Review: The Outsider
Reviewing Stephen King almost seems pointless. Readers have had the life of King’s forty-five-year career to make up their minds about his work. It's a career that has crossed nearly every genre, even creating a series of stories that served as context for still other series in an MCU-like universe. He is accomplished beyond the realms of most other authors. It's almost gratifying, then, to see him continue to grow with The Outsider, a novel that feels like well-worn territory for King, but told in a fresh, modern way.
The Outsider begins as Terry Maitland's life unravels. Accused of a horrifying crime, Terry slowly grinds to pieces in the gears of the American justice system. King shows the slow car crash of Terry’s reputation, family, and employment against the unstoppable accusation in every gory detail. Convinced of Terry’s guilt and terrified for his own family, Detective Ralph Anderson only pushes the machine of justice harder. When Anderson discovers that his irrefutable DNA and fingerprint evidence contradicts Terry’s irrefutable alibi, King presents us with a classic question: Is Terry the man his friends and family believe him to be, or was there always a stranger behind that familiar face?
This feels like classic King. He opens the story with real problems affecting real people and does so deftly and with empathy. It's his choice of subject that feels fresh. There's a modern aesthetic to the dialogue that was missing from his work a decade ago. I think since Mr. Mercedes, King has acclimatized his work to the modern age. Social justice seems to be on his mind even as the true supernatural horror of the story comes to the fore, letting King tread well-worn tropes with a freshness of perspective.
Even if you’ve previously made up your mind about King’s work, I think The Outsider is a good place to take a look at an artist who continues to grow. I give The Outsider four out of five stars.