Monsters of one kind or another are what the man does best, and The Outsider delivers a good one … He could easily churn out ‘monsters in Maine’ tales until his life ends, and he’d remain well compensated for it. But he doesn’t do that. He isn’t writing mere imitations of himself. More than 50 novels published, and he’s still adding new influences to his work. I can think of a great many literary writers who are far lazier about their range of inspirations and interests. This expansiveness allows King to highlight the idea that whether we’re talking about Mexico or Maine, Oklahoma or Texas, people the world over tell certain stories for reasons that feel much the same: to understand the mysteries of our universe, the improbable and inexplicable … here’s to the strange and to Stephen King. Still inspiring.”
King is arguably as much an American icon as the ’68 Fastback or a classic red-and-white Plymouth Fury. All of these glories are on full display in his latest mystery-horror hybrid, The Outsider. The twists and turns make for a fantastic read, but there is also the underlying fugue of displacement ... That Ralph trusts all of his misgivings with his wife, Jeannie, adds a nice layer to the narrative. King has always excelled at exploring the complexities of marriage. Choosing to give Jeannie such a pivotal role is almost as rewarding as the denouement ... It should be restated that any quibbles about dated references are small when compared with the overall reward of reading a gripping, good story. No book is perfect, but Stephen King is reliably closer than most. He has always excelled at writing about real people tested by unreal situations.
The Outsider is in many ways a throwback novel, a creature feature that seems ripped from his ’80s heyday, his pulpiest book since perhaps Cell, but a work undeniably founded in today’s fears ... What’s remarkable and deeply pleasurable about the book is the way King slowly builds this world out. He may be tilling genre ground that’s similar to early blockbusters like Pet Sematary and It, but he’s doing so with the patience and maturity that’s marked the elder statesman stage of his career ... At the same time, here is the creepy King we grew up with, his grindhouse instincts firmly intact. Old-school fans who prefer his down-and-dirty-pillows work to his more literary output will greet this as one of his strongest in years ... All of these strengths are enough to offset some of the book’s weaker qualities. King’s premise is so engaging that there’s a bit of a downshift in enjoyment when the mystery section turns into suspense, and then again when suspense turns to action.
The story switches from King’s graceful head-hopping third-person narrative to a transcript of official statements from key personnel in the prosecution’s case, a formal change that nods to the statements and newspaper extracts King used throughout his debut, Carrie. A well-researched, finely tuned crime-cum-legal case novel forms a good chunk of the book ... The supernatural elements have more than a little in common with some of King’s most beloved creations, especially in the vague way he conveys what they actually are. He has always understood that the mystery – the question – is scarier than finding out the truth ... That’s not to say the whole novel works. It takes a couple of hundred pages for the weirdness to get started, and the sense of the uncanny pervading the entire novel means that the more horrifying elements fail to surprise when they eventually arrive. But The Outsider gives King fans exactly what they want at the same time as cramming in new ideas, proving the least surprising thing of all: that his novels are as strong as they ever were.
Neither half of The Outsider is likely to stand shoulder to should with King’s very best efforts, be they conventional or speculative, but together, they make for one hell of a hybrid. Markedly more successful in splitting the difference and certainly more satisfying from a story standpoint than the back end of the Bill Hodges books which saw King try to do the same thing, The Outsider represents a rewarding return to form after a run of recent disappointments ... That it’s not what you think it is is part of its power. The rest of its appeal comes down to King himself, who can be counted on, in terms of his narratives and his characters, to rise to the occasion when he’s hit on a particularly appealing idea—and it’s my pleasure to tell you, Constant Reader, that he clearly has here.
The climax is solid and intriguing but, in a way, anticlimactic to the gut-wrenching drama of The Outsider’s meatier chapters ... The author plumbs to the gloomy depths with his cast before letting off the gas and giving them — and the reader — some needed hope. There are shades of It in the unspeakable evil that presents itself over the course of The Outsider. As one character says, 'The world is full of strange nooks and crannies.' In King’s hands, real darkness is just as pervasive as the supernatural.
...a book that showcases his best and worst instincts ... Seemingly written into a corner, the story goes supernatural, with a Salem’s Lot–style gang of reluctant heroes taking up arms against a foe who has something to do with a Mexican monster legend and women-wrestler films. Still, the amazingly strong start should be enough to fuel most readers through the end.
