Friday, March 5, 2010

Stephen King's "Insomnia"

Each thing I do, I rush through, so I can do something else. - Stephen Dobyns, Cemetery Nights

That line is used frequently in Stephen King's "Insomnia." It feels like it sets the tone for the entire book, about how the main character's life is ticking away along with the time he has to fulfill his purpose. I find myself thinking of that line alot lately. I do that way too much as well, and it's one of the reasons why this review is so late. I finished Stephen King's "Insomnia" last week, and, as promised, I'm going to go ahead and write my review. I have to say this is one of the best books that I've read in a very long time. This book was very difficult to put down, the plot wasn't predictable at all, and this is one of the few books that actually made me cry during the ending. The only real complaint I have is this book is so interesting that you shouldn't read it until you have a lot of time on your hands. It's six-hundred and sixty-three pages long and it will give you insomnia.

The general plot is that the main character, a seventy year old man named Ralph Roberts, starts having insomnia after the death of his wife. However, at the same time, he starts noticing the small town of Derry, Maine is showing a very sinister and strange side as well. His neighbor Ed Deepneau is losing his mind, beating his wife, and claiming to see dead babies everywhere. A political figure named Susan Day has decided to come and speak in Derry over the abortion issue, since a group called "Daily Bread" is trying to close the woman's clinic "WomanCare." Neighbors are turning against neighbors as their passions over the abortion issue are unleashed. And, the more that Ralph becomes interested in the events that occur, he also starts to see a hidden world of auras, strange bald doctors that visit the homes of the dying, and spirits like the Green Man and the Crimson King. This all culminates in a dramatic climax where Ralph and his girlfriend Lois must race against time to stop Ed Deepneau from doing something very drastic.

The first thing that impressed me about this book was how seamlessly Stephen King intertwined his other works into it. Derry, Maine is the same town used in Stephen King's "IT." There's even a reference made to the beating to death of a homosexual man named Adrian Mellon, which happened in the book "IT" putting the timing of the events in this book into perspective. This is also the first book that I've read, where the Dark Tower is literally shown, surrounded by the field of red roses. There's even a scene at the end where a young boy draws a picture of Roland in front of it. I'm not sure what significance the boy has, but I feel certain he'll come up in another Stephen King story. I'm looking forward to it immensely, but I hope I remember his name when he does come up. (I'm still geeking out over all of that, but I am a bit of a book nerd.)

All of the characters in this novel are very well written, and even one of the "villains" of the story, Ed Deepneau, still manages to somehow be a sympathetic character. The themes explored in this book are also extremely deep. It explores how people's passions can drive them do horrible things, and the paradox of having free will but also being ruled by a higher purpose. I liked the way that the world was filled with layers that rested on top of one another and yet remained unseen, and in these realms the forces of "Purpose" and "Random" were at war with one another, choosing champions from the world of men to fight for those controlling them. There were many appropriate references within the text to books like "Lord of the Rings" and to poetry that drew parallels into the world of Stephen King's "Insomnia." It's as though classic literary works were layered on top of the story, the way the world of the auras existed on the same plane as the normal universe in the novel. I believe this story could be a modern day classic, and it made a strong impression on me.

This book will also make you think. It makes you think about the abortion issue, how people treat one another when they want to prove they're right, and how people tend to disregard the elderly. It also made statements about abuse and what it does to people, and how it can rob people of who they are and change them. It's very rare that a book actually makes me think philosophically as well as entertaining me, so thank you again, Stephen King.

I highly recommend this book. I think it's one of Stephen King's best. The only problem I have now is ever becoming a good enough writer to somehow evoke emotion, insomnia, philosophical thought, and immense entertainment in my own work as well. I have a long way to go, but at least I have role-model. I've got to keep trying and keep working, but sometimes I feel like the rabbit in the song "Time" by Pink Floyd, "Dig that hole, forget the sun, when at last your work gets done, look around it's time to dig another one." Or, more eloquently, "Each thing I do, I rush through, so I can do something else." But, I think I'll get there eventually.


  1. I also loved the book. The little boy makes an appearance in Dark Tower 7.

  2. Thanks. That was driving me crazy.