Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review: Insomnia by Stephen King

Insomnia by Stephen King
4 out of 5 stars

You can say a lot of things about Stephen King, but not that he cannot tell one hell of a story. After reading It (over 1000 pages) I had to take a break from his work, but when I saw this title, I was interested enough to pick up another of his large tomes.

It is hard to describe what Insomnia is about without giving away major plot points. Basically, this is the story of seventy-something Ralph Roberts, who through his insomnia enters a world that is hidden from the human eye most of the time.

When his wife Carolyn dies after a long struggle with illness Ralph is devastated. He starts to sleep badly. Every day he wakes up a few minutes earlier than the day before that. This goes on until the point where Ralph only sleeps a few hours every night. The lack of sleep that accumulates has a great impact on his day to day life. He can't remember the most simple things, he doesn't experience any happiness any more, he just wants to lie down and have a good night of sleep.

Then he starts to get these strange hallucinations. At first, he doesn't give them that much thought. But when they become more frequent and severe he can't escape them any more, and he enters the other plains of this world.

I was instantly interested in this book because I enjoy King's writing style, and insomnia is a topic that holds my interest. At both points I wasn't disappointed; there was enough scientific references for me to feel like I actually learned something about insomnia, but it is interwoven in the story that you don't feel like you're being lectured at all.

It's hard to decide whether this book should be classified as horror or not. Especially the first half of the book is quite scary. There is a lot going on and you have no idea where all these signs point to, giving it a spooky feel. When Ralph finally welcomes the "other world", as you could call it, this tension is gone, and the story isn't frightful at all.

It was great to have an elderly main character for a change. I actually don't think I have read from the point of view of an older man before. Even though our worlds are so far apart as can be, I did feel for Ralph. He is an ordinary guy bestowed with extraordinary gifts making him special and important for the future of human kind. He acts like a real human being, and I appreciated that. He isn't better than other people in any way, the situation makes him powerful.

Another small thing I really liked about this book were the subtle references to other books from Stephen. The setting for this book is once again the town of Derry (like in It) and it was nice to see how characters we haven't met in a while are doing now. Even though King's books are standalone novels, they do have a connection, and I felt pretty awesome discovering these little clues leading to his other work.

Overall this is a solid read. It is long, but even if you're not that into long books you can give this a try. Stephen King has a way of keeping your interest, making you want to keep reading.

You'll lose a lot of sleep. Ralph does. At first he finds it hard to drop off. Then he starts waking up earlier. And earlier. But that isn't when he starts seeing things. Colors, shapes, strange auras around his friends. Not to mention the bald doctors who always turn up at the scene of a death. The evil looking one clutching a rusty scalpel. All that comes later.
After Susan Edwina Day's visit to the town of Derry, Maine, is announced - when the once placid town starts to divide over women's issues. And the hitherto mild-mannered Ed Deepneau gets out of control - dangerously so.
That's when Ralph begins to lose a lot more than sleep. When he begins to understand why Ed is obsessed with the notion that Derry is becoming the new Armageddon. And to realise that time is ticking away for the residents of his home town.
An evil of unimaginable proportions has found a way in. And Ralph has one chance to beat it. In a card game. The stakes are high. They always are when you are playing for human souls. With a Joker in the pack... a bald one with a rusty scalpel...


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