CONSTANT READER REVIEW – The Dead Zone by Stephen King

“Some things are better not seen, and some things are better lost than found.”

My journey into The Dead Zone was…interesting. My copy of the book is a well-loved paperback that likely dates back to the late 80s (purchased at a library book sale). So I felt that my reading experience was relatively authentic – complete with an incredibly campy synopsis on the back (i’m not sure how many times they can say THE DEAD ZONE in all caps, but the effect was pretty fun).

“What a talent God has given you, Johnny.”

The story is good – Johnny Smith (could his name BE any more basic?) experiences some odd psychic/premonition-style flashes after 1. a head injury when he was six and 2. another, more severe, head injury in his early 20s, which lands him in a coma for four and a half years. Poor Johnny has had a rough go at it and, honestly, things don’t really get much better for him. His entire story is tragic.

And Greg Stillson – hoo boy. The worst villain that could have been? We know he’s a bad guy right from the jump (like the most despicable of baddies) but beyond that…I feel like we don’t get much meat from good old Greg. When we catch up with him in “the present” (feels weird to refer to 1970-something like that) he’s a wacky politician who spouts off crazy, asinine ideas. He has a fanatical follower base. Sound somewhat familiar, and maybe a little too real right now. Either way, Stillson ended up being a lot of bark and not too much bite for me, personally. Although, maybe that’s the entire point of the book…

The shining star here is Johnny’s father. Herb is a DELIGHT. He’s a great parent, he loves his son and he deals with some pretty awful personal stuff. I want to protect him at all costs.

The Dead Zone reads exactly like it should – you can tell it’s one of King’s earliest novels. You can tell it’s set in the 70s. I might have enjoyed this more if I had read it earlier (as in, before some of King’s other books). It’s not my favorite, but it certainly has its place in King’s body of work, and I would still recommend it.

“We all do what we can, and it has to be good enough…and if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.”

Content warning: there is a brief instance of animal cruelty at the beginning of the book.

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