Publisher: Signet/Penguin USA
First published: 1996
This edition published: 1 September 1997
On the cover:
(Taken from King's website)
It's a summer afternoon in Wentworth, Ohio, and on Poplar Street everything's normal. The paper boy is making his rounds; the Carver kids are bickering at the corner convenience store; a Frisbee is flying on the Reeds' lawn; Gary Soderson is firing up the backyard barbecue. The only thing that doesn't quite fit is the red van idling just up the hill. Soon it will begin to roll, and the killing will begin. A quiet slice of American suburbia is about to turn to toast.
The mayhem rages around a seemingly still point, a darkened house lit fitfully from within by a flickering television screen. Inside, where things haven't been normal for a long time, are Audrey Wyler and the autistic nephew she cares for, eight-year-old Seth Garin. They're fighting their own battle, and its intensity has turned 247 Poplar Street into a prisonhouse.
By the time night falls on Poplar Street, the surviving residents will find themselves in another world, one where anything, no matter how terrible, is possible…and where the regulators are on their way. By what power they have come, how far they will go, and how they can be stopped-these are the desperate questions. The answers are absolutely terrifying.
This novel is set in (what I assume is) a typical American suburb. The horror aspect of this novel is all about what happens when this idyllic setting gets turned completely on its head.
As always King is excellent at setting up the ordinary life, and then subverting it by turning up the horror. The reader will quickly get a sense of where we are, and how this little neighbourhood functions. But that feeling of familiarity quickly disappears, and the suburb turns into a place of terror within few pages.
As is usual with King we get to know the characters pretty well, although this time the novel is set mostly in a very short period of time. We do however get a longer storyline of a couple of the characters, and this works very well. The characters are pretty diverse, and we get to see some very different reactions to the events of the novel, to me this heightened the realism of it.
The action in this novel is pretty much a constant, there's an almost relentless stream of it. This actually works very well, it sets a fast pace for the novel and makes it feel shorter than it actually is. King also writes these action scenes very well, and although there's a lot of them they don't feel repetitive.
However, there are times when the action is seen from many points of view when it can become a bit difficult to follow. There are many characters involved, and it's not difficult to loose track of who's where. This passes, but can become a bit confusing while it's going on.
Action isn't the only element of this book, there's a strong supernatural element here. This element is excellently described, and we get intimately connected to it through the point of view characters. We get to follow closely how this develops through the diary of one of the characters, and this is a really interesting story. It shows how it develops and deteriorates.
This element is also what connects this novel to its companion novel Desperation. The connection becomes clear pretty early on, and we find out more about it as time passes. Some of the characters are shared with Desperation, and there are parallel events in both novels.
I read this after Desperation, and I would suggest others do the same. I'm not sure there would be the same impact of recognition if you start with The Regulators, and there's some events in this novel that will have no significance if you haven't read Desperation first.
All in all I think this is a very good novel. There's plenty of action to supplement the supernatural, and as such I'd recommend it as a starting point on King for those that are more into action novels. There's also more than enough of the Horror element to satisfy fans of that.
That this is a companion volume to Desperation doesn't mean that you have to read both. ( Although as I suggested above, if you plan to, start with Desperation.) I first read this long before its companion, and it works very well on its own.
This my not be the best of King's novels, but it is more than good enough to deserve to be read by both fans of King and those that have yet to discover his writing.
You can find a review of Desperation here.
OTHER STEPHEN KING REVIEWS: The Shining IT The Dark Half Bag of Bones 11.22.63 Four Past Midnight Just After Sunset
LINKS: Stephen King Penguin (USA)