Duma Key

February 12, 2008

Duma Key, by Stephen King (image linked from King's website for review purposes) 


Duma Key, by Stephen King.


Lovely. A thick, big novel after the (in my opinion) shouldn’t-have-been-resurrected-1970s-trunk-novel Blaze.  And an interesting continuing validation to my completely baseless theory that Stephen King seems to write something spectacular, then not-so-good, then spectacular etc etc la la la.

[This theory based on my own tastes and criticisms, not necessarily on literary merit, so bear with my personal preferences here: Wolves of the Calla was marvellous, Song of Susannah less so — great story, great action but too slight in the overall scope of the Dark Tower sequence — then the utterly magnificent The Dark Tower itself, then Cell, which started so well and ended in a disorganized damp squib… on to Lisey’s Story, completely resonant and wonderful, then the aforementioned urgh Blaze and now Duma Key]

Anyway. Duma Key itself — you know, I can’t give an entirely objective view of this one. Just can’t, this time. There are simply certain things in it that I am relating to very strongly due to circumstances close to me. The personally harrowing descriptions of Elizabeth’s mental and physical decline. The concept of art as gateway to reality, and its ability to alter same. The anger and frustration of the progatonist Edgar Freemantle as he tries to come to grips with a world changed by his accident. These sort of things are speaking very strongly and clearly to me at this particular time in my life. I know them in different guises, and it’s frightening how accurately King has portrayed them. A true testament to a master writer.

The story itself is a little slighter than I might have liked it, and there are a few deus ex machina elements that seem a little obvious even given the way the tale has to play out. I’ve no objection to deus ex machina writing in general (and am probably alone there as it appears most of the literary community seem to think it’s a very lazy method of connecting A to B when there doesn’t seem to be a connection in the first place) and, provided it’s done well, think it can be a very effective and even startling method of style and storytelling. But, occasionally, obvious.  And there was someone’s fate within that seemed gratuitous, abrupt and a little pointless, with the various players’ reactions to same not coming off as true.

Where Duma Key works for me is its richness of language and descriptors, and in this it utterly works. I was as lost at sea as Edgar was, transfixed by almost every page with only a couple of poorly drawn exposition scenes somewhere in the middle to cause me to sit back and blink that I was reading a book and not living someone’s mingled Heaven and Hell. Add to this the tapestry of experiences and slices of life that I can, in many ways unfortunately, completely relate to, and this all elevated the story well into the top 15% of King’s literary canon — and told me in no uncertain terms he’s lost none of his skills.

So, Steve… for a quasi-retired man your output has been pretty impressive. What’s next?




One Response to “Duma Key”

  1. rabhinder Says:

    gripping storytelling!! loved it..

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