Thursday 29 March 2012

Guest Post | Pablo of The Eloquent Page Reviews Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Until very recently, there wasn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind that the blogger behind The Eloquent Page was called - legally, morally and so on - Pablo Cheesecake. That's his username on Twitter, incidentally.

I am exactly that daft!

Anyway, I don't know that I want to take away any of good sir Cheesecake's mystery, so let's just say that the man's a kind and generous gentleman, with almost certainly excellent hair. Not only that, he's also a noted fish finger connoisseur, and an excellent blogger besides.

If you haven't fed The Eloquent Page to your pet RSS readers already, you should do so immediately. That there link should get you started, but in the unlikely event you still need some convincing, read on for his thoughts on an epic horror novel to rival The Stand.

That's right: it's time to talk Swan Song.


Buy this book from:

"Protect the Child!

"On the edge of a barren Kansas landscape, an ex-wrestler called Black Frankenstein hears the cry...

"In the wasteland of New York City, a bag lady clutches a strange glass ring and feels magic coursing through her.

"Within an Idaho mountain, a survivalist compound lies in ruins, and a young boy learns how to kill.

"In a wasteland born of nuclear rage, in a world of mutant animals and marauding armies, the last people on earth are now the first. Three bands of survivors journey toward destiny... drawn into the final struggle between annihilation and life!

"They have survived the unsurvivable. Now the ultimate terror begins."


When that dashing, devil may care blogger about town known only as The Speculative Scotsman got in touch and offered me the opportunity to write a guest post while he was ‘en vacances' I have to admit that I was a bit stumped. I ummed and ahhed about exactly what topic I should write about. After much head scratching and a little soul searching I decided I'd like to visit my favourite genre and revisit one of my favourite novels. So without any further flim-flam or shilly-shally I give you my love letter to the classic apocalyptic nightmare that is Swan Song by Robert McCammon.

For the longest time I thought that the only real horror epic out there was Stephen King's wrist-snapping magnum opus The Stand. Then one day, purely by chance, I happened upon Swan Song by Robert McCammon. If I remember correctly I stole the copy from my sister (thinking about it I may never have apologised. There isn't a statute of limitations on apologies is there? - Sorry sis). I had previously read some of McCammon's other work: The Wolf's Hour, They Thirst and Stinger but I had no idea about Swan Song. All I knew was that here was an author who was writing the sort of horror that I relish.

The threat of nuclear destruction loomed large in the nineteen eighties, when Swan Song was originally released, and this makes for a fertile backdrop. Within the first few chapters, the President of the United States has gone beyond the point of no return and a global thermonuclear war has re-written all the rules. Cities are destroyed in a spectacular Roland Emmerich style fashion, if you have seen 2012, or Independence Day, you'll get the of the sort of scale we are talking about here, but the reader is treated to all the real horror after the dust has settled. After the bombs have dropped is where this story really excels.

Once you appreciate the vast stage that McCammon has created it comes as little surprise that he then goes on to define some truly memorable characters to inhabit it. I am always hard pressed to decide which are my favourite, there are so many to choose from. If you held a gun to my head, I would probably have to name Josh Hutchins, ex wrestler and protector of the novel’s focus, Sue Wanda 'Swan' Prescott. As the plot develops, the surrogate father/daughter bond that forms between these two is very much the heart and soul of the entire novel.

Be warned this is a big book, actually I may be understating this slightly, Swan Song is a MONSTER of a book. At over nine hundred pages, the plot is huge in scope. That said McCammon knows exactly the right buttons to press to illicit a response from his readers. The different groups of survivors are forced to exist in a land where chaos is king. There are no rules anymore and a stranger is just as likely to kill you as soon as look at you.

Time to lay my cards on the table. I'll let you into one of the deepest darkest secrets, that may be considered sacrilegious by some (certainly Mrs Cheesecake thinks so), I prefer Swan Song over The Stand. There, I've finally said it, feels good to get my secret shame out in the open. Now don't get me wrong, The Stand is a superb novel but after completing the unabridged version once I've never felt the urge to re-read it. Swan Song, by comparison, finds its way back into my hands on a regular basis. There is some indefinable quality to the writing that just clicks with me. The characters are ingrained in my psyche. I'm a child of the seventies and I grew up with nuclear war always being bandied about as the ultimate horror. I still have nightmares after watching the likes of The Day After, Threads and even When the Wind Blows so it is hardly a surprise that a novel that depicts such vivid devastation has stayed with me.

How best to sum up then? If you've read and loved Stephen King or marveled at the vastness of Justin Cronin’s debut, and let's be honest what self-respecting horror fan hasn't, then you won't just want to read Swan Song, you NEED to read Swan Song. This is a truly epic fiction that will stay with you. Decades later, I still find that the text resonates; each time I pick up this novel it captures my imagination on every single page. It won the Bram Stoker Award for best novel in 1988 for goodness sakes! If that isn't recommendation enough, I don't know what is.

Alas, I fear I may have rambled too much? You can blame The Theoretical Northerner for giving me free reign to waffle. It just remains for me to thank the hardiest of you who have managed to get to the end of my review. If you ever feel like stopping by my neck of the interwebs you'll find me over at The Eloquent Page. I’m also known to inhabit the Twitters and Facebook.

You know, I've owned a copy of Swan Song for ages - indeed, on the recommendation of certain TSS readers - and when I bought my copy, I distinctly remember intending to read it immediately. I was in the mood for something massive, as I recall.

I couldn't possibly say what it was, but obviously something stopped me, because I haven't touched the thing since. Did I decide to read The Five instead, because it was the new shiny?

But what better time than now, right? Especially after reading through The Eloquent Page's excellent review. That's why I've brought my copy of Swan Song all the way to America with me, where I do believe it was born.

Thanks again for guest post, Pablo!

Everyone else: you must know where to find the fine fellow by now. And if not, hey, he blogs - with aplomb - over here.

You must be wondering what's coming up on The Speculative Scotsman tomorrow. Well, I hate to disappoint, but the truth will out, so: it's back to boring old me, folks, for the first week of my holidays' worth of Letters From America.

That is presuming I haven't been eaten by alligators already. Honestly, it's entirely possible. Give me half a chance and I'll pet practically anything. :)


  1. No you never apologised, brother dearest, but don't worry I promptly bought another copy because I love it as well,.. yes more than The stand lol!
    Little cheesecake x

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