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VINE VOICEon January 22, 2008
Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's long. But this new novel is more than just another Stephen King book. With a streamlined style and a plot that's never predictable, it's King at his crisp, clear, page-turning best. Before you read further, let me acknowledge I'm incredibly biased here. Not only have I been a Stephen King fan ever since 1975's 'Salem's Lot, I live on a small island off the west coast of Florida, exactly where this story takes place. Great sunsets, a beach lined with huge rental homes, a populace of "the newly wed and the living dead".... they're all part and parcel to this story, and all around me as I sit here typing on my little porch.

Beyond the colorful setting, "Duma Key" combines the concepts of bodies gone bad and creativity gone wild -- typical King material -- with the everlasting powers of friendship and love. It's a great beach read, an outstanding character study, a terrific horror story and, eventually, an uplifting tale of moral redemption.

Obviously that's plenty of raw material, but King masters it all, with a writing style that's better than ever. As always his imagery is simply stated yet memorably vivid -- waves, for example, crash on the beach with the sound of "the breath of some large sleeping creature" -- and even the most basic sentences and paragraphs have a perfect mix of energy, grace and wit. This time, however, King really takes his time, with a slow pace that allows for plenty of character development and story detail. Lead character Edgar Freemantle is a bit edgier than the standard King protagonist (he loses his arm in a freak accident, and has trouble controlling his rage) and I was especially riveted by the portrayal of the old woman Elizabeth Eastlake, a lifelong islander with Alzheimer's disease. Some of the best moments occur when nothing much is happening, such as when Edgar argues with his wife or the many times he struggles with his sanity.

Eventually, of course, the plot takes off with a vengeance, and soon the pace winds so tight that by the time terror knocks at the door, you just know it's coming in.

I don't know if I've ever pored through so many pages so fast.

My other favorite Stephen King books are:
The Shining
The Stand
On Writing
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on January 24, 2008
Scary, long, fun, and more than just another Stephen King book. I've read Stephen King for years and I am always amazed at his story lines. His style made me feel as if I was 'in the story,' truly a treat. From Carrie to Duma Key it has been a good ride and I hope it continues for years to come.

In Duma Key, Edgar Freemantle had proven that the American dream works. As a building contractor in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, he made a lot of money and received plenty of acclaim. He and his beloved wife Pam were worth at least forty million by the time he turned 50. They had two children. The end of his "Golden Age" began when he experienced a basic law of physics that being a pickup truck has no chance against a twelve-story crane.

Edgar came out of that crash with a cracked skull, and a fractured left side with broken ribs, a broken right hip and loss vision and his right arm was lost. He was fortunate to have survived. Twenty-five years of marriage ended when a constantly raging Edgar became verbally abusive to Pam who visited everyday as he recuperated. Edgar also suddenly displayed a talent as an artist.

Needing to leave behind people, he flees to Duma Key, Florida where only two other trauma survivors reside. Edgar finds out his new artistic skills enables him to see and change the future life and death of others even as he investigates the tragic history of his new island home.

Readers will sense the rage inside Edgar even as he calmly tells his tale. This is Stephen King at his best as he uses the theme of a person feeling isolated ready to strike out at others even loved ones.
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on January 22, 2008
This is one of the best books ever from one of the best American writers. Stephen King knows what scares us, and he's been proving it for thirty years, but this new novel adds a layer of humanity to the fantasy that makes it all the more surprising. Though the protagonist of DUMA KEY is ostensibly a divorced construction engineer with a latent talent for drawing, he is also clearly a stand-in for the author himself, making this arguably his most personal narrative.

I won't reveal the hypnotically readable plot--it must be experienced to be appreciated--but I will say that Edgar Freemantle's living nightmare plainly echoes events in Mr. King's recent history. A life-threatening accident, like an illness or the loss of a loved one, puts many things in perspective, and DUMA KEY sometimes seems like a personal statement, a portrait of the artist that is as thrilling as it is vivid. For all its entertaining terrors, it is ultimately a celebration of life itself. I urge you to read it. Highly, highly recommended.
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on January 24, 2008
"Duma Key" is King at the top of his form. For someone who's been one of the best in the business for over thirty years, it's difficult to imagine new territory to chart...but that's exactly what King does here in his first novel set in Florida. Make no mistake: This is a classic King novel with all of the supernatural bells-and-whistles. But there's an added emotional depth that will touch more readers than past King books, I think.

The first 100 pages are a moving feat even for King, who draws upon his own accident as well recalling the horrific events in Abigail Thomas's memoir A Three Dog Life. King has been flirting with critical acclaim to match his commercial success for years, and this may finally be the book that elevates his status to another level in literary circles. Don't call it a comeback, though, because we all know that he never really left his Constant Readers.

Edgar Freemantle, the narrator, is in an accident that leaves him without an arm and with a shifting memory. But the story doesn't stop there. I could summarize the plot, but that would take some of the mystery away. So here's what King has to say about the basis of the novel: "[Edgar] discovers that, after this injury, that he is really a very talented painter and he moves to Florida and he starts to paint these pictures and then strange things start to happen with the pictures... And there is something going on, on this island, this Duma Key that is actually amping that talent up and making it stronger because there is something wrong there." (Lilja's Library interview, 01/17/07.)
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VINE VOICEon January 22, 2008
I don't know about you, but ever since I heard that Stephen King was retiring from the writing game, I receive each new novel with both a since of joy and a sense of woe. Will this be the last? If it is, then King will be going out on a high note. Duma Key is pure Stephen King magic through and through.

