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Morning will come. Just pray you're here to see it.

You'll lose a lot of sleep. Ralph does. At first he starts waking up earlier. And earlier. Then the hallucinations start - the colours, shapes and strange auras. Not to mention the bald doctors who always turn up at the scene of a death.

That's when Ralph begins to lose a lot more than sleep. When he begins to understand why his hitherto mild-mannered friend, Ed, is getting out of control - dangerously so. And why his home town is about to become the new Armageddon...

Insomnia is a relentless waking nightmare in which the master of horror and suspense guarantees you sure won't rest in peace.

"Popular fiction at its best" -The Times

"A supreme page turner...and a plot that will keep you awake at night" -GQ

902 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

Stephen King

1,967 books811k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,274 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,424 reviews8,983 followers
January 23, 2023

What can I even say, besides the fact that I completely fell in LOVE with this story?!

I have always been intimidated by this one and thus, put off reading it for years. I was scared to even try it.

It was the monster lurking on my bookshelves. Honestly, I don't even think I ever read the synopsis, so it had nothing to do with the content.

I tend not to for King's books, as I know I am going to pick them up regardless of what it says.

After reading it, I would recommend it to any Constant Reader. If you have been putting this one off, maybe intimidated by its size like I was, please don't be.

Insomnia is charming from the start; simultaneously, heart-warming and spine-chilling, with Kingverse connections galore.

As always, King's character work is just phenomenal; definitely my favorite aspect.

Our protagonist is Ralph Roberts, who after losing his wife, gradually develops severe insomnia. Not the low-key aggravating-kind, but the continuous, question what you're seeing while awake-kind.

We follow Ralph, a resident of the small town of Derry, Maine, as he grapples with facing life without his wife and tries to navigate the world with unrested eyes.

It was so great to be in Derry. There's a lot happening in that special little town and Ralph ends up right in the middle of it. Along with his closest companion, Lois, they battle terrifying forces wrecking havoc amongst their friends and neighbors.

There are numerous Dark Tower references, as well as tidbits connecting to the greater King-created world in general. I eat that up. Easter Eggs all day, baby. I can't get enough of them!

While I recommend this book, with confidence, to the Constant Readers out there...

I'm not sure it would be as impactful, or feel as extraordinary, to a Reader without the background knowledge to make the connections.

I could be wrong though, as there is still a lot of great stuff going on in this story outside of all that. There's serious social commentary, frightening villains and some intense action scenes; obviously a fantastic setting and believable, well-thought out characters.

I cannot say much more about it. I really can't say anything about the plot without spoiling things, so we'll leave it at this:

I loved it, I will read it again and I recommend it to any Stephen King fan!

5 reviews7 followers
April 25, 2008
If you find yourself with an afternoon to kill...read a magazine. If, however, you need to occupy yourself on a voyage to Mars, pick up "Insomnia."

It's long.

It is, however, quite good.

"Insomnia" begins as Ralph Roberts, a pleasant, not-too-cantankerous gentleman in his 70s, watches his beloved wife taken from him by cancer. Shortly after her death, he begins to experience "early waking" insomnia. Each night, it seems, he wakes earlier than the one before. Soon, he is awake all night.

In the deepest throes of this affliction, Ralph starts to see what he initially concludes are hallucinations, figments of the imagination of a sleep-deprived mind. Auras around people, animals, changing in shape and color to seemingly reflect that person's health, thoughts, mood and personality. He suffers, largely in silence, until the day where, almost by accident, he discovers that he is not alone in what he is experiencing.

It is here that King takes us into the world of the unseen. To say more might give away important plot points...suffice it to say that the reader must suspend reality for a bit and let their imagination steer the ship.

Meanwhile, all is not well in the sleepy Maine city of Derry, where the entire story takes place. A national pro-choice advocate, Susan Day, is scheduled to speak in support of a local woman's shelter which is also suspected of providing abortion counseling and referrals. In resoponse, a pro-life group begins to stage protests in the vicinity of the shelter and throughout Derry. One man, however, Edward Deepneau, plans to do much more than protest.

It falls to Ralph and his companion, to stop Ed at all costs, resulting in a battle that takes place both in this world, and the world of the auras.

As is typical of King, the character development is second to none. Ralph Roberts truly comes to life, and his world is painted with vivid colors. This is true of all of the characters in the story. Even an old stray dog, Rosalie, is described with such expert detail, that we feel every ache of her weary, arthritic old bones as she hobbles her way down the street looking for discarded scraps of food.

King takes his time in developing the story...nothing is rushed. This adds pages, to be sure, but the reader is treated to a much richer experience for it. A definite win for King.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
615 reviews4,241 followers
January 11, 2018
“It was life, often unsatisfying, frequently cruel, usually boring, sometimes beautiful, once in a while exhilarating.”

Following the death of his wife, Ralph Roberts has trouble sleeping. He finds himself waking up earlier and earlier each night. During his late night vigils, he observes weird goings on in his hometown of Derry, Maine. Pretty quickly he realises that the strange things he is seeing are not the result of sleep-deprived hallucinations, but something much more significant.

I got a lot of thoughts about this book… and you’re gonna hear all about it! I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt so polarised reading a book before. At times I wanted to tear my hair out and scream “OMG JUST END ALREADY” – which I expressed countless times on Instagram – and then at other points, I was legit fangirling over the Dark Tower connections and Derry references. Oh, and I absolutely ADORED Ralph Roberts. So I’m quite literally torn when it comes to this book.

