Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Roadwork by Stephen King

by Stephen King

The year is 1973, and 1974 is rapidly approaching, but that's not what is bothering laundry manager Barton George Dawes. What's bother him is the rapidly approaching deadline for both his business and his family to be relocated. Thanks to an 'imminent domain' claim, they're all being forced to leave in order to make room for a new highway. Most everything and everyone else has already cleared out, but Dawes has been dragging his feet, much to everyone's dismay.

He already lost his son years ago, and now he's about to lose his home. His procrastination and circles of lies next cause him to lose his job, and then his wife. So he's a man with nothing but memories of things that he no longer has; a man with nothing to lose; a man on the edge. And that makes him a very dangerous man.

Dawes plots his own little rebellion against the status quo, which slowly steamrolls into a war against the establishment. And I mean, slowly. But no matter what synopses of this book may want you to think, this book isn't about that. It's about one man's inevitable and gentle descent into madness.

Richard Bachman and Stephen King are often discussed together--they are, after all, the same person. But Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut? Not so much. And yet I couldn't help but feel that this story was written by an eager, fledgling author who had Breakfast of Champions and thought to himself, 'This would be much better if they took away all the humor', and so he decided to do it himself. There are a few other Vonnegut tropes that pop up along the way as well, and the author even merits a mention early on.

But Vonnegut without humor is, as you would expect, not quite a good thing. This being 'early' King, it's denser and darker and more realistic than much of his later output, but even believability doesn't necessarily translate into entertaining. Of all the Bachman books, this one was the most difficult for me to wade through, as it was practically all build-up with an apex that seemed it would never arrive. And by the time it finally did arrive, I found myself no longer caring, and just wanting to be somewhere else.

Like Castle Rock...



  1. I tried reading this in high school, when I was devouring the other Bachman books, but this one seemed overly grim and, yes, adult. Still, gotta love that old-school cover!

  2. I read this one a few years ago. King is great at developing characters, and I thought he did a great job with Dawes and his slow progression into madness. It's nice to read a non-supernatural King story once in a while.


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