Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review of "Insomnia" by Stephen King

Insomnia is a novel by Stephen King, one of many. King is one of the most successful novelists in history. He is maligned as a "popular writer" by literature-jerks. Yet despite their efforts, his books sell and sell and sell and get adapted for the screen and sell some more.

I also malign him, but for different reasons. I always enjoy the beginnings of his novels. I always get an inspired hope that this is going to be a great book. Then, suddenly, he drops the writerly ball. Either the scary thing turns out to be a dumb idea or the book wanders and meanders. His endings can be mindblowingly bad.

And yet I still keep reading. As each story ends, I emerge from it like a starved World War One soldier from a trench, my mind scarred and traumatized, the words "Never Again" wheezing from my quivering lips. But then I pick up another one, hoping that maybe, just maybe, this book will be everything the beginning promises.

Why do I keep doing this to myself? Because his prose is great. His dialogue is great. His setups are great. When he does it right, his monsters are frightening in unique ways. He is creepy like no other writer.

Okay. I got distracted there. This is supposed to be a review of Insomnia, not an anti-Stephen King rant. Insomnia is fantastically written, filled with superb dialogue. His protagonist, Ralph, is a wonderful character: old fashioned and quietly masculine in a way that begs the reader's sympathy. The suspense is wonderful. However, the supernatural world into which Ralph ascends isn't scary, nor really that interesting to me.
3 references to The Dark Tower and It out of 5

You know what else bugs me about Stephen King? I get the sense that he's making it up as he goes along. Yes, all writers do this. I could just have my head up my ass on this one, but I detect that he dislikes thinking about story structure, so he doesn't do it. He thinks of cool ideas, imagines awesome ways to get them rolling and then he starts writing without knowing how it's going to end. It would certainly explain why he rambles and his endings often lack lustre.

Also, he's a successful writer and I'm not. How dare he?