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on 1 November 2011
A disparate collection of travellers are abducted by an insane cop and incarcerated in the jail of a small Nevada mining town in the middle of nowhere. It quickly becomes clear that the cop isn't just insane - he's posessed - and an ancient tunnel recently uncovered at the mine may hold the clue...

King's novels are rather variable in quality. I suspect that most careful and discerrning readers, even King's Constant Readers, will acknowledge that as true. I'll qualify the statement and state that I haven't yet read a single King that I *didn't* like but I *can* recognise their flaws. Perhaps that's the mark of a true fan (I'd like to think so)?

Now; I'm re-reading a lot of his old stuff and (slowly) coming up to date with his newer work so I can't claim to have a huge base across which to compare, but I think that Desperation has to be one of his better novels. It scores highly on a number of counts, the best probably being the atmosphere that King develops: the desperate, deserted, dusty desolation of the setting, the sense of rising foreboding as events build to a head, the terror and uncertainty evoked by the murderous cop, the helplessness of his victims and the sudden randomness of their deaths. This *feels* like a horror novel. The depiction of the mad cop is also masterful: he's not simply insane Tak, his problems go far deeper than that and his strange mannerisms and sayings convey his demonic posession rather well.

That said, King lets himself down somewhat with the dialogue he constructs for his other - less mental - protagonists and they frequently talk as if their lines had been scripted by a Hollywood B-movie dialogue coach; wordy and schmaltzily sincere. Perhaps it's less noticable to an American, but I found it hard to swallow without gagging slightly.

The characters are, as ever, King's usual band of non-descripts and includes a regulation college lecturer. The cast is supported by a slightly stronger character in the guise of Johnny Marinville a self-centred, self-important writer trying to resurrect his fading star by going on a road trip. He's obviously meant to be deeply unlikeable (see The Stand's Larry Underwood) but this is always a dangerous tactic in my book as an unsympathetic lead can detract from or even put you off the story altogether (which is why I never managed to complete Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series). That doesn't quite happen here because Marinville just isn't strong *enough*.

Anyway, I've spent more time criticising the book than I intended. At the end of the day it's a good, page-turning story with a strong theme and plenty of gore! I realise now that, over the last few years I've been plodding through my reading list unenthusiastically and under-engaged, struggling to find anything that I really wanted to finish. Returning to King after a ten (or more?) year break, I seem to have rediscovered a joy in reading. Suddenly I find myself creeping downstairs at 1am to read another chapter, or turning off the telly so that I can read instead. For me, with all its faults and failings, Depseration is a part of that discovery.

`Did you puke in the back of my cruiser, Lord Jim? Because if you did, the first thing you're gonna get when we hit town is a big old spoon.'
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on 31 January 2001
This book, although quite long, is truly addictive. The plot ids twisted, just when you think you know whats going to happen something truly unexpected happens. This book has many characters, you can`t help yourself being attracted to at least one of them. This book is not one of King`s scarier books, but don`t be put off by that it is truly brilliant. You will find yourself gripped to the thrilling storyline. I can`t say any more except read this book and I can give 100% gurantee you won`t regret it. It is just exceptionally dazzling. 10/10
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on 1 November 2005
I'm actually going to sway away from popular opinion on this one. Even though it’s by no means a bad book, it’s not great either.
Desperation is certainly more of a gore-fest rather than a psychological horror. The book begins with a couple driving through a desert. As the pass a sign, they notice a dead animal nailed to it, this is the first scare, then a cop pulls them over, and then BANG! You’re into the action immediately. The story certainly starts very quickly, no time building characters or the scene too much with this one, oh no, the horror is fast paced and I’m sure that almost everyone will find the first 100 pages impossible to put down. But this is the big problem. How do you sustain this kind of pace for 700 pages? Simply, you cant. This is very disappointing, as I thought the first part really was some of the most intense storytelling that I’ve read in a long while, unfortunately, you pay for this because the story really does begin to drag a bit from there on in.
If you like blood, guts, severed limbs, and basically just downright gore, gore and throw some more gore in, then you wont be disappointed with this. But if you looking for a more psychological horror, then I suggest maybe Bag of Bones also by King.
A good horror story that maybe drags on a little too long, and maybe the horror is too in your face (which in my opinion is much less scary most the time) for some, but don’t let it put you off. A good read nevertheless, maybe a slightly average story made better by a great author.
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on 16 January 2015
Whether you like this novel or not, whether you like King or not, you do have to admire the brilliance of the people who give Stephen King marketing advice. “Desperation” was released in conjunction with Richard Bachman’s (a name long known to be Stephen King’s pseudonym) “The Regulators”. Resurrecting a long dead author and releasing 2 books at once, the second under a different author name that everyone knows is really King anyway so that people will buy both books is a bit of a masterstroke. And King used the same set of characters, although he switched some of the names around so he got 2 sales when he’d really only written the one book. As a marketing idea it’s a stroke of genius but one which left “constant reader”, as King calls us, feeling just a little ripped off. King gets 2 books for the price of one, I got at best 1½ books for the price of 2. And the reasoning behind how Bachman came to publish another book is as flimsy as parts of the story itself.

Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but as far as I can tell, "Desperation" is not a good novel. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Stephen King, but he had a bad run during the 90's, with "Gerald's Game” and "Dolores Claiborne" being very poor. Then came "Insomnia", and you get to thinking that he was back on track, a slight blip there, but it happens, no problem, here we go again. And then...oh, dear!

It’s a fairly simple story, in essence. It’s based on that old favourite of good versus evil or even God versus evil. Evil in this case is embodied by a local policeman in the town of Desperation, Nevada, who has been taken control of, infected even, by an evil presence that has for many years lurked patiently in the mine that has provided most of the population of Desperation with work, either directly or by serving the mining community. Closed down several years before, it has been reopened, and the evil released.

The good are a bunch of people, mostly travellers who happen to be passing near to Desperation on the nearby Interstate. None of them have any business in Desperation and would simply pass it by at 55 miles an hour if they hadn’t been unfortunate enough to be singled out by Officer Entragian and dragged into the Desperation jail. Apart from those who were travelling together in a family unit, there’s no links between any of them, apart from their desire to be somewhere else.

As is often the way, their group is whittled down, mostly through various random killings, which seems apt given that they were supposedly thrown together in fairly random circumstances, to a manageable size. It is this group that can manage an escape and attempt to battle the evil that is in Desperation, all held together by a young boy who has already lost his mother and sister to the force of evil that is Officer Entragian and his faith in God.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a terribly original idea. It’s been done better elsewhere, by other authors and, indeed, by Stephen King himself. This novel is, essentially, a watered down version of “The Stand”, only without the road trip part that bought the characters in that novel together in the beginning. Whereas in “The Stand”, there was a constant state of moving on with the story, with very little attention paid to the past, it seems like there is a constant back trail to “Desperation”, with a lot of the reasons behind what is going on based in the past, rather than the present. As a result, the story seems to take too long to get going, circling around issues rather than progressing the plot. It makes for a book that feels longer than it is which can’t be a good thing, especially as it is a pretty lengthy read to begin with.

There’s a great deal of suspension of disbelief required to get through all this. If anything strange happens, it’s largely down to the power of God. Whereas the basics behind “The Stand” were a little more interesting than that, this is what underpins the whole thing in “Desperation. To draw the comparison further, whilst the God of “The Stand” is a force for good, the God of “Desperation” is a cruel God, which makes the boundaries between His side and the supposedly evil side a little less clear. Although “bad” is clear, the line that marks the start of “good” isn’t at all obvious. You don’t end up cheering for the wrong side, but it’s difficult to feel any great sympathy for or kinship with the right side. If you were forced to pick a side to cheer on in the battle for Desperation, the real problem wouldn’t be choosing which side is the right one, but whether or not you can be bothered to nail your colours to either mast.

Whilst the basis behind “Desperation” isn’t a bad idea for a story, it’s not told terribly well here. This in itself is fairly unusual for Stephen King. Although he frequently takes us through too much back story than is necessary, he does usually have a pretty good eye of the way a story should be told. Here, he somehow seems to miss that mark, and the effect is one of boredom and a lack of interest in how things are going to pan out.

If you’re not a Stephen King fan, this certainly isn’t going to change your mind, and I can’t recommend you buy this. If you are a Stephen King fan, I can’t really recommend you buy this either. Chances are, you already have a copy of “The Stand”, and you’d be far better placed to re-read that instead. The basic idea is the same, and it’s more engagingly told. There’s a very good reason that it was that novel and not this one that made the BBC Good Read lists – “The Stand” is a heck of a lot better.
However, if like I am, you’re a big enough Stephen King fan to be a completist and be missing this from your collection, you’ll want to buy regardless, just don't be expecting too much from it.

