First edition cover
|Genre||Horror, Fantasy novel|
|September 15, 1994|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Insomnia is a novel written by Stephen King and first published in 1994. Like It and Dreamcatcher, its setting is the fictional town of Derry, Maine. The original hardcover edition was issued with dust jackets in two complementary designs. The first is pictured on the right; the second has the white and red colors reversed.
The story is set in Stephen King's multiverse in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. Ralph Roberts, a retired widower, encounters his good-natured acquaintance Ed Deepneau at a local airfield, behaving aggressively and swearing obscenely at a driver he accuses of involvement in transporting fetal tissue from abortions; shortly after Ralph also meets Ed's wife Helen who has been assaulted by her husband when she signed a pro-life related petition. In the months after these events, Helen leaves Ed and hides at a women's shelter while Ralph begins to suffer from sleep maintenance insomnia, waking earlier each night until he is barely able to sleep an hour each night. As his insomnia develops, Ralph begins to see things that are invisible and intangible to others: colorful manifestations of life-force surrounding people (auras), and diminutive white-coated beings he calls "little bald doctors", based on their appearance, and gradually comes to believe these are genuinely present on a different level of reality. He realizes that Ed Deepneau had also been seeing these things; a friend, Louise Chasse, also teams up with Ralph after admitting she too has recently begun seeing auras which she can interpret.
Ralph and Louise encounter two "bald doctors" who act with dignity and free people from life when it is "their time", and one bald doctor, Atropos, who is a crazed rogue. They learn that life as they know it is governed by "The Purpose" and "The Random", forces or entities which are not enemies so much as opposites, and that Ed Deepneau is one of the very rare beings who is not assigned to either of these and can therefore change existence. They are told that some kind of higher entity identified as the "Crimson King" has made a move, through Atropos, to manipulate Deepneau, in some manner that will upset the entire order of the universe. Their insomnia has been induced by the two little bald doctors, who are agents of The Purpose, to help them gain access to this level of perception, so that they can defeat Atropos. They are shown the civic center where a well-known pro-life speaker is due to talk; the building is shrouded by a black aura, signifying that in some sense the future is set already, and the center will already be destroyed by Ed. The latter's sentiments concerning abortion have been played upon by the Crimson King to the point that Ed has become fanatical and close to insane. He intends to undertake a kamikaze attack, flying a small plane of C-4 explosives into the center during the talk. They feel resentful at being manipulated but also realize they must do what they can to prevent the attack.
Ralph seeks Atropos and overcomes him, extracting a promise to stay out of their business, the doctors all being bound by their word. However when released, Atropos has his revenge by showing Ralph a glimpse of a car impact in the near future in which he takes the life of Natalie Deepneau, Helen's young daughter, in retaliation. Shortly afterwards, allies of Ed Deepneau attack and destroy the shelter where Helen Deepneau is staying. Ralph and Louise save the residents. Time running very short, Ralph tells the other bald doctors that he will not stop Ed Deepneau, whatever the consequences for the multiverse, unless they allow him to save Natalie Deepneau by giving his life for her when the time comes. They are unable to decide, and a higher level entity in which they are in awe, manifests briefly, stating that this will be allowed. He and Louise finally learn that "almost all of reality has stopped to watch the events unfolding" as they affect all of reality, and that the target of the Crimson King's attack is not the speaker at the meeting, as they had imagined, but a young boy who had been in the shelter and will be in the audience at the talk; the boy is the focus of a prophecy concerning the salvation of The Dark Tower and will perform an action later in his life that is essential to preserve the multiverse.
Ralph fights both Ed Deepneau on his plane, and also the Crimson King who manifests to prevent him from interrupting Ed's mission, and succeeds in causing the plane to crash some distance from the center as Ralph leaves the level on which the plane is crashing, and survives. He and Louise fall in love and become married, and gradually forget the matters which brought them together. In an epilogue some years later, Ralph (but not Louise this time) again starts to wake up early and see auras, and eventually remembers his promise to exchange his life for Natalie's. Understanding that the time has come, he walks to the shops in time to see the car shown to him by Atropos arrive and veer towards Natalie. Ralph pushes Natalie to safety, losing his own life in the process, but dies peacefully with Louise and the two bald doctors who are agents of the Purpose at his side.