It's no secret that The Outsider was my most anticipated novel of 2018, right up there with Neverworld Wake, by Marisha Pessl, and Providence, by Caroline Kepnes. So did it live up to the hype and, furthermore, my expectations? You're damn skippy it did, and then some.
This is not a return to form for Stephen King. This is not "Old School" King. This is the best of new Stephen King. The Outsider stands right up there with recent favorites, like Revival. In fact, I've bumped The Waste Lands off my top five list to make room for this one. My new top five is:
5. The Outsider
4. Bag of Bones
2. Pet Sematary
Yes, that's how good this book is. The Outsider has everything I've come to love about King's storytelling ability while adding all new elements to my fandom. There's a story told by a character in this book that ranks up there with some of King's best short fiction, and I'm a huge sucker for stories told inside bigger stories. The lore behind the new villain (one who seems vaguely familiar in the best possible way, but we'll discuss that in the spoiler discussion) is interesting and fun. But what kept me reading more than anything else was the mystery element.
The Outsider is a detective novel, yes, but it is also a horror novel, with some of the most effective and affecting scares King has written to date. It also has one of the most surprising character deaths in recent memory, a death that completely changes the tone of the book and catapults this into the realm of some of King's riskier outings, one that's up there with the likes of Pet Sematary. You can almost feel King's own surprise as the book takes a drastic turn into the unknown and thrusts the reader into a state of what-the-fuckery that lasts until the final denouement.
Every character in this novel sings. Ralph and Jeannie, Terry and Marcy, Yune, Howie, Jack, Claude, Lovie, and yes, Holly Gibney. Make damn sure you do not ignore this novel due to some preconceived notion that this is the fourth Bill Hodges book, or simply fan service for Holly Gibney fans. This book stands strong on its own, and is perhaps better than all three Hodges books put together. Holly is but a minor player in a large and diverse cast. She fits in nicely and none of her scenes feel forced. That being said, there are spoilers for the Hodges trilogy in this book, so if you have plans to read those three books, I suggest doing so before reading this one. However, if you don't want to read those books, you do not have to read them for this book to make sense, I promise.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this book. The pacing, the writing, the characters, the plot, the villain, the scares, all of it was flawless. And while I am a King fanboy, I have hated some of his books. Most recently I despised the bloated retelling of UNDER THE DOME, aka Sleeping Beauties, that King wrote with his youngest son Owen. But lets be honest here, there was far more Owen in that book than there was Stephen, and the book suffered considerably for it. Owen is a damn good writer, he was simply out of his element. Nothing proves that more than seeing King here, in his element, firing on all cylinders and straight up killing it.
In summation: Thank you, Stephen King, for this book. After the shit-show that was Sleeping Beauties, I was worried going into The Outsider. Luckily, my fear was misplaced. My highest possible recommendation. Buy it. Read it. Thank me later.
Final Judgment: Storytelling perfection.
SPOILER DISCUSSION, READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!