The start is so strong, maybe it’s the pharmacist in me or maybe it’s because I’m not a great sleeper myself, but I loved reading about Ralph’s insomnia issues. Then the middle to end just drags on and on and on…and on. Then it drags on a little more. But during these lulls where not much seems to happen, or the story moves at a snail’s pace, King throws in a Tolkien reference or some kind of Dark Tower connection and all of a sudden I’m LOVING the book again. King, you sly dog. Toying with my emotions like this!

Insomnia is an unusual book in that its main characters are elderly, and I don’t often come across books like this. But have no fear! Ralph and Lois are awesome. Ralph is one of those typical “everyman” characters that King loves to include in his works. An ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. And I was totally on board with this elderly romance, it’s the cutest!!

The storyline itself… it gets pretty bonkers at times. If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed King wrote this in a drugged up haze. The storyline is crazy, and it does work at points, but overall it’s definitely not my favourite. My biggest gripe with this book was, of course, the length. In no fucking world – or level of the tower – does Insomnia need to be the length it is. No. Freaking. Way. This book could easily be around 300 pages shorter. However, I do have to commend the ending, I thought it was perfectly executed. Absolutely brilliant. The tie-ins to the DT had me crying like a baby and reminded me why King is my fave author.

For those who have yet to read Insomnia, I strongly recommend leaving it until after you’ve read the Dark Tower series. I’m sure plenty of people have read Insomnia without reading the DT, and have perhaps still enjoyed it, but I think to really understand and appreciate this book, the DT knowledge is necessary.

I’ve been trying to think of a rating for this one for days… CONFLICTED. I think I have to go for 3 stars, it seems to be the most fair rating for a love/hate experience, no??
Profile Image for Baba.
3,503 reviews733 followers
January 28, 2022
Stephen King wields a wonderful tale around an older Derry man and his peer group of mostly retired older people. This main protagonist, Ralph Roberts, starts to get a rare type of Insomnia, that leads to a hyper reality and much more! Can't get no sleep?.

A clever 'The Dark Tower' warm-up / prologue with so much loving and well thought out detail giving to the life of Ralph and his peers and their ongoing/oncoming old age, as well as the nature of insomnia and sleeplessness, which were very interesting. Stephen King really captures each generation well in this book, and the interactions between the generations are key to stopping the evil that dwells amongst them. In addition, some of the antagonists in this book are a delight themselves, despite their malignity. On first read, this was one of my fave Stephen King reads and I still have a soft spot for it now. Beware the Crimson King! 8 out of 12.

2016 read, 2006 read and 2003 read
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews674 followers
February 7, 2017
This was an official Pantless group side-read with those splendid cullys (a big shout-out to our newest member, baby Ryder!!!) of the Dark Tower Buddy read group…

…and that was pretty much the only thing that got me through this labored read.

This was a DNF the first time I tried to read it and it was almost a DNF the second time. Yes, I made more progress this time before I almost threw in the towel, but the anticipation of a tie-in to the Dark Tower series kept me going. And going.

And going.

A vague mention of the actual Dark Tower here, dropping in “ka” and “ka-tet” to make it part of Ralph and Lois’s lexicon there, that King Crimson fella, and finally a couple of mentions of Roland at the end.

Whew! Thanks, Mr. King!

Hey, wait a minute!! Did I just read a 663 page backstory for a character that King inserts into the final Dark Tower book?

Yes, Jeff. Yes, you did.

Thanks for the confirmation, random Goodreader and what are you doing here? Don’t you usually pop-up in my funny book reviews?

I’m with you always, Jeff. I secretly follow you around everywhere.


Doesn’t this book have any merits beyond being a kitty squishing set-up for volume seven, Jeff?

Well, before I alert the authorities my stalkerish, random friend, I’ll address that point. It’s reminiscent of a lot King’s lengthy tomes. It gets off to a good start, spends too much time in Story-Stretch-town, Randomly-chosen-super-powers-burg and my favorite location – the plot-development cul-de-sac. And, yet, it characteristically ends on a high note.

That epilogue almost brought man-tears to my eyes.

It gets two stars from me for that, the fact that I genuinely liked Ralph, the main character (he was forspecial), and an extra star for me, Jeff, for spending the last two months whizzing (heh) through this book and finally finishing it.

Go me.
Profile Image for Matt.
899 reviews28k followers
October 10, 2021
“[Ralph] fell asleep in his chair a little after midnight, and when he woke the next morning the air was cooler than it had been in weeks and [his wife] Carolyn was wide awake, coherent, and bright-eyed. She seemed, in fact, hardly to be sick at all. Ralph took her home and began the not-inconsiderable job of making her last months as comfortable as possible…As that summer became fall, and as that fall darkened down toward Carolyn’s final winter, Ralph’s thoughts were occupied more and more by the deathwatch, which seemed to tick louder and louder even as it slowed down. But he had no trouble sleeping. That came later…”
- Stephen King, Insomnia

The thing about Stephen King – a veritable literary treasure – is that even when he’s bad, he’s usually still pretty good, and even at his worst, he is still interesting.

