In a word: spectacular. In four words: a work of genius. I was continually amazed at the way Stephen King built the tension while only hinting at the supernatural horrors until the end.
This was the first Stephen King book I’ve ever read and it was given to me by wife, who was told about it by her sister-in-law, who said it was one of the better King novels for someone whose never read any of his work. And all I have to say is if the rest of his books are anything like this one then I look forward to reading more. Though I must admit that I am on temporary leave from the horror/thriller genre as for a while I have only been reading and watching shows that are suspense and thrillers and I believe they are starting to have an affect on my anxiety. So after a bit of a break, I’m sure I’ll be back, but in the mean time let’s talk…
After a horrible construction accident, Edgar Freemantle is severely crippled and shortly thereafter his wife asks for a divorce. With his world falling apart, Edgar follows some advice from his therapist and heads for an extended getaway on a small island in the Florida Keys. Once there, however, he discovers strange things happening, beginning with the explosion of his artistic talent.
As he is driven to paint more and more he begins to discover that his paintings are not just creations of his imagination, but are allowing him to see into the future and across great distances. But something else begins to notice Edgar’s abilities and it will do anything to use them for it’s own purposes.
The thing I love about horrors and thrillers is the set up; you can’t just jump into the action aspects and expect the audience to be terrified (well, I think some people do, but it doesn’t work as well). You have to let the audience come in as close as you can and then grab them by the collar and hold them there so they can’t get away. Then, finally, you introduce what’s hiding in the closet.
The more I read, and the more I write about these books, the more I understand the artistry that is required to write a good novel. To paraphrase Stephen King in his memoir/autobiographical book On Writing, you can teach an average writer to be a good writer, but you can’t teach a good writer to be a great writer unless they already have the potential within them. There is just a part of writing, the magical part, which some people are naturally born with; the ability to shape words into energy that pierces the mind and the heart, to construct stories that bend our perception of what is real and what is fiction, and provide meaning and conversation that stretches through lifetimes.
Stephen King is an artist of his craft, and Duma Key is, without a doubt, a work of art. It pulled me down through the pages and let me swim through the calm waters before twisting me away in the heavy currents until I was coughed up onto the shore exhausted, terrified, and supremely satisfied. I had no interest to read his work before I read On Writing because I heard many people discuss the amount of foul language that appears frequently in his books. That and I didn’t care to be scared, but after reading his work I know two things: firstly, he does swear quite a bit, but he does so at the appropriate time and with a purpose; and secondly, they aren’t too frightening when you read them during the day and the quality of the work makes feeling that suspense and fear worth it.
I doubt I’ll ever read all of his books, but I can guarantee that I’ll be back for more, even if it’s only for the occasional dip into the terrifyingly brilliant mind of Stephen King.