AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING
PUBLISHER: VIKING BOOKS
GENRE: HORROR FICTION
COVER TYPE: HARD BACK
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Welcome to Desperation. Once a thriving copper mining town in the middle of the Nevada desert, Desperation is now eerily abandoned. It’s the last place that travellers like the Carver family, bound for vacation, and writer Johnny Marinville, astride his Harley, would expect to be stopped and charged. But Desperation still has a local cop – a unique regulator who patrols the wilderness highway.
The secrets buried in Desperation are as terrifying as the forces summoned to encounter them. A terrifying transformation is taking place and the travellers will soon discover the true meaning of desperation…
Desperation is one of my favourites of the novels King’s written over the past ten years or so. He wrote some hit and miss novels in the 90’s and beyond. Desperation is one the better ones and harks back to the brilliance of his earlier novels.
Desperation is set in the Nevada desert in a little town of the same name. King’s creates the setting perfectly. The isolation, repression and sense of suffocation leaps off the page and gripped me by the throat.
In some way, having terrible things happen in the desert is a sort of cliché. However, King makes it work in a way Littlewood failed with A Cold Season. He’s just damn good.
The main gist in the first couple of hundred pages is that Collier Entragian (cool name), the sheriff in Desperation has gone wacko. He’s slaughtered everyone in town and has started to pick people off Highway 50.
King makes us think Entragian is a regular psychopath for the first couple of hundred pages. The various people he’s imprisoned in the cells of the town’s jail escape, hide out in an abandoned movie theatre and start to tell their stories of how Entragian got a hold of them.
King takes this opportunity to gradually reveal Entragian is not your run-of-the-mill psychopath. He’s possessed by an ancient, evil spirit unleashed when an old mine was reopened.
The history of the old mine is a fascinating piece of backstory. King takes up quite a lot of pages telling us the story but I wasn’t bored once. In the hands of the lesser writer this would have been dull and pointless.
Desperation has a lot of religious overtones. King makes this work but I wasn’t completely happy with this aspect of the novel.
King reveals the people Entragian has brought to town from Highway 50 haven’t been selected at random. They’ve been sent to Highway 50 at specific points in time by God to finish the evil spirit.
I had a bit of an issue with this. However, King pulls it off and to be honest I couldn’t think of a better explanation. Entragian doesn’t just grab the first half a dozen random people who pass on Highway 50. He creates legitimate reasons to pull over certain people (i.e. the Jackson’s licence plate was really stolen). There had to be some reason he was selective.
I’ve got the TV movie on DVD and think it’s a great adaptation. The weird thing is, because I’ve seen it a few times I kept seeing the people who were in the movie in my head as I read Desperation so the brilliant Ron Perlman was Entragian.
David Carver is a young boy who recently discovered religion when his prayer to God seemed to cause his best friend to wake from a coma. He becomes the messiah of the group. King even has him perform miracles (i.e. making a bag with some crackers and tins of sardines last indefinitely). I thought this was a bit OTT.
THE OPENING LINE
‘Oh! Oh, Jesus! Gross!’…
Desperation is a prime example of what Stephen King is great at – he creates realistic characters, sticks them in the centre of a terrible situation and lets the reader watch with bated breath to see how the hell they’re going to get out of this one.