Some of King’s best works are the novels and stories that combine the terrifying with heart-wrenching drama. The Dead Zone, the captivating novel that inspired not only the Cronenberg film, but also spawned a hit USA network television series, is one such work.
The Dead Zone is the tale of Johnny Smith, who, under normal circumstances, would be a truly forgettable human being. Johnny has, after all, what many would consider the “standards” of life. A position as a teacher at a local public school. A girlfriend that he loves, but has only simply kissed and nothing more. And, of course, a loving mother.
However, as fate plays the part of the true villain in this story, Johnny’s life is suddenly sent into chaos after he is sent into a coma as the result of a near-fatal car accident. Johnny remains comatose for five years only to wake up to find his world completely turned upside down.
His girlfriend, Susan, is now married with a child. His mother has joined the ranks of the fundamentally religious and, best of all, the accident has left him with a “dead zone” within his brain. This zone causes Johnny to experience blinding headaches as well as giving Johnny what will become his own personal albatross: the ability to see the future.
As Johnny realizes the true weight of his newfound gift, he begins to hate what the accident bestowed upon him even as it would cause others to see in him some sort of a hero. While he resists the power to use it, he also realizes, or at least feels, some responsibility to the world around him as he attempts to save others while using his gift.
However, it’s when he meets Greg Stillson, a local politician, and shakes his hand that he sees evil inside the man before him and takes it upon himself to change the course of the future. Intent on killing Stillson as the “dead zone” within his head transforms into a brain tumor, Johnny speeds along the course that fate put before him on the night of his fatal crash.
The Dead Zone, like The Stand and The Shining, is one of King’s most dramatic and fully realized works to date. Taking cues from classic Greek tragedy and modern day superheroes, Johnny Smith becomes the everyman who suddenly feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Readers will, no doubt, both sympathize and pity Johnny as he takes the final steps toward his destiny.
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