King allows the story in Duma Key to develop slowly. Some will say the story drags or that King is too wordy. Not so. King uses the slow pace to develop the sense of atmosphere that readers have come to expect. Vivid writing, with wonderful descriptive sentences, and deep, three dimensional characters, Duma Key will hold your attention.

Edgar Freemantle is not really your typical King character. He is sympatheic but with an edge. Injured in a very freaky (are there any other kinds in any book written by Stephen King?) accident at a construction site he finds that life has changed for him; really changed. Severly disabled, his wife eventually deserts him and he retires to Duma Key. The story winds on and the script gets tighter and tighter. I will tell you that as the story winds on you'll see a number of plot surprises. Typical Stephen King.

Finally, is Duma Key just a little autobiographical? I don't know and Stephen King is the only one that can answer that. Going through the pain of his near fatal accident I am sure has given him material to draw on. I suspect that his experiences as a result of his accident had made Duma Key a richer novel.

Duma Key is a long read but it passes quickly. Give it a try.

Peace to all
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on January 26, 2008
Duma Key, simply put, is awesome. It's right up there with 'Bag Of Bones' for me. Definitely one of his best novels yet, even counting the old ones, where he was consistently good, and surpassing almost everything more recent. This was leagues better than, say, 'Lisey's Story' or 'Cell.' It's haunting, funny, heart-wrenching. Read it.
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on January 22, 2008
A long time ago, trying to read "bestsellers" (what a snob I was), I bought every paperback that looked halfway interesting off a local bookrack. One of those books was a Stephen King. I can't recall the rest of them (and for good and lasting reasons; for one thing, this is my life and I only have so much of it), but from about page two I became a Stephen King fan and I remain a Stephen King fan...even through his lesser efforts when I felt the old boy really ought to rest on his laurels. But here he is again with all powers intact. And what powers! He is a phenomenon. If we were all back in those caves we once called home, he'd have been the shaman who sat each night after we'd thrown all our gnawed bones over our shoulders, taking us wide-eyed, barely breathing, into story. King is that shaman. The invention never seems to fail him, nor does his ability to gather us up into nets of words so that we're helplessly caught until he finally lets us go. Who else can do this, time after time after time? Dickens in his day. Dickens is gone. King is still here. He's really here. And I thank the stars for that.
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on January 24, 2008
Edited review: I still think Duma Key is a good read, but after thinking about the story, I have to agree that some of the characters' actions don't make much sense. This is true of a lot of horror fiction though (and movies) -- if the guy never goes down to the basement, there's no story.

The book is satisfying, if you don't look too close.
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Duma Key is loaded with shivery delights that appear unexpectedly on the page before you.

As in all of his best works, in Duma Key, King builds characters and setting slowly, allowing the reader to fully enter the minds of his characters, to feel the atmosphere of the places they inhabit, and to lose themselves fully in the dream of the story.

And this is one long, satisfying dream of a story. You won't want it to end, even though you'll be anxious to learn the fate of the characters you've come to care about.

Edgar Freemantle (the main character) for example: He "used to be a big deal", but life has knocked him down--hard. And you just want to see him get up again, and STAY up. Will he make it? Seems he will, but there are...forces...that may just keep him from ever finding normalcy again.

I really don't want to include spoilers of any kind in this review, so I'll just say READ THIS ONE!

It's vintage King, yet loaded with shivery surprises.
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on May 14, 2008
Up until about 5 years ago, I read everything that Stephen King wrote. I was a fanatic about his early work. However, it seems that about ten years ago, King went beyond horror and beyond supernatural and into the realm of just plain silly. This work is almost a microcosm of this transformation.

In works like The Shining, Misery, Dolores Claiborne, Gerald's Game and Cujo, King demonstrated an ability to be absolutely horrifying without resort to actual corporeal monsters, aliens or supernatural beings. Some of his short stories, such as The Long Walk (written as Richard Bachman) were magnificent looks into human psyche. Even books such as Carrie, Salem's Lot and his masterpiece The Stand included supernatural features without "jumping the shark".

It is my observation, however, that virtually all of his most recent work has devolved into the realm of just plain silly. The Gunslinger serial is a perfect example.

The first half of this novel is vintage, old school King. Entering the mind and life of a successful building contractor whose life has been turned upside down by a tragic workplace injury. The writing is outstanding. The story moves along well and the suspense builds. About two-thirds of the way through the book, we go from minor instances of supernatural occurence to the now standard, present day King formula of absurd, corporeal beings that can only be termed as laughable. "Big boy, frog beings with TEEFES". Please.

If you like the Gunslinger series, or some of King's most recent work, this will be right up your alley. If you prefer the earlier King, you will be pleasantly surprised by the first two-thirds of the book, only to be dumped into "Gunslinger" mode for the last 150 pages. King is one of the few writers that doesn't need monsters to be absolutely horrifying. Someone needs to tell him that.
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