We all have them. Every single one of us. And if you don’t, you are either lying, or you don’t have blood in your veins and are fueled by ice water instead.
For me, my favorite kind of hero is someone who is not perfect. Someone with flaws. Someone with warts. Someone who may question his/her actions, and who possibly even regrets some of those actions.
In other words, someone who is human, and not necessarily endowed with any supernatural or other special abilities.
The best kind of heroes are ones who we can relate too. After all, life is hardly ever black and white. Rather, life is gray, and an infinite number of shades at that. In other words, sometimes what’s right and what’s wrong is not clear-cut. Often, decisions are made, and second-guessed for many, many years after the fact, even when the consequences have long passed.
Of course, I had many heroes growing up. And I have a few now. Batman was one of the early ones. And then I met Aragorn. Currently, Oliver Queen is my “show boo,” as Jax Teller is dead to me and Raylan Givens has ridden off into the sunset.
All are good men. And all struggle with decisions they have made, even if they believed the decision was for the greater good. The very definition of a hero in other words.
However, none of these guys come close to my number one childhood hero. He was a man who often had a lot at thrown at him, but he always stepped up to the plate. He tried to do what he believed was right, and make the world a little bit better of a place when he could. He was a human with no special abilities, other than the ability to make me feel loved and protected at all times.
In other words, I am talking about my grandfather. I was lucky enough to have one set of living grandparents throughout most of my childhood. My grandparents lived two hours away from us, so I spent a lot of time there as a child. Most of my best childhood memories involve my grandparents in some fashion. My grandfather taught me how to fish. He supported my love of astronomy by getting me a telescope when I was thirteen. In fact, he supported every one of my obsessions, even though he did not necessarily understand all of them. One of the few people who loved me unconditionally was my grandfather, and I will never forget that.
Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away nearly 14 years ago. So all I am left with is memories, and a few faded photographs. And being able to talk to my grandfather one last time is something that I would seriously consider sacrificing at least one limb for.
But, at least I have my memories. And my photographs.
And Stephen King.
Yes, don’t forget which blog you are reading!
So, along with writing books I can’t put down, making great characters (who tend to get killed off more times than I care to count) and just generally being awesome, Stephen King is also able to bring my grandfather to life? Makes perfect sense, right?
Well, yes. It actually does make sense, and sense goes by the name of Ralph Roberts.
In case you are completely confused at this point, I am talking about King’s book Insomnia, and the primary character in that book, Ralph Roberts.
Ralph Roberts is a bad ass. He fights supernatural beings and hardly breaks a sweat. He also stands up to men who beat their wives, choosing to fight for what is right, rather than ignore the serious issue of domestic abuse, which seems to be the socially acceptable thing to do. Ralph is also a loving, caring man, willing to (literally) risk his life to save the lives of other.
In other words, in Ralph Roberts I have found my grandfather’s literary Twinner, if you will.
The fact that Ralph Roberts is a man nearing 70 who ought to be one step away from the old folks’ home (well, according to our society, at any rate) is merely a minor technicality.
King often writes about the disenfranchised. And the elderly are just that: they are forgotten. Or ignored. Or even abused and taken advantage of. To paraphrase a quote from of the characters in Insomnia, growing old is not a job for sissies.
Insomnia has long been a favorite King work of mine. Since I am one of the disenfranchised (nerds usually are), I enjoy reading about my own kind, and seeing them kick some major ass. And Insomnia gives me that in spades: the disenfranchised kicking some major ass.
And it is the next best thing to spending time with my grandfather. If I can’t hang out with my grandfather, at least I can visit with his literary Twinner.
So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of Insomnia.
And, as always:
The book begins by introducing us to an elderly man named Ralph Roberts, who lives in Derry, Maine, with his wife Carolyn. Ralph has just found out that Carolyn has an inoperable brain tumor and has only months to live. Ralph is saddened by this, and takes to taking long walks around Derry in order to take his mind off of Carolyn’s health issues.
On one of these walks, Ralph encounters his neighbor, Ed Deepneau, who is involved in a minor car accident. However, Ed is not acting like himself, and becomes extremely aggressive towards the other driver. To compound things, a friend of Ralph’s, Dorrance Marstellar, also arrives at the scene and begins making cryptic statements. Ed becomes convinced that the other driver is hiding the bodies of dead babies beneath the tarp in his truck.
