Book Review of Billy Summers

It’s been a while since I read some Stephen King. I guess the Dark Tower’s concluding book was the last one. His writing seems familiar and comfortable (and is excellent as always). There are the usual riffs like domestic violence, child abuse, and some call-outs to earlier stories like The Shining.

While I did enjoy the book, I didn’t find it on par with his earlier works. The book feels like two different entities in a lot of ways. For example, the section till he meets Alice is quite good and tense and then I thought it got boring and predictable. Another way this feels off-kilter is that story seems to be undecided about what the focus is. Initially, it is about Billy’s last hit, then it becomes about Alice and then, finally, about his story. I also didn’t quite like the frequent call-outs to Trumpism and the very obvious Murdoch/Epstein villain. I dislike that bugger too but I don’t want to read a book where he makes an appearance periodically.

I sort of knew that the story would be an old retread of the hitman with a good heart trope. And I was willing to read the book inspite of it, because the journey is sometimes worth it. Alas, I don’t this that is true in this case. It starts off strong but the story gets weaker as it progresses. The call-outs to the Overlook hotel also seem a bit jarring as though the reference needed to be there.

Overall, the book is an average read. Don’t expect any Stephen King magic of old.

Here Be Spoilers (My notes at the end of each chapter)

August 6, 2021 — Finished Reading
August 6, 2021 —
100.0% “Chapters 20 -24 — The post conclusion conclusion.”
August 6, 2021 —
80.0% “Chapter 20 — All action. Billy gets revenge.”
August 6, 2021 —
75.0% “Chapter 19 — Billy reveals how he entered the hitman trade. They reach Vegas. While Billy feels like a father to Alice, Alice definitely does not reciprocate with a platonic love. What is some Stephen King with an Oedipus/Electra complex, right?”
August 6, 2021 —
71.0% “Chapter 18 — The chapters starts with the Fun House in Fallujah. Brutal, as expected. Alice seems to be getting better. Bucky is taking the role of father figure with here. They start planning to hit Nick in Vegas”
August 6, 2021 —
68.0% “Chapter 17 — We can see the relief in Alice on seeing her rapists get punished. That is some palliative at least Billy decides to go to Colorado to meet up with Bucky and most of the chapter is devoted to the road trip. Alice’s reaction to the mountains reminds me of Ellie’s in The Last of Us.”
August 5, 2021 —
62.0% “Chapter 16 — Billy gets spooked and decides to leave but not before ensuring that the rapist gets punished.”
August 5, 2021 —
56.0% “Chapter 15. The sub-plot is predictable now. The girl understand Billy. They are getting comfortable with each other. And yup, time to take revenge on her rapists.”
August 5, 2021 —
53.0% “Chapters 14 and 15 — things get shaken up with the introduction of a new character. More fallujah. The story is getting even better.”
August 5, 2021 —
45.0% “Chapter 12 — Billy is stuck in his safe house. He finally decides to give up his dumb persona and his autobiography becomes true to life. He uses his real name and his writing improves. There is a lot of emphasis on his past life — which is quite interesting. The investigation is in the early stages and the first layer of the conspiracy has been uncovered by the investigators.

I find his life as a marine engrossing”
August 4, 2021 —
39.0% “Chapter 11 — yup. The story is in high gear now. Billy is in the safe house and finally has time to think. He figures out that there is a bigger conspiracy and that he too is a patsy. Regret and paranoia abounds.”
August 4, 2021 —
34.0% “Chapter 10 — A pure action oriented chapter. Finally, the shot is taken. What I loved in this chapter is Billy’s single minded focus (but he makes a couple of mistake again) and his state of mind as he tries to reach the safe house. You can feel the distractions intruding on Billy’s mind as he is trying to take the shot. And the frenetic and slight panicky feeling when he is trying to escape and avoid Nick’s gang.”
August 4, 2021 —
31.0% “Chapter 9 — Billy commits another mistake by sleeping with Phillys. He meets Dana, who seems like a hitman who is likely take Billy out after Joe is shot.”
August 4, 2021 —
28.0% “Chapter 8 — A lot of things happen in this chapter. The main stand-outs being Billy’s joining the marines and Billy’s mistakes in revealing his identity. I love how Billy drops his fake identity to win a prize for the children.”
August 4, 2021 —
23.0% “Chapter 7 — More insights into Billy’s childhood. This story is so much like the classic Stephen King novels like IT or Christine. Well written (well from a slightly dumber perspective) and from the heart. I wouldn’t mind reading a book just with Billy’s childhood story with all the delights and disappointments at that age.”
August 4, 2021 —
20.0% “Chapter 6 — Short chapter with more plot set-up. Billy discovers the Colin is a smart, ruthless person hiding under the guise of a flamboyant people pleasing personality. This makes Billy wonder he, like Colin, is a good or bad person or somewhere in between. Hoff is running scared and tries to make it up with Billy. Again, this is a person hiding a bit of his true self under the guise of a successful businessman.”
August 4, 2021 —
18.0% “Chapter 5 — Stephen King shows his understanding of human behaviour yet again. I loved the conversations Billy has. Btw, Billy is maintaining three identities and that is taking its toll. He is also starting to break his rules on not getting too close.

I think Billy is getting outplayed by Nick. We shall see. Also, for such a badass, why doesn’t he check for a tail or bugs at his home?”
August 4, 2021 —
12.0% “Chapter 4. And yup, here’s the old domestic violence horror. The sheer banality makes it a punch to the gut.

This chapter has it all. Billy starts to work on his plan to assassinate Joe. Escaping from the tower seems to be the main challenge. At the same time, he has to maintain the facade of his false identity. And ensure that he does not end up being the fall guy. His autobiographical account is enthralling.”
August 4, 2021 — page 0
0.0% “Chapter 3 — Billy adopts his fake identity. We meet his neighbours — might be some shenanigans going on there. And Billy sees the place where is going to stake out. Hoff is a mini trump, I bet Stephen King had a lot of fun writing his character. I am still hooked. I wonder which way the story will swing.”
August 4, 2021 — page 0
0.0% “Chapter 2. Yup. It’s a setup. Billy knows it. You know it. Stephen King knows it. Will Billy’s dumb self persona come back to bite him in the ass? That’s what I think is happening.”
August 4, 2021 — page 0
0.0% “So, I finished chapter 1. I like the protagonist. He is smart and behaves like a real person, covering his ass, seeing patterns, etc. Stephen King’s writing is excellent, as always, though the present continuous tense threw me off a little. It has been a while since I read one of his books, especially in this style. I am not sure if this action-thriller will become horror eventually.”
August 3, 2021 — Shelved
August 3, 2021 — Started Reading (less)

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