Stephen King’s Insomnia was first published in 1994 and like a number of King’s other novels, it is set in the state of Maine and in the fictional town of Derry. The genre of this book is not traditional horror but rather a supernatural or sci-fi thriller. Other aspects of the book are also somewhat unfamiliar to King’s normal offerings, firstly the book is very long at over 800 pages in length and also the main characters are all in their 60’s and older.
Even though Insomnia is in the supernatural or science fiction genre, King still manages to address a number of important issues whilst continuing uninterrupted with the book’s main story. Subjects such as abortion, domestic violence and women’s rights are all covered in such a way as not to detract from the entertaining storyline.
The plot of Stephen King’s Insomnia is rather slow to get going and things don’t really pick up pace until at least 100 pages in but this allows King to really create a cast of believable characters that the reader can empathize with throughout the novel. Ralph Roberts who is a retiree starts to have problems with insomnia and the condition deteriorates as he manages to get less and less sleep until he can’t sleep at all. Ralph starts to see things that aren’t able to be seen by other people such as people’s energy fields or ‘auras’ and alien beings that he calls ‘little bald doctors’ as a result of their appearance. Ralph also discovers that Lois Chasse, a woman he has feelings for is also able to see these alternate planes of reality and the alien creatures.
As with many of King’s books, one of the main themes of Insomnia is the fight of good versus evil and in this particular case the hero is Ralph Roberts who is a retired widower and a very ordinary and believable character who faces up against the Crimson King and his followers. There are a number of highly entertaining twists as King develops the plot, one in particular where Ralph is shown a piece of the future and has to make a life altering decision based on the vision, prompting the reader to question individual morality against self-preservation. As with many of King’s novels the ending isn’t all happiness however as the main protagonist is killed and is accompanied by the consoling remark that at last Ralph can rest.
Stephen King’s Insomnia had a very important part to play in the progression of King’s series of books because when Ralph defeats the Crimson King ultimately saving the life of the young boy Patrick Danville, it sets the direction for King’s Dark Tower series. Although the first novel in the Dark Tower series was published in 1982 and there were 3 books before Insomnia was even written, Insomnia introduces the reader to the pivotal character of Danville in the future Dark tower books.
Insomnia may not be a traditional Stephen King novel, it’s length, character composition and storyline pace are somewhat different to many of his other books, it is undoubtedly an enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining read.