My latest video, where I discuss the trailer for Pet Sematary 2019, which is coming to theaters on 4/15/2019!
My latest video, where I discuss the trailer for Pet Sematary 2019, which is coming to theaters on 4/15/2019!
My name is Leah and I have a confession to make.
No, not the nerd thing…you knew that!
Here goes nothing…
Gulp, I confess that…
I can’t stay away from Derry, Maine!
Yes, I know that particular town has its issues, and that I probably cannot fix those issues, even though it is my nature to try and fix things.
Yes, the presence of a certain homicidal clown is constantly felt, despite the fact that there were brave folks who tried to put that clown to bed (or is it Hell?)
I know that Derry attracts its share of…well…the unusual (and that’s putting it mildly.)
But still, I can’t stay away. I guess I just fall for bad…um…towns (not sure if fictional towns have a gender, so roll with me.)
Yes, I am talking about a fictional town in a Stephen King book…
I know, a Stephen King! Just humor me and pretend you are at least a little surprised, eh?
And obviously, The Master has a fetish for evil towns…
I mean, he keeps coming back to Derry, right? So that means its only sorta bad, right?
Well, as my aunt used to say: Leopards don’t change their spots!
The homicidal clown may have been sent to whatever Hell (or other ungodly realm) from whence It came, but that doesn’t mean that Derry is on the straight and narrow now.
Nope, not at all!
Luckily, Uncle Stevie realized that there were many more stories to tell about Derry, so he decided to tell them (duh.)
And the novel Dreamcatcher is one of those stories.
Dreamcatcher is an interesting mashup, so to speak.
On the one hand, it is a story about childhood and the friends we make as children (similar to It.)
On the other hand, it is also a science fiction novel, with elements of horror. Shit weasels, anyone?
So, with that being said, let’s take a trip back to Derry…
Hopefully, you see the line…
And, as always:
The book begins with an introduction of four men: Henry, Pete, Jonesy and Beaver. The four men have been friends since childhood, and are still friends in the present day. However, it is clear that the men are not ordinary, as all four seem to possess telepathic powers, which they usually use to accomplish every day tasks, such as finding lost car keys. A fifth friend by the name of Douglas is mentioned, but it seems that the men have fallen out of touch with Douglas. Once a year, all four friends gather at a cabin in the woods they call Hole in the Wall, where they go hunting and reminisce about their childhood.
One spring, Jonesy is hit by a car while crossing the street. The accident is almost fatal, but Jonesy is able to to make enough of a recovery by winter, and is still able to take his annual vacation with his friends.
The trip to Hole in the Wall starts off ordinarily enough, but things quickly become strange. One morning, Pete and Henry head to the grocery store to pick up supplies, while Beaver also heads out on an errand. Jonesy is left alone at the cabin, where he almost shoots what he first thinks to be a deer. However, Jonesy quickly discovers that his target is not a deer, but a man named Rick McCarthy. It turns out that Rick became lost in the woods, and has found his way to Hole in the Wall. Jonesy takes the stranger in, offering him food and shelter.
Jonesy then finds out that Rick is no ordinary lost traveler. Rick appears to have traveled 50 miles in the course of what he believes to be one day, and Jonesy later finds out that Rick thinks that the date is the date three days prior. Rick is also missing several teeth, and does not appear to notice that he is missing these teeth. Additionally, Rick appears to be extremely flatulent, and his burps and farts have an unusual smell.
Beaver returns, and Jonesy offers Rick the spare bedroom so he can get some rest. After Rick retires, Jonesy and Beaver discuss what to do about their guest, and agree that they need to get help for him, and quickly.
In the meantime, Henry and Pete are driving back to the cabin from the grocery store. We learn that Henry has been suffering depression, and is considering suicide. The men also discuss some rumors heard at the grocery store, which include stories about missing hunters and bright lights in the sky. However, the talk is interrupted when Henry swerves to avoid hitting a woman standing in the middle of the road, which causes the vehicle to crash, due to the serious weather conditions.
Pete and Henry survive the accident, although Pete is seriously injured and his leg is likely broken. Pete and Henry try to speak to the woman they narrowly missed hitting, but the woman appears to be almost comatose, although she does inquire about someone named Rick. And like Rick, she also suffers from extreme flatulence accompanied by an unusual odor.
As Henry attempts to help the woman, he and Pete see strange lights in the sky. The woman becomes hysterical, crying “they’re back.” Finally, Henry is able to call her down, and the three head off to find some sort of shelter from the impending blizzard. However, the woman collapses, and Henry is forced to carry her to shelter. While they are walking to shelter, Pete and Henry begin to discuss a fifth childhood friend, whom they refer to as “Duddits.” Duddits was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, and the men have been thinking a lot about Duddits recently, for some reason.
Back at the cabin, Jonesy and Beaver play cards and wait for Henry and Pete to return. Their game is interrupted when Beaver steps outside, and notices what appears to be a large group of forest animals in mass exodus from the forest, along with strange lights. Things become stranger when they return to the cabin, and notice that Rick is no longer in bed. They also notice blood on the way to the bathroom, and discover that Rick is in the bathroom and in distress.
Outside, there are helicopters in the sky. Beaver tries to signal for help, but is told that the area is under quarantine, and that the situation will be resolved in 24-48 hours.
Henry attempts to walk back to Hole in the Wall to seek help. He leaves Pete with the woman they found on the side of the road. They believe the woman’s name to be Becky, although they are not entirely sure of that fact. Even though Pete is responsible for watching Becky, he decides to head back to the vehicle to retrieve the beer he purchased earlier. Both men begin to recall they day they met their friend Douglas Cavill, or Duddits, many years ago.
One day, when all four boys were in junior high, they walk home together from school. There is nothing unusual about the day, and the boys talk about the usual things that junior high boys talk about. However, their talk is interrupted when they hear the heartbreaking sounds of someone crying.
The boys find the source of the crying: a young man who is obviously mentally handicapped and being bullied by some of the students who attend the local high school. One of the bullies is Richie Grenedeau, who had played quarterback for the high school football team, but was allegedly removed from the position due to injury. The boys become angered by the bullying, and resolve to stand up for the young man.
Pete, Jonesy, Henry and Beaver take a stand against Richie Grenedeau and his friends, and the bullies back off. The four boys learn the name of the young man they rescued from the bullying: Douglas Cavill, who is nicknamed Duddits. Duddits is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome and attends a nearby special school. The boys return Duddits to his home and parents, and a friendship is begun. Nearly every day, for the remainder of their school years, the boys accompany Duddits on his walk to and from school, to protect him from the bullies. They also spend time with Duddits, and include him in their activities whenever possible. However, Pete, Jonesy, Henry and Beaver grow up, and become distanced from Duddits, who remains a perpetual child.
The story flashes back to the present. Jonesy and Beaver break down the door to the bathroom, and discover that McCarthy has fallen into the bathtub. McCarthy is now dead, with a large hole in his backside. There also appears to be something living in the toilet that has exited McCarthy. Beaver immediately sits down on the toilet to trap the creature, and Jonesy goes to look for tape in an attempt to contain the creature.
Beaver drops his toothpicks that he has the habit of chewing, especially when stressed. He reaches down to grab them, and this proves to be a fatal mistake. The creature escapes from the toilet, and immediately attacks Beaver.
Jonesy returns to the house and finds Beaver battling a creature resembling a parasite. Beaver loses the battle when the creature attacks and kills him. Jonesy tries to flee, but sees a creature that resembles an alien from a science fiction TV show standing in bathroom, along with the creature that killed Beaver. Jonesy is then possessed by the alien-like creature, and is unable to escape.
In the meantime, Beaver’s surviving friends receive a telepathic signal that Beaver is now dead. These friends include Duddits, who is still living with his mother in Derry, Maine, the boys’ childhood home. Duddits is also terminally ill with leukemia, and is distressed to find out that his friend is now dead.
The story switches to the point of view of two military men, Owen Underhill and Abraham Kurtz. Underhill and Kurtz’s unit has been dispatched to Maine to deal with the alien invasion. We learn that “the grays” are telepathic, and transmit a sort of fungus, that when inhaled by humans, also makes humans telepathic, at least temporarily. Underhill, Kurtz and the rest of the unit do battle with the aliens, even though the aliens claim to surrender.
Henry finally makes it back to Hole in the Wall. There, he discovers the body of his friend Beaver, along with the parasite-like creature that killed Beaver. Henry is forced to battle the creature, which is still alive, and sets fire to the cabin to destroy the creature, along with the eggs it has laid. While he is there, Henry somehow deduces that Pete is now dead (due to a battle with a similar creature) and that something has also happened to Jonesy.
After destroying the cabin, Henry heads back to the site of the vehicle accident. There, he discovers the body of the woman who he almost hit earlier. The woman also appears to have been attacked by the creature. Henry notices that she is covered by a reddish gold fungus, but that the fungus appears to be dying.
Henry decides to attempt to walk back to civilization. As he is walking, he again begins to think of his friend Duddits. However, as he attempts to reach civilization, Henry is accosted by the soldiers that have been dispatched to handle the crisis in Maine.
We learn that the body of Jonesy has been possessed by one of the aliens, whom Jonesy thinks of as Mr. Gray. Jonesy experiences a series of long flashbacks, which include the accident he suffered earlier that year, along with the time he spent in the hospital. Jonesy is able to recover some memories: he remembers that he thought that he saw Duddits that day, and that is why he was not paying attention when he crossed the street, along with the fact that he nearly died in the ambulance. Somehow, Jonesy’s accident relates to why the alien creature is able to take over his body. Mr. Gray is able to kidnap Pete, and force Pete to help him in his mission.
Henry arrives at the base that the military has set up. Kurtz is in charge of the operation, but appears to be mentally unstable. Kurtz tells Underhill of the cover story he will spin in regards to the alien invasion, but really intends to kill all the civilians being held captive at the compound, along with Underhill.
Jonesy, whose body has been stolen by Mr. Gray, steals a vehicle from an unsuspecting driver. Mr. Gray forces the driver to stab himself in the eye, even though he has already hijacked the man’s vehicle. Jonesy attempts to hide all of his memories of Derry and Duddits from Mr. Gray, as he suspects that the alien has a dangerous plan involving Derry.
Jonesy also recalls another incident from his childhood. Shortly after meeting Duddits, Jonesy and the rest of his friends make their first trip to Hole in the Wall, where they accompany Beaver’s father on a hunting expedition. One night, all four boys have the same disturbing dream: they dream that Richie Grenedeau has died in a car accident, and that they were responsible for the death. When the boys awaken, they try to convince themselves it was just a dream, but they are not successful. The boys place a telephone call to Duddits, who is also distressed because he experienced the same dream, which has actually come true. Even then, Jonesy and his friends realize that Duddits has somehow gifted them with the powers of telepathy.
Henry is able to pull Underhill aside, and tells Underhill that Kurtz has something sinister in mind, and begs Underhill to help him and the other civilians. Henry explains to Underhill that the aliens have passed on an organism known as “byrus”, and that there are different strains of the byrus. The worst strain is the one that afflicted McCarthy and his friend Becky, which is the case of symbiosis gone wrong. However, most strains of byrus are harmless, although they do result in the carrier experiencing low-grade telepathy. Henry tells Underhill that he is different, due to his childhood experiences, but that Jonesy is the most different of all four of them, and that is what poses a potential threat. Finally, Underhill agrees to help Henry, so that that Jonesy may be rescued from whatever has taken over his body.
Jonesy continues to struggle for control over his body from Mr. Gray. Finally, he comes to a sort of compromise with Mr. Gray and agrees to help him. Jonesy realizes that Mr. Gray has stolen another truck which contains a passenger: a dog infected with the byrus.
Back in Derry, Duddits has also sensed the death of his friend Pete, which upsets him. However, the next morning, Duddits’ mother Roberta finds him dressed, and demanding his old lunchbox, as if he is awaiting the arrival of his friends, as he had in the days of his childhood.
Henry and Underhill use their telepathic powers to awaken the other civilians, who are asleep in a barn that is part of a makeshift military base. They warn the other civilians of what Kurtz intends to do, and the civilians rebel against Kurtz and his soldiers. Some are killed, but some are able to escape. Henry and Underhill also escape, and head to Derry to meet up with Duddits, who can help them rescue Jonesy.
Underhill and Henry continue on their journey to Derry, stealing a vehicle from some young men. Henry recalls another incidence from his childhood, when he and his friends were able to find a missing girl, with the help of Duddits. Henry realizes that Duddits’ is a dreamcatcher of sorts, due to his telepathic abilities.