That’s sort of where I found myself with Insomnia. This is not a book in the upper tier of King’s works, the masterpieces like It, Pet Semetary, and The Shining. I don’t even think it’s second tier material. At times, in fact, I found myself rolling my eyes, or wondering when something was going to happen. Nevertheless, despite all my reservations, I got through 787 pages with relative ease. And that’s not nothing, especially with a novel that’s roughly the size of an amply-nourished pug.

King has a tendency towards deliberateness when it comes to setting his plots in motion. Many of his novels have a long leadup, as he introduces characters, fills in backstory, and carefully prepares his chess board (usually just to flip it over). Insomnia is no exception.

The main character here is Ralph Roberts, a man in his seventies who – when the book opens – is on the verge of losing his beloved wife to cancer. By the time the prologue ends, he is a widower. More than that, he has lost his ability to sleep through the night. He can fall asleep just fine, but staying that way till dawn has grown impossible. This begins to wear away at him.

For a time, King is content to mostly accompany Ralph as he goes about his business, desperately searching for a remedy as his symptoms worsen. Ralph does not really stand out as one of King’s memorable characters. Honestly, if you give me a couple more weeks, I’ll probably forget his name. He is mostly defined by his age: lonely and wistful; always eating soup from single-serving packets; and sometimes watching other elderly people play chess. In other words, “old age” as described by King resembles a grab bag of cliches that you’d get from a movie. (King was in his mid-forties when he wrote this, and is close to Ralph’s age now). Despite lacking any real charisma or magnetism, you can’t help but like Ralph, however, if only because King places us in such close proximity, and forces us to follow him all over town.

That town, it should be noted, is Derry, Maine, one of the prominent locations in King’s sprawling multiverse. In Derry, normal is a qualified state of being, and it is not surprising that Ralph’s sleeping issues gradually morph into something more sinister. He begins to see things that others can’t see, and it is hinted that he is getting a glimpse into an alternate world. Beyond that, Ralph’s younger neighbor Ed begins to act strange, even violent.

I won’t say much more about the plot, other than to note that it involves supernatural horror. Of course, to say that a Stephen King novel involves supernatural horror is a lot like saying a book contains words. The one thing I will add to my necessarily vague summation is that Insomnia is convoluted. In my opinion – having only read a fraction of King’s oeuvre – King does his best when he’s high concept. That is, his best novels can be boiled down to an easy-to-describe-yet-killer idea. Think cemetery that brings the dead back to life, or family stuck in a snowbound-and-haunted hotel. Here, King builds a really elaborate mechanism, one that requires a ton of explanation, and page after page of exposition. The more you explain a thing, the less scary this gets. Not only did Insomnia lack any chills, it kind of tired me out. Unfortunately, this is often more tedious than spine tingling.

To further complicate an uneven work, King makes the national debate about abortion a centerpiece of his storytelling. Specifically, much of Insomnia’s action swirls around a Planned Parenthood-like women’s health clinic, and the wild-eyed Christian zealots who oppose it.

Let’s first dispense with the question as to whether or not introducing such a fraught, real-life controversy into popular fiction is appropriate. Yes, it is. Fiction in general, and horror in particular, is a wonderful vehicle for exploring thorny social issues. This has been proven time and again. Furthermore, you don’t read Stephen King for appropriate; you read King because for him, the line between good and bad taste does not exist.

The problem is that King’s handling of this hot potato is pretty ham-fisted. Rather than nuance and insight, King attacks this issue with all the subtlety of a blowtorch-wielding madman in a gunpowder factory. This leads to caricatured villains – effective monsters can be one-dimensional, effective human characters cannot – pedantic speechifying, and ultimately, a somewhat disturbing climax that left me trying to psychoanalyze King’s motives.

As I indicated above, propriety has no place in the writings of Stephen King. After all, he once wrote a short story about a college killing spree that’s only purpose was describing what it would be like to engage in a college killing spree. Beyond propriety, though, is the reality that King’s choices are distracting. There is an extended scene of graphic violence toward the end of Insomnia that closely mirrors any number of domestic terrorism incidents you see on the news. To have this show up in the midst of a story that is otherwise occupied by quasi-mystical concerns, and beings that are not of this earth, is jarring. It’s also unnecessary, as King could easily have told this exact tale without this element.

(Sidenote: King has always shown himself willing to jump into political debates, and I respect his willingness to forgo potential book sales in order to speak his mind. It is also interesting that King wrote Insomnia between 1990 and 1993, at a time when Roe v. Wade seemed certain to be overturned. I’m assuming that this legal argument – which resulted in Planned Parenthood v. Casey being decided in 1992 – had some influence on King’s choices).

By this point, butting up against my word count, I’ve mostly either criticized or damned with faint praise. With the dwindling space I have remaining, I should say that I’m still glad I read Insomnia. For all its problems, it showed commitment to its bit. King can seldom be accused of phoning anything in, and his ambitions here are on display. He went big with Insomnia, and I appreciated that. There are clear themes – aging, grief – and spiritual meditations and an ending that works better than many of King’s more famous titles.

Insomnia also has merit simply for its place in the King canon. Having been a latecomer to King, the breadth of his genius has been slow to dawn on me. Yet genius he is. Not a great horror writer, but a great writer, full stop. If you draw your finger down a list of his books, you find yourself repeating: That’s a classic. That’s a classic. That’s a classic. When dealing with an author of such talent, prodigiousness, and impact, the failures can be as fascinating as the successes. Even though I don’t think Insomnia is very good, it is inferior in the very unique, very special way that only Stephen King can manage.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
January 27, 2018
Weird book.

