Stephen King’s new novel, Elevation, is not what I was expecting. For a start, the novel is less than 300 pages long; perhaps novella is a more appropriate term for it. But what really caught me off guard is that this story is weirdly…uplifting? This is an unusual outcome for a King novel, but I must admit I do like the change.
Elevation follows the story of Scott who is rapidly losing weight with no change to his physical appearance. He looks exactly the same – a 42-year-old man who is about 230 pounds – but every time he steps on the scale the number drops. Regular King readers will know that this is very similar to the plot line of his 1984 novel Thinner(published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) but on a less drastic scale.
The story takes place in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, where many of King’s previous works have taken place. Castle Rock is a predominantly Republican state – one of the characters even says, “The county went for Trump three-to-one in ’16”, so for the two married women (Deirdre McComb and Missy Donaldson) in the neighbourhood it’s “a deal-breaker for lots of folks”. When Scott publicly defends them against a homophobic bully in the town, he gets sucked into the ugly conflict that has divided the town. The only problem is Deirdre doesn’t like him and tells him to stay away from her wife. It seems that no matter what Scott does or says, he can’t seem to get her to like him. How can he help them if she won’t accept his friendship?
It’s a surprisingly uplifting plot because it’s about a group of people resolving their tensions by evolving beyond their own beliefs. It’s about how opinions can change, and communities can grow closer. The supernatural element of the novel – where Scott appears to be losing weight,
not mass – is almost presented as secondary; as a subplot. Scott goes to a doctor who tells him there’s nothing he can do, and Scott just seems to accept it. He doesn’t want to go through hospital test or various medical experiments, so he just embraces his inevitable downfall. The mass loss plot (I’m aware this sounds kind of clunky but considering he isn’t technically losing weight I wasn’t sure how else to describe it) and the Deirdre and Missy plot end up intertwining and working in tandem. What follows is a wonderful collision of two very different plots, culminating in a third narrative strand that takes us to the end of the novel.
Elevation also isn’t that political, especially considering one of the main themes of the book is homophobia. This book isn’t an attack on Trump, or an attack on Republicans. In fact, one could argue that it potentially shows Republicans in a positive light because they are willing to put their opinions to the side in favour of tolerance. The novel offers a critique of society in a balanced manner. It doesn’t lash out at a particular group of people, but rather shows we can all learn to be tolerant through the experiences we go through in our day to day lives.
At face value, the book can be read quite leisurely in under a day. But if you read between the lines it’s quite a positive story about resolving conflicts and accepting differences. I want to wrap up this article by quoting Josephine Livingstone, who says “It’s an encouraging direction for a writer whose themes seem to be maturing as he does.”