I know, it's probably not the Stephen King book you expected, right? Well, I'm all about surprises, I guess. Surprises and being too cheap to buy a brand spanking new $35 hardcover of a 1000+ page book. But this one's pretty big, too. It's 800 pages of fascinating writing, good as always from the masterful King.
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 it 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, strangers who control the dying and who know its secrets. What it comes down to: they have a mission for Ralph and his companion, Lois Chasse, one that involves a boy, a plane, and a Tower. Thousands of lives are on the line. What happens next... that's for you to find out, Constant Reader.
As always, King delivers a combination of realistic dialogue, fluid prose, and gripping situations. The character of Ralph Roberts is a tool for King to show readers the world in a different way than is normally shown. He makes sure to tie Insomnia in with several of his other books, giving clever nods to those who are attentive and have a background in his stories. As a first King book, I wouldn't recommend it, simply because reading more of his books first adds another level to the reading experience.
Yes, it's very good, but I do have a couple of quibbles. Unlike King's other works, this book felt more like it was completely thought out from square one, and despite what you might think, this actually detracts some from the book. The book lacks some of his usual chilling spontaneity that makes you wonder if King is perhaps as surprised as his readers at the outcome. Every once in a while, it feels as though the characters are more pawns than real people. Though I have to admit, I still was brought into the book by the characters, so he's still doing it very well. Not to mention that I became quite attached to the cast of the book, and enjoyed every moment I spent with them. The other thing is that this suffers from the poor marketing of all of King's books. Insomnia was sold off as horror, but it's really more of a fantasy.
Keep in mind, these are minor quibbles. The book is still extremely fun to read, and I look forward to reading more from King. Maybe I'll pick up one of his other novels next. We'll have to see, won't we?
My rating: 9/10
Coming Soon: Something else from King, more than likely. I'm not quite decided yet.