billy summers by stephen king // book review

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

this was truly one of the most painful books to get through for me among those i have read this year. i know there are an overwhelming amount of positive reviews about billy summers but for me, it was not an enjoyable read at all.

the book starts with billy summers, a war veteran, a sharpshooter and currently an undercover hired assassin who is to be paid 2 million dollars if he shoots some criminal who is to be presented in court. instead of setting up a location, fixing the range, shooting the guy on the specified date and getting this over with, he goes through the pains of creating a fake identity as a writer and becomes bffs with the local townsfolk. amidst all this, we get flashbacks to his past and his iraq days as he decides he wants to write about his days of service while he waits for the day he has to shoot the guy. 30% of the book is spent in this small town and this was actually my favourite part of the book as we got to understand more of billy, learn his story and see his personality in a casual setting. the whole time, he keeps predicting that things were going to go bad once the assassination occurs and that he might be betrayed and this is exactly what happens so no surprise there.

he now assumes another fake identity he has created for himself over the years in case something like this happened and is on the run. here is where the book loses its sense of direction – initially it is all about billy’s past and the book he is writing and then comes alice out of nowhere. billy finds alice outside the place he is staying at, hurt after being dumped by three men who gang-raped her. now it is all about billy trying to help alice and taking revenge on the men and a weird co-dependent romance between alice (who is half his age) and him. i did not like the decision to bring in another character after 50% of the book was done and use her as a means to give the protagonist some depth and purpose. i did not like their partner-in-crime dynamic, the way king basically turns alice into a helpless baby who clings onto billy the whole time which was frankly a very insensitive way to deal with someone who has just been abused. yeah how do you develop a character who has just been sexually abused? make her give up her life, her identity, be completely dependent on a criminal who is on the run while making her pop adderalls randomly so she can drive through traffic to help billy out of the mess he created. it was frankly infuriating to see books that still use sensitive, traumatic events such as rape being used to as a device to prove the goodness of the protagonist and to make him feel like some sort of saviour hero. ugh. all this with random covid and political references thrown in that i really do not care for while also referencing his fictional overlook hotel and making references to the shining made this quite a conflicting book in whether it wanted to be rooted in fiction or reality.

overall, this book started off as a character-driven story with king trying to make it more plot-driven in the middle by adding in random characters and plot devices which ended up making the entire book seem pointless and lost. it is also unnecessarily long for the story it wants to convey and this is definitely one of my least favourites by stephen king.

have you read this book? what were your thoughts?


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