Why am I still reading McCammon?(1) I'm not sure, because I just woke up and found my index finger on page 195. I guess my "mind had crashed into some event that had left [me] half-brainless and groping for memory"(p.10). The protag has no more clue than I do, as he too is suffering from some sort of amnesia. Except his world is this world where two galactic races battle over demarcation lines.(2) Gorgons and Cyphers they're called and they can do anything McCammon pulls out of his deus ex machina box of toys. Ethan—that's our hero—stumbles into an enclave of survivors holding up in a apartment complex. It's obvious they have no chance. The aliens consider them house flies pesking around their rampant and full-scale destruction of the Earth's surface. But the Gray Men. Ah. See Pitt's World War Z (2013)? Now, cut out all the boring stuff. See the bald and emasculated zombie hordes swarming everything like ants on crack? These skinheads do something a PG-rated movie can't show you.
Yeah, it's a chewfest so you can be like them.
Here's also a good example of McCammon's puerile symbolism. It's not much of a strain to see these alien master races as human world powers devasting weaker societies a la the so-called Cold War of our recent past. Ethan—our prophet from the wilderness—even calls it "an arms race"(p.40). The Gray Men are the made-over patrons like you and me. They make up a pliable community stabilized to one goal: consumerism.
Ethan, of course, is an outsider and therefore untrustworthy. He doesn't even trust himself, but we—the readership—do. His body is one big bruise, but his mind is off and running. He causes an earthquake just by thinking about it. He intuits a natural spring underneath the scummy apartment pool, thus eliminating a major drinking problem. He visions a quest "to the white mansion"(p.68) to give the plot its major direction. The question everybody is asking: where's his superhero costume?
But my question is different: why is he existing in my universe at all?
You know, I am too old for this shit. The only thing holding McCammon together was his riveting and audacious storytelling. His books used to be a kick in the head. But not this one. It might be a bit above The Five, I don't know 'cause I didn't finish it. Yeah, it's an interesting quirk to background a story with 2 war-born alien races constantly throwing down over Earth. But the rest of this prose mudball—characters, setting, themes, etc—is just worn out.
Dead at 195 pages out of 441.
1) Go to this link to amuse yourself on my review of his once-called "condemned novels."
2) You see, these aliens are in dispute over space territory and the Earth happens to be in the path. So, we are on the "border between them, and it's not Earth they want. It's a line in space"(p.40).