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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Stephen King has established himself as one of the most popular authors of the last twenty years. He has taken the horror genre and molded it to serve his own purposes. In addition to being a master at scaring his reading public, King has the remarkable ability of presenting popular American culture with all of its crassness and sentimentality. Some of his most successful works include CARRIE (1974), THE SHINING (1977), IT (1986), NEEDFUL THINGS (1991), and GERALD’S GAME (1992). INSOMNIA is set in the town of Derry, Maine. King used Derry as the setting for his thrilling novel IT. A recent widower, seventy-year-old Ralph Roberts finds himself waking up earlier and earlier each day. Struggling to recover from the death of his wife, Roberts is at a loss to find a cure for his insomnia. He is also a witness to the bizarre behavior of someone he knows. Ed Deepneau, a chemist, is involved in a car accident where his car crashes into a fertilizer truck, but then Deepneau makes wild accusations toward the driver involving the transport of dead fetuses. Deepneau’s wife, Helen, is also discovered to have been beaten by him. Unable to understand his own insomnia, Roberts is equally baffled over what has happened to Deepneau.

In addition to losing sleep, Roberts is startled to discover that he can see auras of various colors surrounding people who he comes across in town. He does not know what to make of this phenomena. Roberts discovers, however, that his neighbor Lois Chasse is experiencing the same symptoms. She is also widowed and the two of them find comfort in each other’s company. Eventually, they become romantically linked, but first they must unravel the mystery of the auras and various other troubling happenings in Derry. The town is being torn apart by the issue of abortion and the prospect of a nationally known abortion rights leader coming to Derry to deliver a speech. With this as a backdrop, King sets in motion a terrifying tale of good versus evil, and of life versus death. Roberts seemingly has been chosen to intercede against the forces of chaos. INSOMNIA is a roller-coaster ride through a world that is coming apart at the seams. The ending may be somewhat of a disappointment and the novel is longer than necessary, but INSOMNIA still remains one of King’s most imaginative works and a must read for the millions of King fans.