Review: ‘Desperation’



by Stephen King

  • Date finished: Feb. 5
  • Genre: Fiction, Horror
  • Year: 1996
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading list: Winter 2012-13
  • Grade: B+
  • Thoughts upon finishing:

Since I’m an unabashed fan of Mr. King, I’m going to be extra harsh on the grading scale here. Though, B+ isn’t a bad grade. It’s actually pretty good. Damn it. There goes my objectivity.

Anyway, Desperation was a good book and a really good scary story. There’s no one that can spin a yarn like Stephen King and that’s pretty clear here. I was genuinely creeped out while reading Desperation (sometimes I wonder if I’ve read too many Stephen King books to be truly scared anymore); the story is set up real nice, has a good cast of characters, a good mix of the unknown and is nicely paced to keep you stomping along, turning the pages, wondering, “How in God’s name are they going to get out of this one?”

I wasn’t sure at first, but I did like the God bit in Desperation. Stephen King is never going to be known as a particularly religious writer, and I’m not even sure he’s a particularly religious man. And there’s the fact that most of his books involve some sort of creepy, otherworldly monsters, aliens and boogeymen — not generally Bible material. But once you read enough SK, you realize that King likes to play around with God — maybe not the one in the Bible, but some overriding, all-encompassing force of “good” — setting him up against whatever evil he’s concocted. Sometimes that God fails, but most of the time, if faith is coupled with innocence — usually in the form of a child — it tends to win out. As the characters remind us in Desperation, “God is cruel,” which seems to me to be a fitting way for God to be portrayed in a Stephen King novel. But then, he reminds us at the very end that God is love and, well, there’s that. It reminds me of Mother Abigail in The Stand or how it’s the children who have to fight Pennywise in It.

While reading so much Stephen King can attune you to recurring themes like these, it can also remind you how all writers — even your favorites — rely on crutches to help them hobble through their work. And when you write as much as Stephen King, the man practically rides a Hoveround through the set-up. God-like boy child? Check. Aging writer who has to overcome his demons to save the day? Check. Vietnam war references? Check. Everyone has a formula, and for Stephen King, that formula works almost every time (at least for me). And it’s very profitable. But sometimes, I wonder: could Stephen King write a novel that doesn’t involve a 60-year-old writer with a drinking problem? It’s a little…predictable.

OK, I’ll stop being mean because deep down, I really love Stephen King books and I enjoyed reading Desperation. OK, there were times when it could have sped along a little quicker and I found myself getting distracted at times. I also wonder if there’s more to this “Tak” monster than just this one story. I mean, I know The Regulators is the companion novel, but Tak’s references to the “can toi” made me think of The Dark Tower series and wonder if there are any connections. Most likely, it’s just Stephen King relying on those crutches again but oh well.


2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Desperation’

  1. I think that the can toi stuff is vaguely linked to The Dark Tower, and I definitely think Desperation has more in common with The Dark Tower than The Regulators, to be honest! (I don’t really see the point of The Regulators and I think it’s kind of stupid, but I think that might be because I REALLY like Desperation and The Regulators doesn’t compare well).

    I definitely think the god thing is the most interesting part of Desperation though. It’s something you can almost see King thinking over A LOT, more than, as you say, his stock characters and situations.

    • I’ve actually never read The Regulators…I’ll have to be on the lookout for a good copy of that. I’ll admit: I did Wikipedia a short plot summary because I was like, “companion novel? Hmmm.” But I totally agree: King had to have thought over the God stuff a LOT to make it work like he did in Desperation. Very well done! 🙂

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