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Swan Song

by Robert McCammon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,8401023,737 (4.14)2 / 136
In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets ... Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station ... and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels along Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gift. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself--Publisher's description.… (more)
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English (99)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
This is the book, I believe, that many consider his best. Having read it now for the second time, I can categorically state that this is not the case. That award will always go to [b:Boy's Life|11553|Boy's Life|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1314302694s/11553.jpg|16685995].

McCammon's first three novels showed an author who very obviously loved the genre, had some talent, but still needed to grow as a writer. His characters were usually solid but there were times when the plots were a touch lacking ([b:Baal|11560|Baal|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1280365481s/11560.jpg|16695995], [b:The Night Boat|219523|The Night Boat|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1297549365s/219523.jpg|16696210]). [b:Bethany's Sin|11559|Bethany's Sin|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1315187054s/11559.jpg|16696150] began that course correct.

His next three books ([b:They Thirst|462658|They Thirst|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1214586224s/462658.jpg|16695823], [b:Mystery Walk|11552|Mystery Walk|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1417632834s/11552.jpg|16695901], [b:Usher's Passing|11550|Usher's Passing|Robert McCammon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388529780s/11550.jpg|16695959]) saw McCammon improve as a plotter while still maintaining good characters (for the most part). But I also noticed in these three novels, two things.

The first was, McCammon has this unusual habit of holding up the weakness of his villain very early on. I can distinctly remember in each of these books, reading a particular scene and thinking, Well, this guy is doomed. In each case, the cause of that downfall tended to be insecurity covered by bluster. It's okay once in a while, but when the author also writes heroes that are, for the most part, unflagging in their goodness, it becomes very obvious very quickly which way the wind's gonna blow.

The second thing I noticed is, with those last three novels, it's obvious that McCammon both draws from those who came before, and also doesn't mind playing in their sandboxes. Reading those three novels, I saw some Matheson, some John Farris, obviously Poe, and, of course, Stephen King.

Granted, no one has a bigger sandbox than King, and King is blatant in his inspirations: Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, etc. So, I'm not saying this as a slight against McCammon, it's just that it's as noticeable as it is with King.

Which leads us to Swan Song. This novel is everything mentioned above, but more obvious. As others have said, coming less than a decade after King's The Stand, it's hard not to draw comparisons. Both involve the events that wipe most of humanity off the map. Both have a bit of a whackjob as the villain. Both have a young woman at the forefront of the resistance. I will say, one the things McCammon successfully dodges is King's propensity for the Magical Black Mentor(TM) character.

But for all that, this novel is its own thing, and McCammon carves a more urban path than King did. This one is more "street".

But, some of the same McCammon issues from previously crop up. His villain, The Man With The Scarlet Eye, shows a weakness fairly early on, which you know is going to lead to his eventual downfall. There's some plotting issues that bothered me, such as when the entire town of Mary's Rest, having essentially ignored each other since forever, suddenly turns into a gleeful all-sharing village in the span of minutes. With just shy of 1000 pages to work with, I would have appreciated a more measured approach.

There's also the issue with the glass ring (or crown, depending on the page). There's a point where (and here's where I enter spoiler territory, so...)

...where Swan puts the glass crown on her head, and a cloak of energy armour begins to engulf her. It's a decent scene, cut short as the energy gets about halfway down her body before she pulls the crown off and stops the process.

Why put this scene in, significantly close to the end of the novel, only to never bring it up ever again? It feels like McCammon had one ending ready to go, then, at the last moment, went another way, but forgot to yank this scene out in the editing process.

Generally, the book was very good. But along with the points above, and the fact that the good guys were very, very good (with the single possible exception of Robin), and the bad guys were very, very bad, the book was a fun read.

I know there will always be the argument of which post-apocalyptic novel was better, Swan Song or The Stand, but for me, when McCammon builds a story, he often leaves some of the struts showing, some of the scaffolding obvious, some of the tools and whatnot laying about. King, on the other hand, is a master craftsman who does the job, does it well, leaves nothing behind, and makes the whole damn thing look effortless.

So, of the two, I think you know which one I'd go with for winner. ( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
I chewed through this 1,000 page beast in a couple of days - it's a page turner! I liked it a LOT, but I'll save the fifth star for The Stand. ( )
  jlabarge | Aug 18, 2021 |
This book is similar to The Stand in that it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, features a wide cast of characters, and centers on a final battle between good and evil. I like the characters, style, dialogue, and horror elements in this book more than The Stand. Swan Song is definitely a pulpy, page-turner novel, but still manages to be a rewarding read. ( )
  rhodehouse | Aug 17, 2021 |
I really liked this book. It took me a long time to finish it but I'm very happy that I stuck with it. And the narrator did a fantastic job. ( )
  amcheri | May 25, 2021 |
Real good book. But long, oh my god it was long. ( )
  Ciscomatic | Sep 26, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert McCammonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Morrill, RowenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stechschulte, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Sally, whose inside face is as beautiful as the one outside. We survived the comet!
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Once upon a time we had a love affair with fire, the president of the United States thought as the match that he'd just struck to light his pipe flared beneath his fingers.
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In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets ... Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station ... and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels along Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gift. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself--Publisher's description.

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