I decided like, I don’t know, six months ago? that I was going to read ALL THE STEPHEN KING, so I was eventually going to read this book (and all his others) no matter what. Deciding which books to read first was the main thing. I decided to read this one first (and Misery and The Stand, come to think of it) because I read his On Writing back in November, and he talks about the process of writing all three of them. The way he talked about them made me want to read them more. Anyway, the point of this is that he happened to mention that his style of writing lends itself to character and situation writing rather than plot construction, and that The Dead Zone was one of the few exceptions for him.
Actually, the book The Dead Zone reminds me most of is 11/22/63. Many of the themes and occurrences here feel like the initial incarnations of events and characters and types that occur in that book (and of course I ended up loving them both). Assassinations. Wibbly-wobbly time-wimey stuff. Politics. Doomed love. Supernatural shenanigants. The main character is a teacher . . . seriously, so many likenesses between these books. However, where 11/22/63 ends up feeling more sprawling and epic, The Dead Zone feels smaller and more intimate. More personal.
Johnny Smith is our main character. He’s a nice guy, with a nice, normal life. His students love him, he’s on the verge of getting engaged. Until one night, when he gets in a cab and wakes up from a coma four and a half years later. Not only has his life passed him by, but he wakes up different. When he touches people or things, he gets visions. This eventually brings his life into a crash course with a young politician whose future may or may not include bringing the world to nuclear disaster.
I’d assumed going in that the meat of the book involved the conflict between Johnny and the politician, Greg Stillson. But that’s actually only really felt in the last fourth of the book. The main thing this book does is follow Johnny from the time of his accident to where it ultimately brings him, sucking us as readers into his experience, so that as the dominoes fall one by one, we care all that much more as we see how it effects not only Johnny, but his family, his friends, and his enemies.
If you’ve never read Stephen King before and are weary of horror, this would be a great place to start. It’s a supernatural thriller with King’s signature storyteller style. It’s scary and creepy and sad and uplifting. I really liked it.