Mari Biella's Reviews > Desperation

Desperation by Stephen King
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Say what you will about Stephen King, but you’ve got to hand it to our man in Maine: sitting down with one of his novels is never a struggle. Having read a number of his books, I’ve gradually come to think of him as being a bit like an old friend: a charming, chatty old friend who, for the price of a paperback, will happily sit down with you and tell you one of his numerous stories, stories whose occasional nastiness seems quite at odds with their mild-mannered narrator. On this level, Desperation does not disappoint; you’re likely to be hooked from the very first page. And, yes, it really is pretty nasty – but then I have got a slight phobia of creepy little towns, so I would say that.

Highway 50 in Nevada is apparently (being a Brit I’d hardly know) “The Loneliest Highway in America” – not the kind of place where you’d want to run out of petrol, have an accident or, indeed, meet a seemingly psychopathic policeman, as a random group of travellers are about to find out to their cost. In fact, the policeman is just the tip of the iceberg, as the actual source of the horror is something bigger, older and considerably more deadly than one man. The small mining town of Desperation, once a small but safe and friendly place, has been devastated by an ancient evil, and it falls to a ragged group of survivors to do battle with that evil.

It’s astounding how many of our primal fears King works on, and with what apparent ease: the fear of being possessed, the fear of bodily degeneration and decay, the dark, being alone, not being alone, wide open spaces, confined spaces, and of course what horrors might lurk in those spaces. In many ways this is not for the easily-upset: it’s genuinely horrific on occasion, and most certainly gory. King was never the man to spare us sickening physical details, and he’s on form here, disgusting us with every dribble of blood, every rotten lump of flesh and every putrid corpse. The foulness can get a bit much on occasion, and yes, it does begin to feel a bit gratuitous, but it’s a compelling story, so you can overlook that.

There are one or two gripes: as is so often the case with King, he starts off so well, and with such an intriguing premise, that he actually sort of writes himself into a corner; the ending is a disappointment, not to mention unintentionally mildly funny. And of course there are the recycled characters, the characters who have made numerous appearances in other King novels – the young boy with strange powers, the weary, cynical writer, the slightly downtrodden woman who has to struggle against the odds – but then again the fact that they keep coming back only really testifies to how successful they were to begin with. If ever a writer was a victim of his own success, it’s SK; but then, in accordance with one of the major themes of the novel, God is cruel. Recommended, if not for the faint of heart.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Erin Woolard Don't believe I could have said it better myself! -A huge SK fan


Mari Biella Thanks for the comment, Erin!


Ruth Turner Excellent review, Mari. Starting one of his books is exactly like you say. A long awaited visit from an old friend with a new story to tell.


Mari Biella Thanks for the comment, Ruth! Yes, that's exactly how I've always felt when beginning an SK novel: that I'm meeting up with an old friend again. Admittedly, this old friend has an occasionally ghastly imagination... :-)


Ruth Turner Mari wrote: "Thanks for the comment, Ruth! Yes, that's exactly how I've always felt when beginning an SK novel: that I'm meeting up with an old friend again. Admittedly, this old friend has an occasionally ghas..."

Yes he does. And he always seems to know exactly which of my buttons to press!


Savanna D great review of king and the novel at hand. thanks.


Mari Biella Savanna wrote: "great review of king and the novel at hand. thanks."

Thanks, Savanna - glad you enjoyed the review!


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