Despite the chaos, Ralph is able to calm his neighbor down, and the other driver tells him that he is transporting fertilizer, not dead infants. Ed and the other driver decide to work it out among themselves, and Ralph returns home. When Ralph returns home, he nearly forgets about the incident, as Carolyn has suffered a seizure and is rushed to the hospital. Once again, Ralph is reminded that Carolyn does not have much time left, and wishes that things were different.
Several months later, Carolyn passes away. Shortly after the death of his wife, Ralph begins to suffer from insomnia. However, the kind of insomnia that Ralph suffers from is a bit unusual, in that he suffers from “premature waking”, rather than being a slow sleeper, In other words, Ralph awakens a bit earlier each day. At first he dismisses this as a consequence of growing older, but soon his problem becomes so severe that he grows more and more worried.
Ralph tries several home remedies for his insomnia, but none seem to work. He makes an appointment with his doctor, Dr. Litchfield, but cancels the appointment, as he does not trust Litchfield, as Litchfield misdiagnosed Carolyn’s brain tumors as migraine headaches. Ralph also notices that Derry has become polarized over a woman named Susan Day, a well-known writer and women’s right activist. Susan Day is someone who believes that women should have the right to be able have an abortion if necessary, among other things. Many in Derry are opposed to her politics, but several people are also petitioning her to come speak in Derry.
One afternoon, after yet another sleepless night, Ralph makes a trip to the grocery store. While he is there, he is greeted by the sight of Helen Deepneau, the wife of his neighbor Ed Deepneau. Helen Deepneau has been badly beaten by Ed, and has staggered into the grocery store with her infant daughter, Natalie. Ralph’s tenant Bill McGovern is also at the store, and helps Ralph with Helen. Ralph quickly decides to call the police, even though Helen begs him not to do so. Helen tells Bill and Ralph that Ed beat her because she signed a petition requesting that Susan Day speak in Derry. Ralph becomes angry over Ed’s treatment of Helen, and decides to confront Ed.
When Ralph confronts Ed, he realizes that his friend is now mad. Ed makes biblical references, and speaks of a being he calls the Crimson King. Ralph’s confrontation with Ed, however, is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who arrest Ed on charges of domestic abuse. Ralph speaks to John Leydecker, one of the arresting officers, and learns that Ed will probably be out on bail that night, but in order to be granted bail, Ed will have to agree not to contact Helen.
That night, Ralph tries to relax but is unable to do so. He attempts to contact Helen at the hospital, but learns that she has banned herself from receiving any visitors. However, Ralph receives a call from Helen later that night, who thanks him for his intervention. Helen also tells Ralph that she and Natalie will be staying in a halfway house for victims of domestic abuse, and tells Ralph that she will be in touch.
The months go by, and Ralph continues to experience the insomnia. He continues to awaken earlier each day, and becomes frustrated. Ralph tries several home remedies, to no avail. Ralph also receives a letter from Helen. Helen tells Ralph in her letter that she is OK, but will be out of touch for a little while as she adjusts to her new life. Helen also tells Ralph that she plans on divorcing Ed, as he is not the man she though she knew.
One day, Ralph receives news from his tenant Bill McGovern and Lois Chasse (a friend who lives on the same street), that Ed has been arrested. Ralph promises to watch the afternoon news with them, but makes a detour to the neighborhood pharmacy. There, he meets a pharmacist named Joe Wyzer. who also suffers from insomnia. Ralph agrees to meet Joe for a cup of coffee to discuss the insomnia and possible solutions for it.
Ralph and Joe meet for coffee, and discuss Ralph’s problems. Joe tells Ralph not to worry too much, as he is still basically healthy. However, while speaking with Joe, Ralph notices that he can see “auras” emanating from the people around him, including Joe. This worries Ralph, but he tries to dismiss as a trick of his mind, possibly due to the insomnia. Before Ralph leaves. Joe gives him a card with a name and number for an acupuncturist and makes Ralph an appointment for the near feature. Joe also gives Ralph his own phone number and tells Ralph to call him if he feels that he needs help.