Remind me to never visit Derry Maine. This setting of a number of Stephen King’s novels is again center stage in this 1994 book about not sleeping and going crazy because of it.

I was drawn to this title as I have struggled off and on with insomnia most of my life. I wonder how many readers have stayed up all night reading, I know I have. I remember a haze of years when I averaged about 4-5 hours a sleep a night and recall visual hallucinations and waking dreams and just being tired all the time.

In this book, King describes how paranormal forces are alive and kicking and come out to play when our hero goes for weeks with poor sleep. Fans of Stephen King will be accustomed to his fantastic forays into the extraordinary and this fits into that genre, and there were more than passing references to his The Dark Tower series. (There were also nods to his novel It was well as a one liner that alluded to Pet Sematary).

This is also an exploration about the abortion debate in our society and King cranks up the nasty in this showdown in Derry between the polar opposites.

Even with King’s signature brilliance in characterization and dialogue, this buckled under its own weight – just too damn long. I liked the kinship with the Dark Tower books and to the recurring world myth of his creation, but some hefty editing down would have made this more enjoyable.

22 reviews4 followers
November 24, 2007
This book is not for everyone. For one its over 700 pages long. Another reason is that it deals with what some people say is uncomfortable topics:abortion, mental illness, domestic abuse and the afterlife and possible alternate worlds.

Another reason why this book is unique and different from other books is that the hero is a regular joe who happens to be in his 70's!

I loved this book. It took my mind to a place where few books can take me. I was not here reading the book-I was in Derry, Maine with Ralph and Lois and Bill. The sweet Natalie and her mother Helen. The insane Ed and the 3 little bald headed doctors: Clotho, Lacheses and the nasty Atropos.
Walk side by side with these characters as they battle each other and themselves through hard, insane times and insomnia. And always be aware of the Crimson King!
Profile Image for Gabriel.
420 reviews545 followers
January 3, 2022
Soporífero, pesado, un completo truño y terriblemente poco interesante la trama y sus personajes.

Luego de mucho pensar, el libro lejos de querer darme ganas de hacer una reseña en condiciones solo me ha dejado agotado de tal modo que solo mencionaré los aspectos que no me gustaron lo más resumido posible, cosa que no pudo hacer este libro en sus casi 900 páginas. Confieso que estoy en franca minoría con los que si le han gustado el libro y aclaro que esta solo es una opinión personal; totalmente subjetiva.

1. El personaje principal y la acompañante de esta son probablemente los protagonistas más aburridos con los que me he topado. Les falta malicia en la sangre, son demasiado buenecitos y repartiendo discursos morales al resto.
2. El libro tiene tres partes y las dos primeras son lo de lo más aburrido. Da vueltas y vueltas sobre lo mismo: ver a través de un señor de casi setenta años cómo es su vida y la de los otros viejos carcamales que le rodean. Que si me estoy envejeciendo, que si tengo artritis, que si tengo diabetes, que ya no soy el mismo de antes, que la salud, etcétera, etcétera.
3. Providas vs proabortos. También me cansó ese politiqueo y fuerzas contrarias. Fue algo cansino que no llevó a absolutamente nada.
4. Sé que King se enrolla más que una persiana pero aquí se pasó con la parte fantástica: Ralph Roberts se toma su tiempo (muchísimo) para aceptar que puede ver auras de colores en las personas y que hay ciertas entidades por allí haciendo de las suyas. Como verosimilitud en la historia está bien, pero para el lector se vuelve matón seguir en lo mismo y lo mismo una y otra vez viendo la larga extensión que tienen los capítulos.
5. Y por último, los villanos que son calvos y bajitos me parecieron tan ridículos hasta el punto de ser cómicos. Pero creo que eso fue hecho a propósito.

Lo único bueno es la tercera parte que es la final con el encuentro entre Ralph y El Rey Carmesí (que me recuerda mucho a It) pero de resto, ni los personajes, ni los pequeños villanos, ni la parte fantástica me gustó. Mucho menos las reflexiones sobre el aborto, la vejez y la irracionalidad del ser humano que le lleva a cometer locuras. Todo se me hizo bola y muy cuesta arriba, pero por lo menos puedo darme el lujo de decir que terminé la novela (estuve a punto de abandonarla varias veces) y que ha sido literalmente la peor lectura del año 2021 (Aún no me había cruzado con una historia a la que darle una sola estrella). Un completo chasco porque creí que sería una gran lectura y no fue así en lo más mínimo, en vez de generarme insomnio leyéndolo tenía más bien las propiedades de un buen somnífero que me duró dos meses. Al final, yo es que soy el que más me siento decepcionado por el estrellón que me he llevado.
Profile Image for James.
Author 17 books3,480 followers
August 12, 2022
One of my least favorite things to do is give a bad review. To me, unless a book is truly unreadable and never should've been published, it shouldn't get only 1 star. 2 stars is for those books which just aren't a good fit for me and had too many issues to overlook (not often used by me either, and overused by other readers in my opinion... sometimes there's no accounting for personal taste)!

