Author: Stephen King
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ve read lots of reviews for this book that say that it dragged for the first half. I don’t know if these readers haven’t read a lot of Stephen King, or if they only read slasher horror or perhaps just fast-paced thrillers. I didn’t think the book dragged at all. It built up slowly, tension upon tension, things getting weirder and weirder. But that’s pretty typical for King.
I personally enjoyed the slow buildup. If you’ve ever had a bout of insomnia, you’ll get exactly what Ralph is going through. I went through the experience after the birth of my daughter–one week, five hours of sleep. That’s five hours that I slept THE ENTIRE WEEK. So yeah, insomnia makes you a little crazy. The world doesn’t look as it normally does. You start to feel supernatural, or at least something outside the commonly accepted reality. This is what the main character experiences as he starts to get less and less sleep night after night. He experiences hyper reality, not-helpful advice from friends and strangers, and ominous encounters with the sane and insane.
Another fun bit about this book is the parallels it runs with the whole Dark Tower series. No spoilers, but it amused me that in the Dark Tower an ally tried to give this book to the protagonist, but the protagonist never read it. I actually liked reading this after finishing the Dark Tower series, because it was much easier to see all the links.
Then there’s the whole issue of the pro life vs. pro choice brought up in the book and how it completely tears apart the community. Discerning readers will note that the pro-life gets more of the crazies in this book…but in the end, both sides aren’t willing to just let each other be. It says something for how some debates will just never be resolved.
Last, I really liked the whole concept of the book, with the multiple “levels” of realities and auras. The residents of the upper levels were suitably spooky but also comic. Plenty of action near the end, but this book probably didn’t quite belong in the “horror” shelf. I’m not exactly sure what you’d call it. Me, I’d call it a very existential novel and an engaging story about life, death, and what’s in between.