Later on, Ralph meets Bill and Lois at Lois’ house to watch the afternoon news. They confirm that Ed has been arrested, and Ralph becomes worried. Ed has been the frontman for a pro-life group that is protesting the possible future presence of activist Susan Day in Derry. He tells Lois and Bill about the incident with Ed the previous summer, and they encourage him to relay this information to Officer Leydecker. Ralph does just that, but is still worried, as he thinks Ed has gone insane.
That night, Ralph receives a threatening phone call from Ed. Ralph is frightened, but holds his own, and tells Ed that he will not be threatened by him. Ed terminates the call, as Ralph’s reaction was not expected.
The weeks continue to pass by. Ralph still suffers from insomnia, but looks forward to the appointment with the acupuncturist. He also receives a letter from Helen, telling him that she has found employment and will be in touch with him again soon.
After he receives the letter from Helen, Ralph wanders to a nearby park and chats with Bill. As he is talking to Bill, Ralph notices that he can pick up the thoughts of nearby people. In particular, he notices a little boy named Patrick, who is accompanied by his mother. Ralph is able to pick up, from the mother’s thoughts, that she and Patrick are trying to avoid Patrick’s father, who has been drinking and can be abusive when drunk. At that point, Ralph almost tells Bill about the auras he sees, but thinks the better of it, as he decides he cannot trust Bill with that information.
One morning, Ralph receives a surprise visit from Helen and baby Natalie. Helen’s friend Gretchen is also in attendance. While he is speaking to Gretchen and Helen, Ralph realizes that he still see the auras, and that Natalie can also see them. The three discuss how dangerous Ed has become, especially with his growing involvement in a pro-life group that continues to protest the presence of Susan Day in Derry. Before she leaves, Helen gives Ralph a can of mace, telling him to use it to protect himself if necessary.
A few days later, Ralph returns home from an errand to find Dorrance Marstellar waiting for him at his doorstep. Dorrance again speaks cryptically to Ralph, telling him to cancel his appointment with the acupuncturist, and also gives Ralph a book of poetry. Ralph becomes irritated, wondering why he should cancel an appointment that was so difficult to schedule in the first place. Ralph also notices that the front door is open, and thinks that Bill has been careless about locking the door again.
The next day, Ralph visits the library to further research insomnia. However, his research is interrupted when a man named Charlie Pickering attacks him with a knife. Ralph recognizes Pickering as an associate of Ed Deepneau’s and a pro-life activist. Ralph is able to counter the attack with the can of mace which somehow happens to have been in his coat pocket.
After he is attacked, Ralph speaks to Officer Leydecker. Ralph is shaken, but recounts the events to Leydecker. Leydecker drives Ralph home, and tells him that Ed Deepneau probably will not be implicated in the attack, even though he likely orchestrated it.
When Ralph returns home, he realizes that Dorrance was the one who walked into his apartment, and placed the can of mace in his coat pocket. Ralph wonders what is going on that is so important, and cancels his appointment with the acupuncturist.
That night, Ralph has strange dreams involving his wife Carolyn, who issues him cryptic warnings. When Ralph awakens, he happens to glance out the window and sees a very strange sight: two men, who look like small, bald doctors, are headed into the house of May Locher, another one of Ralph’s neighbors. Ralph also notices that the men have unusual auras, and that they also have scissors. Thinking that his neighbor is being robbed, Ralph calls the police but does not identify himself. When the authorities arrive, it becomes clear that Ms. Locher has actually passed away, and her remains are removed from the house.
The next morning, Ralph gives his formal statement to Officer Leydecker over the incident involving Charlie Pickering. Ralph also confirms that May Locher did indeed pass away, and begins to question his sanity.
Ralph decides that he will try to tell his friend Bill McGovern about his experiences, and decides to take a walk in his neighborhood before doing so. When he takes his walk, he sees the auras again, and is dazzled by the beauty of it all. However, Ralph also sees an unpleasant sight: another bald doctor. This one appears more sinister than the other two and frightens Ralph. Ralph also realizes that the creature has Bill’s missing Panama hat. Before Ralph can act, the auras and the mysterious creature vanish. After his walk, Ralph tells Bill about his experiences. Bill is dismissive and tells Ralph to see his doctor. This angers Ralph, and he argues with Bill. Ralph leaves after arguing with Bill, and walks to the park in the neighborhood where the senior citizens gather.