Insomnia by Stephen King was chosen with my buddy Medhat as our buddy read this month. We both like horror and Stephen King, and after tossing a few options in a hat, we wound up on this one. It ultimately falls between 2 and 3 stars, but because the writing is decent, I went with 3 stars for reasons I'll explain below. That said, I honestly had one of the most difficult times I've ever had digesting a book.

For one thing, it was twice as long as it needed to be. At ~900 pages, this book clearly contained so much filler, it'll fall apart from being too loose one day. There was significant repetition (not in a good way) and awful horrible topics. I blame myself for that last piece. I hadn't read the summary to know what it was about: religion, abortion, science-fiction alien visits, and a nose dive into just plain crazy. I thought it would be an insomniac's descent into crazy without the non-sense stuff leading the race. Personally, I don't want to read about abortion and religion, especially when a plot is supposed to be the sleep-deprived man or woman we all find ourselves at one point or another.

I avoid conflict and dislike when a book takes such a vulgar and vivid stance on something I disagree with. That said... I acknowledge I am at fault for choosing to read this book and pushed my rating to the higher side to accommodate that screw up. For another thing, OMG! I'm a smart guy, and I can deal with some vagueness in a story but the frequency of the aura discussion drove me bonkers. I had no connection and was lost too often. I think it was just a bad fit as I love some of his other books.

On the flip side, the writing is strong and the characters are very well described. Some leap off the pages. Other sit perfectly in the backdrop where they are intended to be. Had this been cut by 50% and the POV been less dramatic, it would've done better in my opinion. So... if you like political arguments, some of the nastiest language I've seen in a book for truly no reason (honestly, OVERKILL beyond belief)... I'm all for dozen of 4-letter words and sexual name-calling when it's 1 character and intended to show the personality... but here, it was just dropped in for the sake of it in the weirdest of spots. I took a shower when I finished the book.

Oh... sometimes things don't work out. I recognize the strength in this book. I liked several parts. It just wasn't a good fit for me, so I wouldn't recommend it for most regular readers. It's nothing like It, Dolores Claiborne, Misery, etc. Sorry!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
September 28, 2020
Insomnia, Stephen King

Insomnia is a 1994 horror/fantasy novel by American writer Stephen King. Since his wife died, Ralph Roberts has been having trouble sleeping. Each night he wakes up a bit earlier, until he’s barely sleeping at all.

During his late night walks, he observes some strange things going on in Derry, Maine. He sees colored ribbons streaming from people’s heads, two strange little men wandering around town after dark, and more. He begins to suspect that these visions are something more than hallucinations brought on by lack of sleep.

There’s a definite mean streak running through this small New England city; underneath its ordinary surface awesome and terrifying forces are at work. The dying has been going on in Derry for a long, long time.

Now Ralph is part of it…and lack of sleep is the least of his worries. Returning to the same Maine town where It took place, a town that has haunted Stephen King for decades, Insomnia blends King’s trademark bone-chilling realism with supernatural terror to create yet another masterpiece of suspense.

تاریخ نخستی خوانش روز بیست و هفتم ماه سپتامبر سال 2007میلادی

عنوان: بی‌خوابی؛ استفن (استیون) کینگ؛ میلاد شالیکاریان؛ تهران: چترنگ‏‫، ‏‫1394؛ در 800ص؛ شابک 9786009594238؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م
بی خوابی، رمانی ترسناک و فانتزی، اثر نویسنده آمریکایی «استفن کینگ» است؛ «رالف رابرتز» از زمانی که همسرش درگذشته، در خوابیدن مشکل داشته، او هر شب، کمی زودتر از خواب بیدار میشود، در طی پیاده رویهای اواخر شب، رخدادهای عجیب و غریبی، برایش رخ میدهد

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 06/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews281 followers
March 3, 2022
This was a weird one, even for the King. Did he have some random nightmare about people being Earth balloons with the strings reaching into the heavens? Was it too much whiskey one winter night? We will never know. Just like I will never know what this book was really supposed to be about. Recommend only if you come back to explain to me what is really happening in the book.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews520 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
September 30, 2015
It's crazy I know. I mean I am over three quarters of the way through this book but if I am being honest, the chances of my ever going back to finish it are just about nil.

Why you may ask and I guess the answer would be that I was never truly invested in the story or it's characters. In fairness it started out reasonably well and I did enjoy the camaraderie between Ralph and Lois but once the little bald doctors started making their appearance my interest level began to diminish quickly.

So way too many pages later I set this down in favour of another book thinking I would finish it off quickly after a little break. Well that was many books ago now and any inclination I had to do so has long since disappeared.

Sorry Mr. King. Perhaps this could be successfully marketed as a remedy for Insomnia.
Profile Image for Jackie.
270 reviews14 followers
November 5, 2008
I HATED it. Extremely long-winded and convoluted. Horrible, absolutely horrible. Probably his most pointless story ever.
This is when I knew Stephen King had lost his awesome writing powers and I can't really bring myself to read him again. Bad enough I had to suffer through Black House, and then this.
He really should have quit while he ahead and still an icon in the writing world. As for me, I'd rather slit my own wrists than suffer through another one of his awful novels ever again.
Profile Image for Constantine.
784 reviews118 followers
September 14, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ ½
Genre: Horror + Fantasy

After the death of his wife, Ralph Roberts suffers from a terrible type of insomnia. This continues for some time until he starts seeing some kind of aura that emanates from the people. At first, he thinks all that he is seeing must be a kind of hallucination due to lack of sleep. However, as time passes, he believes that there are some dark forces responsible for all the horrible things that are happening.

