Monday, June 11, 2012


I used to think that "Insomnia" (787 pages) by Stephen King cured my insomnia way back when the book was published. I never could get in to the story and never finished the book. I thought it was maybe time to revisit the novel since it's followed me all over Oklahoma for nearly twenty years. From the dust jacket of the book:

"Ralph Roberts has a problem: he isn't sleeping so well these days. In fact, he's hardly sleeping at all. Each morning, the news conveyed by the bedside clock is a little worse: 3:15... 3:02... 2:45... 2:15. The books call it 'premature waking;' Ralph who is still learning to be a widower, calls is a season in hell. He's begun to notice a strangeness in his familiar surroundings, to experience visual phenomena that he can't quite believe are hallucinations. Soon, Ralph thinks, he won't be sleeping at all, and what then?

A problem, yes - though perhaps not so uncommon, you might say. But Ralph has lived his entire life in Derry, Maine, and Derry isn't
like other places, as millions of Stephen King readers will gladly testify. They remember It, also set in Derry, and know there's a mean streak running through this small New England city; underneath its ordinary surface awesome and terrifying forces are at work. The dying, natural and otherwise, has been going on in Derry for a long, long time. Now Ralph is part of it. So are his friends. And so are the strangers they encounter.

You, Gentle Reader, may never sleep again. Welcome to

"Insomnia is a queer little story that actually jumps the shark about half way through. Usually King waits until the ends of his novels to go off the cliff.

The good:

I really enjoyed that Ralph Roberts, the protagonist, was in his early seventies. I can't remember the last work of fiction I read with most of the main players being in their late sixties to early seventies.

There were definitely some creepy moments sprinkled throughout the book, especially when Ralph's insomnia started to take its toll on him mentally. Imagine looking out your window in the early hours to discover that there's a whole other side to your city that only you can see. Or is it just the insomnia playing tricks on your mind?

I appreciated the modern retelling of Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. What if life was but a string to be cut at a specific time or worse, randomly. Very imaginative.

The bad:

The length of the book. I usually don't complain about the size of a novel as long as the story is engaging and flowing. "Insomnia" gets bogged down quite a few times and could've been edited down a bit in my opinion. At times it felt like a chore to trudge through the long narrative.

The story incorporates some elements and characters of King's "Dark Tower" series. I guess this could be a really cool thing if one has actually read the "Dark Tower" series. I have not. I felt a little frustrated that I didn't know what was going on completely with the story, particularly toward the last 100 pages or so of the novel.

As I mentioned earlier, King's ubiquitous need to take an interesting story and turn it into something really bizarre. The wheels come off of this one pretty early. Maybe it's just my personal tastes in fiction, especially horror, but I would have preferred something a little more real, if that makes sense.

The ugly:

Derry, Maine. You couldn't pay me to live in this crazy town! The novel mentions a couple of times that Derry isn't like other places. You've got that shit right. I like the fact that several of King's novels have taken place here with many landmarks and previous events mentioned on occasion.

So "Insomnia" was kind of a bust for me. Like some of King's later works, what's good is really good, and what's bad is just plain silly. Recommended for fans of the "Dark Tower" series and die hard Stephen King fans. All others should read something else.


Bob said...

That was the book that made me rethink my King Obsession. I began to believe he got paid, and quite handsomely, by the word, which made reading his novels a real pain.

I don't think I finished it either.

Dave said...

Ha! That would explain the lengthier books as the years go by!