I so wanted to love this novel. I sooo wanted it. Instead I felt ripped off. At least Joe Hill (Stephen King’s other son) found his feet and shone in Horns and The Fireman. I thought maybe Owen King is just finding his feet and he needed a bit of dad help into starting off on the writer’s path.
I was pretty wrong. This book is a mess! 702 pages and close to 4 weeks later, I am ready to tell my horror story.
If you want a story about what would happen in a world ruled by only one gender, I fully recommend Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s masterwork comics series “Y: The last man“.
In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place, a mirror world like our own but with no electricity and no men around.
Hell hath no fury like a woman whose cocoon is removed against her will.
The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. The question is posed whether Evie a medical anomaly to be studied or whether is she a demon who must be slain?
“She was not prepared to say every man was the same, but the majority were, because the instincts came with the package. With the penis.”
The Good Bits
There are few and far-between. The gender studies as to why women are oppressed in today’s patriarchal society might appeal to a feminist with a strong anti-male agenda and the pro-men cases are reduced to sons and children not yet tainted by society.. I liked … let me think… I liked the level-headed sheriff and the decisions she made through the book were for the good of the many (sometimes at her expense)
The Bad Bits
A lot more than the good bits. Let me see where to begin. Hmm, the entire book was designed to appeal to a very specific market – the PC sensible men who desire women empowerment and as a Bible for the feminists out there. Men are depicted unequivocally violent, aggressive, drunk, power-hungry, ready to pull the trigger, quick to burn the first females in cocoons under the excuse that they did not know what may come out.
“It makes no difference if you’re rich or poor Or if you’re smart or dumb. A woman’s place in this old world Is under some man’s thumb, And if you’re born a woman You’re born to be hurt. You’re born to be stepped on, Lied to, Cheated on, And treated like dirt. —Sandy Posey, “Born a Woman” Lyrics by Martha Sharp”
The virus spread was somewhat underwhelming (The Stand was waaay better! Even Under The Dome was better!) and it occasionally offered repetitive reports on how women were falling asleep all over the world but with no details on what other countries did or what was offered for the women who were trying to fall asleep.
The society that women built was OK from a construction perspective but they did not explain fully why that city was chosen as a sample for all the world’s population. Would a village of females from India fared better on their own than one of American Women? How about a village of African women where matriarchal roles are still active? Where did the other women of the world go to when they were asleep?
The plot that one woman would try to prevent all of the others from returning to the real world seemed overly contrived (I could see it coming ever since the women were put in the same place together). I was like: I bet one of them will try to f**k it up for all the others to prove that women on their own are as violent as men are. Could have told you that from the great comedic book The Christmas Cookie Club when only 5 women can drive each other mad!
“That was one way in which the sexes had never been equal; they were not equally dangerous.”
The men on the other side of the tunnel were as disjointed as you could think. They were ruled by one personality trait (be it drunken stupor, violent behaviour, desire to kill). I would say that the modern man is a lot less primal than the book tries to make us believe.
Another plot point I wasn’t happy with: the POV of a male fox. And what was with the tiger and the snake? The snake plays a minor role in distracting a shooter into killing an innocent woman – but the tiger??
And Evie Black? At one point she was mother nature in grass undertones, at other points she was goading an already angry man into killing her and so offering a solution to bring his sick child back to life. And her casually talking to rats made me think of a Disney Princess who soon would ask for a ball gown too!
Evie had seen dinosaurs; she had looked down upon the great forests of America from the eyes of a passenger pigeon. She had surfed into Cleopatra’s sarcophagus atop a flume of desert sand and caressed the glorious queen’s dead face with beetle legs. A playwright, a clever Englishman, had written an amusing, if not entirely accurate, speech about Eve once.”
Last issue: the number of characters… there are loads of characters from inmates to free people from the Appalachian town, even hillbillies from the mountain side. Up until the last few pages, characters and names are being added in. The characters are copious and uninteresting. There is very little depth. The dialogues were so unbelievable that even a non-native speaker of English (me) gets annoyed to the point of skipping them
If authors start writing FICTION books just to pound out their political views I’m going to take up a new hobby. I DO NOT want to pick up a book by my favorite authors and get reminded of it. Also, There is no distinct voice. It does not read like a Stephen King novel. People wanted a Stephen King novel. His charming, even seductive, style is absent. I was prepared for this to an extent. He was working with another writer, after all. However, his collaboration with Owen diluted Stephen’s writing to a point of monotony and paralysis.
Embrace your female side. Every man has one
I would put this in the burn pile immediately if I hadn’t paid a small fortune in actually earned money (this wasn’t a thrift shop find) so I’ll just use it as a monitor stand.