Desperation, by Stephen King

A series of people driving through the Nevada desert are stopped by a police officer, who takes them into the local town of Desperation, and locks them in the jail. It's clear that something is pretty badly wrong with the whole setup, and sure enough things start getting ugly pretty soon.

I'd read this, along with The Regulators when it first came out, but didn't really remember it. But this was actually pretty good. So I'm going to have to re-read the Regulators as well.

I'd thought this might be a bit like some of the other King books where there's an intriguing setup but the whole thing gets all a bit confused and silly by the end (Tommyknockers, It, Insomnia). But I felt here that the story was fairly well done, and while there was no way the ending could live up to the promise of the start, it wasn't the disappointment I had been expecting.

The police officer at the start was good - there was something very slightly off-kilter about him but you couldn't say what. He has a great line, which made me laugh out loud, when looking at someone's wallet with their id in:

I see you're an organ donor. Do you think that's wise?

One thing that struck me was how little horror there was in the book. At least to start with, vast amounts of narrative were devoted to the back-story of the characters, just talking about their lives. Some of this turned out to be relevant for the main plot, but a lot of it was just background. But it was very readable - a bit like the stuff he does in The Body - he seems to be able to conjure up believable characters and life histories which are just interesting.

This audiobook was read by King himself, who I don't think has a great reading voice, although I suppose he has the advantage that he knows what intonation to use, because he knows what he was meaning to say. I also wondered if, as he read it, he was thinking "shoot, that bit needs re-writing".

Anyway, I enjoyed this, even though it was a bit of a marathon, at 21 hours. Will be reading The Regulators soon.

Completed : 07-Apr-2010 (audiobook)

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