At the park, Ralph speaks to some of his friends. People are arguing over the upcoming appearance of Susan Day. Ralph also finds out that another friend of his is in the hospital, and may succumb to cancer. Ralph deduces that Ed Deepneau may be taking lessons on flying an airplane, and decides to head to the police station to relay this news to Officer Leydecker.
On his way to the police station, Ralph notices that the neighborhood stray dog, known as Rosalie, is behaving strangely. Immediately, Ralph connects this with his recent bizarre experiences, and decides to see if he can make the auras appear at will. Ralph is successful, and is able to see the auras, along with the third, sinister bald doctor. The creature is calling to Rosalie, but Ralph calls the dog to him instead. Ralph then confronts the creature and fights it, and it becomes angered, but runs off, threatening Ralph before it disappears.
However, before Ralph can make his way to the police station, he is distracted by the site of Lois Chasse, who is sitting on a park bench and is visibly upset. In fact, Lois is crying. Ralph speaks to Lois, in order to comfort her and find out why she is upset.
When he speaks to Lois, Ralph finds out that she has also been suffering from insomnia, and has spoken to her doctor, Dr. Litchfield about it. However, Dr. Litchfield violated his doctor-patient privilege and told Lois’ son and daughter-in-law about her problems. That morning, Lois received a visit from her son and daughter-in-law, who tried to convince her to give up her autonomy and move into a nursing home. The pair of diamond earrings that Lois’ son gave her has also gone missing, lending more credence to the theory that Lois has developed dementia.
Ralph is able to determine a few things after he speaks to Lois. The first is that he has fallen in love with Lois. The second is that Lois is also able to see the auras, just like he can. The third is that Lois’ daughter-in-law has stolen her earrings, in an effort to make Lois look like senile old woman who needs to be in a nursing home.
The conversation is interrupted by the appearance of the creature that Ralph saw earlier, along with Rosalie, the neighborhood stray dog. This time, Ralph is also able to make Lois see it, along with the auras. Ralph and Lois try to fight the creature, but it attacks Rosalie. However, it does not hurt Rosalie, at least physically. Instead, the creature snips Rosalie’s “balloon string”, or the lifeline that leads to her aura. The color of Rosalie’s aura changes to black, and Ralph is able to intuit that Rosalie will probably die soon.
Lois invites Ralph to her house for lunch, so that they can talk about what has been happening to them. Before he leaves with Lois, Ralph realizes that the creature they saw earlier also has Lois’ diamond earrings, along with Bill’s hat, and becomes frightened. However, Ralph chooses to keep this information to himself for the time being.
Ralph then tells Lois everything that has happened to him, starting with his encounter with Ed two summers ago. Lois believes every word, but is not sure what any of it means. Ralph is also not sure what any of it means, and again becomes frightened, as it seems forces that he does not comprehend are at work. Ralph and Lois then agree to meet up later that night, and Lois leaves town for a few hours for her weekly card game with her friends.
When Ralph returns home, he finds a note from Bill apologizing for his earlier actions. He also receives a call from Officer Leydecker. Leydecker tells Ralph that Charlie Pickering has somehow bonded out of jail, and that Ed Deepneau was the one who bonded him out.
That afternoon, Ralph awaits Lois. He see the auras, and realizes that he has been “stealing” energy from other’s people’s auras, which explains why people think that he looks younger. Ralph worries that he has been hurting people by doing this.
When Lois returns from her card game, she tells Ralph that she was able to use her friends’ auras to win the card game. Lois is also “stealing” from other peoples’ auras, as she also appears younger.
Ralph and Lois’ conversation is interrupted by a car crash. When Ralph looks outside, he sees that the neighborhood stray dog, Rosalie, has been fatally hit by a car driven by his pharmacist, Joe Wyzer. The creature that cut Rosalie’s life force appears to torment Lois and Ralph, and also steals Joe’s comb. Ralph realizes that he must get that comb back, along with Lois’ earrings.
Ralph also realizes that he needs to pay a visit to his friend Jimmy at Derry Home Hospital, and heads to the hospital with Lois. A woman at the front desk tries to Ralph a hard time about visiting his friend, but he is able to use his new-found telepathic powers to convince her to allow him to visit his friend.