Henry then receives a telepathic communication from Jonesy. Jonesy is frightened, and warns Henry that Mr. Gray has something dangerous planned. Henry further realizes that Jonesy’s brain is different due to his accident and near death experience, which has allowed Mr. Gray to take over his body. Mr. Gray continues to behave erratically, murdering a state trooper.
Kurtz has discovered that Underhill is AWOL, and begins to look for him. Kurtz contacts Underhill on the radio to attempt to persuade him to abandon his mission with Henry, but Underhill refuses.
With the help of Duddits, Jonesy is able to trick Mr. Gray into consuming raw bacon, which makes him ill, buying more time for Henry, Underhill and Duddits. Mr. Gray continues his journey to Boston, where he plans on unleashing the byrus into the water supply, by using the infected dog as a vessel.
Eventually, Mr. Gray abandons the vehicle he is driving, and attempts to use the dog to contaminate the water supply in Boston. However, with the help of Duddits and Henry, Mr. Gray is defeated, and Jonesy is in possession of his body again. Duddits pays dearly for his efforts, dying shortly afterwards. Before he dies, Duddits tells Henry that he loves him.
In the meantime, Underhill shoots the weasel-like creature that emerges from the dog, killing it. Underhill is then shot by Kurtz, who has caught up to Henry and his friends. Henry then defeats the Kurtz and the remaining soldiers, rescuing Jonesy from certain death.
Several months later, Henry is visiting Jonesy at Jonesy’s summer cottage. Both men have recovered from their ordeal, physically at least. Duddits’ mother grieves the loss of her son but has moved on with her life. The men muse about their experience, even though they feel lucky to have survived it, along with wondering when the planet will again be visited by extraterrestrial beings.
Ok, let me get one thing out of my system…
Actually, I probably don’t want to get this one one thing out of my system, since that means certain death, along with the WORST FLATULENCE EVER!
In case you haven’t figured it out, I am referring to the shit weasels.
(In case you can’t tell, I had to work the “shit weasels” into the title of this review. It just wouldn’t be right other wise. You’re welcome!)
Shit weasels. How much more eloquent can you get? Where on Earth (or is it in Hell?) does The Master come with up with this stuff?
King has said that he is not too proud to go for the gross out. And we are reminded this in Dreamcatcher. Again and again, we are reminded.
While I am not that much of a fan of the gross-out in the horror story, it does have its place. Mostly, the gross out is funny. And Dreamcatcher is also a book with a lot of funny.
And the shit weasels are just one of the funny things in Dreamcatcher. I know that King was on LOTS of drugs when he wrote this one (more on that later), so often I wonder if one of the side effects of those drugs were “Caution: taking this and writing a novel about aliens will likely make the user write about farts, burps and other bodily functions not discussed in polite society?”
Speaking of funny, let’s talk about the Beave for a moment…
Beaver isn’t described as being particularly attractive, at least in the physical sense. But when I evaluate my book boyfriends, I try not to be so superficial, you know? Otherwise, I might miss out on a really great romance!
Yes, Beaver is the man in this book. He is killed off pretty quickly, but still manages to make quite the impression.
First off, Beaver is funny. Any book boyfriend of mine must have a sense of humor. That is a prerequisite for all of my literary relationships, no exceptions.
And Beaver does have quite the sense of humor. And he’s not afraid to sprinkle
a copious a fair amount of profanity to get his point across. “Kiss my bender.” “Fuck me Freddy.” “Fuck-a-row.” “Fuck-a-ree.” All Beaver-isms. And I unabashedly use them as part of my vocabulary. After all, there is nothing like a good swear fest, Beaver style, after a frustrating day at work. Or sitting in traffic. Or standing in line at a crowded restaurant. Or sitting. Or standing…well, you get the point!
But perhaps, most importantly, Beaver has a good heart. There was truly a beautiful soul behind the glasses and the potty mouth that would make a drunk sailor blush. He stood up for someone who was helpless and being bullied. And he comforted that someone by singing him a lullaby…swoon!
I think that’s when Beaver had my heart: after he rescued Duddits (with the help of his friends) and sung to him. And “fit neek” (fixed Duddie’s sneaker, in case your Duddits-to-English dictionary is not working.)
My only complaint about Beaver is that he left so fast…damn you, errant toothpicks and shit weasels that can’t stay in the toilet like a good shit weasel!
I also loved the not so subtle jab at Dubbya, aka Okefenokee. The description of Okefenokee and his actions after the alien invasion of Maine was eerily similar to what happened right after 9/11. I know that this book was written before the 9/11 tragedy, but The Master’s description of The Leader (well, the leader at time, anyway) was so close to what happened after 9/11, it made me wonder if all those painkillers had perhaps given him some kind of clairvoyance…hey, anything is possible, right?
As stated before, Dreamcatcher was the first book that King wrote after his vehicle accident.
And it shows…
Not that this a bad thing. Dreamcatcher is still an enjoyable book. But, it gets a bit un-wieldly in spots. It’s almost as if the painkillers took over in those spots. And the painkillers do not have an eighth of the talent possessed by The Master!
I did think that this book dragged at parts, especially in the “present day” setting. And the ending was a bit anti-climactic. Really, the best the alien could come up with was to use a dog to contaminate the water supply? And that alien seems like he kind of sucked at being an alien, since Jonesy and Henry were able to defeat it so quickly, practically with their eyes closed…
However, this book was saved by the good parts. One of these parts was the flashbacks to the boys’ childhood.
I loved the description of the friendship between the four (later to be five boys). The way King described, I felt like I was right there, in the thick of it. Even the mundane details, like how the boys get out of school one fateful afternoon, and are eager to catch a glimpse of *a kitty cat*, aka female nether regions. That made me laugh, and it brought me back to my own childhood, when things seemed to be so much simpler.
Speaking of nostalgia, part of Dreamcatcher is set in Derry.
Yes, that would be the same Derry that boasts a homicidal clown as a tourist attraction. The same Derry where a bad ass man named Ralph Roberts saved the universe single handed-ly, but did not even receive a lousy t-shirt. That Derry!
I loved how King was able to work in elements of his books set in Derry (It, mainly) but was still able to tell an entirely new story.
Dreamcatcher and It are similar tales, at least on the surface: both deal with friendship, small towns and bullying. However, that is about all the two books have in common. In one, the friendship is formed because an outside force uses the children (and later the adults) to defeat an evil monster. In the other, the friends are drawn together first, because they have common interests and so forth, and then later used to defeat evil (Richie Grenedeau as children, alien invaders as adults.) In Dreamcatcher, the friendship really is lifelong, unlike in It, where the friendship is so brief and only serves the purpose of defeating Pennywise the Clown.
In Dreamcatcher, the threat of Pennywise the Clown never really seems to be far away. Henry and his friends may not have had the misfortune of being children during one of the “cycles”, but Pennywise and the town of Derry were a constant presence in this book. I loved the references to the missing children in Derry, and how it was a bigger problem in Derry than most other places. I also loved Jonesy’s recollection of the big storm in 1985. As any King fan knows, that was the year that the Losers Club laid waste to Pennywise (maybe.) It was such a funny feeling to get the perspective of someone who was not involved in that battle, but was still a part of Derry.
Oh, and “Pennywise Lives.” Did anyone else shudder when Jonesy found that graffiti, or was that just me? Someone in Derry has a sick sense of humor! Or there is the alternative: Pennywise really does live! Both of these are pretty scary, actually.
And before I wrap this review up, let’s give someone his due…
Yes, that someone would be Duddits. And I cannot give enough accolades to poor Duddits.
There was so much to love about Duddits in this book.
First of all, there was Duddits himself. I have a friend who refer’s to those with Down’s Syndrome as beautiful souls, and she could not be more right in that statement. Like Henry, Jonesy, Pete and Beaver, I felt that all was right in the world when Duddits showed up on the page. How could anyone not be happy when he/she was in the presence of Duddits? Just reading about Duddits made my day much better.
It is no secret that King writes about man’s inhumanity to man. Books such as It, Under the Dome, Hearts in Atlantis and even the Dark Tower series are filled with examples of this.
So, the uninitiated may be surprised to learn that King is equally adept at writing about the opposite: his characters can also treat each other wonderfully, and go above and beyond in the name love and friendship.
Duddits and his friendship with Henry, Beaver, Jonesy and Pete is a prime example of King’s ability to write about the good that some are capable of.
Very early on in the book, we get a glimpse of a good deed: four adolescent boys do an extremely brave thing and stand up to the neighborhood bully on behalf of someone who appears to be much weaker. This is not something we would think of most adolescents as capable of, not even Henry and his friends. After all, before the encounter with Richie Grenedeau, Henry and his friends are focused on viewing certain parts of the female anatomy, not confronting a bully who turns out to be a coward. But just like that, the tone of the story changes, and I knew that these guys were something special.
And I was right: all five were something special. The boys continue their friendship with Duddits. In junior high and high school, all that matters to most is fitting in and peer acceptance. However, the friendship with Duddits transcends those barriers, and enriches the life of Duddits, who experiences something he was previously lacking in his life: acceptance. Henry, Beaver, Pete and Jonesy all have their lives enriched by the friendship with Duddits as well, referring to Duddits as their “finest hour.” Their friendship with Duddits is the glue that holds them together even into adulthood, when most childhood friendships slowly fade away.
Even in adulthood, Duddits is still…well, Duddits. The others grew up and moved on, but Duddits remained a child. However, Henry is able to pick up right where he left off, so to speak, and the old bond is renewed. In fact, Duddits is overjoyed to reunite with Henry and have one last adventure with him, while Henry is overcome with guilt for not staying in touch. But that doesn’t matter to Duddits, as Duddits does not think in those terms and seems to be incapable of anger or resentment.
Duddits is truly the hero of the book. He makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to help his friends one last time. He saves the lives of his friends Jonesy and Henry, along with (potentially) the lives of thousands of others. And there is no resentment or anger. Only love. After all, that is what drives a hero: love.
So that’s it for Dreamcatcher. Join me next month as we take a trip next door…well, maybe not literally next door, but to a world nearby on The Tower when I review and dissect The Eyes of the Dragon!
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Like all of King’s books, Dreamcatcher is set squarely in the King universe. Here are some of the connections I noticed:
-Jonesy finds graffiti on a statue stating “Pennywise lives.” Pennywise the Clown was the monster faced by the Losers Club in the novel It, and was supposedly defeated in 1985.
-The storm of 1985 is mentioned. This storm took place when the Losers Club faced the monster It in final battle.
-Duddits possesses PSI abilities. Several novels and short stories deal with this topic and contain characters who possess these abilities, including Carrie, Low Men in Yellow Coats (of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Everything’s Eventual (part of a collection of the same name), Firestarter and the Dark Tower series.
As I have stated before, one of Stephen King’s strengths as a writer is that he writes about “real life”, and is able to write about it very well.
And this is a good thing for a few reasons.
For one, it makes the stories more believable. The Shining is a good example of this. We may know the book for the scary hotel and the lecherous ghost in a certain famous room, but much of the book centers around the Torrance family and their problems, which include financial issues, abuse and substance abuse. These are all topics we are familiar with, so when the familiar is juxtaposed with the supernatural, it makes the supernatural that much more believable.
In other words, seeing Jack’s struggles with addiction and his need to provide for his family adds an element of credibility, and suddenly we can believe that an old hotel is really haunted by angry ghosts that want to use you as a human battery of sorts, because you really do have those psychic abilities.
(Ok, maybe a stretch on the psychic abilities part. But, still you never know.)
King also creates great characters. These characters also add to the story, allowing one to emphasize with the horrible situations they are put in.
In fact, King has the ability to create a sympathetic “good guy” and a great bad guy. Both of these are essential to any good story.
Actually, bad guys are unfortunately a part of real life…
Coincidentally (or maybe not), one of King’s most iconic bad guys is, in fact, a politician.
Again, real life can actually be much scarier than a clown in the sewers or a haunted hotel.
With it being an election year that has proved to be horror show that scares even motherfuckers like Stephen King, there was only one thing to do.
That’s right: a read and review of The Dead Zone! Makes perfect sense!
So join me, if you will, on my recap and dissection of The Dead Zone…hope you don’t scare easily!
Oh, as always:
The prologue of the book features two people. One is a young boy by the name of Johnny Smith. Johnny suffers a head injury as a child due to an ice-skating accident. This accident is not serious, but it does briefly render Johnny with precognitive abilities. However, these abilities soon become dormant, and the rest of Johnny’s childhood is normal.
