After the death of his wife, Ralph Roberts can’t stay asleep. Every morning, he wakes up just a little earlier. He thinks nothing could be worse than the endless fatigue that plagues him, until he starts seeing rainbows of color surrounding the people around him, and scary little creatures carrying sharp scissors or scalpels, and his community torn apart by a political nightmare.
It’s been a really long time since I’ve read anything by Stephen King. I read a whole bunch of his books back when I was a teenager, but I grew bored after awhile. Insomnia was the last one I read, back in early college, and the only one I enjoyed enough to keep and reread several times. It’s been over eight years since I last revisited it, and it was interesting to reread it now for RIP. While I still enjoyed the book, I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as when I was younger.
The big reason for this is purely technical. In the last six years or so, I’ve gotten serious about writing and editing, and I notice a lot more about mechanics in writing than I used to. King’s mechanics aren’t my favorite, between all the clichés/catch phrases, the random shifts in narrator point of view, and the fact that all his characters – no matter their age, gender, or personality – talk and act like 13-year-old boys trying to prove they’re cool. All of that was a bit jarring for me this time around in a way I don’t remember from previous reads.
On the other hand, what King’s writing lacks (for me), his storytelling makes up. I love the idea behind Insomnia. I love the idea of multiple levels of consciousness, and hyper-reality, and the interplay of determinism and free will. I also love the setting on which the story takes place: the political powder keg of the abortion debate. We meet characters, rational and irrational, on both sides of the debate, and see how fierce passion can turn neighbors into enemies, and how quickly violence can break out. In a time when current political climate is pretty volatile, when I see family members and friends attacking each other over facebook or twitter about issues or political candidates, it was a very relevant read.
Despite any issues I had with the writing, I have a feeling this will continue to be one of those books that I keep around and reread every 5-10 years or so.
Note: Originally read in 1999.