Thursday, 3 July 2014

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Augie Odenekirk had a 1997 Datsun that still ran well in spite of high mileage, but gas was expensive, especially for a man with no job, and City Center was on the far side of town, so he decided to take the last bus of the night.

There is something to be said for opening without death and violence, as if they are the only things that will hook the world these days. Of course, conflict is essential to a hook, and there is little in this opening line, at least nothing that would make one care to read on. Expensive gas and being unemployed are not engaging.

I award this with the car opening cliche because the character has gotten into a vehicle to drive to the beginning of the plot and conflict or in this case to be taken to it by public transportation.

By the end of this prologue we get the violence and death that the modern consumer demands.

First thing said:

"Good luck, man."

This dialogue neither reveals character or moves plot forward, it's only purpose is to establish King's tone, and champion the average man that we've deceived ourselves into believing is interesting enough to read about. When the truth be told these "average" joes in King's novels are anything but average or normal.

The opening scene is about this guy at a City center job placement place talking to some girl who has a kid and the struggles of being in a lineup with a baby and in unpleasant weather. Almost ten pages are invested in getting the reader mildly to care for these characters in dismal circumstances before King exterminates them, turning them into prologies (expendable characters that die horribly in prologues and whose only purpose in the novel is to hook us with their bloody and sometimes creatively violent deaths).

I flip through the prologue and I wonder why I needed to read all that. It's too long.

Chapter 1:

Hodges walks out of the kitchen with a can of beer in his hand, sits down in a La-Z-Boy, and puts the can down on the little table to his left, next to the gun.

The gun opening and drinking cliche begin chapter 1. The gun is treated like a dog (he pats it), on comes the TV and then we transition to paragraph 2 and back story. However, I like the writing style; it's a little more literary in tone - with long paragraphs, a trademark of a King novels - until page 2 when the obligatory swearing starts and that famous King tone starts pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Honestly, this opening doesn't feel any different than any other typical novel of this genre.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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