Here is another of those stories that seems to connect with The Shining. Yes, johnny has to touch someone to experience the psychic connection, but it is nonetheless a similar phenomenon. Having just recently finished the book, I can understand why both a movie and a TV show were created, and obviously successful to a certain degree.
I like the concept, and I love Johnny as a character, but I think that the novel might suffer from some Dead Zones of it’s own. It feels to me as though there was a lot of time spent developing characters that didn’t really further the plot. Could johnny’s mother’s descent into fundamentalism have taken up fewer pages? Sure. And there are great gaps of time during which Johnny helps out and then spends time not using his power, only to have everything turn supersonic when he goes after Stillson. Yes, I understand that he sped up his own timeline because he was dying, but it still seemed rushed near the end. The greatest fault, I suppose, is pacing.
There are two tragic stories running parallel in The Dead Zone. The first is really the main plot: boy gets into accident and wakes up with psychic powers that excite and frighten the general public. They try to push and pull at Johnny because of a gift that he tries not to use, but only uses for good, even when it may not seem so by his actions. He stops a murderer, savings a person’s house from burning down, savings dozens of students from burning to death, and saves the entire world from a nuclear Holocaust, and he doesn’t even get the girl in the end. So tragic.
Sarah is the other tragic part of the story. When considering Johnny’s feelings for her – the consummation of the marriage that never was, as King writes, a girl cannot help but get a little teary-eyed. It was no fault of Johnny’s, really, that he lost nearly five years of his life. One wonders what things would have been like had Sarah not been such an indifferent sort of character. The focus in this novel was, of course, on Johnny and his near death experience, but Sarah was an important part of the story yet she felt so cavalier at times. She had a domineering, or abusive boyfriend but we do not really see the effects of this. It does not feel like that big of a decision when she decides that she’s going to sleep with Johnny for the first time. And then it feels like we blink and she’s moving on from Johnny and is married. Yes, this is absolutely a necessity of the story, but when she’s the point of view character, could she not have been written more strongly. Even when she decides to sleep with Johnny, it seems like something almost at random. Maybe I’m treating her unfairly because I think she should have waited longer. In any case, I feel bad for Johnny, but Sarah doesn’t seem to care.
With great power comes great responsibility? That could certainly have been a tag line from The Dead Zone. Poor Johnny. We miss you, even though you never really existed.
And with the publication of this post, I have finally caught up on the backlog. on to Firestarter now.