Elevationby Stephen King Published 30 Oct 2018
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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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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 . . .
Feel-good novel of the year? Here Stephen King steps aside from horror to write a poignant little novella on unity, tolerance and rising above the fray. Of course there is also a supernatural twist. For me it works because of its brevity and not in spite of it. Just enough is explained to inspire reflection, without ever getting too political or caught up in unnecessary adventure. The ending image is mesmerizing. I love the emotional finality of it, although I'm not entirely sure how to interpret it. Anybody want to start a discussion?
As an aside, I feel the audio version is a must. Stephen King narrates it himself and the added personal touch enriches the experience. Also, the audio version includes a bonus short story called Laurie (also read by King) that was published for free on his website a while back. It's an okay story, not amazing on its own, but meshes well with the themes of Elevation.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: the fact that this won this years goodreads choice award for horror, when this book is NOT a horror story by any means (!!!!!), is the biggest scandal of 2018. dont @ me.
for me, the story is very bland. stephen king is meant to be this legend of a novelist, so for there not to be any sort of depth to the characters or plot is very disappointing, as well as surprising. and i think he tried to hide the lack of substance behind his own political statements/agenda.
i mean, i guess i could understand if this was included in a collection of short stories, but i just didnt see much that justified being published as a small standalone for $19.95. it seems a bit excessive, not to mention pointless.
overall, im pretty bummed this isnt as uplifting as i was hoping it would be (it honestly had a lot of potential). but at least its short and added a count towards my reading challenge for the year. so i guess theres that.
↠ 2.5 stars
I’m not going to mess around with this one: me and King are completely through.
I’m going to keep my review short and simply say that he doesn’t work for me. I hate the way he writes. I hate the way he puts sentences together and I hate the way he forms characters. I don’t get on with him. After a few chapters of this I remembered exactly why I avoid him. It’s not this book, it’s just King in general. He’s not my cup of tea.
(Postscript – if you recommend a book of King’s in the comments section I won’t listen. I’ve tried five of his novels now. I will not try anymore, life’s too short to read authors you don’t like.)
"Everything leads to this, he thought. To this elevation."
Scott Carey is steadily losing weight, but he doesn't look any different. To make things even weirder, he weighs the same in and out of clothes, no matter how heavy they are…
When I'm reading a book, and because my memory is terrible, I will usually make some observations and reminders in the Notes section of my iPhone which are very helpful when I go to write my review. Given the length of this novella and the fact that I read Elevation in two sittings, there really wasn't a lot of opportunities to make notes. In fact, I only had one note written down for Elevation: "Stop obsessing over legs" - I mean, come on, King!! If he's not commenting on a woman's breasts, it's the legs. And 95% of the time, it's really not relevant or necessary. There were two lesbians in this story and I lost count of how many times there were references to their legs and/or the running shorts they were wearing. I cannot fathom how Tabby hasn't pulled King up on this. That woman usually takes no shit. But that is an annoyance I have learned to semi-accept when it comes to reading King - I just needed to get that mini-rant out of the way.
I read Elevation right away without having read any prior reviews, so all thoughts and reactions were truly my own - I didn't go into it expecting to hate/love it, whatever. And I believe that's the best way to read any new King. In my opinion, Elevation is not King's best, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I did quite enjoy it. I really liked it for what it was - an uplifting story with the kind of message we need when the world is falling to shit around us. I didn't realise how attached to the characters I had become until the very end when I was tearing up and feeling quite emotional. No other author can make me feel as attached or emotionally invested in a character's story than King.
It's not horror and I don't know why it's been categorised as horror by Goodreads, but I never expected it to be going by the synopsis or the beautiful, bright cover. It's more magical realism - and I liked the direction that King took with it. I actually wish Elevation had been developed into a full-size novel, not a chunky book, but something similar to one of his shorter novels. I feel like he could have expanded upon so many things, developed the characters a bit more, spent more time following Scott's unusual problem. It was definitely good to be back in Castle Rock, even though it didn't really feel like a typical Castle Rock story. And of course, the Easter eggs were as fun as always!
I have seen complaints about paying full price for such a short story, and I can fully appreciate that annoyance - although I would say that is more down to the publishers than King himself. Elevation would have worked much better if released as part of a collection, similar to Gwendy's Button Box last year. New releases are great when they're so regular, but I'd honestly rather wait and just buy a collection!
This is slightly SPOILERY so beware of you haven't read Elevation yet, but I had seen a few reviews where people had complained about the inference that "Oh these two poor lesbians needed help from a straight white male" and I honestly did not view it in that way AT ALL. Do you really think King has that perspective? Given that his own daughter is a lesbian? In this day and age, nothing is taken at face value anymore, it has to be twisted or interpreted in some way to be negative. Instead of viewing it like that, how about just viewing it as an act of kindness? Of community? Of giving someone a helping hand when they're struggling? It really baffles me. Same when it comes to people giving off about King being so political - I'm sorry, is this a new thing? King has a history of being political in his writing. I will admit, however, that the politics are a bit heavy-handed in this story and it could have been toned down a bit.
There's a lot of dividing opinions on Elevation, but overall, I had a good time! 3.5 stars.