Published: Scribner, October 2018
My rating: 2/5 stars
”Everything leads to this, he thought. To this elevation. If it’s how dying feels, everyone should be glad to go.”
Elevation is the latest novella by famous horror author Stephen King, and was unfortunately a grave disappointment to me. It tells the story of Scott Carey, your typical goodie-two-shoes-guy next-door, who is afflicted with a mysterious condition. Although he doesn't look any different, he has steadily and progressively been losing weight. Moreover, he weights the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are, and everything he picks up seems to instantly loose its weight too. We follow him over the course of months in which the condition changes not only his life, but also that of the other people in his small town.
The reason for my rating can be pretty much summed up in two questions:
1. Why did this have to be released as separate (20 euro!) novel?
2. Who on Gods green earth decided this book belonged in the horror genre?
Let’s start with the first question, as it’s the one that brought my rating down the most. Elevation is, based on both length and depth, barely more than a short story/novella. If I had read it as such, it would probably have gotten 3 stars from me. Not a bad read, just nothing special. The characters are quite stereotypical and one dimensional, and the story has only one interesting hook (the weight loss mystery) to go off. Although this “hook” was what kept me reading until the end, it wasn’t enough to keep my engaged for over 100 pages. (view spoiler)
I enjoyed the vibe and the weirdness of the story, and I would have loved to see this in a bundle with other, similar stories by Stephen King. On its own however, I don’t see how this story justifies a 20 euro full release.
My second question is one that has been asked by many others before me, following the Goodreads Choice Awards, where Elevation took home the title of “Best Horror of 2018”. The problem is: this book is about as far away from a horror story as you can get. It’s actually closer to a feelgood story, a little too sweet and clichéd to my taste.
I can’t blame the Goodreads team though, as this book is being marketed, labeled and sold as a “horror novella” everywhere, most likely just because Stephen Kings name is on it.
From a marketing perspective, this makes perfect sense: “horror-novel by Stephen King” is going to sell more copies than “surrealist feel-good short story by Stephen King”. From a customer-satisfaction standpoint, it doesn’t make sense, as you are setting the wrong people up to buy this book. People who will inevitably be disappointed, based on their expectations, just as I was.
If you go into this with the right expectations (a non-scary feelgood story, written by an author who happens to also write creepy horror novels), you might enjoy this one. The story is nothing special in my opinion, but it’s far from bad. The cover is an absolute stunner though, and will for sure draw some eyes. (Especially when your library puts it on upside down, but as you may have seen, that’s a different story…)
Find this book on Goodreads