It has been a fair while since I posted about a book, but I assure you that I have still been reading. You see, unfortunately, when I bought Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden (which has received one of my most scathing reviews), I accidentally bought the entire Emperor series. So, in order to fully realize my mistake, I decided to torture myself and finish off the series. I read book after book, rife with (often deliberate) historical inaccuracy and cliche. I witnessed at length a fantastical figure being cut down by an appalling insertion of the mystical. I complained vociferously the entire time (needless to say). However, having at long last finished my purgatory, and in order to expurgate an overwhelming despondency I dove straight into The Dead Zone by Stephen King. The scars are now healing.
King isn’t known for light tales, but the plot of The Dead Zone has to be one of the biggest downers I have come across. The story follows Johnny Smith, a high school teacher who has a car accident driving home from a date with his girlfriend. His injuries cause him to drift into a coma, during which time his girlfriend and the rest of the world move on, his mum goes to pot, and his father bears the brunt. Five years later, Smith wakes from his coma a clairvoyant. Obviously, this freaks people out, drives his religious mother even battier, and he winds up solving mysteries and becoming president of the tin-foil hat brigade.
Plotwise, The Dead Zone is one of King’s weaker stories. My notes repeatedly question how one chapter connects with the others. The chapters are almost like little vignettes, with the only commonalities being death and that they are found in the same book. And even once you finish the story, and go on to the epilogue, the story ark seems is bit tenuous. The story is just so full of chance encounters, that even extensive foreshadowing cannot make credible. Apart from that one handshake, would Stillson and Smith have met? What are the chances that Smith becomes Chuck’s tutor? It’s just too much. The story is also sure to enrage the religious, what with Greg Stillson despoiling the venerable act of hawking bibles, the blatant portrayal of the religious as hapless, uneducated kooks, and the runaway screwball that is Smith’s religious mum. I bet this all went down well in the Bible belt.
Despite all these problems The Dead Zone was still an enjoyable to read. Perhaps it was that I wasn’t constantly churning from the bastardization of history, but King actually wrote a story I was invested it. My notes are full of puzzled comments, and questions about how things relate to each other, but I kept reading regardless because I genuinely wanted to find out. And even in the closing stages, when it was fairly obvious what was coming, I still kept going. This is a pretty good endorsement from someone with as short an attention span as me. Recommended. Although probably not as much as the Green Mile.