Desperation by Stephen King

Nevada is mostly a long stretch of desert you cross on the way to somewhere else. And with someone else, if you’re lucky…because it’s a scary place. Headed down Route 50 in the brutal summer heat are people who are never going to reach their destinations. Like the Jacksons, a professor and his wife going home to New York City; the Carvers, a Wentworth, Ohio, family bound for a vacation at Lake Tahoe; and aging literary lion Johnny Marinville, inventing a gonzo image for himself astride a 700-pound Harley.

A dead cat nailed to a road sign heralds the little mining town of Desperation, a town that seems withered in the shade of a man-made mountain known as the China Pit. But it’s worse than that, much worse. Regulating the traffic there is Collie Entragian, an outsize uniformed madman who considers himself the only law west of the Pecos. God forbid you should be missing a license plate or find yourself with a flat tire.

There’s something very wrong here, all right, and Entragian is only the surface of it. The secrets embedded in Desperation’s landscape, and the evil that infects the town like some viral hot zone, are both awesome and terrifying. But as young David Carver seems to know–though it scares him nearly to death to realize it–so are the forces summoned to combat them. In Desperation Stephen King’s sweeping brush paints an apocalyptic drama of God and evil, madness and revelation. His genius for suspense has never been so finely honed, his imagination so shudderingly vivid, as when his wayfarers–and readers who dare to follow their course–begin to discover the true meaning of the word desperation.


For those of you familiar with King’s work will understand when I say, this is classic King’s work. For those of you who have never read any of his work, buckle in, you are in for a ride. You are immediately introduced to a number of characters that will guide you through this bizarre story. Each one is unique and equally quirky in their own way, one a writer, a family, a couple, your average everyday people with backstories that range from mild to wild. The only thing these seemingly normal people have in common is the fact they decided to travel the same road. A long stretch of seemingly abandoned highway that leads through a small town called Desperation. As the travelers make their way down the eery stretch, each encounter the odd Officer Entragian, one by one stopped, searched, terrorized, and brought to Desperation jail. Strange things continue to happen as the prisoners attempt to free themselves from this hellish nightmare. Yet, as they will soon learn Desperation holds an ancient evil that can only be fought by good. Soon one young boy learns he holds the power needed to escape, but can he save not only himself but the others from the evil loose in this small town.

King once again brought us loveable, quirky characters who are not only trapped but must fight some sort of evil. Do not get me wrong, I love these themes and the way King brings each story to life in its own honorable way, I do. This particular story was heavy on the religious aspect in replace of just the usual good vs evil trope, however, making it a bit preachy in parts. I was not a fan of how many references were made to God, praying, and the inner/outer dialogue about the thoughts on God. I am not religious, so I did not find it offensive, I just found it overdone. As I’ve said, I know good vs evil is a common trope with King, this one just had too much talk of God. In the second half of this book, it was a common topic and widely referenced.

Aside from the religious spin, I felt this story took, there were far more reasons to love it. As with a lot of King’s earlier work, this one was gruesome, a true work of horror. There were no details too big or too small to be ignored when used to describe the destruction caused by the evil unleashed. You are able to hear your own bones break as you read King’s award-winning writing. A few scenes stand out in the “cringe in disgust” area of horror within these pages, one including a staircase, the other what happens to a body being used by the evil. Between the writing and attention to detail, not much could enhance this already glowing story, yet King brought a thought-out plot too. Sucked into this strange world you are captivated from the first chapter to the last. I could not help but keep coming back at any chance I got, I needed to know what was going to happen to each enjoyable character.

Overall, this was a brilliant, terrifying, gruesome, dark, compelling tale of good vs evil like you have never read before. A great introduction to King’s earlier work or add on to your list of reads by him. This is fueled by horror and suspense, filled with graphic detail. An epic adventure down a highway of a lifetime.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

PAGES: 690

PUBLISHED: September 1996

GENRE: Horror – Suspense – Thriller – Fiction


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