Here we have it, folks: the biggest shock yet in the Stephen King reread.
Before today, I considered Desperation bottom-of-the-barrel King. Desperate King. I felt the religiosity was blatant, tasteless; the story derivative of things King had done better before. Funny how our tastes evolve and change as we get older, isn’t it? My sole reading of this novel was in my sophomore year of high school — about six years’ worth of stuff has happened to me since then. What can I say, I was able to appreciate this epic, apocalyptic tale—King’s take on the book of Revelation, so to speak.
What I didn’t pick up on before is just how visceral and gruesome Desperation is: King gleefully rips and mangles his characters in ways not seen since his early years. What this makes for is a novel that, while sometimes overly pretentious in its theological posturing, is packed to the brim with scene after scene of gleeful, demonic, sexual terror. This is perhaps the one and only time a King novel reads like Clive Barker, albeit with more doses of Jesus and Americana than Barker has ever gone for.
I have to say it, though . . . I don’t like David. Nope. Kid suffers from Mother Abagail Syndrome: a supposed prophet of God, he comes off as pompous and grating in his assuredness. Even after what happens to him during the course of the story, I can’t muster up any sympathy for him. From him comes this novel’s most frustrating religious elements (the sardines and crackers scene— *rolls eyes into the back of my head*) and I’m just not here for it.
Like The Dark Half and Firestarter before it, rereading this novel made me appreciate the work and see what it is others see. While certainly not perfect, this is one of Stephen King’s most unsettling and provocative works. If one is looking for scares, he or she could do much worse.