After they enter the intensive care ward where Ralph’s friend is residing, Ralph and Lois are then able to travel to a different level of reality. They are able to see those around them, but those people cannot see them. One of the people they see happens to be Bill, whose aura is now completely black. Lois becomes distressed, but Ralph realizes that nothing can be done for Bill, who will likely die soon.
Ralph and Lois enter Ralph’s friend’s Jimmy’s hospital room, and meet the two “bald doctors” that Ralph had previously see outside May Locher’s house. The entities state that they have no name, but tell Ralph and Lois to refer to them as “Clotho” and “Lachesis”, after the Fates in Greek mythology. The two entities also tell him that the third entity that Ralph had previously encountered can be referred to as “Atropos.”
As he speaks to these entities, Ralph becomes more and more angered, due to the chaos that their interference has caused in his life. However, Cloth and Lachesis tell him that his anger is not justified. Ralph and Lois watch as the two entities sever the “balloon string”, or life force of Jimmy, who passes on to the afterlife. After Jimmy passes away, his room begins to fill up with people, and Clotho and Lachesis bid Ralph and Lois to come with them, as there is much to be discussed.
Clotho and Lachesis explain to Ralph and Lois that they are agents of the Purpose, while Atropos is an agent of the Random. Clotho and Lachesis sever the life forces of people who have been selected to die at a specific time, while Atropos is responsible for those whose time of death is not specific (such as victims of car crashes, fires, etc). The two entities also inform Ralph and Lois that Bill has now passed away. This angers Ralph, as he sees the entities’ interference as being responsible for Bill’s death. He believes that by angering Atropos, Clotho and Lachesis have caused Atropos to target Bill. Ralph then threatens to walk out on the two entities, as he feels that he has been manipulated.
However, Lois convinces Ralph to hear Clotho and Lachesis out. Ralph and Lois learn that Atropos has severed the life force of Ed Deepneau. Ed Deepneau was unmarked: in other words, Ed served neither the Random or the Purpose, and the fact that Ed has lived so long after his life force was severed means that he is important in some way. Ed Deepneau is planning to kill the 2000+ people, and only Ralph and Lois have the power to stop them. Ralph also learns that his and Lois’ auras were altered, which resulted in the insomnia and new found powers, and that his preordained destiny has been changed.
After they return to their own reality, Ralph and Lois set about the task of attempting to prevent Ed Deepneau from committing mass murder. First, they find out the location of the women’s shelter, using their new found telepathic powers, so that they may speak to Helen Deepneau and her friend Gretchen Tillbury. Ralph also realizes that the scarf worn by Ed Deepneau contains the Japanese symbol for “kamikaze” or “suicide pilot,” and becomes frightened again.
Ralph and Lois make a brief stop to eat, and then head to the women’s shelter. When they arrive, they see a large black cloud, or “death bag” surrounding the shelter, and realize that the people there are in danger. The suspicion is confirmed when they hear Officer Leydecker shouting at Charlie Pickering to surrender, as Pickering has set fire to the shelter and killed several people. Ralph and Lois use their powers to enter the shelter and lead the women who are trapped there to safety. Helen Deepneau and her daughter Natalie are among the women trapped in the shelter. The little boy, Patrick, who Ralph saw at the park a few months prior, is also among the people trapped in the shelter, along with his mother. Ralph also uses his powers to render Charlie Pickering into a human vegetable, as Lois begs Ralph not to kill Pickering. Ralph tries to convince Helen to stop the rally at the civic center that night, but she will hear none of it.
As Ralph and Lois leave the shelter, they encounter Doris Marstellar. Doris leads them to a vehicle, which happens to be driven by Joe Wyzer, who Dorrance has apparently recruited to help him. Joe drives Ralph and Lois to the civic center, where he drops them off. Dorrance tells Ralph and Lois that they are involved in something a lot bigger than themselves, and that higher forces are watching them, marking their progress.
At the civic center, a large crowd of women, along with members of the media, is beginning to gather. However, the “death bag” still surrounds the area, reminding Ralph and Lois what will happen if their mission fails. Ralph uses his powers to find the trail of Atropos while Lois distracts the people around them. After he finds the trail of Atropos, Ralph and Lois head to his lair.