The other person is a man named Greg Stillson. In the beginning of the book, Stillson is a young man who does door-to-door sales, but aspires for something better for himself. However, there is something not quite right about Stillson, as he is shown to be a cruel man. On one of his stops, Stillson kicks a dog to death out of anger, and proceeds to cover the act up so that he will not be caught.
Several years later, Johnny has graduated from college and secured a job as a teacher. He is also dating a young woman named Sarah Bracknell. One fall night, Johnny and Sarah attend a fair. Johnny wins big in one of the gambling games and plans to consummate his relationship with Sarah. However, Sarah becomes ill, and Johnny takes a cab back to his apartment.
Tragedy strikes on the cab ride back to Johnny’s apartment: the cab collides with another vehicle. The driver of the cab is killed, along with the passengers in the other vehicle. Johnny survives the accident, but suffers from severe brain damage and falls into a coma.
For nearly five years, Johnny remains in the coma. His parents, Herb and Vera Smith, are grief-stricken. However, Herb is able to cope with the accident a little better than Vera, who succumbs to a sort of religious mania, and begins to subscribe to beliefs that can only be described as “fringe science.” Sarah is also grief-stricken, but falls in love with a man named Walt Hazlett and has a son by him.
While Johnny is in the coma, a killer that becomes known as the Castle Rock begins to terrorize the town of Castle Rock. Several women are murdered, but the murders go unsolved.
One day, Johnny awakens from his coma. His mobility is limited, and he lacks control over certain bodily functions, but he is coherent and remembers his name, his parents, etc. Johnny is also devastated to find out that Sarah has re-married, but holds no ill will against her.
Almost as soon as he awakens from his coma, Johnny begins to manifest precognitive abilities. When Sarah visits him in the hospital, he is able to touch her and tell her where she lost her wedding ring. He is also able to touch one of his doctors, Dr. Weizak, and determine that Weizak’s mother did not die in the Holocaust, after all, and is living in California. Both of premonitions are subsequently verified, and bring attention to Johnny.
Johnny continues with his physical therapy and rehabilitation, even though it is painful for him. One day, he touches his physical therapist, and has a premonition that the woman’s house has caught on fire. Luckily, the fire department catches the fire on time, and no serious damage is done to the woman’s house. However, this incident continues to bring more unwanted attention upon Johnny, in the form of curious reporters.
Shortly after the incident with his physical therapist, Johnny is hounded by news reporters who are curious about his abilities. With Dr. Weizak at his side, Johnny attempts to answer some of their questions. When he touches one reporter, Johnny is able to obtain some information about the reporter’s deceased sister, and there is no explanation as to how Johnny could have obtained this information. The reporter becomes angry and calls Johnny a charlatan, even though the information is not false.
However, Johnny is distracted from the reporters when he finds out that his mother is in the hospital, as she has suffered a stroke. Vera passes away shortly after Johnny’s arrival at the hospital, and Johnny and his father are devastated.
While Johnny is recovering from his accident, Greg Still becomes the mayor of a small town in New Hampshire and is on a rise to power. However, his methods of keeping order in his city are unorthodox, to say the least, and some question his legitimacy.
After the death of his mother, Johnny moves back into his childhood home with his father. Shortly after he moves back home, Johnny is approached by a man named Richard Dees. Richard Dees works for a tabloid magazine called The Inside View, and offers Johnny a job at the magazine that promises to be quite lucrative. Johnny becomes angry, and chases the reporter off his property, threatening to hurt Dees if he ever returns.
Sarah visits Johnny a few days after the incident with Richard Dees. Even though she is happily married to Walt, Sarah consummates her relationship with Johnny, reminding Johnny on what he has missed. Sarah then leaves, and she and Johnny agree not to contact each other again.
The weeks and months pass by, and Johnny struggles to return to a normal life. An article accusing him to be a charlatan is published in The Inside View, in retribution for his refusal to work for the tabloid. However, Johnny ignores the article, and the publicity surrounding him begins to die off.
One day, Johnny receives a call from Sheriff George Banner in regards to the Castle Rock Strangler murders. Sheriff Bannerman requests Johnny help in solving the case, as the case has remained unsolved for several years and quite a few women have fallen victim to the murderer. Initially, Johnny refuses to help, as he feels that he is being mocked.
However, when Johnny watches a news report on the murders, he changes his mind and agrees to meet with Sheriff Banner. He meets with Sheriff Bannerman in a local diner, and finds out that the latest victim of The Castle Rock Strangler was a nine year old girl. Johnny heads back to the police station with Bannerman, so that he can touch something that may have belonged to the killer, and hopefully get some information on the murderer.
When Johnny touches the cigarette carton that may have belonged to the murderer, he does not get any information. However, Johnny heads to the site where the murder occurred, in the hopes that he will be able to obtain some information from the area. And Johnny is successful in making this visit, and reveals the murderer to be Frank Dodd, who is actually one of Sheriff Bannerman’s deputies. When Johnny makes this revelation, Sheriff Bannerman is angered, but agrees to at least investigate the possibility that Frank was involved in these murders.
The sheriff and Johnny then head to Frank’s house to confront him in regards to the murders. When they arrive, they find that Frank has somehow figured out that he has been caught, and has committed suicide by slitting his throat with a razor. He has also written “I confess” on his bedroom mirror in red lipstick.
After The Castle Rock Strangler has been caught, Johnny’s life has been turned upside down. He is hounded by the press, and loses a teaching contract that he had previously secured.
The years pass, and Johnny eventually moves to a nearby town and obtains a job tutoring a high school boy named Chuck. Johnny is quite good at his job, and helps Chuck overcome his difficulties with reading.
Greg Stillson continues to gain popularity as a politician, and runs for a seat in The House of Representatives. Johnny is somewhat skeptical of Stillson, but does not pay him much mind, as he continues to try to live a normal life.
One afternoon, Johnny attends a rally to hear Greg Stillson speak. Johnny is able to shake Stillson’s hand, and has one of his premonitions: he sees Stillson being elected president and wreaking havoc on the United States and the rest of the world. This frightens Johnny badly, causing him to faint. When he awakens, he is questioned by the police, but released, as they cannot charge him with a crime.
Johnny continues to work with Chuck, and to live his life. However, Greg Stillson is never far from his mind, and Johnny decides that something needs to be done about him, although he does not like the idea of killing, even a psychopath like Stillson. Johnny begins to keep obsessive notes on Stillson, and wonders just what he can do.
One night, Chuck gives Johnny a hug, thanking him for his help. Johnny has another premonition. He sees the restaurant that is hosting a graduation party that Chuck is planning on attending get struck by lightening, killing several students. One of these students may be Chuck. Johnny convinces Chuck not to attend the party, and Chuck agrees, hosting a party of his own at his parent’s house. Later that night, Johnny hears a radio broadcast that there has been a fire at that restaurant, and that 75 people were killed in the fire, which was caused by a lightening strike.
After the incident at the restaurant, Johnny flees New England and heads to Florida. He is determined to stop Stillson at any cost, and purchases a gun. He then heads back north, in the hopes of catching Stillson at a town hall meeting in Jackson, New Hampshire.
At the meeting, Johnny fires his gun at Stillson. In order to defend himself, Stillson grabs an infant and uses the boy as a human shield. A nearby reporter takes a picture of Stillson’s act of cowardice. In the meantime, Johnny is shot by Stillson’s bodyguards and dies almost instantly, but knows that even though he was unable to shoot Stillson, he has still completed his mission.
Once the picture of Greg Stillson’s act of cowardice is brought to the public’s attention, his political career is killed, and the world is safe from the nuclear war that otherwise would have occurred. It is also discovered that Johnny Smith was suffering from a brain tumor and had only months to live. His letters to his father and Sarah indicate that he was of clear mind in his decision to stop Stillson.
Sarah visits Johnny’s grave, and feels distressed. However, she feels a ghostly, gentle hand on her cheek, and knows that Johnny is not truly gone.
The Dead Zone. Many know Stephen King as the guy who writes scary stories. And they would not be wrong, some of King’s material can scare someone right into a change of pants.
But then, you have the underrated gem otherwise known as The Dead Zone. In other words, the other Stephen King. And people often forget that King does indeed have another side. And this side is not the one that can scare you into a change of pants.
No, one of the things that the other Stephen King is good at is feelsies.
Yes, the guy that can (literally) scare the crap out of you can also reduce you to tears, and not the kind of tears brought on by a certain homicidal clown or by a creepy woman who has taken up resident in the bathtub in a certain famous (or is it infamous?) room in a haunted hotel.
No, these are the kind of tears that you shed for the human condition, which is actually one of the most fucked up conditions of all time.
And The Dead Zone is a constant reminder of this, even from the very beginning. Tragedy does not wait to strike in The Dead Zone.
Rather, it rears its ugly head right away, as Johnny falls into the coma right away. When Johnny falls into a coma, his life is forever changed. He was a young man with a bright future with the woman he loved. However, the accident changes everything for Johnny. He is no longer the young man with a bright future, the young man who made being a high school teacher look effortless, the young man who had a beautiful girlfriend who he planned to marry. He is now a vegetable, and even his father prays for death for him, so that he can receive some form of mercy.
The lives of Johnny’s loved ones are irrevocably changed as well. His parents have effectively experienced the death of their only child. To witness your only child suffer like that…it’s no wonder that Vera basically went insane, and Johnny’s father prayed for his death, so that he would not have to witness his only child suffering. Who could blame them?
And there was another victim to tragedy: Sarah Bracknell. It is true that Sarah was not married to Johnny, or even engaged to him. Sarah’s tragedy was the future that never came to be: her marrying Johnny, building a life with him, possibly even having children together. However, the accident robbed Sarah of that, and made her live with “the what if” for the rest of her life.
The tragedy continues, even when Johnny awakens from his coma. “The world has moved on” (in the words of another famous King character.) Johnny has missed out on almost five years of his life. Not only does Johnny not know who the president of the United States is, he has missed out so many other things, like his career and his family. And perhaps the saddest part is that Sarah has moved on and married another, so he has also lost the love of his life, along with the five years he will never get back.
Stephen King often writes about ordinary people placed into extraordinary situations. The Stand, It, The Shining and even the Dark Tower series are all examples of this. And The Dead Zone is, as well.
At first glance, the ability to predict the future may seem like a good thing. After all, knowing that something terrible with happen gives us a chance to prevent it, and preventing something terrible from happening is always a good thing, right?
More like nope, at least in The Dead Zone. Johnny’s abilities make him a pariah. They frighten other people, because most people fear what they don’t understand. Often, Johnny’s knowledge brings some unwelcome revelations. Sheriff Bannerman punched Johnny for accusing Frank Dodd of being the Castle Rock strangler. Bannerman literally needed to have the evidence in front of his face before he would even entertain the notion. And even then, he wasn’t convinced. Bannerman was only fully convinced when he got a written confession from Dodd, and by then it was too late for Dodd to face justice.
Johnny’s abilities also put him in a moral predicament. He knows that a nuclear war will ensue if Greg Stillson becomes president. But is there any way to prevent this from happening, without resorting to actions which make Stillson such an awful person (as Stillson has shown he is not above murder, by killing law enforcement officials who possibly would have put a stop to his political career)? However, unlike Stillson, Johnny is not someone who can so easily resort to murder. Johnny struggles hugely with his decision, and often (rightfully) curses his “gift”, which has caused so much turmoil in his life.
Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?
Throughout my re-read of The Dead Zone, I wondered this. A lot, actually.
And I think we all know what I am referencing…
Although I will also take a dig at Her Nibs here, just to show I am not just picking on The One Who Won’t Be Named.
In all seriousness, the resemblances to our current political climate is just unreal. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it.
King’s description of Stillson’s antics at his rallies is so strikingly similar to Donald Trump’s antics. In one scene, Stillson crawls across the stage like a dog. In another scene, Still promises “free hot dogs for all.” I am sure that if I actually watched some Donald Trump rallies (while we are on the subject of being scared into a change of pants), I would find footage of The Donald crawling across the stage like a dog. Probably barking too.
And don’t even get me started on the subjects of hot dogs, since Mr. Trump has so generously let us known that his…ummm…man parts are fully functioning and of proper size. Actually, if you never want to eat hot dogs ever again after reading this paragraph, I won’t hold it against you!
