29 March 2013

Audiobook Friday #16: Review: Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Originally published: 1987

Pages: 956 (paperback)

Genre/s: Post-Apocalyptic, Horror

The Audio Version
Published: 11 May 2011 by Audible, Inc.
Length: 34 hours and 22 mintes
Narrated by: Tom Stechschulte


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 artifact 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.

My Thoughts

I first read Swan Song in 2011, shortly before I started blogging, and I was completely blown away by it.  I read the whole 956 pages over the space of just one weekend and I've always wanted to go back and re-read it, so when the audiobook was on sale a few months ago, I had the perfect excuse to go back and experience it again.

The characters are numerous, but there are only a few real key players in Swan Song - the good, the bad and the terribly ugly.  After her mother breaks up with the latest in a string of loser boyfriends, Swan finds herself at a lonely gas station when tensions between America and Russia ends in nuclear war, and in the subsequent nuclear winter, travels across the country in the company of Josh.  Swan is a character that is impossible not to love - she's calm, serene and intrinsically good, Josh is the friendly giant, who will do anything to protect Swan from the various evils that emerge in the human survivors around, and Sister is the former alcoholic with a sad past who is on a journey without knowing the reason or the destination.  By the end of such a marathon book, I knew and loved all of them.

By focusing on just a few key characters so intensely, Mr. McCammon has ensured that they are all the complete package - and if you love to hate baddies, there are baddies aplenty in the pages of Swan Song - from the insane to the megalomaniacs who see the end of the world as the perfect opportunity to have their own kingdoms, no matter what the cost.

Good world-building is an important element in any post-apocalyptic story, and in Swan Song the world building is second-to-none - bearing in mind that the book was originally published in 1987, there are no extraordinary technologies, and instead characters survive just on wits and their ability to scavenge.  As a horror novel, there are some very intense, confronting scenes that have some gore but it avoids falling into the slasher category as the scenes are well written rather than resorting just to shock tactics.

There are also a few paranormal elements that creep into the story, and although they are not the key focus of the book overall, it adds an extra element that made this more than the standard post-apocalyptic fare.

Although slightly predictable in some parts, the plot is fast paced and still kept my attention the second time around, even though I knew what the outcome of the story would be.  I really like the way that the author ended a story that can never really be concluded due to the complexities of the plot, but worked perfectly for me and I finished it once again feeling very satisfied with the experience.

Swan Song is a post-apolcayptic horror at it's most entertaining - it's intense, dark and spine chillingly scary.

The Audio Version

Tom Stechschulte has narrated an impressive array of books in the post-apocalyptic genre and his voice is perfectly suited to the story - dark, intense and at times incredibly creepy.  The only thing that I was missing was individual character dialogue really standing out, but overall the narration was a perfect match.


  1. Mmm...makes me want to go re-read Swan Song again ;-)

    1. I'd been meaning to re-read it for a long time, it's so addictive!

  2. I know it's totally irrelevant to the story but Holy Mother of God, 34 hours?!

    1. Yep, not one for the faint hearted ;)



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