I came across Doctor Sleep in the library a few weeks back and got a chance to sit and read it while not feeling so well this past week. I’m a big Stephen King fan and had been pretty excited about this release since it is the long lost continuation from The Shining on what happened to Danny once his mother and he left the hotel.
First of all, The Shining was going to be hard to really live up to, especially since it’s been over 30 years. The Shining was at the peek of what I consider King’s best period for writing; even the original movie is considered one of the best films of all time. Who can forget Jack Nicholson’s horrifying insane portrayal of Jack Torrance?
Needless to say, there were some extremely high expectations for Doctor Sleep long before King ever laid words on paper. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the novel, but I suppose I also had some expectations that it would scare the crap out of me.
Sad to say, it did not.
Not that it’s a bad novel, it’s just in no way The Shining. There’s nothing really terribly frightening about it as there are in his other works and I’ll explain why.
In mostly all of Stephen King’s stories there is this feeling that whatever is happening, no matter how absurd, could happen to you. Even his novel before this, The Dome, played with the minds of everyday people just like us giving the impression that at any moment it could happen. Unfortunately, the bad guys in Doctor Sleep only want a certain type of person who happens to be the made up type person he’d created and not the everyday people like you or I. So that level of fear that gets under your skin when you think, “What if that happened to my child?” doesn’t make it quite there because it couldn’t happen to your child.
I know a lot of people said it’s like an ongoing AA meeting and in a lot of ways it is. Along with not being really terrifying, it also limits itself to an older crowd of people. Those who can understand addiction, what an AA meeting is and the irony of the bad guys being the annoying RV people. Younger crowds, I assume, aren’t going to get it as well which is sad since teens like my son really get into horror these days.
Here’s the synopsis.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. – Stephen King
It’s not to say I don’t like Doctor Sleep, it just really isn’t all that scary. The characters are fleshed out really well, the story and dialog was great, it just doesn’t get under your skin like most Stephen King books. You can tell it is more of an update/end of story for Dan Torrance, especially at the end, rather than a story that leaves you not wanting to go to bed at night. So I recommend reading it, but I would temper those expectations that it is going to be the 2nd Shining.
The real demon in the book is tied to long-term alcoholism and violence, so if you don’t feel like reading a lot about it and attending a mental AA meeting for 90% of the book, you may not get into it, but if you can grasp how that despair can dangerously effect the brain then you’ll like this story. Regardless of either, you’ll love the new character Abra Stone who stands out on her own. Who knows, maybe King will eventually toss her into her own story; hopefully one that is actually scary.