But, let’s get serious again. Stillson founded his platform on hate, just like Mr. Trump. Donald Trump has been repeatedly promising us that wall that Mexico will so magnanimously fund. Stillson also had a hatred of the “outsiders”, promising his constituents that he would eradicate them. Both Trump and Stillson attracted a certain type of voter: white, lower middle class, ignorant and convinced that their problems were causes by “the outsiders” (Muslims, an African America president with a “foreign” name, any “foreigners”, etc), and not by a system that is inherently unfair to anyone who is not rich, like Stillson and Trump. So both men were able to take the rising fear experienced by their supporters, and got the results that they wanted: supporters who are frightened, and because they are frightened, are actually zealots as opposed to supporters.
When reading this book, I was also struck by the description of the violence at Stillson’s rallies. One woman had a miscarriage. People broke bones and suffered other injuries.
Like I said, art sometimes imitates life. And I may be insufferable in regards to the jokes I have been making about Trump and Stillson lately. But then King throws in a detail, like the fact that a woman suffered a miscarriage due to the violence at one of Stillson’s rallies. I can also watch footage of violence at Trump rallies, as there has plenty. And I can’t joke any more, since I am reminded of the horrible problem we have in this country, where these types of incidents are accepted. Footage like this is much, much scarier than anything that has ever come out of the mind of Stephen King.
Johnny Smith prevented Greg Stillson from starting a nuclear war. This is a scenario that would be all too plausible if Donald Trump was to be elected the leader of the free world. When someone uses fear as his/her campaign platform and actually gets elected, what else can we expect? The campaign was not based on rationality, so why would any decisions, especially the important ones, be based on rationality? In other words, campaigns based on hate and fear do not end well, and will probably end in disaster.
In school, I remember reading Animal Farm. 1984 also may have been required reading. However, The Dead Zone was not required reading. And that was a damn shame. Perhaps, if this book was required reading in high school, “Making America great again” would not be a political platform in 2016.
Well, that’s it for The Dead Zone. Join me next month for the review and dissection of another Castle Rock tale, The Dark Half. And there will be a bonus recap and review, as the final installment of The Mr. Mercedes trilogy, End of Watch, will be released next month.
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Just for fun, here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in The Dead Zone:
-Sheriff George Bannerman also makes an appearance in the novella The Body (part of the collection Different Seasons), and in the book Cujo.
-The events from the book Carrie are referenced.
-Beverly Marsh mentions the Castle Rock Strangler in the book It.
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.
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…
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:
-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.
Art is life.
Life is art.
Art imitates life.
Life imitates art.
Anyone who knows me knows that art is extremely important to me. It is one of my favorite forms of expression. I am always drawing, painting, woodburning, glass etching…
So I guess I am a little obsessed…this guy might understand something about that…
But art has kept me. Kept me from losing my mind when my ex had legal troubles of the worst kind, and that was all he would talk about, day in and day out. Kept me from feeling completely worthless after I finally left my ex (yes, the same one), and going out of my mind with loneliness. Recently, I had to euthanize my poor 15 year old dog Igloo, who had been my best friend for about the same length of time. This was one of the most agonizing decisions that I had to make, and I questioned it constantly, never sure that I was doing the right thing, even though I saw the gratitude in her eyes at the very end. The next night, I finished a woodburning piece with the phrase “Stand and be true” included on it. The irony was not lost on me, reminding me once again that coincidence had been cancelled. The tears came, but it was cathartic and I needed it. Once again, art healed me when I was at my most broken.
So, art has kept me. Kept me in the land of the living when it seemed nothing else would. And I imagine that is true for most creative people. We may appear to be escaping, but really, we do it so that we can stay engaged with “the real world.” And art, of any kind (literature, paintings, comic books, you name it), is just one of the few things that makes “the real world” just a little less cold.
And one those things that makes our world a little less could is…wait for it…
Yes, a Stephen King book!
Don’t be surprised, it is this blog, after all.
The art of Stephen King has been making my world brighter for the past 25 years, and I imagine that he has been brightening the worlds of many, many other folks as well. He is an artist, and much needed warmth in our world.
I am also sure that, like most other artists, King needs his art to stay engaged, especially after the horrific accident that nearly claimed his life. I would like to think that thoughts of writing more books and finishing his magnum opus helped to keep him engaged with “the real world”, and provided a source of healing for him when he needed it the most.
Enter the novel, Duma Key. On one hand, it is a ghost story…Perse on her ghost ship…shudder. But on the other hand, Duma Key is about art, and the healing qualities that art can have on the human spirit. Once again, King has taken the ghost story, and elevated it so that it is no longer a ghost story, but something far more than the tale of a haunted island. But then again, we are talking about The Master, after all!
Without further ado, here is my recap and review of Duma Key.
Oh, and don’t forget:
At the beginning of Duma Key, we are introduced to a man named Edgar Freemantle, or Eddie. Edgar is a seemingly ordinary man: he is married, owns a successful construction company and is the loving father to two children, Ilse and Melinda. However, all of that changes when Edgar is in a near fatal accident on a job site, when his truck collides with a crane. As a result of that accident, Edgar loses his right arm. He also suffers severe brain damage, and his personality undergoes a drastic change for a time. Edgar is unable to control his anger after the accident and stabs his wife Pam with a plastic butter knife, and also tries to choke her. Edgar also has trouble with language, and is unable to find the right word for common objects and even the people he loves. This contributes to his anger problems, but Edgar undergoes much therapy and slowly begins to recover. However, Edgar’s marriage never recovers from the fallout of the accident, and Pam files for divorce shortly afterwards. Edgar is devastated, but understands how Pam feels and does not contest the divorce. Edgar also begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Kamen, who gives him a doll to use as a punching bag for his rages. Edgar names the doll Reba, and becomes attached to her. Dr. Kamen suggests that Edgar consider a geographic change. Edgar agrees, and decides to temporarily re-locate to Florida from his Minnesota home, and picks a house on the island of Duma Key, located off the coast of Florida. Dr. Kamen also suggests that Edgar take up a hobby to keep his mind off of his injuries and other problems. Edgar remembers that he used to enjoy drawing, and packs his art supplies when he moves. Money is no object, as the success of Edgar’s construction company will allow him to live out the rest of his life in comfort.
We are also introduced to a small girl who seems to have suffered a similar injury to Edgar’s, but the events are indicated to have taken place many years ago.
Edgar arrives on the island of Duma Key and is introduced to Jack Cantori, a college student who will be driving Edgar to places he needs to go, and also assisting him with duties such as grocery shopping. Edgar immediately likes Jack and is glad to have his assistance. Edgar also falls in love with his rental house on first sight. The house is nicknamed “Big Pink”, and Edgar finds immediate peace in his surroundings.
Edgar continues to convalesce at Big Pink and Duma Key. He also continues to hone his drawing skills, sometimes adding in a surreal element to his work. Many people, including his psychiatrist, Dr. Kamen, tell Edgar that he has a real talent and should consider a second career in the arts. Edgar walks on the beach, which helps him with his mobility and makes him less dependent on pain killers. On the beach, he sees a middle aged man and elderly woman, and the man waves at Edgar every time he sees them. Edgar also finds out the his daughter Ilse has a new boyfriend, and is somehow able to draw a picture of the young man, even though he has never seen him. Edgar finds out that Ilse is engaged, through his clairvoyant visions.
Ilse visits Edgar shortly after Christmas, and the two take a drive on the island to the lone other house on the island. However, this drive does not go well. Ilse becomes violently ill and Edgar’s missing limb begins to madly itch. Edgar is able to drive his daughter back to the house so that she can recover. While Ilse is resting, Edgar is overcome with an urge to draw, and draws a picture of what appears to be his anger doll Reba surrounded by an ocean of tennis balls. Ilse is impressed with the drawing, so Edgar gives it to her, naming it The End of the Game. Edgar receives a call from the owner of the other house on the island, an elderly woman named Elizabeth Eastlake. Elizabeth is kind and cordial to Edgar, but warns him that Duma Key is a dangerous place for daughters, and to immediately send Ilse away from the island. Ilse also confirms that she is indeed engaged to her new boyfriend, and Edgar experiences a sense of dread, and thinks that Ilse is moving too fast in her relationship. Ilse also convinces Edgar to invest in some paints and canvases, which he does after dropping her off at the airport so that she can return to college.
After Ilse leaves, Edgar continues to hone his craft, becoming better and better at painting. He also researches limb loss and “phantom limb syndrome”, and finds out that there are others who have experienced strange happenings after the loss of a limb. Edgar asks Pam for a pair of her old gardening gloves, telling her that he wishes to include those in one of his paintings. However, he is really trying to find out if Pam is dating another man by using his clairvoyant abilities. Edgar continues his walks on the beach, and the middle aged man tells him to come join him and the elderly woman when Edgar is able.
We also learn more about the young girl who suffered a head injury years ago. The young girl has also developed the ability to produce extraordinary drawings that sometimes predict events that the little girl could have no knowledge of.
Edgar decides he wants to use Pam’s gloves to try paint his ex-wife. He almost talks himself out of the attempt, but falls down on the floor. However, when he falls, he is able to touch the floor and save himself with his missing right hand. Edgar then appears to become possessed, and produces a painting of ex-wife. The painting reveals that Pam has had a relationship with a man in California who lives in her parents’ neighborhood. Edgar also learns that Pam has had an affair with his friend and accountant, Tom Riley. Edgar is upset by this vision, but tries to forget about it and move on. He titles the painting “Friends With Benefits.”
Edgar finally makes the acquaintance of the middle-aged man that he has seen while walking on the beach. The man is named Jerome Wireman, but tells Edgar that most people call him “Wireman.” In talking with Wireman, Edgar learns more about the island and its peculiar history. Wireman tells him that his employer, Elizabeth Eastlake, owns the house Edgar is renting and a few other properties. Wireman also informs Edgar that his rental house has been occupied by several artists, the most notable name being Salvador Dali. Wireman invites Edgar to come visit him at Elizabeth’s Eastlake’s home, and Edgar agrees to take him up on the offer sometime.
When Edgar returns home, he receives news that a local art dealer wishes to look at his paintings, which makes him nervous. However, Edgar does not cancel the appointment, as he has promised his daughter that he would meet with the art dealer. Edgar also sees a vision of his friend, Tom Riley. Tom appears to be dead, and Edgar thinks that he will commit suicide. Edgar is unable to reach Tom, but is able to reach Wireman. Edgar tells Wireman that he needs to talk, and Wireman invites him for a visit the next day.
Edgar visits Wireman and tells him of all the strange happenings since he moved to the island, including his vision of Tom Riley. Wireman tells Edgar that he must talk to Pam about Tom Riley, even though the conversation may be uncomfortable and that Pam may not believe his story. Edgar also meets Elizabeth Eastlake, who immediately knows that Edgar is an artist, and shows him a sketch that Salvador Dali had given her when he stayed in the house. We also learn that Elizabeth has Alzheimer’s disease, and is not always of clear mind. Before he leaves, Edgar reads to Elizabeth from a book of poetry, as she enjoys being read to.
Per his promise to Wireman, Edgar contacts Pam in regards to Tom Riley. Pam is upset, but when the phone call ends Edgar is certain that she will act in regards to Tom.
There is a storm that night, and Edgar produces another painting that is of seashells on the beach, but also contains roses. Edgar also has a vision of Wireman, and realizes that Wireman attempted suicide in the past but was not successful.
Jack, Wireman and Edgar head to the local gallery so that an art dealer can look at Edgar’s paintings. The meeting is a success, and patrons offer to buy Edgar’s work on the spot. Edgar also catches the attention of a local art critic named Mary Ire. Jack, Wireman and Edgar go out to a nice restaurant to celebrate. On the way home from the restaurant, Wireman suffers a seizure, and Edgar becomes worried. However, Wireman brushes off Edgar’s concerns, and refuses to speak of his past. Edgar also receives another message from Elizabeth Eastlake on his answer machine that night, again warning him that the island is not a safe place for his daughter.
The days pass, and Edgar continues to work on his painting. He receives a call one day from Pam, who has confronted Tom Riley in regards to his intent to commit suicide. Pam is angry with Edgar, and does not believe that he has clairvoyant powers. Edgar tries to convince Pam otherwise, but she will not listen to him.
One afternoon, Edgar agrees to watch Elizabeth because Wireman is busy. He discovers photos and information in regards to the Eastlake family. He is also able to draw a picture that shows details of Pam’s life, such as her new television and her new cat. Edgar relays this information to Pam, but she is still angry and accuses him of spying on her.
