Brandy's Reviews > Duma Key

Duma Key by Stephen King
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's review
Feb 18, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2008reads, speculative-fiction, family-drama, library, adult
Read in February, 2008

Eleven thousand "literary" books waiting and I pick up the latest Stephen King tome. Eh, c'est la vie.

Irony alert: in this lengthy review, I accuse King of writing far more than necessary!

On balance, this is a pretty good book. I'm not sure I'd give it a full 4 stars if it weren't Stephen King--this is a 4-star book for him, definitely, but I'd probably be a little more harsh about its flaws if it were (say) an unknown, or someone whose style I didn't enjoy. As a King book, this suffers his usual flaws (overwriting) but still has his usual flairs (character- and scene-building).

The overwriting is the biggest problem I have: if all the extraneous sentences were taken out, all the little details that never come back to mean anything (in many cases I can see the parallels he was drawing but he never bothered explore them, really), we could probably trim this book a good 150 pages. But even with all that extra writing, none of it feels like clutter. For someone so verbose, he writes reasonably tightly--all the extra narrative sets up characters and scenes, really pulls readers into the world he's created. The words don't feel wasted.

Because this is Stephen King, and it does eventually turn into a ghost story (more or less), I'm flagging this as speculative fiction--but he could have easily chopped out the whole ghost portion, the memories of the past and supernaturally-guided painting, and turned this into a 350-page family drama. (I was more interested in that part, anyway.)

Lastly, King has been in pretty good form lately. Lisey's Story was still better than this, but this is on par with Bag of Bones. Arguably, it's a very similar book--a man escapes to a deserted beach area to come to terms with the sudden life changes (death of a spouse/accident + divorce), is haunted by ghosts and the weight of local history, and has to come to terms with what that history means to him. King isn't blazing any new ground here, but he's still doing better work than I'd have ever expected in the Rose Madder days. Thank god those days are behind him, and let's hope they stay that way.
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