Elevation is the newest book by Stephen King, taking place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, the setting of a great number of his stories. This novella follows Scott Carey, a recent divorcee who suffers from a bizarre illness; he keeps losing weight, yet it has no effect on his physical appearance or how he feels. If anything he feels better. He has more energy and feels lighter on his feet. Despite this, he does wonder whether it will stop, or if a day will come where he weighs nothing at all and what that will mean. His troubles don’t stop there, as tensions develop between him and his lesbian neighbors over dog poop on his lawn, which ends up cluing him in to the way the largely conservative community of Castle Rock has alienated the couple, who struggle to keep their new restaurant up and running.
While the implications of Scott’s condition are certainly terrifying, I think this book has been a little mislabeled as horror by some places. Scott was disconcerted by his steadily declining weight, but he never let it fill him with dread. He began more simply to anticipate the future consequences of it while concerning himself with other things, especially during the early stages where he still weighed well over 100 pounds. His outlook flavoured the story substantially, which could have been of someone filled with impending doom, but instead was about someone making the most of a strange situation. He was much more concerned with his neighbors, Deidre McComb and Missy Donaldson, and resolving the nuisance their dogs were causing him, before ultimately trying to mend his relationship with them as a neighbor.
Although I found the way the social issues were touched upon a little too on-the-nose at times, King also balanced perspectives fairly well. Scott was good-intentioned, but a little too unthinking and oblivious for his own good. As for Deidre, more the centre of their disagreements, she had a big chip on her shoulder from having to be defensive of her orientation, especially in Castle Rock. She was sympathetic, but also too quick to judge in her own right, even viewing people with more benign issues with her as out to get her. While not terribly high stakes it did make for a nice little story of trying to reconcile with others and bringing a community closer together.
What I wasn’t particularly fond of was how things developed after a certain point. Scott’s relationship with the couple does improve, but once it got over that first big hill of reconciliation that was it. They were fast friends and things became more about Scott’s impending “Zero Day” and what he was going to do about being possibly weightless. Considering the rate of his decline, though faster than he expected, a lot of time did get glossed over. I would have preferred a closer look at his growing relationship with his neighbors. What other trials might have reared their head or what events could have brought them even closer? The incident that made them friends was substantial, but having everything so neatly resolved and the people so tightly knit so quickly felt too unearned for me.
Despite my gripes, Elevation was a pleasant and quick reading experience. King did as wonderful a job as ever of making evocative characters whose presence on the page come through in their little behaviours as much as the big moments. It was also clearly written to be a feel-good story, which it succeeds at appreciably, with a nice though bittersweet conclusion. There were also plenty of references to other King stories, old and new, that have taken place in and around Castle Rock, which was a touch I enjoyed. It won’t blow you away, but it just might give you some warm and fuzzy feelings, and that’s certainly not unwelcome sometimes.
My Rating: 3 out of 5