Edgar receives a frantic call from Wireman one afternoon. Wireman has lost the vision in his left eye, and Edgar rushes him to the doctor. The doctor tries to keep Wireman in the hospital, but Wireman refuses, as he knows his condition is deteriorating. Wireman tells Edgar about the accident that caused his problems: he attempted to commit suicide after the death of his wife and daughter, but was unsuccessful, as the bullet was deflected by an apple on his kitchen table. However, the bullet lodged in his brain, causing his current problems. Edgar and Wireman also hear of a man named George “Candy” Brown on the news. Candy Brown was caught abducting a little girl on a mall video camera, and later murders the little girl. Both men are horrified by the story.
That night, Edgar returns home and tries to sleep. He is awakened in the middle of the night by the itching on his missing right arm. Edgar then paints a picture of Candy Brown and the little girl he murdered. After he is finished, Edgar returns to sleep, the itching in his missing arm gone. The next morning, Edgar receives a call from Wireman. Candy Brown passed away his sleep in his jail cell. The official cause of death is sleep apnea. Edgar again looks at his painting of Candy Brown, and notices that he painted the accused murder with no mouth or nose.
Edgar realizes that his paintings can alter reality, and that he may be able to help Wireman. He takes one of the x-rays of Wireman’s brain that shows the bullet that has been lodged in his head for so many years. He paints a picture of Wireman’s brain minus the bullet, and receives a call from Wireman that his headaches, which he had suffered from ever since his suicide attempt, have disappeared. However, Wireman still does not have full vision in his left eye.
Realizing that there is more work that needs to be done, Edgar begins to paint Wireman’s portrait. He also accepts the offer from the local art gallery, and makes plans to invite people, including Pam and his daughters, to his first show. Edgar begins a series of paintings that he titles “Girl on Ship.” He realizes that the “girl” is actually his daughter Ilse. As he paints the ships, he begins to see lettering, namely a P, E and R. Edgar wonders what the lettering spells, and is determined to find out what these letters will spell out.
One night, Edgar continues working on Wireman’s portrait. He paints in a frenzy, and has another vision after he is done painting for the night. He sees two little girls, whom he recognizes as the ghosts of Elizabeth’s deceased twin sisters. Edgar faints. When he awakens, he receives a telephone call from Wireman, who tells Edgar that his vision has been restored.
Edgar makes his opening speech to introduce his artwork. He is nervous at the beginning, but discovers that Dr. Kamen, his psychiatrist from Minnesota, is in the audience. The speech is a success, and people are demanding that he sell his paintings. Edgar catches the attention of Mary Ire, a local art critic. Edgar meets with Ms. Ire, and learns that Elizabeth Eastlake may have also been an artist as a child.
Finally, it is the night of Edgar’s show. Edgar has made sure that his close friends and family will be attending, but not staying on the island of Duma Key. Per Elizabeth Eastlake, Edgar also instructs the art gallery to sell his “Girl In a Ship” paintings to separate buyers.
Edgar’s show is a huge success. He is able to sell all of all paintings, bringing in nearly half a million dollars. Edgar’s ex-wife, daughters, psychiatrist, Wireman, Jack and even Elizabeth Eastlake attend the show. However, tragedy strikes when Elizabeth is stricken with a seizure that night. She warns Edgar of a being she calls Perse, and says that “she must be drowned in fresh water.” Elizabeth also tells Edgar that there is a red picnic basket that he must find. Elizabeth is rushed to the hospital, but passes away that night.
Wireman shows Edgar an article published in the 1930’s in regards to Elizabeth. The article confirms that Elizabeth was an artist, but gave it up when she was just a four year old child. Elizabeth also suffered a brain injury similar to Edgar’s, and her artistic ability emerged shortly after her injury.
Edgar returns to his hotel, and seeks momentary comfort in the arms of Pam. The next morning, Edgar also speaks to Ilse, who tells him that her boyfriend has cheated on her. Edgar has a heart-to-heart with Ilse, and tells her not to rush things with her boyfriend. He then sees his friends and family off, and returns to his hotel room. Edgar receives a message from Wireman telling him that something odd has happened on the island and that he must return right away.
When Edgar returns to his home, he discovers that it is in a shambles. He also discovers that Jack and Wireman have located the red picnic basket. The picnic basket contains drawings and paintings that were the work of a young Elizabeth Eastlake. Edgar realizes that he must find out her story, and that he must use his own artistic ability to do so. Wireman agrees, but says he will check on Edgar to make sure that nothing happens to him.
Edgar begins to flesh out Elizabeth’s story through a series of drawings. Her story is familiar and also tragic: the being known as Perse used Elizabeth’s gifts for her own evil purposes. When Elizabeth tried to stop her, Perse punished horribly, by murdering her sisters. Edgar, however, is still unable to come up with a way to stop Perse. When he returns to the downstairs part of his house, he sees the ship that carries Perse coming towards his house. Edgar also encounters the ghost of a young man who is intent on harming him. However, Wireman steps in just in time to save Edgar.
Jack, Wireman and Edgar convene, and Edgar relays what happened to them. Edgar realizes that the ghost he saw was the fiancee of Elizabeth’s older sister, who was also likely a victim of Perse. He also receives a call from Tom Riley. Tom tells Edgar that he is dead, and intends to take Pam with him. Edgar panics, and calls Pam. Pam confirms that Tom has committed suicide. Edgar tells her that she must warn anyone who has purchased his paintings, as Perse’s influence extends far. Later, Edgar finds out that Dr. Kamen has died from a heart attack after purchasing one of Edgar’s paintings. Pam assures Edgar that neither she nor their daughters have any of his paintings, but Edgar is still uneasy.
Edgar realizes that he must try to destroy Perse before she can do any more damage, and makes plans with Jack and Wireman to do just that, by the light of day.
Unable to sleep, Edgar awakens and remembers that he gave the drawing titled “Hello” to his daughter Ilse. He calls Ilse, who has been under the spell of Perse. Ilse believes Edgar to be dead. Edgar reassures her that he is still alive, and tells her to burn the drawing. Ilse complies, and Edgar goes back to sleep, believing his daughter to be safe.
The next morning, Edgar receives a frantic phone call from Pam. Pam tells him that Ilse is now dead. It turns out that Ilse has been murdered by Mary Ire, who later commits suicide. Mary drowned Ilse in the bathtub before killing herself. Edgar is grief-stricken, but still determined to defeat Perse.
Jack, Edgar and Wireman head to Elizabeth’s childhood home. They encounter a few tricks, including a lawn jockey that appears to come to life, but are not fooled. Underneath the stairs of the old mansion, Edgar finds Noveen, Elizabeth’s favorite childhood doll. Jack is able to use his gift of ventriloquism to have the doll speak, and the doll speaks, even though it is actually the ghost of Nan Melda, Elizabeth’s childhood Nanny. Nan Melda tells them that Edgar must paint, which he does. Edgar spends hours in a painting frenzy. The pictures reveal what happened to Elizabeth and her family, and how to defeat Perse. Perse can only be defeated by drowning the doll that contains her essence in fresh water. That doll is located in a cistern under the house.
The three men locate the pool, and Edgar locates the doll that represents Perse. After a struggle, he is able to trap her into a flashlight so that she can be contained. The three then head back to the house that Wireman shared with Elizabeth. Edgar insists on heading back to Big Pink. When he arrives, he encounters what appears to be his dead daughter, Ilse. However, this is one final trick of Perse’s, and Edgar is able to resist, and defeats the entity one last time.
Some time later, Wireman travels to Minnesota to meet up with Edgar. It is also revealed that Jack is currently attending college and has moved some miles from Duma Key. Edgar and Wireman head out to a lake in Minnesota, which happens to be quite deep. There, they drown the flashlight containing the essence of Perse, so that the creature is unable to do any further damage. Wireman tells Edgar that he is heading to Mexico, where he plans on opening a resort. He invites Edgar to join him. However, Edgar never joins Wireman, as Wireman dies of a heart two months later.
Edgar travels to Duma Key, with the intent on creating one final piece of artwork. And he paints one last picture: a picture of a storm destroying the island. After the painting is completed, the wind begins to blow.
Well, they say that the third time is the charm…
And I do believe that the nebulous group known as “they” may actually be correct, at least in regards to Duma Key.
See, this is the third read of Duma Key. And it has taken me three times to finally appreciate it and love it…
I know, bad me!
And there is much to love and appreciate, in regards to this fine book!
First of all, Wireman…
I know he is probably a little old for someone who just turned 21 for the fifth time this year, but boy, does this nerdy blogger have quite the crush on him!
I can just hear him speaking Spanish to me…swoon…
Oh, and the reference to “water brothers” and Stranger in a Strange Land…that made me want to give him a wet, sloppy kiss that Duncan the pup at arms would envy!
And speaking of great characters, let’s not forget the main one, aka Edgar Freemantle.
I love Wireman, but I think I may have found another spirit animal in Eddie.
Obviously, the art. I may work in the exciting industry of tax resolution and rock to the beat of IRS hold muzak, but I do consider myself to be an artist. I even try my hand occasionally at the works of The Master…
While I may not (thankfully) have had a traumatic brain injury, I feel a kinship with Edgar. Like me, he used his art to draw himself back into the world, in a manner of speaking. Like me, he often does not feel like he is complete, unless he is working on a piece of artwork. And art really does draw some of us back into the “real” world. Most artists, if their capacity to create more art is taken away from them, would probably wither like a flower that lacks sunshine and water. I can relate when Edgar describes his need to paint as an “itch”; often, I feel that itch myself. And if I ignore it too long, it becomes unbearable and has to be let out, in the form of a painting, drawing or possibly a woodburning. And it must be let out, for the sake of myself and anyone who is stuck caring for me and loving me.
And again, I have to give a shout out to Sai King for his treatment of mental illness in Duma Key. King has dealt with this topic in a few of his other books, including Lisey’s Story, The Dark Tower series, Dreamcatcher and several others. As always, King deals with the topic in a sensitive, thoughtful way and does not disappoint. Wireman, Edgar and Elizabeth all suffer from various mental illnesses, including aphasia, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. However, King is able to make these characters much more than their illnesses, and yet still make them sympathetic because of their various illnesses. He does a fantastic job with Elizabeth in particular, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. My grandmother has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly four years now, so I am familiar with the lows of this condition. There is nothing more heart-breaking that someone who has known you for your whole life being terrified of you because she thinks you are a complete stranger, and having to lie to that woman and telling her that yes, Grandpa is just in the next room and he will be back soon. But the disease also has highs: like Elizabeth, my grandmother is occasionally able to remember the past in perfect clarity, bringing back hope, at least momentarily. And to paraphrase a certain writer, hope is a good thing, and also the best of things.
While I think that Perse is a terrifying King villain, I consider this book to be more tragic than scary. Again, that is the power of Stephen King: he can scare you into a change of pants, and he can also make you reach for the tissue box in almost the very same breath.
For example, there is the scene that depicts the final confrontation with Perse, who comes to Edgar under the guise of his now deceased daughter, Ilse. Yes, the scene was spooky. The description of the apparition as a sandstorm did make me shiver. But it also made me feel sad, seeing how tempted Edgar was by Perse, at the chance to see his daughter one last time. And then he literally watches his deceased daughter turn to dust. So Sai King creeped me out, and then gave me a case of the feelsies a few minutes later…yes, he is that talented!
I think that Duma Key must King’s most tragic book, or at least in the top five. So. Many. Feelsies.
For example, Wireman. Yes, we are back on that subject again. But Wireman is one of King’s most tragic characters, along with being one of my book boyfriends. He loses his wife and child literally moments apart from each other, attempts to commit suicide but is saved by an apple and then begins to lose his vision. He also loses his one remaining family member when Elizabeth Eastlake passes away. However, Edgar cures him of his blindness. But he still passes away from a heart attack while dickering over tomatoes in Mexico…greedy old ka, as a certain character from a certain other King series would say.
And the ending to this one. King has had some interesting endings in his books (Under the Dome, The Stand, 11/22/63 and The Dark Tower series all come to mind, for various reasons). But I think that the ending to Duma Key is probably his saddest. Yes, the evil is technically defeated, after Perse is drowned in fresh water. But did anyone really win? Elizabeth did not, she was Perse’s last victim. Wireman did not, he may have been cured of his blindness, but he died after escaping Duma Key and trying to make a life for himself. Edgar was perhaps the biggest loser of all: he lost his marriage, his daughter and his new-found calling as an artist. He also lost Wiremen, who could be considered the last of his remaining family. So it turns out that Edgar has only one choice: return to where it all started, and destroy it, no matter the cost. And at that point Edgar has nothing to lose, as everything has been taken from him. And he does just that: destroys Duma Key, and ultimately puts his hobby to good use so that no one else will be subject to the suffering.
