot automatically send King to the Horror category anymore! In fact, I see that The Outsider was nominated in the Mystery and Thriller category. Elevation is much more of a Mystery/Thriller while The Outsider is definitely horror. Oh well!
Now that that is out of the way, thoughts on the book itself! It is very well written and a very quick read. If you are on hold at the library for this you shouldn’t have to wait long as I think many people will be able to finish it in one sitting. It reminds me a bit of some early King stories (Thinner comes to mind, and you will see why when you read it!). Also, I think this is his first official Castle Rock story in a long time. At one point he was talking about retiring Castle Rock as a location (with Needful Things, I think), but this book is 100% Castle Rock!
I will say, without opinion or agenda, just laying it out there, that this book definitely has a lot of undertones related to the current climate in America. This is not surprising as King is very vocal on Twitter about how he feels about things, so it seems pretty obvious that it is likely to seep into his writing. If you are someone who likes to keep politics out of your reading, this may be distracting for you. But, I think it also may be unnoticeable by some – it just depends on the personality of the reader. For me, it was fine.
I didn’t go in looking for King’s best as it is a shorter book and it didn’t really have a lot of fanfare that I saw prior to its release (the library didn’t even realize it was coming out until I went to ask if I could put it on hold!), so I just went for it like I do with all Stephen King. What I found was an entertaining, almost cute, story that has a little inspiration, some heart string pulling, lots of mystery, might get a few synapses firing in your brain, and will definitely leave you wondering . . .
You know the end of the world is coming when Stephen King writes stories that are only 160 pages long. Or at least I thought so until a true King fan educated me. *lol*
Seriously though, I saw this in my TL only the other day because many others here have read it and I didn't know anything about it at first. When finally reading the blurb tonight, I was intrigued by SK writing a story that sounded as if it was meant to function as a bandaid. That is because this author usually draws up characters that are uncongenial, even "the good guys". Maybe he's changed his MO because of what is currently going on in the US. I don't know but it would make sense and if it's true, it's a mighty fine stand he makes.
The story is set in the famous town of Castle Rock, where a married lesbian couple has settled and opened up a restaurant. People can "accept" lesbians (the cheek to think like that!) but not MARRIED gay couples (I'm not even gonna comment on that line of thinking). I have no trouble believing that there are people (not only in the US) who actually think like that.
However, in Castle Rock, it just so happens that one of the couple's neighbours, Scott Carey, finally realizes all the shit these two women have to face. Granted, one of them isn't exactly nice herself but maybe that's because of the town's hostility.
He decides to help which, at first, backfires. Slowly but surely, though, could a miracle happen and the small town come together to overcome the differences on all sides in order to heal (like the country should)?
Oh, and because this is Stephen King, there is an element of weirdness in this story as well as great writing and infuriating characters after all. So no, I didn't rate this so highly just because of the socio-political theme or because I hate homophobia / bigotry but because the author really pulled it off wonderfully. Maybe it's a bit too idealistic but dammit, we could all do with a little silver lining and optimism right now, don't you think?! Besides, that wasn't the only element to this story (don't forget the possibly supernatural element because the author hasn't).
Also, this was narrated by the author himself and he really is great at reading his own story (not all authors are, believe me ;P).
I'm crowning this book The Worst Thing Stephen King has Ever Published.
Die-hard conservatives are going to hate ELEVATION because of the gender politics. SJWs are going to hate it because the LGBTQ characters in the book literally need a straight cis white man to help them win. Everyone else will hate it because it's god-fucked boring.
In summation: This tone-deaf pile of anal drippings reeks of desperation. Trying to please everyone usually does.
Final Judgment: A CHRISTMAS CAROL but Scrooge is never bad, just misunderstood.