In my own personal opinion, this is the best story
Stephen King has ever written. Not the most frightening, not the most thrilling, no: but this novel has true literary merit. And a tragic hero (not a mere "protagonist, mind you) who really qualifies for the title.
John Smith (his name immediately marks him out as the "common man") is blessed and cursed with second sight. It began as a minor ability due to a skating accident in his childhood; but when he wins big time at the roulette wheel in a village carnival, this "gift" proves to be his undoing. Because while coming home late from the carnival, the taxi John is travelling in meets with a horrific accident, and he is precipitated into a four-year coma.
While he is asleep, John loses his career, girlfriend, everything. He wakes up a pauper in material terms, but endowed with the full-fledged version of his latent childhood gift.
And thus begins the career of John Smith, the clairvoyant.
As he moves from discovery to horrific discovery, the amount of darkness he unearths in human souls pushes John further and further down into a sort of spiritual abyss. There seems to no purpose to his tragic life, until he meets Greg Stillson, prospective presidential candidate. A casual handshake allows John Smith a look into the cesspit that is the soul of the future president of the USA: and suddenly, he finds that there is something he has to do. Finish of Stillson, before he finishes of civilisation as we know it...
There is horror in this novel. But it is not supernatural, oh no: John's supernatural power is benign. The horror is in what that power unearths. Yes, Greg Stillson is the boogeyman in this story.One must pay homage to Stephen King's gift of seeing into the future. At the time the novel was written, people would have laughed at the idea that a secular democracy would elect a blackguard like Stillson into office. I would humbly suggest that events of the past two decades have convinced me otherwise.
This is one of the most meticulously crafted books that I have read. John's and Greg's careers start simultaneously, sure to meet at some point of time: yet King weaves the narrative so expertly that when the meeting finally takes place, there is no sense of the let-down of predestination. And the denouement (like in 11.22.63
) is totally unexpected.
The last chapter, "Notes from the Dead Zone", is one of the most beautiful passages of prose in my experience. Stephen King rises almost to the level of a poet here, the way the words flow.
Five stars, all the way.