Swan Song review

Swan Song - Robert R. McCammon

I have to begin this review by noting how busy life is for me at present. I say this not to big-note myself or brag, but simply to explain that my free time is about as precious as it has ever been. And as such I guard it jealously. So I've found myself reluctant to commit to reading epic novels the way I used to. I have to be fairly convinced the ones I opt for are going to be worth the proportionately scarce amount of time I have to read them.

All of which is to say, I did not love McCammon's Swan Song. To my mind it was a decent to good post-apocalyptic thriller with some horrific elements thrown into the mix. It was well-written and filled with detailed characters, and it probably would have been all the more powerful reading it upon release when the spectre of nuclear war loomed large over the world as a whole. (I even have a memory of my Year 7 teacher telling me that he would not be surprised if our city - the most isolated city in the world with a population of a million plus people - could be targeted by any of the nuclear superpowers as a "test" site for nuclear weapon effects if tensions escalated high enough ...)

But - and this, sadly, is a hugely significant but - Swan Song was not well-paced for mine. McCammon sweats on a number of small things, hammering them home repeatedly so the reader can not possibly fail to notice their importance. The powers of the "ring", for example, were established, re-established, and then re-re-established for good measure. At about the half way point, the book skips forwards seven years, and everything again slows to a crawl, as the major story lines are re-booted, often with numerous additional characters to get to know. Except I struggled to care for any of these add-ons, and just wanted McCammon to get to the convergence of the separate plot threads.

And though I generally appreciated McCammon's easy writing-style, I became frustrated with his character POV jumps within sections (sometimes from paragraph to paragraph!), as this has long been a pet writing hate of mine.

Character-wise, I truly appreciated Swan, Sister and Josh, but the "baddies" seemed cartoon-like, with none being worse than the being stalking Sister throughout her thread. Like a Marvel film, McCammon managed to set up an excellent cast of protagonists, only for them be let down by the less than stellar range of villains put before them. I was also less than thrilled by the ending for some of the characters, but that would stray into spoiler territory, so I won't go there. Not here on Booklikes.


In the end, Swan Song simply took too long to get where it was going and featured too many characters that did not resonate with me. As such, it fell short of being the great novel it was for many other people - even though I realise I'm in the vast minority with that view.

Now to find something short and punchy to consume in one sitting ...

3 Radioactive Wastelands for Swan Song.