If the publishing industry named a Person of the Year, this year's winner would be Stephen King. Not only is he writing the first modern novel to be serialized in book form (The Green Mile), but with the publication on Sept. 24 of The Regulators (Dutton; Forecasts, June 17) and Desperation, he becomes the first bestselling author--maybe the first author ever--to issue three new major novels in one calendar year. And there's more. With this astonishing work, King again proves himself the premier literary barometer of our cultural clime. For if The Regulators is a work of secular horror, this is a novel of sacred horror (King's first), and explicitly so. Like the second panel of a diptych, Desperation employs, with one major exception, the same characters as The Regulators, and the same source of horror: an evil force named Tak. (The novels aren't sequential, however; people who die in one can live, then die, in the other.) The exception is David Carver, 11, who, with a handful of other passers-through, including a major writer who's recently embraced sobriety, is trapped in the desert mining town of Desperation, Nev. There, Tak stalks them by possessing humans and turning them into homicidal maniacs, and by unleashing armies of coyotes, spiders and scorpions. The terror is relentless--this is King's scariest book since Misery--though the storytelling is looser than in The Regulators to allow room for spiritual themes. For united against Tak are not only David and his pals, but also God, who moves through the boy. King's God is the God of Job, implacable, beyond human ken. As the savageries inflicted upon David and others multiply, they must discern: What is God's will? And, how can God's will be done, when it seems so cruel? Near the story's end, the writer muses that horror ""isn't the sort of stuff of which serious literature is made."" King knows better, and so will anyone who reads this deeply moving and enthralling masterpiece of the genre. 1,750,000 first printing; BOMC main selection; simultaneous Penguin Audiobook. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996 Release date: 10/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.