The story is set in Derry, Maine, which connects it to Stephen King’s It. And of course, there are several references to the Dark Tower series, which makes it even more enthralling. The book has interesting characters. King always makes his characters complex with lots of layers that will integrate into the plot and make it even more amusing. I appreciate that this time his character is an old man in his seventies. Not many authors write about characters in that age bracket.

My gripe about “It” was that it was an overwritten book. Insomnia is not different. It suffers from the same thing. I don’t think the story needed to be that long. 200 - 300 pages could be removed from the book without affecting it much. Actually, it would've made a big difference. Like many of King’s stories, this book is not easy to read either, not because of its language but because of the subjects involved. And these subjects are common and relevant too, be it abortion, domestic abuse, insomnia, the loss of a loved one, sickness, and mental illness. Insomnia is not one of Stephen King’s best-written books, but it is definitely an entertaining one.

Note: Insomnia is a part of my reading of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. This is Book No.11 of the 24 books I am going to read for this series.
Profile Image for Cody | CodysBookshelf.
715 reviews201 followers
August 10, 2017
Writing this review is going to break my heart, so I'm going to get it over with as quickly as possible. Deal? Okay.

The most interesting thing about rereading Stephen King's works in chronological order is seeing how my opinions of them change in comparison to how I felt years ago. Experiencing his releases one after the other in publication order puts them in a new light, and that new light can often shine previously unnoticed brilliance or bring dark shadows to my attention.

Insomnia is a novel I used to number among my favorites; after this reread, I cannot, in good conscience, give it a higher rating than two stars. It's just such a deeply silly work. Yeah, the concept itself is one of King's coolest — Ralph Roberts, elderly Derry resident, begins to see strange auras and Little Bald Doctors after developing insomnia in the months following his wife's death — but I feel it's really bungled. Reading this man's novels in order has opened my eyes to this fact: post-drugs King rambles. A LOT. Entire chapters of this novel could have easily been cut; this thing is filled to the brim with exposition. And yeah, of course I want King to explain this strange concept he's come up with, but he holds the reader's hand. Nothing is left to the imagination. And what's more, not much is done with these crazy happenings — said happenings are merely talked about. It feels like the characters spin their wheels at times by ruminating on the same things. Something happens, and the main characters spend an entire chapter discussing it. Ridiculous. The worst offending scene that comes to mind is Ralph and Lois on the hospital roof. If you've read this book, you know what I'm talking about. So much of that chapter could have and should have been axed.

A large component of this 1994 tome is pro-life vs. pro-choice debate going on in Derry. It's almost tearing the town apart, though none of it feels particularly . . . vital? Energetic? Like, it feels as though the reader is really supposed to care about this issue, but King writes it so ho-hum. I dunno. As my friend Aaron pointed out, this plot line really doesn't go much of anywhere; it just gathers everyone up for the finale. Maybe I'm just burned out on politics as of late (despite it deeply annoying me, I stay in tune with the news every day); maybe that's why reading this grated my nerves a little. The entire political aspect of this work adds a cynical, unpleasant flavor to the dish. (And my god, what is up with everyone in Derry apparently owning a super specific political bumper sticker? Seriously. Like, nine or ten times King makes mention of bumper stickers. Weird.)

Laborious and so intricately plotted the energy is totally sapped from this doorstop, Insomnia is, unfortunately, the worst time I've had in the Stephen King reread yet. From the hokey, unrealistic dialogue to the laughably silly climax featuring the Kingfish, I cannot recommend this one. Though filled with cool references to several King novels — especially his magnum opus, The Dark Tower — this hefty volume is a chore to wade through.

No favorite quote or references today. I'm grumpy. Sad face.
Profile Image for Michela.
Author 1 book59 followers
September 5, 2021
“It was life, often unsatisfying, frequently cruel, usually boring, sometimes beautiful, once in a while exhilarating.”

A few months after the death of his wife, Ralph Roberts starts having a problem: he can't sleep more than two or three hours each night. Exhausted and stressed because of this, he begins to notice a strangeness in his familiar surroundings, to experience visual phenomena that he can't quite believe are hallucinations. He quickly realises that something is going on in his hometown, Derry.

Where has this book been all my life??? Insomnia, a book that nobody ever recommended to me, is now one of my favorite King books!
It all starts with a recent widower who can't sleep and is trying to find a solution for his insomnia, and King goes into great details to describe his struggles and his attempts. I suffered from insomnia in the past, sometimes I still do, so it's a topic that I find really interesting and I have to say, it was also perfectly described.

Then the story slowly develops into something bigger and amazing, and it's honestly so great to have unconventional main characters: two ordinary people, elderly, fighting things that seem unreal and finding comfort and support in each other in this unconventional situation. I loved it!
The ending is honestly one of the best King has ever written in my opinion and I found myself tearing up and holding the book tight to my chest after turning the last page. It's so well written, so emotional, such an incredible story! I loved every single line of it.

Insomnia is heavily linked to the Dark Tower books and I'd strongly recommend to read it after you've completed the series. It can be read without reading the DT, it still makes sense, but a lot of references and a big slice of the story would lose its importance without knowing its context.

