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Book review: <i>The Dead Zone</i> by Stephen King

the cover of the book

Stephen King examines themes of predestination, fate, love and evil in his classic fifth novel, The Dead Zone.

The story

John Smith doesn't realise that there is anything special about him after he hit his head after falling on the ice at age six. But during his growing years, he has occasional pre-cognitive flashes. When he hits his early twenties, he thinks he's pretty normal... he's a good teacher, he has a nice apartment, and he's in love with a beautiful girl.

One night, he and Sarah, his girlfriend, go to a fair. A series of events see him catching a taxi home from Sarah's house, ending up in a devastating car accident, and awakening four years later from his coma. When he returns, the world is a different place. Although he has no concept of the time that has passed, Sarah has married someone else, the world has moved on, and when John touches somebody, he can see their past and their future.

John's disturbingly religious mother sees this gift as a gift from God, but the shy and retiring John would rather steer clear of the spotlight. He wants to get on with his life, but he can't get over his love for Sarah. He also has more pressing problems... visions come to him, unbidden, about the future. And not just his future, but the future of people he cares about, and the future of the world. Johnny knows that he will have to act... but when he doesn't what he thinks is right, will the world listen?

The style

I really enjoyed The Dead Zone; it's a great example of Stephen King's writing and his versatility. And, as I read it after The Stand, it was a nice, short relief. It also wasn't horror at all, which was kind of fun.

In classic King style, the story is told from a third person limited perspective, following mainly Johnny and Sarah. King's characterisation excellent, and his ability to build suspense is great. I spent the entire scene leading up to Johnny's car accident tense with anticipation because of King's ability to set the scene. Johnny's character was easy to feel empathy for, and his struggle became the reader's struggle.

What I enjoyed about The Dead Zone most was the way it tackled issues to do with predestination, and what the future holds. Were things happening just because Johnny was drawing attention to them because he thought they were going to happen, or would they have happened anyway? Should he tell people, or let nature run it's course? And when he is driven to act on a vision that he thinks will affect the greater population, the big issues roll out. It's a thought provoking read, even if precognition probably isn't something we all need to dwell on, because King brings up other conundrums about human nature and other things for the reader to chew over.

Who is this book for?

King fans. Even non King fans, who are looking to see what the fuss about King is, should read this one. While it isn't exactly his standard work, it is a good example of his writing abilities. It's a versatile book as well - to be read anywhere.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Stephen King has written A LOT of other books. A LOT. Take you're pick... some are better than others!

In short

Title: The Dead Zone
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 0451155750
Year published: 2004
Pages: 416/td>
Genre(s): Modern fiction
Review Type: 


..why does he get away with being such a bragging arrogant thief and such so bad at it and at writing at all?