As a kid, I had a passion for Steven King novels. I remember with pleasure the genuine creepiness of ;Salem’s Lot and the epic scope of The Stand … the erotic undertones of Carrie and the palpable tension of the Dead Zone … the dawning horror of The Shining and the desperation of Firestarter. I cared deeply about the characters in these books, and, to this day, these stories are a part of me.
If you ever read one of these books — and loved them — then you’ll understand why I was eager to download King’s latest work — Duma Key — to my beloved Kindle.
And if you ever read one of these books — and loved them — you’ll understand why it breaks my heart not to be able to recommend Duma Key to you.
At its best, Duma Key feels a bit like the novel equivalent of a “Stephen King’s Greatest Hits” album. In the Dead Zone, accidental brain damage gives Johnny Smith the ability to know things about people by touching them; in Duma Key, accidental brain damage gives Edgar Freemantle the ability to know things by painting them. A visit from a soggy bad guy recalls one of the waterlogged villains of Creepshow. Twin girls haunt both the Overlook Hotel in The Shining and the island in Duma Key. In short: the landscape of Duma Key is far too familiar.
The recycling, unfortunately, is the least of the book’s problems. The real buzzkill comes in the form of pages and pages and pages of backstory … some delivered in the form of observations on “How to Draw,” and much, much more served up in the form of dry, extended, and laborious conversations between characters.
King peppers these exchanges with everything: song lyrics, obscure movie quotes, profanity, quips in Spanish … but there’s no getting past the fact that Duma Key’s characters spend far too much time spouting back story and exposition and explanations and history lessons. They obsess on newspaper clippings, regale each other with anecdotes, and interview each other. The first time King employs this device, we can forgive it. The second through eighth times, we bear it. But after it’s done over and over and over again … well, I started skipping huge sections (and, incidentally, never felt I missed a thing).
Ultimately, the clockwork plot ferries us toward the inevitable confrontation between good and evil … except this time, the evil is too familiar to be spooky, and the confrontation is just … lame.
It breaks my heart to write this, but … save yourself time, save yourself money, and, instead of reading Duma Key, read the Wikipedia book summary instead.