Revisited this having read it some years ago and listened to Stephen King’s audio book. I love listening to King read his own work. I realise how much I enjoy King’s characterisation; like a lot of his books this one brings a variety of people together, in Desperation, from a variety of backgrounds and stories. King is the master of characterisation. The story of a manic cop terrorising the highways abducting and killing people is almost secondary to the character’s own stories. Desperation is a place, but also where many of his characters find themselves at this point in their lives. This is science fiction versus God told in King’s vivid descriptive prose. Pat McDonald British crime author
Wow, what a long book. A well written book, but very long. I guess it takes a while to kill off a whole town. LOL! This story was rude, crude, crass, violent (naturally) with a mixture of supernatural, evil (the unformed) and good (an ultra religious boy). The supernatural themes were a little (okay, really) far-fetched and were happening to ordinary people. I like to mix up my reading with a large variety of genres. This is my first Stephen King book. I really did enjoy it but I think it could be reduced by about a third in length otherwise I would have given it five stars. I will be reading more of King’s books in the future.
A disparate collection of travellers are abducted by an insane cop and incarcerated in the jail of a small Nevada mining town in the middle of nowhere. It quickly becomes clear that the cop isn't just insane - he's posessed - and an ancient tunnel recently uncovered at the mine may hold the clue...
King's novels are rather variable in quality. I suspect that most careful and discerrning readers, even King's Constant Readers, will acknowledge that as true. I'll qualify the statement and state that I haven't yet read a single King that I *didn't* like but I *can* recognise their flaws. Perhaps that's the mark of a true fan (I'd like to think so)?
Now; I'm re-reading a lot of his old stuff and (slowly) coming up to date with his newer work so I can't claim to have a huge base across which to compare, but I think that Desperation has to be one of his better novels. It scores highly on a number of counts, the best probably being the atmosphere that King develops: the desperate, deserted, dusty desolation of the setting, the sense of rising foreboding as events build to a head, the terror and uncertainty evoked by the murderous cop, the helplessness of his victims and the sudden randomness of their deaths. This *feels* like a horror novel. The depiction of the mad cop is also masterful: he's not simply insane Tak, his problems go far deeper than that and his strange mannerisms and sayings convey his demonic posession rather well.
That said, King lets himself down somewhat with the dialogue he constructs for his other - less mental - protagonists and they frequently talk as if their lines had been scripted by a Hollywood B-movie dialogue coach; wordy and schmaltzily sincere. Perhaps it's less noticable to an American, but I found it hard to swallow without gagging slightly.
The characters are, as ever, King's usual band of non-descripts and includes a regulation college lecturer. The cast is supported by a slightly stronger character in the guise of Johnny Marinville a self-centred, self-important writer trying to resurrect his fading star by going on a road trip. He's obviously meant to be deeply unlikeable (see The Stand's Larry Underwood) but this is always a dangerous tactic in my book as an unsympathetic lead can detract from or even put you off the story altogether (which is why I never managed to complete Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series). That doesn't quite happen here because Marinville just isn't strong *enough*.
Anyway, I've spent more time criticising the book than I intended. At the end of the day it's a good, page-turning story with a strong theme and plenty of gore! I realise now that, over the last few years I've been plodding through my reading list unenthusiastically and under-engaged, struggling to find anything that I really wanted to finish. Returning to King after a ten (or more?) year break, I seem to have rediscovered a joy in reading. Suddenly I find myself creeping downstairs at 1am to read another chapter, or turning off the telly so that I can read instead. For me, with all its faults and failings, Depseration is a part of that discovery.
`Did you puke in the back of my cruiser, Lord Jim? Because if you did, the first thing you're gonna get when we hit town is a big old spoon.'