This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

30 April, 2013

REVIEW: THE GREEN MILE

Cover illustration by Lisa Litwack

THE GREEN MILE
BY
STEPHEN KING

ISBN: 978-0-671-04178-6
Pages: 536
Publisher: Pocket Books
First published: 1996*
This edition published: March 1999

On the cover:

   Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E-block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk the Green Mile, keeping a date with "Old Sparky," Cold Mountain's Electric Chair.
   Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen is share of oddities in his years working the Mile. But he's never seen anything like John Coffey, a man with the body of giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. In this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about Coffey, a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs...and yours.

   The Green Mile isn't the usual King Horror story, but it does contain some supernatural elements. Elements that are central to the story, but still take a back seat to the atmosphere of this story. King masterfully creates this atmosphere by transporting the reader back to 1932, and the Death Row of Cold Mountain Penitentiary -the Green Mile of the title.
   The story is told in the first person by the head prison guard Paul Edgecombe. It is told in a way that makes it seem more like a recollection than a novel, and this is the true strength of the book. We really do get inside what happened on the Green Mile back then. The story is told with such strength, and depth, that even the supernatural elements comes to life and seem real.
   I mentioned that this is not a Horror story, but there are events here that are horrific, King doesn't pull any punches but tells everything in gruesome detail. That King has pulled the reader into events in such a good way makes what happens hit much closer to home than it would have if it were a traditional Horror story.

   The characters are also brought vividly to life, especially Edgecombe. We live with him as the story unfolds, almost inside his head as he tells what happens. Edgecombe isn't the only character who we get a good acquaintance with, the other characters stand out as well. But we don't get inside their heads in the same way, and this actually makes the story work better.
   Arguably the main character can be said to be John Coffey, and inmate. But he's really the significant layer in the story we learn the least about. However that doesn't really matter, he has a great presence in the novel, one that is central to it. And what we don't know about him doesn't hurt the story.

   There are some weaknesses in the story, one of them being that it's relatively easy to see were events are going. Normally I'd say that this would be a problem, but King got me so involved in the people, and the setting, that it didn't detract much from the book. In some ways I felt that it shouldn't work being so aware of what was going to happen, but I have to admit it did. Although I did find it detracts a little bit from my overall impression of this story.
   Another thing that pulls the book down a little bit is that it is very much structured as a serial novel. There's some recap at the start of every part, and I think it would be best to take a couple of days break between reading each part. But I'm not sure that is possible with a book that drags you in to such degree that this does.

   Despite the flaws I mention above, this is definitely one of King's strongest novels. The setting and characters come so vividly to life that you really can't help but feel you are there watching events at times. It's a book all King fans should read, and one that should suit those that are not normally fans of King's stories. This is really essential Stephen King.

*Originally published in six parts, on the following dates in 1996: 1- 28 March, 2- 25 April, 3- 30 May, 4- 27 June, 5- 25 July, 6- 29 August.

Stephen King Review Index

LINKS: Stephen King  Pocket Books

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