Stephen King wrote a short story that will be published in this month’s issue of The Atlantic, set to come out on the 19th I believe. You can read the story online, however, right nyah.
The story has two narratives, both follow groups of characters that are driving on the road. That’s kind of all there is to it. This story didn’t really grab me the way I hoped it would. In terms of prose, the story gets off to a pretty bad start. While it does improve in the later sections, it isn’t enough
The characters didn’t really come off too well either. The elderly couple were far more interesting than the two families in group A, but they don’t get enough pagetime.
There’s a ton of exposition in regards to Brenda and Jasmine, two of the characters in the primary narrative, but even with that, you don’t get the sense that you know them at all. Yes, it’s a fairly short story, so you don’t really have room to go too in depth, but I still think they could’ve been fleshed out a bit better.
All I really got from them is that they are terrible at naming children. I’m sorry, who names their kid “delight”? Freedom? Really? I guess they took a cue from George Costanza and decided that any random thing could work as a baby name. It doesn’t.
The fact that the web page pretty much spoils the ending right at the top of the first page doesn’t really help matters. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to stick that at the end? It probably would’ve had more of an impact as an epilogue as opposed to a huge spoiler. Maybe they’ll print it differently in the actual magazine, but putting that at the top wasn’t a very smart move.
The page includes one piece of artwork from an artist named Owen Freeman. I liked that picture. It was very well done. The picture itself is rather mundane, showing the POV of one of the kids in the back seat of the car, but it’s a great picture and I had to commend him on his efforts as it was quite striking.
Beyond that though, I wasn’t all that impressed with this outing. It didn’t resonate with me and just felt very hollow. A majority of the people who commented really liked it, so maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. What I do know is that I read the story, and that was about it.
I have a feeling that the ending itself is going to bother a lot of people as well. Just in terms of message, there’s a significant moral dissonance there and honestly, the more I think about it, the more it’s starting to bug me.
I’m going negative on this one. The prose, something King normally excels at, was underwhelming; the characters weren’t particularly developed; and the ending is warped to say the least. All in all, it’s a disappointing outing from the best selling author.
On a somewhat relevant note, you can read an interview that the Atlantic conducted with Stephen King on both the story itself, as well as fiction in general right here.