Book Review Wednesday: Insomnia – Stephen King (4 stars)

Posted: October 1, 2014 in Book Reviews
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I think this one be one of those Stephen King books like Cujo that a lot of people hate and I end up loving. It’s one of his milder books, which might be why it has some laying hate on it. Not saying there isn’t any gore. This is Stephen King, of course there’s something icky hiding in those pages, but this is a good entry novel for someone not sure if they can stomach Stephen King in his full flair. Be warned though, this is a long, long, long book at 890 pages, so if you’re looking to try out Stephen King but aren’t into marathon reads, you might want to start with something shorter and work up to this one. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is another milder book of his that is much shorter. I’ll be posting a review for that one in a few weeks.

Let’s have a look at the blurb:

Since his wife died, Ralph Roberts has been having trouble sleeping. Each night he awakens a little earlier until he’s barely sleeping at all. During his late night vigils and walks, he observes some strange things going on in Derry, Maine. He sees colored ribbons streaming from people’s heads. He witnesses two strange little men wandering the city under cover of night. He begins to suspect that these visions are something more than hallucinations brought about by sleep deprivation. Ralph and his friend, widow Lois Chasse, become enmeshed in events of cosmic significance.

This book starts off as a sweet if sad story about an elderly man trying to come to terms with his beloved wife’s imminent death. Of course since this is Stephen King we quickly get some hints that something supernatural is at work in this world when a man from our guy’s neighborhood starts acting strange. Since his wife dies shortly after he puts the weird occurrence out of his mind, but of course this is the first part of a much larger plot that includes auras, telepathy, creatures no one else can see, and a plan that will kill hundreds if he does nothing to stop it.

The characters are flawed. Something I like about Stephen King is that his characters are such imperfect people. I particularly liked that the higher level beings we meet are just as flawed and unsure about everything as humanity. I did worry at first that our main female character seemed kind of ditsy and uninteresting, but as she becomes more central to the plot she fleshes out. The bad guys weren’t as fleshed out. Our main human bad guy has his touches of humanity which is nice, but his entourage are faceless, and the primary reason for what they do seems to be crazy people with extreme ideas.

Now I realize that a lot of people who help with a plot to kill are going to be a little on the nutty side, but several people with what seems like exactly the same brand of crazy seems far fetched. It’s true that the condition of crazy might’ve been influenced by the supernatural. I remember at least one of them who had definitely been pushed in that way, but he thought he was acting of his own free will, rationalizing the orders he was supposed to carry out. Even if they were all pushed this way, I’d have liked to see some of them rationalize it in different ways. Sure maybe one pro-lifer (the group of people the influenced were selected from) rationalizes that killing this pro-choicer will really help their cause and is all scarily enthusiastic, but another sees the deed as a mercy killing, thinks they’re saving the person from their own bad choices and gets no thrill out of it whatsoever. And someone somehow manages to fight the influence even if fleetingly, proving that there is something more to these guys than hands to hold guns and knives while smiling identical crazy grins and spouting propaganda like meatbag puppets. I like to see the cracks of humanity in bad guys, or at least some identity, just like I occasionally like to see the cracks of darkness in some of my heroes.

It did take a while to get to the action, so some might find it slow but I found myself enjoying the flow of it. I had no problems with the pacing, but I definitely wouldn’t describe it as action packed.

I think the thing I loved most about it was the world Stephen King built. In this book reality has levels. As you go higher you get to see parts of the world usually invisible: auras, thoughts, knowledge about people you shouldn’t know, creatures no one else can see. Go higher still as you become invisible to people back on your level and can float through solid objects like they aren’t there. Go too high and you can lose your mind.

It’s always nice to imagine the world has more depth we’re not aware of. And I find the idea that the best way to use these extra layers is to first turn yourself mad through lack of sleep poetic. Madness and enlightenment always make an intriguing combination.

I’d say if you’re a fan of Stephen King and don’t mind longer books with a slower pace then read this one. For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10585.Insomnia

 

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