Finally, Ralph and Lois find Atropos’ lair, which happens to be the trunk of a dead oak tree. They descend into the creature’s lair, and immediately notice the large collection of odds and ends that Atropos has accumulated over the years. One of them is Joe Wyzer’s comb, which Ralph immediately pockets. However, he still cannot find Lois’ earrings. As Ralph and Lois make their way through the lair of Atropos, they notice that he has accumulated a large pile of cash, which provides the explanation as to how Ed Deepneau has obtained his money. They also notice a large “death bag”, or pulsating black cloud. This cloud contains more items, but these items belong to people who are still living. One of the items is Helen Deepneau’s sneaker, which Lois ties to her wrist before moving on.
Ralph is also able to slice open the “death bag.” When he does so, he also finds Ed Deepneau’s wedding ring, and notices that when he removes it, another “copy” of the ring appears in its place. However, there is only one “real” ring, and Ralph and Lois take that as well.
On the way out of the lair, Ralph and Lois have a confrontation with Atropos, who is not pleased that they have taken Ed’s ring. Both Ralph and Lois also notice that the creature is wearing Lois’ earrings. Ralph battles the creature, and is able to take Ed’s ring, along with extracting a promise from Atropos that he will leave Ralph and Lois alone and not interfere in their quest to stop Ed Deepneau from committing mass murder. However, Atropos shows Ralph a vision of something happening to someone he cares about in the future, which causes great concern for Ralph.
After Ralph and Lois return to their own level of reality, Ralph summons Clotho and Lachesis. Ralph confronts these two entities, as he feels that they have not been truthful with them. This assumption turns out to be correct, and Ralph extracts the true nature of his and Lois’ quest from Clotho and Lachesis: they actually must save a little boy, who will grow up to do something very important. The little boy is Patrick Danville, and is actually the same little boy Ralph saw at the park and in the basement of the burning women’s shelter. However, Ralph refuses to help Clotho and Lachesis, unless they will spare the life of someone else who is also important to Ralph. After some arguing, Clotho and Lachesis finally agree to the deal, and a cut is made on Ralph’s arm.
While Ralph is making the deal with Clotho and Lachesis, Lois is visited by an entity that she describes as “the green man.” The entity returns Lois’ earrings to her, and Lois gives those to Ralph. Ralph then prepares to continue on his mission to stop Ed Deepeneau.
Ralph is able to teleport himself to the plane that Ed Deepneau is flying. However, as he is trying to stop Ed Deepneau, Ralph sees someone that he thinks to be his deceased mother. But this is not his mother and is actually the entity known as the Crimson King, and the entity forces Ralph to come to his “court,” where he warns Ralph about his “meddling.” Ralph surprises the Crimson King by stabbing him with Lois’ earrings, and is able to defeat the entity.
Ralph then drops back down to his own level of reality, and distracts Ed Deepneau. Ralph is able to divert the plane away from the civic center. Susan Day is decapitated, and several others are killed, but not as many are killed due to Ralph’s actions. The life of Patrick Danville is also saved, and the Universe breathes a sigh of relief. Lois reels Ralph into the same level of reality as Clotho and Lachesis, and his life is also saved.
Clotho and Lachesis bid Ralph and Lois goodbye. Ralph again reminds them of their promise, and the two entities reluctantly agree.
The insomnia is no longer an issue for Ralph and Lois after their adventure, and their lives return to normal. They get married, and move into Lois’ house, and their lives are more or less happy. The memories of the incident also begin to fade, and Ralph and Lois no longer remember just what it was that they did, even though they know it was important.
Helen and Natalie Deepneau also lead happy lives after the incident at the civic center. Helen receives a windfall from Ed’s life insurance policy, and buys a house in Ralph and Lois’ neighborhood. Ralph and Lois spend much time with Natalie and Helen, and Natalie becomes a grandchild of sorts to them. Ralph and Lois also adopt a dog, who they name Rosalie.
For the next several years, Ralph and Lois are relatively happy. However, the insomnia returns to Ralph, and he begins to see the auras again. Ralph also remembers the promise that he made, and understands that his days are now numbered.
One day, Ralph decides he wants to go for a walk. However, he knows that something is about to happen to Natalie Deepneau, and that he will die saving her. Ralph finally confesses what is happening to Lois, and she becomes upset and tries to stop him. However, Ralph will have none of that, and Lois gives in, and accompanies Ralph on his final journey.
