Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ryan Reviews: The Colorado Kid - Stephen King

3 out of 5 stars.

More of a novella than a novel, The Colorado Kid features three newspaper writers, two old men and a young lady. The newspapermen, deciding that the young lady is a good egg, let her in on their Island’s most interesting unsolved mystery: the death of the Colorado Kid. 

That the mystery is unsolved is the point of the story. Stories in newspapers or in books often have clean beginnings, middles, and ends. Stories in life do not. The Colorado Kid subverts the standard expectations that this book sets forth. Does a new set of eyes shed light on the mystery? Not at all. Is she inspired to find clues to solve the case? No. Most stories that we observe in real life have no endings, and we are perpetually suspended in the midst of stories that are not really stories. Because there is no closure to these stories, people rarely recite them, since they are inherently unsatisfying (something King thought most readers would feel about The Colorado Kid). 

Being a one-of-a-kind story gives CK a bit more impact. If it became common for books to take a post-modern turn and tell stories-that-aren’t-stories, it would get tiresome quickly. Heck, there are a lot of bad books that are unintentionally stories-that-aren’t-stories. Read as a commentary on the stories we tell, CK works. 

Now, the book’s biggest detractors cite its place in a series of books meant to be hard-boiled, pulp detective novels. As a detective story this book fails—whoever decided to market it as a detective story did this book no favors. There is mystery, yes, but recounting some amateur detective work of twenty-five years ago does not a detective story make. 

As an aside… One thing that drew me to this book was the Syfy (*cringe*) TV show Haven, which is fun but not great. The show is a paranormal police procedural, where the townsfolk are cursed with psychic ‘troubles’ that… well, cause trouble. Haven shares three things with the Colorado Kid: it takes place in Maine, the newspapermen are named Vince and Dave, and someone named the Colorado Kid died mysteriously, long ago. The two have less in common than Asimov’s I Robot story collection has with the eponymous Will Smith movie. That said, the worst that the association did was point me to this book, so I can forgive it. At least I didn’t come to it expecting a hard-boiled detective novel!

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