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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 23 February 2010
This is the first book I have ready by Robert McCammon and I look forward to reading more.
In common with some other commentators here, I was drawn into this book thoroughly. It is a long book at 850 odd pages, but being one of those rare books which are hard to put down, the pages zip by: especially once the story gets going.
The story mixes the realities of a post-nuclear war that has experienced MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) between Russia and the USA with the fantasies of the powers of good and evil, where evil is having a party. The story is set in the US and moves from the immediate pre-war situation into the plight of three key groups of survivors whose lives are scattered between New York - near Wichita, Kansas - and a mountain refuge in Idaho. McCammon initially focuses upon the usual post-nuclear exchange devastation; the skeletons of buildings, grey clouded skies, incessant storms and plunging temperatures that mark the nuclear winter. So far one can anticipate the usual stories of survival in this harsh landscape with people forced to choose between trying to maintain some of the codes of their civilisation, whilst others turn to their darker side. This is the substance of Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road (2006).
However, pretty soon after the initial nuclear exchange, one realises that there are other forces at work in the story. This is where the adventures really start to take-off; powers of good and evil slowly begin to emerge and one realises that another dimension has been opened for the reader.
Gradually, the survivors are to be drawn towards one another, but along the way one is never sure who is going to survive the next ordeal; and who if any, will make it to the end.
I found the book was not something that simply told a story; rather it touched one's emotions in all sorts of ways that no doubt would be unique to each reader. Overall, I felt it resounded with that grand sense of folly in the human condition and yet it was blended with the never ending power of hope and love. This book may well make you laugh and cry and sometimes do both at the same time, but like any good book it will draw you into another world, where the characters are very real and the world around them is not for the fainthearted. So be prepared.
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VINE VOICEon 15 June 2011
I found out about this book by accident and as I LOVE the Stand I thought I would give it a try having never heard of Robert before. I had to admit to being a little sceptical to start with as I could never see anything living up to Stephen Kings masterpiece, but I have to say it run it a very close race, with The Stand coming just out on top. Regardless of this, this book is a masterpeice in its own right and I really cared about Sister and Swan and Josh and I hated the baddys with a vengance and I, for one really liked the ending....

All in all I am very happy that I found this book, if you fancy reading it dont let it large size put you is an easy good read and very well worth the effort.

On the strength of Swan Song I have bought a couple more of Roberts books....I will reveiw at a later time :)
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on 13 March 2002
A friend lent me this book in 1993. I didn't sleep for days as I *had* to finish it, absolutely mesmerised by the characters. Even now I have mental pictures of all the characters and I've never forgotten them. I gave the book back and lost touch with the friend... I found this book on just before christmas (I'd been looking for it for 9 years) and I know it is a treasure to savour and so I've resisted reading it until now. I go on holiday on saturday and I already know I'm going to have the best read of my life.
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on 18 April 2015
The trouble with post apocalyptic novels is that while the opening chapters which set the scene may be gripping stuff, boredom often sets in once we are left with a group of plucky survivors trudging across a dreary landscape. I gave up on 'The Stand' about half way through (though I love most of King's early stuff) tired of his over-detailed, bloated prose and I must admit I didn't have high hopes for this one either - but I was wrong. I will admit it bears more than a passing resemblance to The Stand - both feature a satanic villain in conflict with a saintly heroine - but there it ends. McCammon keeps the action exciting all the way though with surprises coming right up until the dramatic climax at the end.

I have to say that it works better as fantasy than an actual description of what would happen after a widespread nuclear holocaust- I doubt that anyone or anything would survive 7 year of nuclear winter - but setting that aside it is probably the best post apocalyptic novel I've ever read - the closest contender being Simon Clarke's 'King Blood'. It reminds me of how good horror novels were in the 80s, where you were gripped the whole way through instead of giving up in boredom after a few pages. I'm going to read/re-read all his past works now, only wish I could get them all for £1.24!
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on 13 March 2002
Set in a post nuclear war world, only a few survivors remain. Scattered and leaderless, terrible times brings out the best in some, and the worse in others. This book focuses on three stories, and how they come to terms with this new world that is forced upon them. There is Sister, a former bag lady, converted into a reluctant leader and heroine, Josh and nine year old girl Swan, who has an amazing gift that makes her sought after, and Colneral Macklin, with his creepy evil sadistic sidekick, teenager Roland.
The reason this book affected me so was because it is so real, especially in today's volitile world, where the threat of nuclear war is more prominent. Maybe we should get the world leaders to read this book?
To conclude, a rich tapestry of real life, real people, fantasy and science fiction. A garuenteed good read from a fabulous author.
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on 20 May 2011
This book is by far the best book i have ever read! I've mailed links of this page to many friends recommending they purchase it for them selves! I know I will read this book many times over years to come.

I hope they never make a movie out of it, they will ruin everything that makes this book special!
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on 6 March 2014
I stumbled across Robert McCammon about twenty five or thirty years ago when someone gave me Wolf's Hour, which I loved. It was like discovering Stephen King was a triplet and Dean Koontz and McCammon were his brothers. I read and loved Boy's Life and others and then, suddenly and for reasons I still don't fully understand, he disappeared from the bookshelves and it's been years since I read one of his novels.

The dawn of the e-reader has changed that and now, of course, much of McCammon's work is available again. Eager to reacquaint myself with him, I bought Swan Song.

The premise of the story is what happens to three different groups who survive total nuclear destruction and how one fearsome enemy affects all their lives and destinies.

I'm not going to go into plot details because to do so would be to risk spoiling the story, but at the centre of all the hope and despair stands one nine-year-old girl called Swan - a girl with a very special role to play in whatever future life awaits the survivors. Ranged against her are enemies whose own actions conspire, unwittingly in some cases, to destroy her and consequently cut the slender thread of hope that exists in a desolate new America. With her stand a few brave but ordinary men and women who understand that Swan represents a new beginning; and drawn inexorably to her through a chance discovery in the ruins of what was once Fifth Avenue is a New York bag lady with a tortured past.