King is, as always, a master in describing town people and the story is beautiful and magic until the very end. I'm aware it's a long book but it's so worth the time... It's a book you'll never forget.
5 stars.
Profile Image for Steve.
784 reviews218 followers
December 26, 2011
I saw somewhere that Insomnia is considered by some to be one of King's "problem" books. I'm not sure what's meant by that tag, though for me the "problem" eventually would become that I didn't think of the book as a horror novel. It started out strongly, with a likable 70 year old everyman, Ralph Roberts, adjusting to life without his beloved wife. King's focus on aging and loneliness is as good as anything I've read by him. And deftly slipped in, a hint of the supernatural and coming doom, as Roberts witnesses a friend's confrontation and near fight on a road.

Roberts' adjustment comes with an unwanted companion, a bad case of insomnia. Paralleling the insomnia is the growing controversy in Derry (King's favorite town) over a famous abortion rights advocate coming to speak at the local abortion clinic. I dreaded this part, largely because of King's earlier political tirade in Tommyknockers (a really bad novel that had me swearing off of King for years). To my surprise, King handled this divisive issue very well. The issue was part of the story, not a soapbox for the author to shout from (and King can be very shrill). But other novelistic breakdowns were coming. About a third of the way in, a warning sign came when Roberts starts looking for a pair of binoculars in the hall closet. Roberts has seen something sinister across the street, and wants a closer look. King clearly wants to ratchet things up in a Rear Window kind of way, but the result is instead a two page passage of over description that stands as a prime of example of King's writerly sins (in fairness, two pages is not that bad with King, I've read much worse). Soon to follow are the endless repetitions ("West Side Gardeners," "Hey, hey, Susan Dey," a recurring Panama hat, etc.) that have always struck me as padding rather than tension building writing.

In addition, fantastical plot elements start to multiply, crowding the story with a grab bag of new meaning(s). Roberts starts seeing auras around people, little bald doctors (not scary) in the night, he can fire little blue balls from his finger tips, read people's thoughts, etc. There's also a Dark Tower tie in that strikes me as more manufactured than organic. (The King "Mythos" is not to be confused with Horror's greater Mythos.) There are a number of cool scenes in the book, but if you've read King, you've probably encountered similar scenes in earlier books. He's cannibalizing himself here, again. Oh, and things blow up in the end, but not without a super sappy closing that would make Spielberg blush.

Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,005 reviews297 followers
April 7, 2020
If there is a better time for King, I don’t know of it!

“Insomnia” is one of King’s standby classics, his 1990’s era of cult horror novels that gave him the legendary status he so rightly deserves.

When Ralph Roberts loses his wife to cancer, he begins to suffer bouts of insomnia. Waking earlier and earlier each night, Ralph attributes his wakefulness to grief and old age. However, during his nocturnal observations of his neighbourhood and its residents, Ralph begins to observe strange things. Colourful auras appear like balloon strings over people’s heads, and tiny bald men appear that no one else can see. But before Ralph can commit himself entirely to insanity, he soon takes on a far more important role than he ever thought existed, one that takes him to places outside of his current realm of knowledge and understanding, and it becomes crucial for him to come face to face with the mystery of death.

One of the great things about King is the connections he makes to his other novels. They help a reader feel connected to King’s other works, without even having to read them (although I highly recommend it!) and Insomnia is no different. The novel itself takes place in the always-present and ever-creepy town of Derry Maine, with references to The Gunslinger and It both present in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways.

Ralph Roberts and his band of “Old Crocks” are the type of characters you expect to see in a King novel. An eccentric band of misfits who find kindred spirits and form bonds over coffee, chess games and memories from the past. Ralph’s grief opens him up to an entirely new plane of existence, and he is made to understand life and death on a much deeper level (be careful—if you aren’t ready for it, King will make you think, too!)

I am a devout, diehard fan of King and it is books like this that make me remember why. Nothing beats 1990s King, and there is no better time now to relive the experiences of hauntingly creepy Derry, Maine and its cast of haunted characters.
Profile Image for Paul O’Neill.
Author 3 books172 followers
June 9, 2016
A reread on the journey to the Dark Tower...

I read this a few years back and gave it a one star rating, I feel I may have been a bit harsh. This book has a lot going for it and is quite important in the Stephen King universe.

The characters are great, it's nice to see older characters for a change and Ralph is awesome. A unique concept with sprinklings of the Dark Tower throughout.

It was a bit lengthy though and there are huge parts of this book where it drags along, which is ultimately why it receives three stars, and not four.

Not as strong as King's other books, but still worth a read
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,432 reviews105 followers
June 7, 2020
Oh dear, I am in the minority again so this will be a short review. The book started out well and even though I expected that supernatural things would soon raise their ugly heads, I could deal with that since most of King's stories are fantasy based.. But he went off the rails and he piled more and more ridiculous episodes and new directions and twists to the story that I was just shaking my head. I finished it although I don't know how. My apologies to the author and all his fans of this book, but I thought it was idiotic.
Profile Image for Christina Pilkington.
1,456 reviews137 followers
August 21, 2022
When I read this book for the first time about 25 year ago, I remember loving it and it being one of my favorite King books. I've been reading through the Dark Tower series for the first time this year, so I've been reading some of King's books that are connected to the Dark Tower. Hence my reread of this book.

