"Insomnia" begins as Ralph Roberts, a pleasant, not-too-cantankerous gentleman in his 70s, watches his beloved wife taken from him by cancer. Shortly after her death, he begins to experience "early waking" insomnia. In resoponse, a pro-life group begins to stage protests in the vicinity of the shelter and throughout Derry. King takes his time in developing the story...nothing is rushed.
Yes, I made more progress this time before I almost threw in the towel, but the anticipation of a tie-in to the Dark Tower series kept me going. A vague mention of the actual Dark Tower here, dropping in ka and ka-tet to make it part of Ralph and Loiss lexicon there, that King Crimson fella, and finally a couple of mentions of Roland at the end. Did I just read a 663 page backstory for a character that King inserts into the final Dark Tower book? It gets two stars from me for that, the fact that I genuinely liked Ralph, the main character (he was forspecial), and an extra star for me, Jeff, for spending the last two months whizzing (heh) through this book and finally finishing it.
I honestly dont think Ive ever felt so polarised reading a book before. At times I wanted to tear my hair out and scream OMG JUST END ALREADY which I expressed countless times on Instagram and then at other points, I was legit fangirling over the Dark Tower connections and Derry references. The start is so strong, maybe its the pharmacist in me or maybe its because Im not a great sleeper myself, but I loved reading about Ralphs insomnia issues. But during these lulls where not much seems to happen, or the story moves at a snails pace, King throws in a Tolkien reference or some kind of Dark Tower connection and all of a sudden Im LOVING the book again. Insomnia is an unusual book in that its main characters are elderly, and I dont often come across books like this. Ralph is one of those typical everyman characters that King loves to include in his works. Im sure plenty of people have read Insomnia without reading the DT, and have perhaps still enjoyed it, but I think to really understand and appreciate this book, the DT knowledge is necessary.
This setting of a number of Stephen Kings novels is again center stage in this 1994 book about not sleeping and going crazy because of it. In this book, King describes how paranormal forces are alive and kicking and come out to play when our hero goes for weeks with poor sleep.
Another reason why this book is unique and different from other books is that the hero is a regular joe who happens to be in his 70's! I loved this book.
Actual Review: Insomnia is a difficult book to review without spoilers. The only problem with this book is the requirement that you must have read the Dark Tower series to fully understand some of the plot. Roland Deschain is mentioned three times in this book. I tried to look at these sections as an outsider, as someone who has not read the DT books even though I have (numerous times), and I feel comfortable saying that the sections which mention Roland and the Tower would make zero sense to someone who is new to the King-verse. Imagine, if you will, that youve never read a Dark Tower novel (or, shit, maybe you havent) and you just happened to pick up Insomnia because your buddy said, Yo, kid, peep this thick-ass book. (Dolores Claiborne) Yes, it references the Dark Tower, but what King novel doesnt? (Mr. Mercedes seriously, so far its the only novel of his that doesnt reference Mid-World in some way.) But its also one of his most imaginative stories. I kinda feel that Insomnia is an 800-page wink-and-nod to the King-verse fans out there. Shit, dudettes, even the shoe Gage loses in Pet Semetery is in this book, not to mention entire ass-loads of It, Derry, and Pennywise references. No. Are there going to be parts you dont understand if you havent read Rolands quest or trip-trapped through the story of The Losers Club? Yes. Does any of this detract from the fun of this book? But I will leave you with this food for thought: Spoilers for several King books.
So way too many pages later I set this down in favour of another book thinking I would finish it off quickly after a little break.
This is when I knew Stephen King had lost his awesome writing powers and I can't really bring myself to read him again.
Not as strong as King's other books, but still worth a read
Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines. In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine.