The prolific purveyor of terror, Stephen King, semi-successfully turns his finely honed, `I-know-what-scares-you' gaze from the venue of his beloved Maine to the seemingly serene retiree-haven of the Florida Keys in his umpteenth novel entitled, "Duma Key". This tale of horror explores the idea of an imaginative power so forceful that when it flexes its muscle a combination of all-hell-breaking-loose steam and creative juices gone wild collide with the impact of the construction crane that nearly ends the life of chief protagonist and narrator, Edgar Freemantle, rendering him without an arm and a severely damaged leg. In his usual easy-to-read style that makes use of the most current common day benchmarks of our 21st century culture--from the mention of items for sale from popular mail order catalogs to quotations from popular songs--King freely allows Freemantle to muse insightful with regard to his accident, the effect it had on his former life and his struggle towards a recuperation that will in his mind allow him to again live productively.
I use the prefix `semi' because although successful in his execution of creating a thoroughly believable character experiencing some pretty unorthodox events, King always writes a good book slipping in some thought-provoking big questions that still appeals to the `American Idol' watching masses. However, in terms of fashioning a novel that actually horrifies, `Duma Key' fails on some nuanced level.
Don't get me wrong--`Duma Key' provides an above average amount of entertainment. Freemantle's voice compels the reader to turn the pages; King's concept of speculative almost LSD-induced art fantasy that actually Pygmalion-izes into a complicated reality with a vengeance boggles a mind even well-versed in the painted daydreams the likes of Salvador Dali, Le Douanier Rousseau, and Yves Tanguy. From the standpoint of someone who collects art strictly for pleasure, the visual delights conceived by King titillate and amuse--this combined with Freemantle's odd clairvoyance lends an interesting blend of voyeurism that has the reader sitting on the edge of his/her seat, cheering Edgar on--willing him to become the celebrated media-darling Picasso of `Pink', the name of his rented Duma beach house.
However, when the actual `horror' of the story molecularizes into an adversary wreaking collateral damage on Freemantle's friends and family and Edgar, with the help of two well-meaning and understanding buddies formulate a triumvirate of evil-trouncing ubermen, the third-portion of the narrative casts aside the philosophical ruminations and moves into overdrive--much action with the usual King touches of slimy visceral images that worked well in "IT" but fall short here. I've mentioned my `immune' theory in some of my other reviews with regard to the way an audience well versed in the art of movie and television viewing where the inner-workings of the mind of a serial killer blending together with that of the supposed normal productive citizen is considered de rigueur, blurring and sanitizing what is actually perceived now as truly horrific.
In short, King's evil embodiment simply doesn't seem that evil when the audience has already been desensitized to such archetypical views of the dark side. The idea of ancient badness seems almost whimsical, like some entity that escaped from the climatic end reel of `Indiana Jones and the Ark of the Covenant'--the black mammy protectress as stereotypical as the voodoo woman--all headdress and earrings--in a New Orleans genre film like "The Skeleton Key." We may recognize these characters as beloved familiars--a part of any good storytelling--but after the likes of cheek-eating Hannibal Lector, the assortment of blood-sucking vampires in the mini-series of `Salem's Lot' and now the intellectual and thoughtful serial killer/avenger Dexter in the popular Showtime serial--King's Team Wicked lacks that extra dash of sauce piquant that had the crowds in the Roman Coliseum roaring for bigger and badder atrocities.
Bottom line? Stephen King's latest bad boy, 600+ page "Duma Key" adequately supports the already established King horror mechanism. In a pensive narrative that may reflect King's own experience regarding his nearly fatal accident, themes of life and death ebb and flow in the mind of main character Edgar Freemantle as he battles the inevitability of change after a life-altering experience. However, King's need to bang in the action, bites him as his ultimate explanation for all the strange Duma Key goings-on just don't satisfy an audience already immunized and sated with enough cinematic horror to fill 20 volumes of Edgar Allen Poe tales and then some. Recommended solely to experience King and his reflections on life and immortality after his accident through the voice of his protagonist and his delightful artistic conceptions, all of which would surely make up an interesting and most attractive art collection for exhibition. Diana Faillace Von Behren "reneofc"
One of my favorite Stephen King books. I read it while on a beach vacation and the setting in the book made it perfect and a little creepier. If done properly it would make a superb movie. Recommend to anyone who likes creepy and great writing.
Ahh... what can I say about Duma Key, other than it being an extraordinary experience, a literary breath of fresh air, a masterpiece of color and texture without any actual paint being used. I guess there are some people out there think it's boring or long but I instantaneously felt a bond with the book and I can say that I absolutely loved it! The writing itself was so colorful and interesting that I enjoyed each and every page, there was in no rush to get to the ending by any means, but I did … more
Sometimes I read a long book and wish it were shorter. But reading Stephen King's Duma Key was not one of those times. The story is beautifully plotted and paced, from the slightly off-kilter wonder of the first page--"Pictures are magic, as you know"--to the real-world tragedy of a brain-injured one-armed man, to the fearful, awful revelations around page 600. The heroes in this novel are very real, very wounded people, old enough to know a bit about life, … more
Pros: fleshed out characters, interesting subject Cons: none for me The Bottom Line: What time zone am on? What country am I in? It doesn't matter, it's five o'clock somewhere. ~Jackson/Buffet First I gotta say I’m beginning to hate Stephen King. My latest read, Duma Key, his 54th novel, comes in at a hefty 609 pages in hardback and I’ve got to tell Stephen these books are getting … more
I'm a pretty huge Stephen King fan, dating back to about 1979, when I first read THE SHINING. I've stuck with him through some poor times (THE DARK HALF & NEEDFUL THINGS) and certainly enjoyed the high points. DUMA KEY falls somewhere in the middle of the batch. It has some wonderful writing...aside from the story...King's ability to describe a situation (like an artist's first time gallery -opening) or a feeling (the frustration of learning to live with only one arm) is near its height. The settings … more
Any New England snowbird can empathize with Edgar Freemantle's instant fascination with the west coast Florida sunset. "As that light skied upward, orange faded to a breathless Maxfield Parrish blue-green that I had never seen before with my own eyes...and yet I had a sense of déjà vu, as if maybe I had seen it, in my dreams." Whether it's the novelty of a sunset over water or being closer to the equator or further west in the time zone, there's no denying … more
When my best friend asked me what makes 'Duma Key' a Stephen King book, I had to think about it. I knew just what she meant: what makes it creepy, scary, where's that touch of the supernatural? I realized that what I had been describing to her didn't sound much like a King novel, and there is reason for that. This isn't an easy novel to read. Edgar Freemantle, our intrepid protagonist, suffers a pretty horrific accident in the early pages, loses his right arm along with mental … more
Renting a house on an eerily undeveloped stretch of the Florida coast after suffering a crippling accident and ending his marriage, construction millionaire Edgar Freemantle obsessively creates works of art that lead him to discover unsettling elements from his landlady's enigmatic family history. Reprint.