Swan Song by Robert McCammon Review

Here's another oldie that belongs on your bookshelves!

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Horror Fiction
First Released 1987
Amazon | Goodreads | Better World Books 
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen—from the President of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City—will fight for survival.

Swan Song is Robert McCammon’s prescient and “shocking” (John Saul) vision of a post-Apocalyptic nation, a grand epic of terror and, ultimately, renewal.

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 read this book back when it was first published in the ‘80’s. I was still in high school, had big frizzy hair, wore too much blue eyeliner and pretty much hated my life. I spent most of my free time haunting the local Osco drug for the newest horror paperbacks to escape it all. When I saw this huge tome (900+ pages) I scurried back home with it thinking I had just hit the jackpot. And I had. It turned out to be one of the best horror novels I’d ever read and I was reading a lot back then. This is why I was hesitant to revisit it, some 26 years later, afraid I’d tarnish my memory of fiction perfection.

But I did it anyway. I can’t read 900 page tomes anymore because my brain shuts down at the thought but I can read them on unabridged audio. Swan Song became my driving companion for over three weeks and now that I’m finished I already miss the soothing voice of Tom Stechschulte. I’ll have to snap up something else he’s narrated. Maybe “The Road” if I can bring myself to listen to it.

If you’ve read this you already know it’s one of the best end of the world novels ever written, if you haven’t read it yet and you’re a fan of the new apocalypse books flooding the shelves, you really need to do yourself a favor and read this one. It is set in the 80’s and we are at war with Russia, trigger fingers set off nuclear bombs and kaboom the world as we know it is gone. The rest of the book focuses on a cast of characters as they make their way in this entirely new world void of all creature comforts like fresh water, sunshine, and warmth. But out of the destruction, a little magic blooms too. Two camps basically evolve. There are the murdering, raping pillagers and the decent people who want to restore the earth and rebuild. The two have an epic, classic collision of good vs. evil. Those are the bare bones of the story but it’s so much more than that. It’s heartbreaking and full of loss as well as hope and it so worth your time.

A few notes that you should be aware of before digging in:

1. The book doesn’t start with a huge bang. There’s enough setup and character back story here for 3 or 4 modern day books. Woo hoo for me because I can never get enough of that stuff (when it’s good) but maybe not for everyone?

2. The action takes a little bit to get going but once it starts there is a lot of it and it’s described in vivid detail. I’m not a huge action fan and I admit I did doze off when the military maneuvers went on (and on).

3. The book skips around from group to group. There are a lot of characters to wrap your head around and I was a little confused here and there but eventually you get to know most of them very intimately. Many of them are flawed people and they’re all changed by their time on the road. I think I enjoyed that aspect most of all. Be warned though, some of these people who you will grow to love will die and you will probably cry. Maybe for a few days.

4. This sucker is a 34 hour listen. I thought the narrator did a fantastic job with most of the characters. For the most part, he gave them distinctive voices with the exception of the villains at the very end (to me they all sounded the same screeching out their scratchy-voiced commands). You may want to find a sample online and give it a listen before committing. 34 hours is a long freaking time if the narrator isn’t working for you.

5. There’s a hell of a lot of violence and it’s not the prettified, glossy kind. Be prepared.

6. There is a strong, 50ish female character as a lead. Where can you find that nowadays? If you find one , tell me so I can buy it.

7. There is even a little smidge of a sweet romance amidst all of the chaos.

See, there’s something for everyone! Now go read it.


  1. If it just wasn't 900+ pages! I have a hard time staying with books that are that long these days. (My brain is just too tired.)

    1. yeah, I would've never done it if I hadn't found it on audio. Books this long are too much of a commitment!

  2. I love this book!! I also read it back (way way back) when it first came out. I bought the super special edition published by Dark Harvest (which is no longer around, sadly.) I should hold tight to my copy because I think it's worth some bucks now. I would love to read it again, especially since it appears to hold up really well, many years later:-)

    1. I bet it is worth some bucks, Tammy! Hold that baby close to your heart.

  3. LOL I love how you started your review. I read this when it was first published too. Time for a reread and I think I have the original copy.

    1. Wow, that's amazing. My mom threw away most of my books :( I think only Koontz's Phantoms and Flowers In The Attic escaped her wrath.

  4. I loved your review intro too. And a smidge of a romance. Enjoyed the share.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  5. My dad was a fan of this author but I've never read him as the size of the books was off-putting! I'm not sure about this-I like the sound of the story as I love my apocalypses but I am worried about it being too slow for me!

    1. He does write very long books but they draw you in so they don't feel so long.


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