Insomnia by Stephen King
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
A friend, who knew I liked King novels, gave me "Insomnia" for Christmas some 20 years ago. That was during King's unfortunate "Gerald's Game"/"Bag of Bones" descent into the yawning trough of crap writing that afflicted him around that time and led me to decide he had been shot in the head or something and become unable to write. I didn't read him for years after that, but books like "Cell" and the excellent "11/22/63" brought me back.
So. I was stuck for something to read last month, and pulled out this long, overstuffed turkey to read. Giddy with naive optimism, I thought a book with a 70-year-old protagonist might be kind of cool. Indeed, it didn't start out so badly, but neither did the Titanic's maiden voyage. We meet Ralph, a nice old fellow whose wife has recently died. Ralph begins suffering from ever-worsening insomnia. One would not imagine that his nightly struggles would make very good reading, but in fact I cared about Ralph and his circumscribed oldster world. Then the weird stuff starts. Good, right? It's Stephen King, the "Master of Horror", right? Not by a longshot.
Ralph starts seeing people's auras. He sees so very many auras, on so awfully many people, and King describes each one of them in loving detail. This continues throughout the rest of the book. Trust me, auras are not something I ever want to hear about for several hundred pages ever again in my life, thank you very much. There are also balloon strings floating above people's heads. Don't ask, they aren't very compelling, either. At this point, the reader begins to wish to be impaled by a javelin, or anything, just so as not to have to keep reading, but I did, because I'm ever-hopeful.
Wait, it gets worse. Much worse. Ralph hooks up with neighbor widow Lois, or as I took to calling her, Lois The Load. Lois mostly seems to be there to emote, and to go, "Oh my god, Ralph, what is it???" Lois speaks in this particularly cloying fiddle-dee-dee super G rated parlance that would make the Pope long for some good hearty cuss words, and she stands wringing her hands as Ralph does battle with an unspeakable creature bent on their destruction, bleating, "Promise me you won't HURT him!" She survives all the way through the end of the book. A shame, if you ask me, because she made me want to stick the spine of the book in my eye sockets so I wouldn't have to know about her any further.
Add to all of this, King at his worst, making absolutely sure to slow down any actual action or plot progression to a glacial pace through the use of myriad tedious tangents. Is Ralph in a showdown with the forces of evil, with thousands of lives depending upon his swift and decisive action? Time to have him launch into some lengthy "that reminds me of the time..." side bar. Time to stop and describe the full history of the surroundings, or to flash back to a conversation held with some irrelevant third-tier character during calmer times. Time to recite the full lyrics to obscure songs by The Turtles. Time to attract attention while riding on public transportation by screaming, "GET ON WITH IT!" repeatedly at the book, which only stares dumbly back and goes on another skull-crushingly dull tangent.
If you're dying to read umpty-hundred pages of utter drivel, this is the book for you. NOT recommended.
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