This has been a slow year for me, as far as reading goes. I don’t really take a lunch hour at my new job, so I don’t have a way to get away from my work area to sit and read. As such, it means that I don’t have the same amount of time to read like I once did. Duma Key is only the fifth book I’ve read in 2008, and it took me all of April to get through it.
There’s not much here that you haven’t seen before in a Stephen King novel. The novel isn’t set in Maine, nor does it involve a main character who is a writer, but everything else is going to be very familiar. There’s the good guy, his newfound friends who mean the world to him, the evil thing, and the psychic connection between all of them. It sounds glib, and probably does a disservice to the book overall, but really, this is the same old Stephen King we’ve been reading for three decades now. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but I feel that it’s important to point this out.
I feel like King is just riding the wave of his success at this point. Ten or fifteen years ago, I might not have said that about him. Bag of Bones was a turning point for him, of achieving something more literary with his writing, and Hearts in Atlantis was probably the finest thing written by King since Different Seasons, but everything since then has been insubstantial, or more biographical than fictional. The adage is “Write what you know,” I know, and after 51 novels, I suppose there’s going to be some repetition, but still, there’s a part of me waiting for him to wow me all over again. He’s surprised me more than once, so why give up hope now?
Duma Key is a bit of a convoluted mess. Half of the novel is the setup, and the other half is the explanation, but the explanation seems to be tacked on, after King had established the setup. It’s not a secret that King doesn’t always flesh out his plots before writing them, and that’s unfortunately clear with this one. It’s like he started out with the gimmick, and then tried to figure out how to tie that in with anything reasonably related to it. And, yes, as I mentioned above, he goes back to evil spirits and psychic connections to explain it all away.
Speaking of explaining things away, I was a little miffed that King didn’t provide any sort of motivation for said evil spirit. We’re just meant to accept that there’s a malicious … THING in the story, and that it’s malicious just to be malicious. OK, yes, I know that’s the way things are in the real world, but this is a story. I expect at least some semi-plausible connection between the creature’s actions and the reasons behind those actions. Of course, when he’s done this in the past, it’s been a bit of a letdown (It, anyone?), so maybe he was trying to avoid those sorts of gaffes again. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, I guess.
Duma Key isn’t a bad book. In fact, I would even call it a good book, based on some other chum I’ve read (it’s a far cry better than Blaze, that’s for sure). But it’s not a great book. And since I know that King can write great books, I can’t help but feel disappointed. Maybe the next one will be the hit.