Once upon a time, in the haunted city of Derry (site of IT and INSOMNIA), four young boys did a brave thing; something that changed them in ways they hardly understand. A quarter-century later, the boys are men who still get together once a year, to go hunting in the north woods of Maine. But this time, a man comes stumbling into their camp, lost, disoriented and muttering about lights in the sky. Before long, these old friends will be plunged into the most remarkable events of their lives and a terrible struggle with a creature from another world. Their only chance of survival is locked in their past and in the boy they once rescued as a child.
In an author's note to this novel, the first he's written since his near-fatal accident, King allows that he wrote the first draft of the book by hand. So much for the theory that it's word-processing alone that leads to logorrhea. Yet despite its excessive length, the novel one of the most complex thematically and structurally in King's vast output dazzles and grips, if fitfully. In its suspenseful depiction of an alien invasion, it superficially harkens back to King's early work (e.g., the 1980 novella "The Mist"), but it also features the psychological penetration, word-magic and ripe imagination of his recent stuff (particularly Bag of Bones). The action shuttles between present and past, following primarily the tribulations of a band of five males four regular guys from Derry, Maine (setting of King's It and Insomnia), and their special friend, Duddits, a Down's child (then man) with telepathic abilities. The first chunk of the text offers a tour de force of terror bound in darkest humor, depicting the arrival at the four guys' remote hunting cabin of a man who's fatally ill because he harbors in his bowels an alien invader. Yet the ferocious needle-toothed "shit-weasel" that escapes from him is only one of three varieties of invader the protagonists, and eventually a black-ops containment force, face: the others are Grays, classic humanoid aliens, and byrus, a parasitical growth that threatens to overtake life on Earth. The presence of the aliens makes humans telepathic, which leads to various inspired plot complications, but also to an occasional, perhaps necessary, vagueness of narration is there anything more difficult to dramatize than mind-to-mind communication? Numerous flashbacks reveal the roots of the connections among the four guys (one of whom is hit by a car and nearly dies), Duddits and even the aliens, while the last part of the book details a race/chase to save the world a chase that goes on and on and that's further marred by the cartoonlike presence of the head of the black ops force, who's as close to a caricature as King has strayed in several novels. The book has flaws, then, and each of them cries "runaway author." Is anyone editing King these days? But, then, who edited, say, Mahler at his most excessive? The genius shines through in any case, in the images and conceits that blind with brilliance, in the magnificent architecture, in the wide swaths of flat-out riveting reading and, most of all, in the wellsprings of emotions King taps as he plumbs the ties that bind his characters and, by extension, all of us to one another. (One-day laydown, Mar. 20)
Customer ReviewsSee All
I'm a big Stephen king fan but had missed this title first time around so downloaded it for my iPad. It started well and went downhill from there. The plot jumps around in style and narrative and by the end I was just reading because I felt I had too finish it. I know he has written better books since so all is not lost but for me this is his worst.