In Desperation, the Carver family of Wentworth, Ohio — father Ralph, mother Ellen, son David and daughter Pie — encounter an evil spirit named Tak while crossing the Nevada desert.
In The Regulators, the Carver family — Father David, mother Pie, son Ralphie, and daughter Ellen — are going about their daily routine in suburban Wentworth, Ohio, when their simple existence is turned into a surreal child’s nightmare by (you guessed it) the evil spirit, Tak.
King doesn’t really tell us what Tak is. Evidently, it’s an ancient Lovecraftian spirit trapped beneath the earth’s surface, waiting to be set free. Why? Again, King doesn’t really provide a solid motivation for Tak in Desperation.
Things aren’t much different in The Regulators, though Tak does reveal a few of his favorite earthly pleasures: watching TV, drinking chocolate milk, and feeding off the pain and suffering of humans.
The villainy that is Tak has more holes than Swiss cheese, but Tak isn’t what carries these stories along. That responsibly falls on the shoulders of King’s compelling characters. Allowing the family members to assume different roles over the course of two novels adds a depth to their characters that no single book could illuminate alone.
One of the more interesting characters is Johnny Marinville, the character most closely identified with the author himself. Marinville is a “literary lion” in both books, and in Desperation, Marinville is making a cross-country trek by motorcycle, much like King himself did on a promotional tour for 1993’s Insomnia.
Desperation is the weightier of the two books, and not just because it’s 300 pages longer. King tries to tackle some larger-than-usual themes in this book, like God’s propensity for “cruel refinement.”
The Regulators is faster-paced and plot driven, leaner and meaner than Desperation. King doesn’t tackle any major issues here, just tells a whirlwind story. Maybe writing under the Bachman pseudonym allows King a certain “non-artistic” freedom. The Regulators is packed with lots of delightfully fun blood, guts, and gunplay.