Julio 04, 2021 – 04:09 p. m.
Pablo Concha, special for Gaceta
The latest novel by Stephen King (Maine, 1947), the master of modern horror, entitled ‘After’ (Later), does not deliver what it promises and is disappointing in many respects. Considering King’s extensive career and the regularity with which he publishes (one book or sometimes twice a year), ‘Later’ can be considered a minor work and should be grouped alongside others such as ‘The Werewolf Cycle’, ‘Hex’, ‘The Dreamcatcher’, ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’, ‘Joyland’; and it is one of the least interesting in recent years. King is not that he has lost his “touch” or his magic with the passage of time; Without going any further, ‘The visitor’ (The Outsider), published in 2018, is one of his best novels of this century and tells a story that surprises, scares and captures the reader until the conclusion. ‘Mr. Mercedes’ and ‘Revival’ (both from 2014) are other examples of good novels that have appeared recently. If ‘After’ had been written by a first-time author it might not have been so bad, but, considering the level reached by King in ‘The Salem’s Lot Mystery’, ‘Animal Graveyard’, ‘The stand’, ‘It ‘,’ The eyes of the dragon ‘,’ Misery ‘, etc., this latest novel does not even come close, in any sense, to the depth achieved in those books. It is the problem that such prolific authors have: they must be judged not on the basis or comparison with other writers, but by contrasting them within their own vast work.
There is another major drawback that must be taken into account when referring to ‘After’, and it is the translation from English by José Óscar Hernández Sendín and Ana Isabel Sánchez Díez. This version is so full of “Spanishisms” (“look at that big case!”, “A fear that you shit”, etc.) that they make going through each page painful and require an enormous effort. I hope it is not too daring to suggest it, but the Plaza y Janés label (owned by Penguin Random House) could – and should – translate the next novels by Stephen King (and many other American and British authors from their extensive catalog) using Spanish. more neutral and universal that is not so cumbersome to read. Could it be that they have not found out that in other Spanish-speaking countries reading translations into the Spanish of the mother country is a horrible nuisance? It is something that constantly takes you out of the text and causes you to throw the book against a wall. This is not a recent problem, many constant readers of King have complained in previous years about the poor quality of the translations and those who can and have the knowledge, have chosen to read it in its original language (something I recommend whenever it is possible and pocket allows it).
Poor quality translation aside, the story of ‘After’ is uninteresting because it is something we already know and have seen and, although King admits it from the outset (“The thing, however, does not go like in Bruce’s movie Willis ”), referring to ‘The Sixth Sense’ by director M. Night Shyamalan where a child sees and talks to the dead, just like in ‘After’.
The synopsis says that: Jamie Conklin was born with a supernatural ability that allows him to see what no one can and learn what the rest of the world ignores. When a NYPD inspector forces him to prevent the latest attack by an assassin who threatens to continue attacking even from the grave, Jamie soon discovers that the price he must pay for his power may be too high.
King tries to take the story the other way, investigating the loss of innocence of children as they grow up and experience traumatic events (as he has done in other books) and adding an “original” detail about the encounter with the dead. which doesn’t have the Shyamalan movie but, none of that works to make the book engaging or exciting. The most important thing: it is not scary at any time nor does it produce anything close to terror or disturbance in the reader. Jamie Conklin, the novel’s young character and narrator, doesn’t help either. His constant and annoying way of questioning the reader tires and bores:
(“And now, look at what follows”).
(“So, okay, let’s resume the story”).
(“And now, pay attention to this: I’ve told you …”).
(“In no time I’ll tell you what happened …”).
The tricks King uses here have no grip and the reveals (the few there are) have no force when they arrive. There is only one interesting detail, something about an entity coming into contact with the dead, which is sinister and perhaps could have produced something close to terror, but King does not go into that because it is possible that he intended something different. Although “After” is a short novel (244 pages), it hurts to say that it is not worth reading to discover that detail that may appear somewhere in a new King story. If I had read this book in English, would my opinion be different? Hard to say with certainty, it might not have turned out to be such a tedious experience, but ultimately the same thing would have happened: history doesn’t grab you by the guts. Not like it has happened with other King novels and short stories, and that’s what I expect when I read it.
After this insipid drink, I only hope for two things: to continue reading Stephen King in his original language (even if the books cost twice as much and take time to reach Colombia) and a new story that is equal to or better than ‘Misery’, or ‘ The visitor ‘, or’ N. ‘. I’m not losing faith in Uncle King and neither should you.
Pablo Concha: Colombian writer, author of the short stories ‘Otra luz’ and ‘La piel de las nightmares’ and literary collaborator in the magazine Libros & Letras and in other cultural media.