King of the Road

Image of King of the Road (The Brotherhood of the Wheel, 2)
Release Date: 
December 4, 2018
Tor Books
Reviewed by: 

“A great, big, fun, sprawling book that satisfies even to the final page.”

“The Wheel Turns.”

That’s the secret phrase used by those who guard the Road (the nation’s highways and byways) from the evils that seem to appear near them. The beauty of King of the Road is it can be read as a sequel or a stand-alone, so the reader really doesn’t miss out or have to purchase the first, The Brotherhood of the Wheel, to catch up.

This Brotherhood, one of the three branches of the former Knights Templar, aren’t what the reader might expect. No chivalrous, cleft-chinned, hyper-muscled supermen, but a gaggle of bikers, truckers, cops, and other ordinary citizens who find themselves part of a much bigger world than John Q. Public realizes.

Starting out at nuclear speed, Belcher hits the reader hard between the eyes with a one-two combination of action that sizzles across the pages and carries on over through the boring bits with enough momentum that it hardly registers on the consciousness.

The prose is gritty, coarse, but it jibes with the content so not to seem gratuitous, and even though it’s a bit clunky at times, almost sloppy, that works as well with the almost Faulkner-ian stream of consciousness the author attains. In fact, one might notice similarities to Stephen King and Robert McCammon in style and substance.

“Don’t commit any more felonies if you can help it.”

Fighting the good fight behind the scenes, the motley gang of heroes finds themselves in almost as much trouble with the natural world as they do the unnatural, which lies at the heart of the book, the idea that battles must be won through great sacrifice and fierce will rather and wit and physical acumen.

Starting with human trafficking and sliding into supernatural power plays, the book eventually hits the meat of the matter in a series of Black Dahlia-esque murders involving hobos, killer clowns, and a secretive genius immortal bankrolled by a secret, shadowy organization. Just when the reader thinks they’ve seen it all, add werewolves, werepossums (yes, werepossums), and a Chtjulu zombie monster.

Paradoxically, the book’s great strength is also its greatest weakness: the jittery back and forth of plot exposition that provides the reader with enough background to become invested in a character. While this works 80% of the time, the other 20% serves only to slow down the pace of the story enough that the reader might feel they’re slogging through quicksand. But 20% is easy enough to overcome to slide into the breakneck pace of the rest of the book. A great, big, fun, sprawling book that satisfies even to the final page.