Ralph and Lois then encounter Natalie in front of Ed and Helen’s old house, along with their dog Rosalie. Ralph’s abilities have returned and he also sees Atropos, who is trying to distract Rosalie to get Natalie’s attention. This works, and Rosalie runs out into the street. Natalie runs after the dog and is caught in the path of an oncoming vehicle. Ralph then throws himself between Natalie and the vehicle, taking the hit that was intended for Natalie, saving her life.
The accident proves fatal for Ralph, and he passes away, with Lois at his side. Before he makes his final journey, he sees Clotho and Lachesis and his memories of them are awakened. Clotho and Lachesis also provide some comfort to Lois, as she watches her husband pass on.
Move over, Chuck Norris…
There is another bad ass in town, and his name is Ralph Roberts.
Chuck Norris may not need to turn on the shower because he makes the shower head cry, but Ralph Roberts battled the Crimson King. And won.
So Ralph wins, as I have yet to hear of Chuck Norris kicking the ass of the Crimson King. Although I am sure that battle would be epic…swoon…
However, as epic as Ralph’s confrontation with the King of Big Bads in all of literature (or at least in the Stephen King universe) was, I think my personal favorite Ralph Roberts moment was when he confronted…wait for it…Ed Deepneau!
Yes, the confrontations with Atropos and the Crimson King were awesome. Ass kickingly awesome, as a matter of fact. But I will always remember my man Ralph Roberts for his confrontation with the milquetoast man down the street.
Although Ed Deepneau was not really a milquetoast, as we Constant Readers know. Far from it, in fact.
But let’s get right down to it: Ed may have had his life force cut “prematurely” and been under the influence of Atropos and The Crimson King. And yes, Ed could not have controlled a lot of what happened. But “a lot of” does not mean “all of.” As Clotho and Lachesis reminded us, Ralph and Lois had choices. And so did Ed.
And one of those choices that Ed made was to beat his wife, probably even while she was pregnant. Somehow, I don’t think that the Crimson King or Atropos had much to do with those choices.
Ralph also made a choice: he made the choice to confront Ed, and call him out for beating Helen an inch within her life. Everyone else had the “deer in headlights” look, but the 70 year man who was only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night became the decisive one. In fact, the 70 year man who was only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night became the knight in shining armor that day.
And I love Ralph for that. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I often felt invisible, along with ashamed and broken. I looked for my knight for a long time, but he never came. That is proof that we need more of Ralph Roberts in the world: people who are not afraid to do what is right, despite what the rest of society may think. People who care about what happens to the little people. The fall of the sparrow, in other words.
There are so many things about Ralph that are swoon-worthy. In fact, Ralph Roberts is now one of my “book boos.”
A seventy year old man makes me swoon. There, I said it. And I am not ashamed.
In fact, I am proud to call Ralph one of my “book boos.” Not only did the man save the world (or all of the worlds in all of the universes), he sacrificed his own life, so that Natalie could live, and so that Natalie’s mother would not have to deal with what would have been the extremely painful loss of her only child. And any man who has those kind of thoughts is a man worthy of being called my “book boo.”
There is the ending to Insomnia. It gets me. Every. Single. Time.
With most other writers and most books, it would have ended when Ralph and Lois saved the lives of all those people at the civic center. The easy thing to do would have been to would be to let Ralph and Lois walk into the sunset, have their “happily ever after.” And that still would have made for an all-right book.
But we are not reading something by most other writers. We are reading something written by The Master. And this ending proves why he has earned the right to be called “The Master.”
In reality, there are hardly any “happily ever afters.” Instead, tragedy can strike, and sometimes out of nowhere. Good people are taken from us much too soon, and sometimes, trade-offs have to be made.
One of King’s strengths as a writer is that he is able to juxtapose the realistic with the fantastic. He does this by creating characters, places and situations that we can all identify with. Even in a novel like Insomnia, which is actually a dark fantasy.
And this book is taken to the next level by the description of the last few years of Ralph’s life. We get to experience the joy and love that Ralph experiences, and we are lulled into a sense of security, and expect a happy ending.
