Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen - from the President of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City - will fight for survival.
In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth’s last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artefact in the destroyed Manhattan streets… Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station… And Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan’s gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself…
Once the decision had been made to incorporate a section devoted to dystopian fiction within Fantasy Book Review there was no question in my mind that Robert McCammon's Swan Song was a must-have. I first read the book around 7 years ago - I had just started a new job and a woman I worked with, Alison, suggested I should read Swan Song. She said it was brilliant. And she was right, and I will always be thankful to her for recommending it.
Swan Song is not perfect, it is clunky in parts and arguably overly long but I have now made my way through it twice (read through first time, listened to audiobook version second time) and have thoroughly enjoyed the journey both times. During the recent listen-through I headed over to McCammon's official website - http://www.robertmccammon.com - to find out a little more about the man behind the book and found on there commentary that backed up my own feelings; feelings that were so refreshingly honest (coming as they are in a world of self-aggrandisement) that I now like both the author and book even more for having read them. This is what I read on McCammon's biography page:
"Swan Song is perhaps McCammon's most controversial novel, though the controversy is not so much over the subject matter as it is in the novel's technique. Certainly the book is overlong and has some weakly drawn characterizations and a weakly portrayed romance. At the same time, it has an enormous number of characters whose actions are always interesting, much convincing detail, and great strokes of imagination. Furthermore, McCammon is able to depict something as mundane as the passing of a horse with great conviction, and the positive far outweighs the negative. Swan Song tied with Stephen King's Misery for the 1988 Bram Stoker Award for outstanding achievement in horror and dark fantasy and was the first of McCammon's books to be a New York Times best-seller."
And that, in a nutshell, says it all. In a book of over 850 pages I never once found myself bored, I progressed through the book at a steady pace, reading every day until it was finished. I looked forward to reading it each evening as I cared about the characters and was easily able to forgive the weaknesses (I think McCammon is being a little too hard on himself) as it was all just so damn enjoyable (I know that enjoyable may not be the right word to use when describing reading about the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, maybe gripping would be more suitable). And the mention of Stephen King is also interesting as Swan Song reads very much like a novel he could of written himself and has certain parallels with The Stand. Here again is a snippet from the official McCammon site:
"Like Stephen King's The Stand (1978), its literary model, Swan Song follows the lives and actions of a diverse group of characters in a post-holocaust world. King used a super-flu to kill most of the world's population, but he left buildings and civic infrastructure intact, and apart from the emergent supernatural elements, most of the problems faced by his characters are logistical: corpses must be removed, electricity must be restarted, and civil order must be maintained. McCammon went several steps further and destroyed his world with a limited nuclear war, and his characters face plagues, devastation, radiation injuries and sicknesses, declining food and fuel rations, nuclear winters, and of course, each other."
I love both books and there is a good chance that others will too. If The Stand worked for you (review on this book coming soon) then the likelihood is the Swan Song will too. And vice-versa.
In Swan Song Robert McCammon hits with far greater frequency than he misses and the supernatural elements are expertly woven into what is, quite naturally, a rather oppressive story. So if you like post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction and/or like Stephen King or books of that ilk then please, please give Swan Song a read, you will not regret it. The book has also recently become available in both Kindle and audiobook format (very well read by Tom Stechschulte) and the latter became my friend and companion on my daily commute.
I found it impossible not to like Swan Song, even more so after discovering that the author was so open and honest, and I am delighted to feature it on Fantasy Book Review.
This Swan Song book review was written by Floresiensis
Have you read Swan Song?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Swan Song reader reviews
Carolina from Arizona
Swan Song is the vest book I read in my life.
Bill from New York/Florida
My favorite book. I've read it 6 times. Recommended it numerous times, to great approval. Should have been a movie or mini series already. Great characters ! Think I'll start turning the pages for a 7th time now. Love it! McCammon is so underrated.