These worlds collide in one final, terrible confrontation which will ultimately determine how - and if - man will survive to face a new dawn.

Many reviews - here and elsewhere - have compared this book to Stephen King's The Stand, but I think the two are markedly different, even though they occupy very similar territory. King's strength lies in his ability to breathe life into his characters and his environments. I think McCammon's lies in his ability to drive a narrative.

At 1300 pages, The Stand takes a myriad of interesting and disturbing diversions along the way. By contrast, and even though it weighs in at a little south of 900 pages, Swan Song is economic in description (it could be I missed it, but it wasn't until quite a way in that I realised one of the main characters is Black - not that it mattered at all, other than requiring a little bit of cerebral gymnastics to re-set my mental imaging!) but big on plot.

It's inevitable, of course, that within 900 pages some of the events will seem superfluous, but these really are at a bare minimum and the whole thing rockets along at quite a lick.

It gets four stars rather than five because, if I'm being totally honest, you can see the book improving as it gathers pace. It's almost as though even McCammon wasn't entirely sure how to get his characters moving in the first hundred pages or so. I also wasn't entirely convinced by McCammon's anti-hero. For me, he demonstrated a frailty in the face of adversity that didn't entirely gel with the aura of invincibility he's given in the early part of the book. But I'm being picky.

As a story, it's thought-provoking and as good an argument as I've seen for global nuclear disarmament. The wasteland that McCammon described is vivid and bleak and devoid of hope, save for the small bands of survivors who populate it. There is an almost religious dimension to the book as well. Whether deliberate or not - and only Robert McCammon knows for sure - the stand-off between good and evil has Biblical overtones - something that is quite subtle yet makes you think a bit more.

From a personal point of view, it was great to re-acquaint myself with McCammon and this was a stonking read which makes me eager for the next one.
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on 15 December 2010
I cannot understand why Robert McCammon is not more widely read over in the UK. He is vast becoming one of my favourite authors (joining the ranks of George R R Martin, Bernard Cornwell, Stephen King and John Connolly).

I have read three other books by Mr McCammon: Boy's Life and the first two in the Matthew Corbett series. All are brilliant reads but Swan Song is the best yet. I have had the pleasure of reading several good books recently but Swan Song was the first that had me fully immersed in the world. I was so engrossed that when reading no the bus to and from work, quite often I would look up and be surprised where I was. At one point I stayed on to the next stop past my house to finish the chapter (all hail Lord Alvin).

I won't summarize the book as that has been done very competently else where, but read this and you will not be disappointed. I loved the Stand but this exceeds it. I have read Under the Dome and the Passage this year as well. Both books I enjoyed, but Swan Song is the first I felt compelled to write a review of.

I will miss these characters but have no doubt they will stay with me for a very long time.
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on 29 May 2015
Swan Song by Robert McCammon is an epic post-apocalyptic novel with a similar scenario to Stephen King’s dark and omnipresent The Stand. In the aftermath of a nuclear war between America and Russia assorted survivors struggle to live among the ruins while a sinister demonic man stalks the land. Horror, magic and tragedy all combine in a sweeping saga of lost humanity. Along the way we meet a variety of characters - Sister (Creep) a homeless woman who finds new strength and purpose in the aftermath of the disaster, Josh Hutchins (Black Frankenstein) a wrestler who protects Swan an orphaned young girl. Elsewhere Colonel Macklin and Roland Croninger (King’s Knight) the son of survivalists, are thrown together forming an uneasy despicable alliance. The hypnotic story grows with every page, slowly and steadily building to a nail-biting climax with a satisfying conclusion. Swan Song is an ambitious encompassing saga that skillfully doesn’t lose focus on the central characters. To conclude this is a sizeable (over 850 pages) yet enthralling piece of work which is not to be missed by any curious reader looking for one of those rare and treasured books that you never forget and or want to end. Enjoy.
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on 9 November 2014
Robert McCammon is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. A brilliant creator of stories, he produces here a fabulous tale of apocalyptic horror. Bleak, cold and deadly becomes the world after nuclear war. However, it doesn't end here. The war is merely the beginning of a long battle between an ancient evil, shape-shifting entity and girl with the gift of life; Sue Wanda, or 'Swan' as she's called.

Written in the mid-eighties and set only a few years later, 'Swan Song' is a story of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States and its bloody aftermath. The conflict occurs after a rapid disintegration of world security. The missiles fly quickly and are plentiful, totally decimating the United States, leaving few survivors left to stumble through the wastelands. Among those survivors are a former linebacker, a New York bag lady, an outdoors man and a young girl. As they begin to make sense of what's happened, their lives are drawn together by a magical crystal ring in order to further the existence of mankind...

However, there are also others. A psychologically damaged ex-Air Force Colonel, a sociopathic child, a drug addicted whore, a criminally insane convict and our chief nameless supernatural villain. Before long a vast army of ruthless sadists are roaming the United States, devouring all that exists and murdering at will. Eventually they meet our survivors in a brutal fight to the death which ends on a mountain in West Virginia; but inside the mountain we discover a whole new nightmare...

The novel is excellent, the characters are believable and well developed. You care for our heroes and hate the villains. Also McCammon's descriptions of a post-apocalyptic United States are genuinely terrifying. As the story progresses across the continent, it becomes clear how little is left of the old civilisation and this is where you begin to understand the real purpose of the novel. The fight against good and evil has even more purpose and really does chill the blood with the creation of an all consuming dread permeating the story.

This is one of the best novels I've ever read from one of the best authors out there. Excellent.
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