But life is hardly ever fair, and tragedy is always just around the corner. Many of King’s works, such as Bag of Bones, The Shining and Duma Key, remind of us this. Insomnia is no different, driving home the point that everything, even an innocent child’s life, comes at a price. And that price must always be paid, no matter how much that payment hurts.
Another thing I love about Insomnia is the fact that King gave us another Dark Tower novel. Now, it may not have Dark Tower anywhere in the title, but that is just a minor technicality, right?
In other words, I consider Insomnia to be the ninth Dark Tower novel that King always wanted to write, even before he was finished with the Dark Tower series.
Funny how a series can be that awesome, where it inspires its ninth book, when only four of the eight books of the actual series were published at the time. But such is the scope of the series like this one. King has said that the Dark Tower series is all encompassing, and Insomnia is a perfect example of that.
I have read this book many times, but every time I read the part about Patrick Danville drawing a picture Roland and telling his mother that Roland is a king too, I shiver. Literal goose flesh breaks out on my arms. Roland turning in his blankets under the “alien constellations”. There is just something about that is mind-blowing to me. Two old people who should have been ready for the old folks home (at least according to our society) are busy kicking ass, and that ass kicking had a direct effect on Roland Deschain, another ass kicker who Chuck Norris bows down to (or should, anyway.) Actually, mind blowing does not do that feeling I get justice, so universe blowing, perhaps?
The Crimson King is the ultimate Big Bad in the Stephen King universe, and is ultimately responsible for all of the bad things that occur there (after all, even Randall Flagg has to answer to someone.) He is mentioned in several works, such as Black House and The Dark Tower series, and ultimately shows up in the last book to do battle with Roland the gunslinger.
I did enjoy the Crimson King’s appearance in the Dark Tower series, but I think that my favorite representation of the Crimson King is the representation in Insomnia.
The Crimson King is an evil being. We saw a bit of this in the Dark Tower series, but he also seemed to be a stupid being, which diminished the evil part. However, in Insomnia, the Crimson King was vicious and evil. The way he tried to trick Ralph, by pretending to be Ralph’s dead mother…shudder. And speaking of shudder: that memory of the catfish that attacked Ralph when he was child and the egg sac that thing contained…eek! Insomnia is not what I consider to be a scary story by any means (I categorize it as fantasy or maybe even dark fantasy) but that memory reminded me that I was in fact reading something written by the modern day Boogeyman. And King comes by that title honestly. Who else could horrify me in a story that is a modern day Lord of the Rings? The Master, that’s who!
Well, that’s it for Insomnia. Join me next month as I review the case of life imitating art? Or is it art imitating life? In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting The Dead Zone!
And speaking of the apple not falling far from the tree…
That’s right, Joe Hill, aka The Master 2.0, will also have a book coming out next month…woohoo! So next month will be busy, as I will be reviewing The Fireman as well!
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
As always, all of King’s works are inter-connected. And much of the fun (at least for me) in reading a King book lies in finding those connections. Insomnia does not disappoint in that regard. Here are some of the connections I found:
–Insomnia takes place in the town of Derry, Maine. Derry is the setting for several other King works, including It, Dreamcatcher and Bag of Bones.
-Mike Hanlon is a minor character in Insomnia. Mike is one of the members of The Losers Club, a group who banded together as children and later reunited as adults to defeat Pennywise the Clown, in the novel It.
-Ralph makes reference to the flood that occurred in 1986. Of course, this was when the Losers Club faced Pennywise the Clown in the novel It for the second time, defeating the monster for the final time.
-Ralph Roberts also makes an appearance in the book Bag of Bones, where he briefly speaks to Mike Noonan.
-Patrick Danville is a major player in the final Dark Tower book, where he helps Roland defeat the Crimson King.
-Dorrance Marstellar is referenced by Jamie Morton in the novel Revival.
-Susan Day is mentioned in the book Rose Madder.
-“Ka” (loosely defined to mean destiny) is mentioned several times in Insomnia. Ka is also a phrase commonly used in the Dark Tower series.
-Patrick Danville is a talented artist, much like Edgar Freemantle in the book Duma Key.
-Atropos was in possession of a sneaker owned by Gage Creed. Gage Creed was the son of Louis Creed, both characters from the novel Pet Sematary.