Book Reviews

Book Review: Blockade Billy by Stephen King – Good Story that Let Me Down in the End

Ever since his accident, Stephen King hasn’t been the same writer.  Most of his novels left me with mixed feelings in the end rather than being books I would wholeheartedly recommend.  Recently he returned to form a bit more with Under the Dome.  Knowing the common affection I have with King for baseball, I was looking forward to reading the novella Blockade Billy.

Blockade Billy is the story of a major-league baseball sensation. Well, at least for a month.  It seems that baseball historians have gone to great lengths to erase the name William Blakely from the record books.  They can’t erase him from the memory of the people who were there at the time, though and a former coach with the New Jersey Titans is ready to tell all.  The question is, why would they want to erase Billy from the record books?

Blockade Billy builds the story nicely, detailing the month Billy played ball and creating a sensation of a deep, dark secret he was harboring.  King draws the reader along in the story with hints about Billy being “out of this world” and seeming to have supernatural powers at times.  However, I have to say that the ending was much more simplistic than I was expecting and not really a fantastic scandal.  I was expecting to learn that Billy was really an alien or a cyborg or something with a science-fiction edge to it.  Instead, he’s just a human being with a terrible secret.

The book works for the most part which is what kept me reading along. King’s narrative is good, especially for fans of baseball who will understand various aspects of the game that might leave those who aren’t baseball fans a bit on the outside.  This isn’t like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, an excellent baseball-related book by King that is totally accessible to anyone who isn’t a baseball fan.  Certain nuances of the game will be lost on anyone who doesn’t come to the book with some baseball knowledge.

That said, the book is a fun read.  I enjoyed the characterizations of the other players.  Baseball players are notoriously superstitious and King capitalizes on that with Billy’s relationship with a pitcher who sees the catcher as his good luck charm.  It’s pretty humorous at times and I enjoyed this, even if I thought the price for it in hardcover was a bit steep.  This edition did include a second short story, Morality, which is a bit of a twist on the theme in Indecent Proposal.  It was good and definitely helped the price tag on Blockade Billy seem to be worth it.

While I won’t say that Blockade Billy is King’s best work, it was a good read that I thoroughly enjoyed as a baseball fan.  It could have been a bit more imaginative in the end, but overall a good story.