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Literature / Later

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Later (2021) is Stephen King's third novel for the Hard Case Crime imprint, following The Colorado Kid (2005) and Joyland (2013).

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine—as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

Later provides examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Donald Marsden was not only a drug kingpin, but is also revealed to have tortured his wife to death and keep photos of it in his panic room. It's hard to feel sorry for him when Liz kills him.
  • Big Bad: The Deadlight, a mysterious cosmic entity that takes control of the ghost of terrorist, Kenneth Therriault. It becomes fascinated with Jamie as only he can see it and it becomes a fear-eater, similar to Pennywise the Dancing Clown (to further the connection, Pennywise's true form is made of orange light called "deadlights").
  • Blackmail: Liz gets Jamie to help her find Donald Marsden's supply of Oxycontin pills by threatening to release a recording of Jamie and his mother talking with Regis Thomas regarding his novel, which will reveal both Jamie's secret and the fact that Tia wrote Thomas' last book.
  • Body Horror: Ghosts will appear as how they were when they died. If they died of natural causes they will appear normal. Those who died from more violent ends will appear with horrific wounds.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Jamie discovers his uncle is his father. He imagines the events that may have lead to his conception but does not pursue it further.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Most ghosts automatically tell the truth to whatever Jamie asks. When Jamie asks Therriault’s ghost about the bomb’s location it initially refuses (which technically isn't lying), but further pressing causes it great discomfort until it gives up the location.
  • Canon Welding: The Ritual of Chüd and the Deadlights from It both resurface here.
  • Clothes-Eating Wager: Early in the book, Jamie Conklin's neighbor, Mrs. Burkett, dies, after which her husband has trouble finding his late wife's rings. Due to being able to communicate with ghosts, Jamie learns from Mrs. Burkett that she left the rings on the top shelf of the hall closet, which he tells to his mother, who discreetly suggests to Mr. Burkett to look there. Mr. Burkett is skeptical and vows to eat his hat if the rings are there. When the rings turn up exactly where Jamie said, Jamie briefly considers asking Mr. Burkett if he wants salt and pepper on his hat but decides not to since the man is still grieving and he doesn't want to come off as a smartass.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: After Jamie uses the Ritual of Chüd to make the ghost of Therriault leave him alone, he also makes the Deadlights inhabiting Therriault swear to come to his aid if he summons them. However, he is warned by his neighbor, Professor Burkett, to never use this, since the Deadlights are too dangerous. Jamie is eventually forced to do so anyway when he fears Liz might kill him, and is barely able to avoid the Dead Light from breaking free of his control and making him a slave.
  • Dirty Cop: Liz eventually becomes this, using her position as a cop to participate in drug trafficking.
  • Disneyfication: Discussed when Mr. Burkett gives Jamie a fairy tale book with the fairy tales in their original, unabridged version, which are much Darker and Edgier than how most people know these fairy tales nowadays due to the Disney adaptations.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Therriault's ghost eventually becomes a vessel for the Deadlights.
  • Fat Bastard: Drug kingpin Donald Marsden is described as being obese.
  • For the Evulz: Jamie asks the ghost of Therriault why he set off various bombs. Therriault's only response is that he wanted to.
  • Friendly Ghost: Most ghosts are either friendly or amicable towards Jamie. Some... aren’t.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Utilized in-universe with Regis Thomas's Roanoke series. When Tia (who is either lesbian or bisexual) ends up ghostwriting the last book critics note that the lesbian relationship is written with more emotional resonance than the prior books.
  • The Heavy: While The Deadlight is the supernatural Big Bad, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Dutton drives the main conflict as a crooked cop and Jamie’s mother’s ex-girlfriend who becomes his most personal enemy.
  • I See Dead People: Jamie can see and interact with the recently deceased.
  • Mad Bomber: Kenneth Therriault also known as 'Thumper' is a notorious bomber who has set off numerous bombs throughout his life. When his identity is discovered he plants one last bomb before killing himself. Liz uses Jamie's abilities to find its location before it can detonate.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Downplayed since Professor Burkett was already in his eighties and died of a heart attack, which can be seen as dying of old age, but he had just become a Mentor to Jamie of sorts, becoming Jamies confident and advising him to use the Ritual of Chüd.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts here are not white or transparent. They look exactly like they did when they died, down to the clothes they were wearing at the time and any injuries they suffered that caused their death. Mental diseases like Alzheimers however don't carry over. Ghosts become The Stoic, and the majority of them fade away after a couple of days. The only exceptions to this rule are those possessed by a malevolent force, like the Dead Lights. Ghosts are also only visible to those with the power to see them.
  • Posthumous Collaboration: Jamie's mother Tia is a literary agent for a famous author named Regis Thomas, who dies before he can finish his last book, and who was infamous for keeping the plot of his novel a secret to everybody, not leaving behind any notes. Aware of his abilities, Tia has Jamie ask Thomas's ghost what the story would have been and transcribe it to her. She ends up finishing the novel herself to great success.
  • The Stoic: Ghosts by default are almost entirely devoid of emotions, and answer any question Jamie asks them in a neutral voice that comes across as them simply stating facts. However, love and especially hate tend to stay with the deceased a bit longer.
  • Time Skip: The novel starts at the beginning of Jamie's childhood and skips to various points in his life ending when he is in his twenties.