Luckily, his scary ideas continue to flow unfettered from his mind to the pages, most recently in The Outsider ... That’s the biggest question King explores in The Outsider as small-town cops and prosecutors are asked to believe the impossible — and find the impossible as well. Mob mentality, pedophilia, horrific violence — King never shies away from tough topics.
The hefty new novel from Stephen King is a skillful blend of classic crime fiction and the author's trademark horror twists ... Seeming to be in good health and spirits, King has also knuckled down to do what he does best – produce gripping novels and short stories of terror and suspense ... At nearly 600 pages, The Outsider isn’t exactly a streamlined thriller. Yet, it doesn’t feel bloated or self-indulgent. Anderson, Maitland and the supporting cast are so deftly drawn, their predicaments so fraught with menace, that the momentum of the narrative builds steadily and keeps the pages turning ... Yet for all its gracefulness, the plot twist may disappoint some readers. Following the pivot, The Outsider shifts from the realistic police procedural to supernatural horror novel. King delights in blending genres, but in this case, it’s better when he sticks to just one ... King appears to be on a hot streak, that he extends with The Outsider. Big, complex and inventive, it’s a well-honed continuation of his interest in the intersection of crime and horror fiction, demonstrating his consummate skill with both.
King’s expository writing has always been strong, and what we read in the The Outsider is no exception ... In some novels King has stumbled with endings, tending to focus too much on the supernatural. Here, he understands that less is more. There’s no reliance on portals to distant lands or repetition of incantations. Instead we’re given solid detective work that pieces together the mystery of El Cuco while connecting it to Terry Maitland. The otherworldly is kept to a minimum, allowing readers to envision horrors on their own. The Outsider is taut throughout despite coming in at more than 550 pages. Both longtime readers and neophytes with a taste for terror will find this to be a rewarding read.
Reading a Stephen King novel is like climbing behind the wheel of a classic American-made car. You’re in for a terrific, pacey read with the kind of character development that has kept King firmly among our country’s greatest writers for decades. He knows how to throttle a fine-tuned story into a shocking, stomach-clenching thrill ride. Every downshift is artfully timed so you don’t realize you’re heading into another tight corner. His scene transitions are as smooth as Corinthian leather. He’s as much an American icon as the ’68 Mustang Fastback or a classic red-and-white Plymouth Fury. All these glories are on full display in his latest mystery-horror hybrid, The Outsider. The twists and turns make for a fantastic read ... No book is perfect, but King is reliably closer than most. He has always excelled at writing about real people tested by unreal situations, whether it’s told in the unbroken narrative of Dolores Claiborne or via the mental lockboxes of Doctor Sleep. With The Outsider, if you can ignore the dated references, you’re in for one hell of a ride.
The scenes in the first half of the novel between Anderson and Maitland, once a coach to Anderson’s son, are some of the tensest of any of King’s past work ... King often has large casts of characters, and The Outsider is no different in that regard ... As with many of King’s works, The Outsider shows his talent for showcasing friendship, and bonds tightening between strangers to overcome evil. Despite some of the subject matter covered in his stories, King often has moments of sweetness between his characters once they begin to get closer ... Though not as tightly paced and with a finale less epic than 2014’s Revival, The Outsider should be enjoyable to King fans and is a quick read despite its 560 pages. The strongest part of the story is the mystery element, which is showcased in the first half of the novel. Over the last decade, King has made a bit of a transition toward both the thriller and mystery genres, with one-off classic horror tales like Revival being sprinkled in. As with the Bill Hodges trilogy, The Outsider is a solid combination of these genres. This mixing of genres serves multiple masters, as fans of classic King will like the otherworldly elements of the second half should they not care for the mystery parts in the first half. If a sequel is never produced, the idea of surviving characters making future appearances is still a welcome one.
King skillfully works in references to current events (Black Lives Matter) and long-standing memes (getting plowed into by a runaway car), and he’s at his best, as always, when he’s painting a portrait worthy of Brueghel of the ordinary gone awry ... Not his best, but a spooky pleasure for King’s boundless legion of fans.
...[a] nicely executed extension of his Bill Hodges detective trilogy ... King’s skillful use of criminal forensics helps to ground his tale in a believable clinical reality where the horrors stand out in sharp relief.