Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Dead Zone by Stephen King

Author: Stephen King
ISBN # 0751504327

467 pages

Waking up from a five-year coma after a car accident, former schoolteacher Johnny Smith discovers that he can see people's futures and pasts when he touches them. Many consider his talent a gift; Johnny feels cursed. His fiancée married another man during his coma and people clamour for him to solve their problems. When Johnny has a disturbing vision after he shakes the hand of an ambitious and amoral politician, he must decide if he should take drastic action to change the future.

I didn’t see the movie before reading this, although I’ve seen a couple of episodes of the TV series starring Anthony Michael Hall, & thanks to my buddy, Maureen, I finally got hold of the book & came to it almost completely fresh (I knew the basic premise of the story, but none of the actual events within).

It had kind of a slow start, despite having the lead character in a near-fatal accident within the first 50-or-so pages. It didn’t give me long to get to know the characters very well, but I liked Johnny pretty much from the start, although I’ll confess to not thinking all that much of Sarah (that continued throughout the story, I’m afraid).

The story, though pretty much in chronological order, seemed to jump around a bit between characters, but there were long stretches where the story, from one character’s point of view, was just hanging around doing nothing much while the rest of the story progressed. As a result, I think I either missed or forgot large chunks of the earlier parts of Greg Stillson’s tale as I was more interested in the rapist-murderer story (which, again, was stilted & slotted in between other scenes).

I particularly enjoyed the descent into religious madness by Johnny’s mother – it was vividly painted, the anguish of Johnny’s father as he struggled to keep things together while his son lay comatose & his wide grew increasingly manic was incredibly moving – he’s the character with whom I most closely identified & felt the most compassion for.

The ending was, ironically, something I sensed early on – the outcome was not unexpected in the least & therefore I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of a twist in the tale. However, the pace did quicken over the last 75 pages & I enjoyed that section most, despite the fact that I saw it all coming a mile off.

Overall, The Dead Zone is an enjoyable read, though not one of King’s most consistent works. I’ve read better, but I’ve also read a hell of a lot worse.

Rating: 6/10


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