18 August 2021

Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summers by Stephen King book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Stephen King is at the top of his game and Billy Summers is an unforgettable character, as well as the title of his latest book. A war veteran and one of the best snipers in the world, Billy has become a killer for hire renowned for disappearing as soon as the hit has been made. Billy has been hired to do one last job and despite his immaculate planning and convincing back story, there's no accounting for bad luck, or is it destiny?

Billy is a likeable anti-hero with his own code and an admirable set of values. His relationship with Alice is touchingly complex and Billy's actions and decisions left me aching for him to find his place in the world. The scenes with Billy's neighbours also made me nostalgic for a time and place that often only exists between the pages of a Stephen King novel.

There's plenty of humour to keep the pages flicking by, and reading this observation while in another Melbourne lockdown made me laugh out loud.
"Billy doesn't care if it rains, sleets, snows, or shits bananas. He's going to be in this basement apartment no matter what the weather is." Page 203
As we learn more about Billy's background, King manages to set the scene in what feels like a very American book. In doing so, the reader is able to pick up on the author's politics and view about the country in which he resides and in which the book is set.

According to Billy:
"There aren't just 2 kinds of people, good and bad, like I thought when I was a kid who got most of his ideas on how people act from TV. There are 3. The third type of people go along to get along... Those are the most people in the world and I think they are gray people. They will not hurt you (at least on purpose) but they won't help you much, either. They will say do what you want and God help you. I think in this world you have to help yourself." Page 101
King is on fire in this novel, combining deep character insight with tension, action and plenty of danger. There's also a few instances where the writing is very meta. The first comes when Billy is engaged on a long haul hit and needs to pose as a writer hiring an office space from which he'll make the hit.

Another meta moment comes when a person is reading Billy's work.
"Billy understands he's downplaying her intelligence to protect his ego in case she doesn't like it, and he understands that's stupid because her opinion shouldn't matter, the story itself shouldn't matter, he's got more important things to deal with. But it does." Page 249
I thought this was incredibly insightful from Stephen King, and I think a few emerging and established authors would do well to take note of this insight.

The ending of the book was brilliant and very meta, but don't worry, you won't find any spoilers here. All in all, Billy Summers is another outstanding novel in Stephen King's considerable oeuvre and I highly recommend it.

For those who have already read this, I have just two words for you.... Fucking Marge!

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

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