Later by Stephen King

Posted On 19 May 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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My Five Word TL:DR Review: In a nutshell, loved it

LaterI had such a good time with Later by Stephen King.  This is a book that I picked up on audio and before I say anything else about this I highly recommend it in that format, although I suspect I would have loved this just as much in written form because the narrator has such an excellent and addictive way of telling a story.

I won’t go overboard about the plot in this review.  Jamie Conklin is telling his own story reflecting back on certain events during his life.  He takes us back to a period when he was about four or five years old.  We learn that Jamie has been born with a gift.  He sees dead people.  He doesn’t always know that he’s seeing dead people because unless they died in some sort of accident they look like regular people.  They’re not haunting him though and they don’t want anything from him.  They seem to just linger for a few days before fading out – but during this period Jamie can talk to them, and for some strange reason, they are unable to lie.  His mother discovers Jamie’s secret after a friend passes away and makes him swear to tell nobody else of his ability. Of course, secrets are hard to keep, especially when times are tough and maybe a little ghost talking could help things get back on track.

There are a number of things that I really enjoyed about this:

As I mentioned above, I loved Jamie’s narration.  He has a compelling voice and tells his tale in the most addictive way.  During the course of his story he progresses to the age of around 15 sharing what start out as interesting anecdotes, slowly turning a little more serious before becoming decidedly creepy.  What really impressed me was that although Jamie is recounting his story, so you could be forgiven for thinking that as he’s now older he must survive whatever dreadful events he seems to be building up to, King still manages to suffuse the story with menace, enough to give you doubts about where the story might eventually end up.

I liked Jamie.  Brought up by his single mum I enjoyed the relationship they shared, it was realistic, touching and not always perfect – so life like really. Jamie doesn’t go overboard giving you details.  He recalls his childhood and early teenage years in a clear and organised way that makes the story a pleasure to read and from the start  he’s a bright child with a good dose of healthy humour.  For me, put simply, he felt real.

Little by little, King cranks up the tension.  He takes the story in a most unexpected way fusing thriller, horror and the supernatural in a seamless and entertaining way at the same time as keeping those elements almost low key.  As though seeing and talking to dead people was the most natural thing in the world. This is Jamie’s life and it feels like a normal life – until crazy things start to happen.

The other characters are also well drawn and equally well motivated.  Jamie’s mother, struggling to keep her head above water and protect him whilst also trying to have a relationship herself.  Then there’s the ghost that doesn’t disappear.  I mean, there’s always one isn’t there – and this guy definitely has the creep factor.  Finally the detective who uses Jamie to help her own career eventually dragging him into a life threatening situation.  She’s probably worse than the ghosts to be honest.

All in all I had a really good time with Later.  I liked the plot, the pacing was perfect, there will little references included here and there that made me smile and  that I wish I’d noted down so I could share them here.  It was simply addictive and I can see myself wanting to reread this – I certainly think it would make an excellent adaptation.

I have no hesitation recommending this and would also give another shout out to the audio version which was brilliant.

II purchased this book for audio.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

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7 Responses to “Later by Stephen King”

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I liked this one too. But that ending though!

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I enjoyed Later very much, and I think that the “voice” Stephen King bestowed on Jamie is the story’s best quality indeed 🙂

  3. pagesandtea

    I’m reading this now and enjoying it. I’ve just got to the ghost that won’t disappear, so am wondering how that’s going to turn out. Back to the book to find out… 😀

  4. sjhigbee

    Excellent review, Lynn! And I’m wondering if this is one that I’d enjoy – there are King books out there that I’ve loved. There doesn’t appear to be too much horror in it – or is that wishful thinking on my part?

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