It is a hulking mass of book, weighing in at almost four pounds and nearly 800 pages.
It is Insomnia
, and if ever a Stephen King novel begged not to be bought, it was this one. At first glance, it is a bloated testimony of a writer's self-indulgence. The main character, Ralph Roberts, isn't much of a modern hero: he is a seventy-year-old widower who is having trouble staying asleep. The first few hundred pages deal with the problems of the aged and the dividing of a town along pro-life and pro-choice lines. These first few hundred pages (with the exeption of a startling and very effective action sequence near the beginning) are slow (not plodding) and seemingly meandering. King, of course, has used this tactic before in his earlier novels (to its best effect in Needful Things
), but here the device is a little distracting. Sure, King has infused life into Ralph and his friends Lois Chasse and Bill McGovern, and yes, the reader is happy to be exploring the town of Derry again (the home of King's 1986 tome It
,) but really, Steve, where are we going here?
Then come the auras and the little bald doctors. Ralph begins to see what he thinks of as 'auras', emissions of brilliant light enclosing every person and thing, with a slender stem jutting up from people's and animal's heads, what Ralph thinks of as their 'lifeline'. During one night of premature waking, Ralph glimpses out his window to see two small men who look like doctors enter one of his neighbor's houses with a giant pair of scissors. The next day, the neighbor is dead of heart failure. Ralph's quest begins. Ralph and his special friend Lois come to know the doctors, and their purpose. They are referred to as Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos (the names of the three Fates), and they indeed sever the lifelines of all living things, serving the purposes of Life, Death, Purpose, and Random (what the doctors explain as the four constants of existance -- trust me, it makes more sense in the book.) Clotho and Lachesis enlist the help of Lois and Ralph because the sake of all existance is teetering on the balance. Their mission is to intercept a pro-choice rally in Derry, headed by the abortion-rights activist Susan Dey (no, she does not perform with the Partridge Family or work for a law firm in Los Angeles). Atropos, the mischevious 'doctor' tries to thwart their attempts, at times taking their friends' lives as bargaining chips.
Until this point, the novel is an exciting, fast-paced ride, but there still seems to be confusion. What is the purpose of Ralph and Lois stopping the rally. When they demand the answer from the 'good' doctors, we discover as well: they are on a mission to save The Dark Tower
itself. A young boy at the rally, Patrick Danville, will later save someone who is critical to the Tower's existance, and thus Existance itself. If the Tower falls, everything falls. And here, everything falls into place.
The final battle mirrors that of It, Ralph battling both a great supernatural evil (one which actually makes a referance to the creature It and closely mimicks It's powers) and it's human counterparts. There is aid from another supernatural being, a "Green Man" (also a reflection of It ... was not the Turtle green?). The ending is similar to that of It, this minor task fulfilled ... but at a price.
Insomnia is an excelelnt book. Using a mythological and theological backbase, he weaves the story of Ralph Roberts in a tapestry vibrant and thrilling. King combnes old-world philosophies of Greater Purpose and Higher Powers and skillfully infuses them with such current hot-topics as domestic violence and abortion. Still, he doesn't step completely into the realm of unfamiliarity; King is not one to forget his fan base. As with the quest novels It
, The Talisman
, and the Dark Tower
books, King closely follows a small group of people on a giant good-vs-evil epic. As with those other tales, this is one of grander battles and higherstakes, played out among the "Short-Timers" (i.e., humans). A thoroughly engaging novel, and an exiting one (specially if te reader has followed the Dark Tower books), Insomnia really is Stephen King at his best.