Pearl from US
The first half of the first chapter was a bit fast moving to disaster, but then disasters rarely move at a snails pace because then there's time to react, ok, given as a logical point. I thought more description and more detail could have brought more clarity to the situation. I just plowed through the first chapter and then afterwards, when circumstance and the major players came into focus and the story line took on a more linear projection, it got more than interesting, it got downright riveting! I could NOT put down this book, do Not, Not, read this book before you have to sleep because you will end up staying up way longer than you decently should have! I can't believe no one ever made a movie of this book because the visions that McCammon puts into your head are astounding and sometimes beautiful. The range of emotions and critical thought are well balanced. Many books I read after that paled in comparison. This in the top ten of my favorite books of all time. I just purchased a new copy, because I keep giving them away, and I will have read it for the fourth time. I just made a deal with my grown up daughter, I will read "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen ugg, but she has to read Robert McCammon's " Swan Song". I know she'll thank me later!
Eve from USA
Loved this book. Yes there are some weak points. Such as when Josh decides to proceed inside K-Mart even after he knows Alvin might be around. I could not stop, and yes I cried many times. Loved this book, this and the Stand - must reads.
Jackie from Indiana
Definitely my all time favorite book, for many years! It's captivating, and definitely a book I can't put down, no matter how many times I read it. Amazing story line, enthralling characters, and makes you feel like you are a part of the story not just a reader. You WILL run the full gamut of emotions with this one!
Daniel from New York
Swan Song is a story about the survivors of a nuclear holocaust that have to make sense and exist in this colorless new world they are left with. Here they must contend with fallout, plagues, famine, and each other. Some people cling to their humanity despite the hardships it brings, where others shed theirs like a second skin in favor of power and comfort. 'The Man With The Scarlet Eye', a very dark other worldly being, courts the less scrupulous survivors, bringing them closer to darkness and destruction, and crushes any who try to bring meaning and hope back to the world. Two such threats he finds at the hands of a bag lady named Sister and a child called Swan. Sister brings comfort with a magic piece of glass and Swan can bring life back to the land with a touch. Armies form as many wish to destroy them and many would lay down their lives for them. I first read this book back in 1988 and have read through it numerous times, worn through multiple copies, and gifted even more. To this day, if I were to pick up that book, I know that not long after I have begun turning pages I will have become invested in these wonderful characters again. A trained critic or seasoned author may find a few faults in technique here or there, but just as a reader, I found myself too busy enjoying the book to notice. McCammon doesn't pull punches with this gritty world he shows us, so if you still have a soul, you might need a dry handkerchief.
Angie from Carlisle
This had to be my all time favourite book, I loved how the story gripped you from the beginning and that was it, my imagination took me on every journey and every character in the book! Sometimes I had to put it down as I'd got myself that scared but then had to pick it back up straight away to see what happened next. I loved it and I'm sure you will too!
9.9/10 from 8 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothi...
Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels ag...
The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boun...
Oryx and Crake
Snowman may be the last man on earth, the only survivor of an unnamed apocalypse. Once he was Jimmy, a member of a scientific elite; now he lives in bitter isolation and lo...
The Last Man Standing
Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo wa...
The Drowned World
Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows ...
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
John Joseph Adams
Famine, death, war, pestilence. These are said to be the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse-Armageddon. The End of the World. Whether by nuclear warfare, a biological di...
The Crystal World
Through a ‘leaking’ of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees metamorphose into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering ski...
Emily St John Mandel
What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whil...
A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn...
An illness spreads through an unnamed city. It has only one symptom: blindness. It comes without fanfare, pain, or warning. One moment a man waits in his car at the traffic...
The Reapers are the Angels
God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe... Older than her years and completely alone, Temp...
Legends of the Red Sun
Mark Charan Newton
An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur. It’s a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshe...
The Return Man
The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco ma...
First came the days of the plague. Then came the dreams. Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Best of 2016
What are Strungballs? Ten-year-old Sydney is about to find out... but first he must have a cube of his flesh removed. Sydney will transgress everything he was taught to believ...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...