And..it wasn't quite what how I remembered it. There were times that I was glued to the page and found the story utterly captivating, particularly during the last two thirds of the book. The first part? The politics were really heavy-handed. It's funny because the ideas being discussed made it seem like King wrote this yesterday. It's a very current book.

It just felt a little too over the top for me. It was the same way I felt about Elevation or some of his other recent works. The mix of real world to supernatural felt a bit off to me. Almost like two different books were being written.

That being said, there were scenes that I've remembered and have stuck with me for decades that were just as chilling reading the second time around. They were exactly as I remembered. I think this was a genius work that needed a better edit.

But if you have read the Dark Tower, those parts of this book make it worth the read. It was SO cool to see those connections! I think you'll miss out if you don't pick up this book.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,177 reviews367 followers
April 9, 2021
A fitting book to stay up late reading. (it's 21. 48 but very late for me). Ralph is having some kind of weird and twisted insomnia and reality starts becoming something of the strange side and so much more. As almost always I enjoyed to characters build up, the mystery of it all was also interesting to follow but it's the the development and the craftment of the characterst that I love the others stuff I nice bonus.
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
231 reviews44 followers
May 21, 2019
Fantastic novel. Great characters, with a highly imaginative plot and emotional finale. There was a little bit of bloat in the middle, but the story itself is so worth it.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,112 reviews1,316 followers
September 19, 2018
There’s so many great individual elements in Insomnia that it really could have been potentially one of King’s best works.
So it’s really frustrating that there’s so many dull moments that drags the pacing of the story down, I’m sure King isn’t intending to send he’s readers to sleep??

Recently widowed Ralph Roberts starts having trouble sleeping, he puts this down to the recent loss of he’s wife Carolyn.
But soon Ralph starts to see these strange visions...
I really loved the opening to this book, I instantly clicked with everyday man Ralph and could appreciate he’s grief.
The book also bravely tackles some tough subjects like mental health and abortion.

I took this novel on holiday with me and without the usual daily routine of life getting in the way of reading, I was able to just work my way through all the dull moments relatively quickly.
The great sections certainly made up for the less interesting parts in the story!

It also reminded me that I really need to continue with The Dark Tower series!
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,377 reviews1,051 followers
February 13, 2017

“It's a long way back to Eden, Sweetheart, so don't sweat the small stuff.”

This book does a weird thing books generally don't do - it starts well but keeps getting progressively worse as the length keeps unmercifully chugging away. I was into it for the first 200 pages although little was happening and the build-up stage was generous, but it kept letting out steam as it kept going, and when it came into weird territory and everything felt muddy and more complex, I lost interest. The last few hundred pages were a chore to get through.

Ralph Roberts has insomnia after the death of his wife. At first he chalks it up to grief, but as it gets worse and he doesn't get better, no thanks to the helpful remedies from mean-well folks around town, he starts worrying about his sanity. Eventually he finds out that he's not the only one, and that there's a lot more involved with this insomnia business. Meanwhile Susan Day is coming to town, making abortion activists freak out, but Ralph soon learns there's more to that business than meets the eye.

Abortion is a big bag in this book. King doesn't get outright political since both views are shown with both valid points, so I don't think he intended to do a big liberal commentary on women's rights. Still, there's some spousal abuse in here, women leaning on each other for salvation, women getting rescued and strong, the mother-child bond, and personal choice/freedom.

The supernatural stuff is outright weird, requiring mucho focus and suspension of belief. That wouldn't be bad, but when each scene keeps dragging on and on with the auras, the strange men, the conversations with them, then it loses its magic and shock effect quickly.

There's a few nods to the Dark Tower series - "The Crimson King" is the major one, although there is a quote or so like Ralph mentioning a tower, and a little girl with this quote:

“Him's name is Roland, Mama. I dream about him, sometimes. Him's a King, too.”

It also gets major kudos for being set in the town of Derry. IT isn't mentioned, but a certain scene at the beginning of the book kind of is (the homosexual hate crime), and there is mention of when things go into the sewers, they can take awhile to show up again. The town is just bad news really, but it was nice to see Mike again in the library and hear about the Barrens. I thought it was a nifty trick that auras reminded Ralph of balloons and the strings being cut - since of course IT had balloons floating around most of the book.

The characters are okay - Ralph leads the entire narration and he's not a bad character, but when he buddies up with a particular character, the plot seems to slow. Dialogue can be annoying sometimes too, especially with some of the old timer sayings.

Overall there's some cool stuff here, especially if you're fans of his other books (think Cujo gets a sentence if Ir emember correctly), but the book becomes outright boring after awhile. The storyline isn't a bad idea but it doesn't have enough action sequences to support the weight of a book this long. Bummer.
Profile Image for Andrei(Drusca).
178 reviews23 followers
August 3, 2022
Am rezonat cu personajul principal, deoarece trec prin aceeași situație în viață. Singura chestie ce nu mi-a plăcut a fost că mi s-a părut cam lungă și după standardele lui Stephen King. Foarte multe referințe legate de seria Dark Tower și IT. Cartea este o lectură aproape obligatorie pentru cei care citesc seria Dark Tower și pentru cine au citit-o va fi foarte interesantă. I liked the book, however it is very slow even for a Stephen King book. However, it has a lot of references to the Dark Tower series.
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