Any kind of creative process, whether it be writing a novel, painting on a blank canvass, composing a song or any other piece of art, often requires an enormous sacrifice. The artist gives a piece of himself or herself, so that something new is born. And often, demons are roused during this process, and must be faced. So the creative process can be a battle. Duma Key symbolizes this perfectly, reminding us of the pain, and also utter joy, that is the creative process.
Just for the fun of it, here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in Duma Key:
-Edgar’s abilities are strikingly similar to Patrick Danville’s abilities, another King character who is also an artist. Patrick Danville is a character in the novels Insomnia and The Dark Tower, and he also has the ability to alter reality through his art.
–The number 19 makes an appearance in Duma Key. Edgar’s email address ends with the number 19, and the room number to Pam’s hotel room is 847 (the digits add up to 19). The number 19 plays a huge role for Roland and his friends in the last three books of The Dark Tower series.
-Edgar shares the same last name as Abagail Freemantle, who is a main character in the novel The Stand. The two also seem to share similar clairvoyant abilities.
-The house that Edgar lives in when he relocates to Duma Key is described as being pink in color. In the novel Wizard and Glass, there is an object known as Maerlyn’s Grapefruit that is also pink in color, and whoever looks into that object gains clairvoyant abilities that are similar to the ones Edgar gains after he moves to Duma Key.
-Ilse tells Edgar that Perse talks to her through the drain in the kitchen sink. This is similar to how Pennywise the Clown communicates to his intended victims in the novel It, and may suggest that Perse and Pennywise are the same type of creature.
As I have stated before, I like to be scared. I like to be creeped out. I like to read a story that makes me shudder, close the book for a minute and then still open it back up, because I JUST HAVE to find out what happens next…will the monster be bested somehow, or will it feed?
And what better way to be scared…than…you guessed it…read a Stephen King book (hey, it’s this blog, don’t act surprised)?
Stephen King is scary. Water is wet and the sun sets in the west. So duh, in other words. Stephen King is a great writer, creates great characters and is able to hook his Constant Reader to his tale. And one of the ways he hooks someone into a story is by scaring them into a change of pants (or is that just me?)
And more than a few of the stories in King’s latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, are exactly that: scary. Frightening. May make one leave the lights on at night. Disturbing and terrifying, even.
In other words, just what the (creepy) doc ordered.
The short story The Little Green God of Agony would be part of that creepy doctor’s prescription. It may be a quick read, but it is definitely packed with lots of vitamin F (vitamin Fear, for the uninitiated). And there is nothing like a good dose of vitamin F to get you up and going in the morning (although this guy yapping in your face will also do the trick, but I digress).
I know, how frightening!
The Little Green God of Agony tells of a woman named Katherine McDonald, who is an in-home nurse for a man named Newsome. About two years ago, Newsome was involved in an accident that injured him horribly, leaving him in a massive amount of pain. Katherine cares for Newsome and attempts to involve him physical therapy that she believes will help him recover and manage his pain. However, Newsome is not cooperative in these efforts, which leads Katherine to think that he is weak. Newsome is also very rich and compensating his staff very well (including Katherine), so Katherine stays silent on the subject, and also stays silent when Newsome tries alternative forms of therapy, which Katherine believes to be fake therapies.
Newsome has invited a preacher named Reverend Rideout to help him deal with his pain, in his latest attempt to cope with his injuries. Rideout tells Newsome that he is actually possessed by a demon, and that is what is actually causing him the pain. Katherine believes that this is another charlatan, but Newsome offers the reverend $10 million to cure his of his injuries. The reverend refuses the $10 million and tells Newsome that he will take $750,000 so that he may rebuild his church, which was destroyed by a fire. Rideout then tells Newsome that he will perform an expulsion of sorts, right then and there.
The reverend begins the ritual, and tells Newsome to describe his pain. Newsome begins to do so, telling Katherine, Rideout and his other staff that his pain is a green ball of agony. Katherine interrupts the ritual, and tells Newsome that he is weak and that the reverend is a charlatan. Newsome tries to tells Katherine that she is fired, but Rideout intervenes, telling Katherine that she had become jaded, and therefore no longer able to recognize which patients are faking their pain, and which are not (with Newsome falling into the latter category).
Rideout then proceeds with the ritual, giving Katherine a can of pepper spray to fend the “demon” off with. He also tells Newsome’s cook, Tonya, to grab a broom she that she may use it as a weapon.
The reverend cajoles the demon to leave the body of Newsome. A bulge appears in Newsome’s throat, and the electricity powers off. A window shatters, and the electricity powers back on. A creature that resembles a tennis ball with green spikes for legs emerges from the body of Newsome. Katherine swipes at the creature with a broom, and misses. The creature then attempts to possess the body of Melissa, Newsome’s housekeeper. However, Katherine hits Melissa in the face with a broom, and the creature leaves Melissa’s body. Katherine and the rest of Newsome’s staff believe that they have defeated the creature.
Newsome tells Katherine that he feels better, but it appears that the reverend has died in the struggle. The electricity then powers off again, and Katherine feels something crawl onto the back of her hand.
Um, shudder? Or ick? Maybe shudder ick (to coin a new term)?
In other words, this was one creepy ass story…let me count the ways!
And, in the style of Stephen King, it was creepy in more ways than one…
First of all, chronic pain. I know that’s not a supernatural horror, but it is a “human” horror. King writes very well about the horrors of the everyday world. Pain is one of those horrors. And it is one that I understand. I am sure that King understands it much better than I do, given the horrific accident he suffered on June 19th, 1999.
So I could understand where Newsome was coming from, to a point. Living with pain is not fun, and it can really feel like a non stop horror movie. And it will make a person desperate, willing to try almost anything to get relief from it.
But I could also understand how Katherine felt. Caring for someone who suffers from chronic pain is not an easy task (my husband would testify to this, I am sure). Chronic pain often affects more than one person, and is indeed an every day horror.
But of course, this is Stephen King. So let’s talk about the supernatural horror already…after all, this is Stephen King!
First of all, the description of the demon, or whatever it was…
So, thanks to Stephen King, I will never look at green koosh balls in the same way again. Thanks, Uncle Stevie, and maybe I should thank Obama for good measure, while I am at it!
The build-up before the demon revealed itself was also terrifying. King’s description of it being flushed out of Newsome and looking like a a goiter (ew much?) was just…nasty. I can think of no other word for it. The reverend cajoling the creature out of Newsome also created some terrifying imagery, making me think of movies like The Exorcist, although we were (thankfully) spared of green vomit coming out of people.
The ending of this story was unsettling as well.
First of all, the “good” guy, Reverend Rideout, lost his life in the fight. I do believe that he was one of the good guys, because of his refusal to accept an excessive amount of money from Newsome, and the fact that he did give his life in the fight. So that part was a downer.
And the ending! The creature, whatever it was, was not defeated. And it went on to claim its next victim in Katherine, who, ironically, was skeptical of the ritual to flush it out, and also skeptical of Newsome’s complaints. However, I did not consider Katherine to be “bad”. Her skepticism was understandable, and so was her impatience with her employer. So seeing her (ostensibly) become the next victim was disturbing. It was just further proof that monsters do not care who their victims are, only that they victims are there for the taking.
The ending reminds us that often, the monsters live. And they continue to commit evil deeds. And sometimes, the only thing standing between someone, and whether or not that person is victimized by the evil, is simply pure, dumb luck.
This is a place where eternally
Fire is applied to the body
Teeth are extruded and bones are ground
And baked into cakes which are passed around
Naturally, humankind is curious about death. After all, it is the final frontier. And it is one that we may never fully conquer. After all, we can return from outer space with our observations. Death, not so much.
And death is something that is of much interest to Stephen King. For one thing, he is a horror writer, and it’s pretty hard to write a horror story without at least one death (and perhaps someone becoming Undead, a ghost or something else unsettling, but I digress).
The Master is not young either (although he is still young at heart, I am sure. Killing off beloved main characters strengthens the soul, I hear). King has also had his near brushes with death, in his battle with addiction, and also his near deadly vehicle several years ago. In other words, death is no stranger to my favorite writer.
And this has become evident in King’s works, especially the later ones. Death has been explored in previous works, such as that nasty piece of work otherwise known as Pet Sematary. However, as King ages, he seems to almost explore the topic with a vengeance in novels such as Dr. Sleep and Revival, both of which discuss death, but contain strikingly different views on the subject.
Now, we have the short story “Afterlife“, from the collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams. And it is just one more interesting take on the final frontier of death.
So here is my recap and review of this little gem, “Afterlife.”
Afterlife centers around a man named Bill Andrews. Bill is a middle aged man dying of colon cancer. As Bill crosses over from life to death, he sees a bright white light, and assumes that he is headed to the afterlife.
However, Bill does not end up in the traditional Heaven or Hell. Bill ends up in a hallway, and his body appears to be in perfect health, with no signs of the cancer that killed him. Bill also sees photographs of various, familiar people from the year of 1956, the year he was born. These people range from old girlfriends to neighbors, and one of the people is Ronald Reagan.
Bill sees a door with the name of Isaac Harris on it, and walks through the door. He meets a man wearing baggy, high-waisted pants held up by suspenders. According to the calendar on the wall, the year is 1911.
Bill introduces himself to the man, who tells Bill that he has been there before. Bill asks if he is really dead, and if he is being reincarnated. Mr. Harris tells him that he is not, and that Bill has asked this question before.
Harris refreshes himself on Bill’s background, reminding Bill that he was investment banker in life with a wife and two children. Harris says that he means to get organized, but no one has sent him any help. He also tells Bill that he receives all of his communications via a tube that runs on compressed air. Harris gives some information on his background to Bill: in life, he owned a shirtwaist factory that caught on fire. Harris and his partner were responsible for the deaths of 146 women, as they trapped the women in the factory while it was on fire, in order to punish them for various transgressions. Harris and his partner were tried for manslaughter and acquitted. Harris tells Bill how sorry he is for the deaths, but Bill tells him he needs to take responsibility for his actions.
Bill then asks Harris what his options are. Harris tells him that if he leaves through the left door, he gets live his life over again. If Bill leaves through the right door, he winks out of existence. Bill contemplates his options, wondering if he could change aspects of life, such as an accident that hurt his brother and a questionable night with a drunk girl in a fraternity house. He also wonders if he can beat his cancer, by requesting a colonoscopy earlier and perhaps prolonging his life.
Harris tells Bill that there are no second chances. If he chooses the door on the left, he will be reborn with no memories, and his life will play out in the same manner as it has many, many times before, even though he may be struck with a sense of deja vu, as he has actually experienced these events before. Harris recommends that Bill take the door on the right and save himself the trouble. Bill wonders what the point of living life is, when there is no possibility of improvement, but receives no answer. Harris tells Bill that all human souls are born knowing the secrets of the universe, but that upon birth, an angel touches the baby’s philtrum, taking away that knowledge.
Bill chooses the door on the left, vowing that he will hold on to at least one piece of knowledge so that his life will be different this time. He is then re-born as a baby to a mother who thinks that he is not just a new life, but a universe of possibilities.
Again, you got to me, Uncle Stevie. So, again, good job!
I have mentioned that I have rainbow days sometimes, where I laugh and cry on the same day.
Well, “Afterlife” is a rainbow short story. On one hand, I rejoiced. We are not winked out of existence if we don’t want to be!
But, like Bill, I wondered what the point was, if it was just going to turn out the same as it did the time before that (and before that, and before that…well you get the picture). So then I wanted to cry. But it’s ok, I like rainbows!
And again, Uncle Stevie’s sense of humor came through on this story. I was amused by it. I was amused by the fact that Isaac Harris kept getting Bill’s name wrong, kind of like the people you may see at your company Christmas party that you have to make nice with, even though you don’t really interact with them very much, and they see so many people that they can’t keep the name straight either. I was amused by the fact that purgatory seems to be in a nondescript office building, where I am sure the temperature is either as hot as the pits of Mordor, or sub Arctic. After all, we are talking about purgatory here.
Oh, I would be remiss to say I was not amused by the picture of Ronald Reagan on the wall. Although I thought we were talking about purgatory, not Hell, Sai King!
