For more than four decades Stephen King’s name has been synonymous with American horror novels. In the last few years, he has begun to branch away from the genre, introducing elements of detective fiction science fiction to his tales. With his latest book, Elevation, King steps away from horror almost completely to give us something more akin to magical realism.
Elevation is not a long novel. At 160 pages, it may be the shortest novel the writer of notoriously lengthy tomes has penned. But don’t let its brevity fool you. There is a lot packed into these pages.
The premise of Elevation is simple, and it is this very simplicity that drives it. Scott Carey, our protagonist, is losing weight. Now, if you’re like me, when you hear that you immediately think back to one of King’s older books, Thinner. Is this another From A Buick 8 scenario? Has King’s idea factory finally run out of stock for good?
While the immediate phrasing may put you in mind of Thinner, Elevation couldn’t be a more different story. To start with, Carey’s condition has no immediate cause. He hasn’t ran down any old Romani women and he isn’t getting smaller. And that’s the central bit of strangeness that underlies this entire delightfully strange tale. Carey is getting lighter, but he isn’t getting thinner.
In the midst of his bizarre affliction, Carey is also struggling to make peace with his new neighbors, a married lesbian couple. Castle Rock, a town you’ve certainly visited before, may not be overtly hateful to these women, but it certainly isn’t welcoming. And Carey doesn’t much like that.
King does a masterful job of balancing the day to day normalcy of his character’s interactions with the increasingly strange condition of the main character. To me, this entire novel ends up being an extended metaphor for the knowledge of our own mortality, and the choices we all have to make when facing that. Stephen King turned 71 this year, and it seems to me that this book was born out of his own impending death. Unlike his main character, he might not have a clear idea when it will be time to go, but we all know the clock is ticking. In Scott Carey , King gives us a glimpse at one way to face the inevitable end with as much joy as possible, and a sense of lightness about our being.