The characterizations are effective. The characters evolve believably over 6 decades. They are complex individuals and internally consistent - no actions are taken in service of the plot.
The plot is outstanding. Details of the decades and timely references place you in the moment. King is good at this – he either has a great memory for these details or a great research staff (or both). You know what it is like to be in any particular decade – and if you’re sixty like the narrator (and I am right now), you believe every second of the tale
The story is more than just a horror romp. The process of character development and story development take precedent over cheap thrills. Regarding the latter, there are none. Oh, occasional chills appear fairly often to remind you that you’re reading Stephen King, after all. But the development of the tale is the important feature. Does this make the read boring? Not at all, because you care about these people who populate the tale.
Clearly, King is setting the reader up for something explosive, and he does not disappoint. The ending is unnerving, shocking, troubling – but believable because King has done an expert job preparing you for the final denouement.
Some reviewers have complained about the lack of chills throughout the majority of the book. This was not an issue for me. What I experienced was a master at the top of his game. The plot is riveting, the characters or emotionally engaging, and the sense of doom wafts its way through the story. When the shocker finale begins taking shape, you are drawn helplessly into the nightmare. There’s no gore, nothing gruesome, just a haunting ride.