I did find certain concepts of this story fascinating. To me, this story said that we choose our own fates, because we choose to be re-born, even though we have no memory of our previous cycle. Humans are futile, yet hopeful creatures in that regard.
I also find it fascinating that we make the same mistakes over and over again, but yet we are powerless to stop, as we choose to be reborn. So I keep marrying my ex husband over and over again…what a horrific thought, I am sure it would be make a good Stephen King book or something! But then again, reliving the good moments is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. To think, I have met my current husband countless times and kissed him for the first time countless times…what a sweet thought!
Of course, my mind went here after I read this story:
Which makes sense, if you think about it.
Like this guy, we are all doomed to repeat our quest, over and over again. We will never see any redemption. If we don’t forget the Horn on this trip, we will forget something else. No matter how small the detail that we forgot this time, nothing will ever make difference. But like Roland, we never give up hope, and we vow to ourselves that this time it will be different, and we will do the impossible: achieve redemption.
I seem to remember a saying…
One about all good things…
Something happens to them, I hear…
On an unrelated note, do you ever feel like your life is on infinite repeat, and it seems like you are destined to keep repeating yourself, because you can never get it right? And don’t you just hate that?
Well, I digress, it seems…
Time to get back on the subject: our favorite ka-tet!
And reunions…boy, do I love reunions!
And did I tell you that bittersweet is one of my favorite flavors? Obviously, or I wouldn’t read the Dark Tower series so many times, and hope against hope that things will be different this time (even though I know they won’t be).
And if insanity is the act of repeating the same act over and over again, and expecting different results…well then, I am a fucking loony, and proud of it, say thank ya!
So yes, I have now completed my fifth re-read of this series. And still, the magic remains. Still, I cry tears for all of those lost. Still, I hope against hope, that things will be different, and I am still crushed when they are not.
But I think that this is why these books are magic: they still invoke the same emotions in me, even after all of these years. Obviously, only magical books can do that when you re-read them, right?
With that being said, here is my review of the last bit of magic, the final book in the series, simply titled The Dark Tower.
The Dark Tower begins where Song of Susannah left off: Susannah and Mia are in a restaurant known as The Dixie Pig and are preparing to give birth to Mia’s un-human baby. Jake and Pere Callahan have arrived at the Dixie Pig and are desperately searching for Susannah in a futile attempt to rescue her. Roland and Eddie are still stranded in 1977 Maine and attempting to return to Mid-World so that the quest may be continued.
Mia begins to go into labor to deliver her baby, and Susannah plots to escape her prison so that she may be reunited with her friends. Mia delivers her baby, who is named Mordred, relatively quickly. Mia is overjoyed when the baby is born, but that is short-lived once the baby (who is clearly not human), changes into a spider and devours Mia. Susannah is able to steal the gun of one of the Low Men who was present at the delivery of Mordred. Susannah shoots and kills all of the Low Men present in the delivery room. Susannah also shoots Mordred, but Mordred escapes, with only one spider leg shot off by Susannah.
Jake and Father Callahan make their way toward the delivery room, but are accosted by Low Men and vampires. Jake receives a telepathic message from Roland and Eddie via Father Callahan ordering him to move on ahead. Father Callahan stays behind and battles the vampires. Realizing that he is outnumbered, Father Callahan commits suicide to avoid being transformed into a vampire, and therefore eternal damnation.
Still stranded in 1977 Maine, Roland and Eddie agree that they must seek help, and that John Cullum would be the man for the job. It turns out that Cullum has not left town, as Eddie is able to reach him by telephone. Roland and Eddie meet with Cullum, and tell him their tale. Cullum agrees to meet with Susannah’s godfather, Moses Carver, and Aaron Deepneau, so that they may form the Tet Corporation. Roland gives Cullum Aunt Talitha’s cross, so that he may be able to identify himself to Carver and Deepenau. The purpose of the Tet Corporation will be two-fold: to protect Stephen King and to sabotage Sombra Corporation whenever possible. Roland and Eddie then make their way back to the woods in Lovell, and are teleported to Fedic where they attempt to reunite with Jake, Oy and Susannah.
Jake searches for Susannah, and discovers her in the Dixie Pig. Jake encounters a mind trap which gives life to his fears. However, Jake switches bodies with Oy, and is able to avoid this trap and defeat the Low Men. Jake is then reunited with Susannah, and later Roland and Eddie. The ka-tet determines that they must travel through one of the cross-dimensional doors located in Fedic, so that they may return to Mid-World and resume their quest.
Mordred, in the meantime, has been growing at a rapid rate, and spying on Roland and his friends while hiding in Fedic. Mordred encounters Randall Flagg, who attempts to woo Mordred to his side. Mordred sees through Flagg’s trickery, and immediately kills Flagg, later eating the body for nourishment. Mordred is able to transform into a spider, but discovers he needs more nourishment that what he currently receives in order to accomplish this task.
Roland and his friends cross over to Thunderclap, and are then teleported to Devar-Toi, which is a compound occupied by Breakers, who are psychics recruited by the Crimson King. The Crimson King and his Low Men use the Breakers to destroy the Beams that hold the Tower together. The ka-tet meets a man named Ted Brautigan, along with Ted’s friend Dinky Earnshaw. Ted and Dinky also have another friend named Stanley, who does not speak but is able to use his telepathic powers to communicate. Stanley also possesses the ability to teleport, and was able to send Ted on a journey to another world. We learn that Stanley is actually Roland’s old friend Sheemie Ruiz, who Roland met during his time in Meijis.
Roland and his friends then watch videotapes narrated by Ted Brautigan, and learn the story of how Ted became a Breaker, and of how Ted and his friends have turned against their duties and wish to destroy Devar-Toi and stop the destruction of the Beams. Roland and his friends meet with Ted, Dinky and Sheemie yet again, and make plans for an attack on Devar-Toi. Jake speaks with Roland, and experiences an uneasy feeling that Roland tells him is ka-shume, which usually signals a change in the dynamics of the ka-tet. Roland also points out that Mordred has been following them, but asks Jake to keep this information from Eddie and Susannah.
The next day, the gunslingers mount an attack on Devar-Toi. They are aided by some hidden bombs that were placed in various parts of Devar-Toi during the previous night by a spy. The gunslingers are successful in their attack and are able to free the Breakers and stop the destruction of the Beams.
However, the attack comes at huge cost for Roland and his friends. Once the attack is over and Roland his ka-tet are performing some last minute inspections for any remaining threats, Eddie is shot by one of the remaining taheen, Pimli Prentiss. Unable to avoid the attack, the bullet proves to be fatal to Eddie, who eventually expires later that day. Susannah, Roland, Jake and Oy are left grieving for their friend. Before he dies, Eddie warns Jake about something or something named “Dandelo.” Eddie also names Roland his true father before he dies.
With the assistance of Sheemie, Roland, Jake and Oy travel to 1999 Maine to attempt to save the writer, Stephen King. When they arrive, the day is June 19th and Jake knows that time is running short. With the assistance of a woman they meet in a general store named Irene Tassenbaum, Roland and Jake are able to track down Stephen King, who is taking his daily afternoon walk. A young man named Bryan Smith is also driving a van on the same road as King, and King will be fatally struck down by Smith’s van unless the gunslingers intervene.
Roland, Jake and Irene intervene just in time to save Stephen King. However, this again comes at a cost for Roland, as Jake is hit by the van instead of King, and later succumbs to his injuries. Before he dies, Jake instructs Irene to take Roland to New York City, so that he may meet with the members of the Tet Corporation and return to Mid-World. Jake also gives instructions to Oy, although neither Irene nor Roland hears these instructions. Roland then buries Jake in the surrounding woods, saying a prayer for him. Irene tells Roland she will come back and plant something where Jake is buried. Roland tells her that a rose would be appropriate.
Roland and Irene then make their way to the Tet Corporation’s headquarters, located at 2 Hammarskjold Plaza. The rose is also located at this address. Roland meets Nancy Deepneau, who tells him that John Cullum and Aaron Deepneau have passed away, but Moses Carver is still alive. Roland also speaks to Marian Carver, daughter of Moses Carver, and learns a bit about the dealings of the Tet Corporation. Roland is given a copy of Stephen King’s book Insomnia, which Marian tells him may be important to his quest. Marian also tells Roland that he must watch out for someone named Patrick Danville, who is also a character in the book Insomnia. Before Roland departs, the members of the Tet Corporation also give him two more gifts: a gold watch which will keep time until Roland reaches the Tower, and Aunt Talitha’s cross. Roland is touched and grateful for these gifts.
Roland bids good-bye to Irene, who thanks him for the adventure, as her life has been irrevocably changed by her time with the gunslinger. Roland gives her the copy of Insomnia, stating that it feels “tricky” to him. Roland and Oy then travel through the door in the Dixie Pig and reunite with Susannah in Fedic. Susannah tells him that Ted, Dinky and a few other Breakers have traveled to Calla Bryn Sturgis to pay penance for what was done to the villagers’ children, but that Sheemie has died from an untreated infection in his foot. Roland, Susannah and Oy make plans to continue on their quest for the Dark Tower.
Roland ,Susannah and Oy make their way out of the Dixie Pig and back to Mid-World. On their way out, they find paintings that credit the mysterious Patrick Danville as the artist. Roland and Susannah also encounter a monster that is probably born of the To-Dash darkness and barely escape from the clutches of the creature.
Once Roland, Susannah and Oy make their way to Fedic so that they may continue on their quest for the Dark Tower, the journey becomes even more arduous. The only one equipped to handle the cold temperatures is Oy, and Roland and Susannah spend many uncomfortable days and nights wishing for warmer clothing and worrying how long their food supplies will last. Susannah also notices an unusual pimple that has formed next to her mouth. Roland also tells Susannah that they must check on the castle of the Crimson King, which Roland believes to be abandoned, but still may contain traps to stop Roland from continuing his quest.
When Roland, Susannah and Oy finally reach Le Casse Roi Russe, or the Crimson King’s castle, they encounter three men who resemble Stephen King. The creatures call themselves Feemalo, Fimalo and Fumalo (fee fi fo fum), and offer Roland and Susannah warm clothing and food. The creature tries to convince Roland that he is an uffi, or shapeshifter. However, Roland sees that this is a trick and refuses the offer. The creatures try to attack Roland, Susannah and Oy as they leave, but Roland and Susannah shoot Feemalo and Fumolo. Roland allows Fimalo to live, and finds out that he is actually a man named Rando Thoughtful. Thoughtful has used a trick, or glammer, to try to convince Roland that he was a shape-shifter, but is really a dying old man. Roland, Susannah and Oy leave the castle and continue on their quest. Rando Thoughtful stays behind, but is later attacked and eaten by Mordred, who is still following Roland and Susannah, plotting his revenge.
Roland and Susannah’s luck begins to change once they leave the castle of the Crimson King and continue on their quest. They are able to hunt deer, which provides them food and warm clothing. They are also able to finally build a fire so that they can stay warm. However, Susannah continues to worry about the pimple by her mouth, which has not gone away.
Roland, Susannah and Oy happen upon a house that appears to be inhabited when they draw closer to Empathica. Their assumption proves correct, as the house is inhabited by an old man named Joe Collins and his geriatric horse, Lippy. Collins offers them his hospitality, giving them a hot meal and shelter from the snow. Collins also begins to tell them how he came to Mid-World, and about his former life as a comedian, even telling some of his old jokes.
While Susannah and Roland are being entertained by Collins and his stand-up comedy routine, Susannah herself begins to think that something is wrong. Susannah then accidentally ruptures the pimple on her face and it begins to bleed. Susannah retreats to the bathroom to clean up the wound, and finds a note from Stephen King, who is repaying Roland and Jake from saving his life. Susannah deduces that Joe Collins and Dandelo are one in the same, and she and Roland dispose of Collins, stripping away his glammer. Before he dies, Dandelo is revealed to be a creature with insectoid characteristics.
Roland and Susannah quickly discover that Dandelo had kept a prisoner in his hut, and that prisoner turns out to be none other than Patrick Danville, a young man is approximately 16 or 17 years old. Susannah rescues Patrick from his prison in Dandelo’s basement, and learn of his captivity. Susannah deduces that Dandelo was a creature who fed off from human emotions, and that Patrick was his main source of fuel, although Dandelo fed from others unfortunate enough to come across his dwelling. Susannah also discovers that Dandelo must have tired of Patrick’s speech at some point, for he had removed the boy’s tongue. Roland, Susannah, Patrick and Oy take shelter in Dandelo’s barn for a few days, so that Patrick can regain his strength. Roland comes across Lippy and puts the creature out of her misery. They also come across a robot that calls itself Stuttering Bill (due to a defect in its programming) that was Dandelo’s reluctant servant. Roland suggests that the robot fix the stutter, and the robot happily obliges. Bill then relates more of the story to Roland and Susannah, and assists them with obtaining provisions to last them the remainder of their journey.
