I think "Desperation" (690 pages) by Stephen King is what ultimately did it in for me as an an avid King fan back in the mid 1990's. Since I've been on a Stephen King kick of late, I thought I would close out my reading of his late 20th century works (at least for now) by revisiting "Desperation" a second time. From the dust jacket of the book:
"Nevada is mostly a long stretch of desert you cross on the way to somewhere else. And with someone else, if you're lucky... because it's a scary place. Headed down Route 50 in the brutal summer heat are people who are never going to reach their destinations. Like the Jacksons, a professor and his wife going home to New York City; the Carvers, a Wentworth, Ohio, family bound for a vacation at Lake Tahoe; and aging literary lion Johnny Marinville, inventing a gonzo image for himself astride a 700-pound Harley.
A dead cat nailed to a road sign heralds the little mining town of Desperation, a town that seems withered in the shade of a manmade mountain known as the China Pit. But it's worse than that, much worse. Regulating the traffic there is Collie Entragain, an outsized uniformed madman who considers himself the only law west of the Pecos. God forbid you should be missing a license plate or find yourself with a flat tire.
There's something very wrong here, all right, and Entragian is only the surface of it. The secrets embedded in Desperation's landscape, and the evil that infects the town like some viral hot zone, are both awesome and terrifying. But as young David Carver seems to know - though is scares him nearly to death to realize it - so are the forces summoned to combat them. In Desperation, Stephen King's sweeping brush paints an apocalyptic drama of God and evil, madness and revelation. His genius for suspense has never been so finely honed, his imagination so shudderingly vivid, as when his wayfarers - and the readers who dare to follow their course - begin to discover the true meaning of the word desperation."
Perhaps a way to describe "Desperation" is like "The Stand" by only on a smaller stage or scale. This is both the appeal and maybe the downfall of the story.
Great cover art, no?
I really liked the pacing of the novel, especially the first third of the book. I read the first 230 pages of this tome in one sitting. It takes off like a Roman Candle and doesn't let up too terribly as the story progresses.
Collie Entragain is a terrifying antagonist, particularly early on during his "introduction" phase of the book. Though he seems mostly normal, there are a few hints that maybe a screw or two is loose in his head. Creepy stuff.
Something that King does well in some of his novels is the use of multiple characters and multiple points of view throughout a story. "Desperation" doesn't disappoint in this regard.
Snakes, and spiders, and coyotes! Oh my! If creepy crawly desert varmints aren't your thing, this may not be the book for you.
David Carver, the 11-year old on vacation with his family, is supposed to be the hero of the novel but the little shit just gets on my nerves. Unlike most King stories, I usually don't have too many problems with the characters and their likability. He pretty much rubbed me the wrong way from the start and I hate feeling that way about a protagonist!
Tak! If I read this expression one more time I just may spit. For anyone who's read the novel I think they'd understand.
So here's the main reason I don't like this little good versus evil ditty. I just can't get into a story where God is speaking to the main characters and guiding them in their conflict with evil forces never fully explained. At least it wasn't a showdown against the devil! David Carver starts waving his Jesus freak flag fairly early on in the novel and it kind of spoiled the rest of the experience for me, no matter how engaging the rest of the story may have been. Even though this is a horror novel with supernatural events, I just can't suspend my beliefs enough to swallow all the religious reference, strike that, Christian reference.
All in all not a bad story with some fantastic pacing and really creepy elements. Again all the religion elements soured the experience for me; however, I am a godless heathen so maybe this won't strike such a flat chord with most readers. Recommended for fans of horror and yes, Stephen King fans, as well as those people out there who think God really communicates with them. Try Prozac!
I'm done with King for a while. Next up, a little F. Scott Fitzgerald maybe?