A good friend in high school told me I had to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I was incredibly skeptical, I just knew King as a horror author, and horror was not very high up on my list of things I wanted to read. Well, he wouldn’t leave me alone so I finally picked up The Gunslinger and read through it. I was immediately hooked on Mr. King. I quickly learned that the stereotype about King, that he is strictly a horror writer, was a misconception. He is one of the few popular novelists who is actually a good writer (in my opinion at least).

I have a ton of King novels that I haven’t read because I pick one up just about every time I see one cheap in a used bookstore. I picked up The Dead Zone a few weeks back and for some reason decided I wanted to skip the other books I haven’t read and go ahead and knock it out. As with King’s other novels, it’s incredibly compelling. The characters feel real, however, I do have a problem with the main character being named John Smith with no middle name. The novel is one of the more theologically and philosophically rich that I’ve read of King’s. John Smith’s mom, Vera, is your stereotypical extra-crazy Christian cultist who believes that heaven exists in the stars and UFO’s piloted by angels would swoop down and take the faithful beyond the stars to heaven, or that heaven is actually under the ground in Antarctica. There’s also other interesting tidbits throughout the book, Johnny’s observations on God and his mothers faith, things that actually cause you to think. There’s also an interesting moral dilemma about murder. Johnny wrestles with the question of whether it is ever morrally right to murder someone. For example, if you could go back to 1939 Germany and kill Hitler, would you? It definitely causes the reader to think. Another ethical/philosophical aspect of the book is not nearly as prominent as some of the other problems presented, the problem of when is a person actually dead, when is it okay to take someone off of life support, does brain death constitute actual death etc. The Dead Zone leaves you with plenty to chew on and think over, and King doesn’t offer the answers, he lets the reader draw their own conclusions.

So while the story was well written, the characters were well developed and believable, and the story was compelling, I had a problem with some of the plot points, and I had a major problem with the ending. As always, I won’t spoil anything, but the ending is much like the moral and philosophical dilemmas in that King doesn’t give you many answers but leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. The Dead Zone kept me up late because I couldn’t put it down, I had to know what happened next and I did enjoy it, and it also kept me up late thinking about the dilemmas presented within.

Don’t be too quick to write off Stephen King as just another bestselling author who won’t be remembered, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some meat to chew on and digest in his novels.

Overall rating: 7.5/10