This review may also appear under my name at any or all of,,, and
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on 30 May 2013
I have read a significant percentage of Stephen King's work, but this novel has none of the qualities found in his other books. If it didn't have 'King' on the front page I wouldn't believe it was written by him. It is shallow and senseless, with no plot or any characters of interest. In most King books the reader becomes almost enthralled with the fate of the main protagonists, but in this book I just didn't care. I tried two or three times to complete the book, but just got fed-up with the holier-than-thou David, his wailing father Ralph, the clichéd, hard-bitten former alcoholic author Johnny and the rest of the vacuous bunch. Being a loyal King-reader, I kept going back to it, convinced that it would improve, but it just got worse! A section of the story takes place in an abandoned movie theatre, and it became so boring and repetitive that I finally abandoned the book and disposed of it so that I couldn't waste any more of life's valuable minutes trying to find some literary merit or even a scintilla of entertainment within its pages. Was this really written by the same person who wrote The Stand, Dark Tower, Green Mile?? He must have been having an off-day.
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on 24 July 1999
Desperation is quite simply an outstanding read. The way king draws several normal people, including two very young children to a haunted mining town is great. The book never once slows down and king does what he is excellent at : killing off the lead characters emotionlessly and reshaping the plot around their deaths, creating new lead characters. This is done here on several occasions. The most intriguing part of the story is young David Carver's relationship with God, something which the other charaters never quite understand, But King makes us do so. The only problem I have the book is that King never elaborates on the fact that Johnny Marinvile had lived a previos life - one where he was killed in Vietnam. King also scares us with vintage horror essentials : snakes, scorpions, dead bodies etc and he does this in a way which isn't over the top. Despite not matching to the levels of The Shining or even Misery, it is still an excellent read.
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on 10 March 2016
(contains spoilers)

I'm a big Stephen King and although this one had its moments, it wasn't one of his best.

That said, it was 700 pages long and held my attention throughout so it was enjoyable enough thanks to King's accessible prose. I also felt a real sense of place; the Nevada desert and ghost town were well described and realised, and King's descriptions of the beasts that dwell there were also very good. In fact, the book is at its best when the protagonists find an abandoned movie theatre and hunker down to avoid a raging storm; there was a intimacy and atmosphere to the novel at this point and I really enjoyed it.

Conversely, the characters here are stock King creations; wunderkind (David), alcoholic writer (Johnny), the solid guy (Steve) and a few others, none of them were particularly likeable or memorable; Johnny is almost unbearable and David is so earnest and both are very grating. The main bad guy (or thing) terrorising them is Tak; a evil spirit disturbed whilst mining the Nevada hills that can enter the body of people and control them; compared to King's other bad guys like Flagg and Pennywise (Shudder!) it isn't great and the novel suffers for it.

King is always a easy read but he's usually a lot more fun and clever than this.

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on 2 March 2011
At the beginning of the novel I was conscious of King's less-than-perfect writing style. However, once the story gets going (which it does very quickly), the plot is gripping: the sinister cop is brilliantly frightening and gets things off to an exciting start. Unfortunately, things soon begin to slow down. Although I enjoyed the rest of the book, I found it far, far too long and rather repetitive. A lot of the gore is slightly disgusting without being either frightening or particularly helpful to the plot, and at times it is dull. The characters are for the most part two-dimensional and the female characters barely even that. The story of David's friend's accident and his meeting with God is well written, moving, and opens up the possibility of a really exciting direction for the plot, but I felt that once having established David's connection with God, King wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Everything that is scary at first is repeated until it becomes almost boring. In the early scenes, King succeeds in creating a genuinely chilling atmosphere that he then allows to disappear and never recaptures, and for me that was the biggest disappointment. Having said all that, I had no problem staying interested in the story and found this a pretty enjoyable, though totally unchallenging, read.
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on 10 February 2014
Desperation - Stephen King ****

Another offering from King that follows brilliantly in the Stands shadow of showcasing Good vs Evil. However, Desperation does not have the arduous journey across desolate and ruined lands. Instead it all takes place in a small town just off the loneliest highway in America.

The theme of Good vs Evil runs throughout the novel but as usual, nothing is entirely clean cut, as a number of the characters agree 'God is Cruel'. King treats us to what he does best, assembling a rag tag bunch of characters and throwing them into a life or death situation. I won't go into the storyline any more than that as I wouldn't want to spoil any of the twists and turns of the plot.

In my opinion this ranks up there with his best works such as the Shining and Salem's Lot. The way the story starts makes the reader feel that this could easily happen to them, and when the supernatural side kicks in you just get sucked into turning every page until you reach the end. A large book, but the pages just disappear. Easily recommendable to steadfast King readers or someone new to his works.

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VINE VOICEon 22 February 2004
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was written in typical Stephen King style. It was released at the same time as The Regulators by King writing as Richard Bachman. I also read that book but I much prefer this one. They both have similar themes running through them and ultimately have the same 'baddie', but I found this one to be more of an unputdownable.
Tak is an ingenious creation and is wonderfully bad to the bone. The characters are brilliantly scripted and the settings are great. King describes everything in wonderful gory detail and it kept me turning the pages.
I recommend this title to anyone who likes a tale of good vs evil and likes a good amount of blood and guts!!!
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