Once Roland and his friends leave Dandelo’s cottage, Mordred makes an appearance. Mordred eats the remains of the dead Lippy for nourishment, which will later prove to be a mistake. Mordred is still bent on taking vengeance on all of Roland’s friends, but especially Roland himself.
In the final weeks of Roland’s quest for the Tower, Susannah begins to realize that her time in his world is drawing to an end. Susannah becomes prone to bouts of uncontrollable weeping, and tries to hide this from Roland and the others. She also begins to dream of Jake and Eddie and feels that they are trying to send her a message, but does not know what they are trying to tell her. Suannah also sees a mysterious door in her dreams. The pimple by her mouth continues to cause her pain.
Susannah comes to realizes that Patrick’s artistic talents have the ability to alter reality. This is confirmed when Patrick draws a picture of her, and uses the eraser to remove the pimple by her mouth. Once the pimple is removed by the eraser, it vanishes from Susannah’s face. Susannah tells Patrick he must draw the Unfound Door that she sees in her dreams, and Patrick obliges.
Susannah asks Oy and Jake if they wish to travel through the door with her, but both decline. Roland tries to persuade Susannah to stay in Mid-World, but she declines. Susannah bids Roland, Patrick and Oy goodbye, and travels through the door to the alternate reality she sees in her dreams.
In the meantime, Mordred is still following Roland, waiting to attack. Mordred has also contracted food poisoning from consuming the remains of Lippy, and his strength has been diminished considerably. However, Mordred is still determined to seek revenge on Roland.
Mordred closes in on Roland, Patrick and Oy one night as Roland takes rest and leaves Patrick on night watch. Mordred attempts to attack Roland, but is stopped by Oy. Oy puts up a brave fight, but loses his life at the hands of Mordred. Roland dispatches Mordred with bullets from his gun. Saddened, Roland thanks Oy for his sacrifice. Oy speaks for the first time in weeks, saying Roland’s name, and then passes on.
Roland mourns Oy, but continues to make his way to the Tower with Patrick. Once Roland and Patrick draw closer to the Can’-Ka No Rey (the field of roses that surrounds the Tower), they encounter the Crimson King, who has gone mad. The Crimson King torments Roland and Patrick, throwing sneetches (weapons similar to hand grenades) at them. Roland tells Patrick that he must draw the Crimson King, and then erase him out of existence. Again, Patrick obliges, using crushed rose petals and Roland’s blood to achieve the red eyes that define the Crimson King. Patrick then uses his eraser, erasing the Crimson King out of existence, although the eyes remain. Roland then sends Patrick back to the robot Stuttering Bill, telling him to find a door that will take him back to a version of America, where he will be a famous artist.
Roland then makes his way to the Tower, calling out the names of all his friends and loved ones who have been sacrificed in the name of his quest.
We also learn that Susannah has traveled to an alternate reality through the door that Patrick drew for her, and has met a man named Eddie Toren, and his brother Jake Toren. In other words, she has met the Twinners of Eddie and Jake, and found a world close enough to her own world, so that any differences will seem minor. Eddie tells her that the name “Toren” means tower in German. It is implied that the three of them, along with a version of Oy, live out the rest of their days in happiness.
Roland approaches the Tower and lays down his gun and Aunt Talitha’s cross. The door opens, and Roland enters, climbing the stairs to the top of the Tower. Each time Roland comes to a room, he relives certain events in his life, such as his test to become a gunslinger.
At last, Roland reaches the top of the Tower, and opens a door with his name on it. Dismayed, he finds himself in the desert at the start of the story, chasing a man in black. Roland realizes that he has repeated his quest so many times, only to never find redemption. However, the memories begin to fade and Roland awakes, thinking that he has dreamed of the Tower yet again. Roland resumes his quest, seeking the man in black, who may be able to lead him to the Tower. But this time, he has the Horn of Eld in hand. So there is hope, even for the likes of him.
The Dark Tower is a rainbow book.
Yes, a rainbow book. By this I mean it can make me laugh and cry, and sometimes even shout, in both frustration and triumph. They say if you laugh and cry in the same day, you are having a rainbow day. So therefore, The Dark Tower book is a rainbow book.
And I know it may be hard to believe, but The Dark Tower contains plenty of humor (hence the laughter part). One of my favorite parts is when Jake and Oy switch bodies, and Jake is reminded of a movie with dinosaurs that he saw as a child and was frightened of. Tyranno-sorbets wrecks?
The Joker Cesar Romero coming to the rescue? Just some very funny imagery, and the humor was much needed, given the seriousness of the book.
And speaking of seriousness…
Oh, the feelsies…
There are more feels in The Dark Tower than there were when I was in the back seat of my ex’s car…oh wait, never mind…unwanted imagery, stage right!
All. The. Feels.
The reunion of the tet, especially when Eddie and Susannah reunite.
Roland being reunited with Sheemie, and telling Sheemie that he was not to blame for Susan Delgado’s death, and also telling Sheemie what a hero he was.
The death of Pere Callahan, who committed suicide to avoid eternal damnation, and essentially sacrificing himself for Jake.
And the deaths…
I know you need rain in order to have a rainbow, but when it rains in The Dark Tower, it pours…
Eddie Dean. When he died on my first journey, I cried. No, actually, I CRIED. When you CRY, as opposed to crying, its not pretty. No, you are a mess of snot and tears, both of which run into your mouth. And its not quiet either…let the honking commence! And hopefully, you like the colors red and purple, since your face will turn those colors…
And it doesn’t get any better after that. No, not at all. Especially when Roland becomes determined to sacrifice himself in Jake’s place to save the wordslinger, but greedy old ka has other plans…
And Oy. A true gunslinger, all he was missing was the guns (and opposable thumbs, for that matter). Roland burying Oy, and thinking to himself that the grave was too small to contain the heart that Oy’s body held…
So yes, keep the tissues on hand. Plenty of rainbows in this book, but the storms needed to produce them are massive…
Another favorite part of my book was…you guessed it..another reunion! I speak of the reunion at the end of the book, when Susannah meets Eddie and Jake’s Twinners, and falls in love with Eddie all over again…
Yes, this is one of my favorite parts. However, more than a few CR’s (Constant Readers, for the uninitiated), would beg to defer on this one…
I have heard people call Susannah a coward for exiting the quest and “abandoning” Roland…
Yes, a coward!
You know, the woman who was raped by a demon in the name of bringing Jake over to Mid-World, in a violent birth for the ages.
The woman who had to bear the inhuman fruits of that rape, and who was forced to share her head with a demon who would stop at nothing to hear someone
something call her “mommy.”
The woman who lost her husband. And who then lost her spiritual son (Jake) not long afterwards…
But still, she stuck with Roland, although nearly everything she held dear had been sacrificed in the name of his Tower…
But Susannah, evidently, did not belong in Mid-World…ka had other plans for her. And ka let her know this, in the way of any ugly pimple that no amount of Clearasil could ever take care of.
In other words, I believe that the ugly pimple was Susannah’s signal to leave Mid-World. And when she couldn’t grasp that, she was sent dreams. And then Patrick Danville, who finally drew her out of Mid-World, in much the same way she had been drawn in: a magical door.
And Susannah did what any sane person would do: she got out of dodge. After all, when ka speaks to you that loudly, you listen. Otherwise, the consequences are not pretty.
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
The above line is (rightfully) considered one of the greatest opening lines in literature. Ever.
And its one of the most frustrating ending lines. Ever.
Well, at least in some circles…
But those are circles I do not visit.
The ending to The Dark Tower is perfect. There are no other words for it.
Well, heartbreaking possibly. Baffling. Shocking. Sad. And then you want to throw your book across the room.
That last part is a sentence, not a word. But you get my drift.
This does not change anything, however. The ending to The Dark Tower is still perfect. It is perfect because it is the only ending.
It is perfect because it is right ending.
It is perfect because of its implications.
The implication that the journey never ends, that the journey will continue no matter what.
The implication that hell is repetition.
The implication that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Roland is a great example of this, although ka has other ideas and forces him to change. Or else.
And there is the implication that there is always the possibility of redemption. Roland has done some pretty awful (although pretty understandable things). But if anyone should be damned for eternity, it would be Roland. But maybe not.
This time, its different. He remembered to pick up the horn, after all. He never had before. And nothing is so small that it can’t make a big difference. So Roland is doomed to repeat his quest yet again…
But perhaps, he can get it right this time. This time it will be different. He has been given what he did not have before: The Horn ofEld.
And little things can change everything. So maybe this little thing is the catalyst, and Roland will finally find some peace. He can finally rest, and will no longer be doomed.
This New Year’s Day, I had made a New Year’s resolution, for the first time in about…oh…12 trillion years (kidding, kidding).
Normally, I don’t make those. I am kind of like this guy, and I think I am pretty awesome…
But making this New Year’s resolution is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
Because of this resolution, I have (yet again) taken the amazing journey otherwise known as the Dark Tower series.
I have become reacquainted with old friends, and have even made some new ones along the way. I have found buried treasure that had been long forgotten, until now. Often, I felt like I was coming home after a long journey, and was welcomed back with loving arms. There is no better feeling than coming home after a long journey, and discovering everything is where you left it, but still feels new anyway.
And yes, there was heartbreak. Part of me hoped things would be different this time, but deep down, I knew they wouldn’t be. But I still hoped anyway…to paraphrase a certain King character: hope is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies.
Again, like Roland, I have learned lessons. I have learned how power love and friendship are, and how hard it is to exist without them. I have learned not to shed my humanity, no matter how lofty my goals may be.
And I have learned that there is always the possibility of redemption, no matter what. Like Roland, I am not above it. And like Roland, all of us can pick up our horn, and that no act is too simple to not have enormous ramifications somewhere down the road. Sometimes, a small change is all it takes.
So, I bid Roland and his friends farewell. But its not really a farewell, because I know that somewhere, the ka-tet and their quest still lives, both of which are good things, and good things never die.
And just for the fun of it, here we go again with the connections:
-One of the most obvious connections in The Dark Tower is the one to Insomnia. Not only is the book Insomnia mentioned and a copy given to Roland, Patrick Danville is also a character in the same book. In the book Insomnia, Ralph Roberts must save the life of Patrick Danville, who will be important to someone, and that someone is probably Roland Deschain. Patrick Danville is also from Derry, Maine, another center for unusual activity in the King universe.
–Ted Brautigan is also another major connection in The Dark Tower. Ted Brautigan is a character in the short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” which is part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis. In the story “Low Men in Yellow Coats”, Ted mentions gunslingers to Bobby when he has slipped into a trance-like state.
-Dandelo appears to be a Twinner of sorts to Pennywise the Clown from the book It. Both are shapeshifters, and both feed off of human emotions (fear in particular). Again, Patrick Danville is from Derry, where the events in It take place. It is possible that Dandelo was one of the offspring of Pennywise’s eggs and that the Losers Club did not destroy all of Pennywise’s offspring.
-In the book Dreamcatcher, graffiti saying “Pennywise lives” is discovered. Dandelo may have been responsible for this graffiti, if he was indeed one of Pennywise’s offspring.
-Roland mentions the “doctor bugs” when Jake is fighting the vampires. The “doctor bugs” are also mentioned in the short story “The Little Sisters of Eluria“, which is part of the collection Everything’s Eventual.
–Dinky Earnshaw is the main character in the title story in the collection Everything’s Eventual. Dinky also knows someone by the name of Skipper Brautigan, who was a friend of Henry Dean. This implies that Eddie and Dinky grew up in the same neighborhood, and may have actually met at some point before their encounter in Mid-World.
-Randall Flagg recalls a town by the name of French Landing, located in Wisconsin. Flagg also recalls the hats that are worn by the Breakers and Low Men are similar to the hats worn by Tyler Marshall. French Landing is the town and Tyler Marshall is a character in the book Black House.
-Sheemie’s ability to teleport, and his physical symptoms that he experiences afterwards, are similar to the character Vic’s ailments in the book NOS4A2, by Joe Hill. Vic also possesses an ability to teleport, although her ability is not nearly as strong as Sheemie’s.