Daniel's Reviews > Insomnia

Insomnia by Stephen King
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's review
Feb 28, 2012

it was ok
Read in June, 2005

There's no denying that King is a terrific storyteller. He has a no-nonsense, down-to-earth practicality that slides along smoothly, easily, and (usually) painlessly. In many ways, it's true that he could apply his pen to almost anything and give it a modicum of interest.

This story, about a character named Ralph who starts suffering from insomnia, takes its time to get started, moseying through the land of background and exposition, but by the time it finds its true pace, you're chin-deep in a world of abortion extremists, spiritual auras, multiple planes of existence, vigilante "justice," and -- of course -- story elements that dove-tail into King's world of the Dark Tower.

Fans of that epic work will, of course, be into this story. Even those readers not familiar with the Gunslinger or the Red King are bound to be intrigued by this tale of psychic deaths and the conflicting worlds of Purpose and Random. King draws you into Ralph's world with a seductive sort of empathy that moves (mostly) in quiet and unobtrusive ways. To truly enjoy this story, you must be patient. There are many rewards in the end.

However, I don't want to give the story more credit than it is due. King's prose may be nimble and graceful, but the writing itself is a vehicle for story, and in this case, the story is lacking some. It's got the typical King thrills and spills (although those fans of the horror and gore in books such as It and Desperation will find those elements noticeably muted here), but in the end, I found the whole thing to be, ironically both over-written and under-written.

Parts of it seem to be completely unnecessary and diversionary (I'm thinking of Ralph's other-worldly encounter in the plane), and other sections seem to be lacking more depth and fleshing out (there are missing elements -- like the identity of the Man with the Green Aura who provides a pivotal prop to the story; and there are underdeveloped moments -- mostly those that tie into the Dark Tower series ... King is relying on his past novels to provide enough weight for these moments, and neglects other first-time readers who might need more to go on).

Finally, the last caveat, King succumbs to a heart dose of redundancy, not just in the repetition of plot elements and character speculation, but also necessarily in the details. As Ralph's insomnia escalates, he starts to the see a hyper-real world of auras and spiritual halos, and after about the 400th page, the description of these auras becomes understandably redundant and mundane. There's only so many ways even the best of writers can describe all the pretty lights.

Overall, I would recommend this book to King fans, as well as to patient readers interested in stories of dramatically magical realism. However, if you're looking for horror or a thriller, try Desperation (in my opinion, perhaps one of the best King books out there).
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