Cover design by keenan
(NOTE: The cover I have has white background, not pink, but I couldn't find an image online that was not pink.)
THE DEAD ZONE
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First published: 30 August 1979
This edition published: 2007
On the cover:
Meet Johnny Smith. A young man whose streak of luck ends dramatically in a major car crash. Followed by blackness. A long, long time in cold limbo.
When he wakes up life has been turned upside down. His fiancée has met someone else. And Johnny is cursed with the power to perceive evil in men's souls. He's had these hunches since he had an ice-skating accident as a child. Now he has an ability to see into the future. An ability which will bring him into a terrifying confrontation with a charismatic, power-hungry and dangerous man . . .
*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS*
It's a daring move to start your novel with putting the main character in a coma. And in the case of this novel, it is a warning of what is to come.
Usually with King's novels, you get really close to the characters, and it is this closeness that sets him apart from other writers of similar fiction. But here I never felt that. Sure, you do learn quite a bit of how Johnny Smith thinks, and functions, but we don't really see him actively taking part in events for most of the novel. This makes it hard to feel a connection to him related to what is actually happening. He is rarely close to events, and is not a proactive character.
On top of that, I didn't feel like Johnny Smith was someone I'd like to hang out with. He's rather boring, and most of his interactions with others are on a superficial level.
The novel suffers quite a bit because of its structure. We get to know quite a bit about characters who have no real impact on the story itself, and their place in Johnny's life is often more of a "could have been" than anything else. And it feels like a bit of a waste that so much space is used to get us to know these characters.
King also introduces a whole serial-killer subplot that doesn't really go anywhere, even though Johnny is the one who solves the crime. We do get to see some scenes from the killers POV, but he is never a part of the book before he's caught. There's no real point/value to this subplot except to show Johnny's abilities, and the reader is already well aware of those. The reactions of the public to Johnny's involvement in solving the crime is not really explored deeply enough that I feel it warrants the inclusion of the subplot.
Overall the plot feels a bit unstructured, set-ups don't pay off and pay-offs come when they have no previous set-up. It's all a bit too rambling for me.
Not everything is wrong with this book, there's plenty of scenes that show how good King really is, and the premise is very interesting. The next to last chapter is also very good, and gives the novel an ending that is perhaps better than it deserves.
This is a novel that is above average for its type, and if it had been written by any other author I would have rated it higher. But this is a Stephen King novel, and as such it falls short of what I have come to expect of him.
For me this feels more like an experimental novel from King, it is one of his earlier ones, but it is an experiment that doesn't really work as well as it perhaps should. It doesn't really feel like a "proper" King novel should, and it totally lacks any Horror element.
So far, this is the weakest King novel I have read. But although I have been quite critical of The Dead Zone, that shouldn't dissuade other readers. I have seen several people place it in their "top Stephen King novels of all time". So if you are a King fan who hasn't read it, you should perhaps seek out other opinions on this. Just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't work for you, and I have absolutely no regrets that I read it.
Reviews: Stephen King Review Index