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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: Swan Song

By Robert McCammon

· Mass Market Paperback: 960 pages
· Publisher: Pocket (June 1, 1987)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0671741039

I had never heard of Swan Song until it was recommended to me, by someone whose opinion I valued, due to its similarity to Stephen King’s The Stand. Indeed there are several similarities between these two novels, but there’s also enough differences to make them each unique.

Swan Song starts out with a nuclear holocaust, a fear even more relevant in our times than it was when Swan Song was written twenty years ago. Like his previous novels, McCammon introduces several characters in extraordinary circumstances. Among these characters are Sister Creep, a bag lady in New York City unable to release the pain of a personal tragedy; Colonel Macklin, a decorated war hero hired by a cadre of survivalist to teach them how to survive the coming apocalypse; Roland Croninger, Macklin’s protégé; Swan, a young girl from a broken home who holds the key to mankind’s survival; Josh Hutchins a seven foot tall wrestler known as Black Frankenstein entrusted to protect Swan; and finally the Man with the Scarlet eye, an incarnation of the Devil (comparable to King’s Randal Flagg).

The novel introduces each character in an episodic structure along with other “minor” characters and as their stories progress they come together as both allies and enemies. My absolute favorite character (other than Sister Creep) was Leona Skelton, the old tarot reader who takes a special interest in Swan. However her part in the story last but a few chapters before she meets her demise.

Amidst the devastation Warlords amass barbaric armies all over the fractured country and rise up against one another to seize power and lay claim to their own territory. Fear and violence run rampant. With no authority to enforce order, rape, murder, molestation, and cannibalism are only a few of the horrors that become the order of the day. In other areas of the country peaceful communities attempt to rebuild society and regain some semblance of order.

Mankind’s destruction seems inevitable, which please the Man with the Scarlet Eye; but when Swan’s ability to regenerate the Earth’s plant life, thereby allowing them to feed themselves, is discovered he makes it his mission to find and destroy her by any means necessary.

As the novel winds down the ultimate confrontation between Swan and The Man with the Scarlet Eye comes to a head. Just when it seems that the Devil’s victory is eminent only the intervention of God himself, who fell from heaven the same day nuclear war erupted in the skies, can pull us from the pits of despair and return hope to a lost nation.

At 956 pages Swan Song isn’t a light read, however the chapters are broken up in short intervals which makes for easier reading. Believe me, once you pick up this book you won’t want to put it down. Swan Song is rich is mysticism, magic, action, atmosphere, characterization and depth. I highly recommend this fascinating story to anyone who loves a good story.

Carolina Dean

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