My first King novel, and still my favorite. Is it better than The Regulators? (review)

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Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2016
Outside NYC
When I was 13 I visited with my older brother (MUCH older brother, he's 16 years older than me). He has always been a huge King fan along with his wife, so they have a pretty decent-sized library full of King books. At the airport I grabbed a book to read on the plane that looked fascinating, but I didn't really LOOK at it. Once the plane had taken off I realized I grabbed Wolves of the Calla, the FIFTH book in the Dark Tower series. Naturally I put it aside, I'm not going to start a series in with book five.

His wife—on the other hand—was in love with The Dark Tower series and hadn't yet purchased the fifth book. In fair exchange I let her have the fifth book and she let me take my pick of a huge stack of King books. I grabbed Desperation out of the pile because of the bear on the cover. I thought it looked disturbing, and I wanted to read a book that would scare me. When my sister-in-law came back in she laughed and remarked "That one kept your brother up for weeks." Thanks for the foreshadowing I suppose? Lol.

I finished the novel in a week, and have re-read it since multiple times. I even enjoyed the made-for-TV special they did even if it wasn't all that fantastic. I strongly feel that Desperation is one of King's scariest novels and it's extremely difficult to explain why. In a lot of ways people view The Regulators as the scarier novel of the two, because Tak possesses a small child. However, I feel like The Regulators didn't bring the same slow, steady unease that crawled through me as I read Desperation. I love both books, and I love the new perspectives each bring.

Desperation is still the clear-cut winner.

Perhaps it's the imagery, the tone it sets, and the fact that Tak possesses a law enforcement officer out in the middle of nowhere. Someone you'd need to rely on in times of trouble... yet hidden inside is a living nightmare. Each of the characters are flawed, and I won't lie, I HATE David Carver. I find him obnoxious. But as much as I hated David Carver, I found myself loving Mary, Steve Ames, and Marinville all the more. Especially Marinville, I feel King writing bits and pieces of himself into that role, which makes Marinville truly shine.

The ending was also fantastic. It wrapped things together, it felt satisfying. From start to finish I felt this unease and even at the end there's still that question up in the air if Tak, or creatures like him, will ever truly be gone? My first King novel, and forever my favorite (tied with The Long Walk).
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Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2016
Outside NYC
I mean my love for Desperation is biased in that it was my first King novel, and just like a first love you never forget the first novel that introduced you to your favorite author. I also think Desperation has the benefit of being a bit longer, and also because both novels are evil "twins" of one another, both published the same day, same year, you can imagine how fleshed out as a whole in King's mind. He didn't just outline the story for one novel but TWO novels. That is extremely impressive. I think now that I've read both The Regulators SHOULD be read first, as I feel of the two books it is "first", then followed with Desperation. I've always had this feeling reading Regulators AFTER Desperation that I had somehow read them backwards, which is maybe why I enjoyed Regulators less. Who knows?
Mar 8, 2012
I am a big Regulators fan; it's one of my favorites. Not so much Desperation. In the end, we love SK's books for the buttons they push within us individually. That is one reason I do not like watching movie adaptations of his horror-genre books. I can imagine in my head much scarier things from his descriptions than "Hollywood" could ever put on film.


Well-Known Member
Dec 5, 2011
King spent the first few years of the '90s writing excellent (IMO) novels dealing with social issues -- spousal abuse, child abuse, rape, the abortion debate, et cetera. I've always thought Desperation was King's way of trying to appease readers who maybe fell off the wagon with books like Insomnia and Rose Madder, and in my view it's just not as good as those earlier books. It's a fine read, but I don't love it. The first half is good enough, but the second half is a little too much of a come to Jesus rally for my tastes.

It's my sister's favorite SK novel, so there's that.


Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2016
Outside NYC
Yeah, we discussed it before how that whichever one you read first tends to be the favorite.
I wouldn't say it is my top favorite, it's almost a near-even tie with his Bachman book "The Long Walk", but if I had to pick a singular all-time favorite King book it would be The Long Walk. And I read his Bachman books much farther after I powered through his core novels.


Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2016
Outside NYC
#11's been so long now, I can't recall which one my mush-brain took in first, but after multiple re-reads over the intervening years, I still vote for Desperation...I think it's a more well-drawn version of the characters, yes-it's a bit preachy, but I just can't make myself admire Regulators as much...
I've found there is a lot of preachy bits in King novels, both out of humor/irony, and out of genuine interest in the subject. I think I disliked Desperation's preachiness because it came out of the mouth of David Carver, a character I just couldn't bring myself to like very much even after the story of his friend and the bike. I understood the WHY of his choices, but I still didn't like the dialogue I suppose.


Well-Known Member
Aug 2, 2006
Atlanta GA
I discovered Desperation at a time when I needed exactly what it offered. It shocked me out of myself a bit and the nerves were never given rest. I consider it my personal favorite sK novel and that's saying something considering how I feel about Misery and Bag of Bones. Regulators was nothing at all like I expected - granted I was still very new to sK, not used to how fundamentally different one story is subsequent to the last - and I think I might've liked it better had I read it before Desperation, maybe way before. I missed TAK and the other characters as I'd known them in Desperation, though I did find the story ultimately strange.


very avid fan
Aug 7, 2009
dublin ireland
#17's been so long now, I can't recall which one my mush-brain took in first, but after multiple re-reads over the intervening years, I still vote for Desperation...I think it's a more well-drawn version of the characters, yes-it's a bit preachy, but I just can't make myself admire Regulators as much...
I prefer Desperation because I see it as a road trip gone really, really wrong. I jusy couldn't get into the whole carttony thing in Regulators. Go figure.


Speed Reader
Sep 3, 2016
You and me, then.
Add me to that. I thought the whole concept of side by side novels telling basically the same story but in totally different ways, with the same named characters (but totally different for most of them, like a funhouse mirror), was fascinating and rather well done. I think the only characters that ended up basically the same were steve and cynthia, albeit with different circumstances behind their appearances. I loved both, although desperation edges out because i'm a sucker for king's citywide disasters that no one can escape

Brian's Twinner

Jun 15, 2008
Just finished Desperation yesterday. I really liked it, but it could have used some editing. My paperback version put this at 693 pages. The backstory toward the end could have been trimmed or omitted IMO, and the plot wouldn't have lost any of its steam. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars IMO.

I'm now reading The Regulators. The pacing is much more intense, although the character development isn't (at this point anyway). IMO, D is more character-driven; TR, plot-driven.
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