Are you familiar with the Stanley Kubrick movie The Shining? You know, the movie that made us all afraid of twins and empty hotels?
Are you familiar with Stephen King’s novel which Stanley based his movie off of? No? Well go read it, and try not to get too scared, because this week’s In My Opinion Review I’m talking about its sequel, Dr. Sleep by Stephen King.
Stephen King has gone on record stating that this novel is “a return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror.” Which makes anyone who’s a fan of Stephen King both excited and terrified. Stephen King is arguably one of the most prolific and talented writers out there. He’s prolific because he’s churned out an average of two books a year for like 30 years, not including his anthologies, and he’s talented simply because he can write all those novels and it doesn’t tire or stress him out in the slightest. This was a sequel almost 30 years in the making, and it’s worth it. The characters, as usual in King’s work, are grounded and realistic with unique quirks that make them strongly human, and the plot is as complicated as one can expect from a professional NY Times Best Seller.
PLOT: Assuming you’ve at least seen The Shining, the book picks up in the 1970s when little Danny Torrence is still a boy, recovering from the hellish ordeal he went through at the Overlook Hotel with his father, while he and his mom move down to Florida. After a brief look at young Danny, we jump forward to modern times with Dan following in the steps of his father as a stubborn, violent, alcoholic. His drinking has numbed his shining and he prefers it that way. Eventually, he realizes the booze is going to kill him if he doesn’t do something and starts going to AA. At the same time, a girl is born with shining so powerful she can communicate with people all over the globe with her mind. As the girl grows older, she and Dan form a bond over their shared power, but are noticed by a group of semi-immortals who feed off of children born with the shining. The novel takes turns telling the reader the story through the eyes of Dan and Abra, the two protagonists, but also through the antagonist’s, Rose the Hat. Through their eyes the reader is shown the horror of the ritual the True Knot must do in order to live forever. Dan and Abra team up to defend themselves against the immortal beings who want to feast on their souls. Heavy stuff, am I right?
CHARACTERS: Almost all of these characters were flawed in the greatest of ways; they never seemed fictional or fake to me. One thing King and many other authors have mentioned is that they like to write about “gray people”. While some people might see the world as black and white, bad and good, that’s not always the case, and the same can be said of people. People are not wholly good or wholly bad… usually. For the most part people are gray, they have good and bad qualities that come together to make them who they are. King masters this in Daniel Torrence. Dan has a secret, many secrets, all of which he’d rather no one knows about because they paint him in a bad light. Just like you and me. We all have skeletons in our closets and moments in our past that we’d like to erase. Too often readers meet characters in novels that are the good guy because they are “pure of heart”, and the bad guy is bad because he’s rotten to the core and wants to be bad. That’s not the real world. The good guy very often has bad things they’ve done, and many times the bad guy thinks they’re the good guy, just trying to get by. Dr. Sleep showcases this very well. Good guys with dark pasts, and bad guys with good intentions.
IMAGERY: This was the first Stephen King novel I read where he did not go overboard on the descriptions. I’ve read King novels(The Stand, cough cough) where he seems to lose himself in the descriptions and the reader is left with 2 pages that are nothing but imagery of dust coming off the ground. The reader can skip those pages, along with many more throughout the book, and still get everything they need from the story. But this book didn’t have a single sentence that was superfluous. The description was spot on. And most of the destinations and places visited within the novel are places that King frequently visits, so I’m not surprised he was able to describe them with clarity and accuracy. Also, King hired a researcher to make sure everything he wrote matched up in real life, like what highway runs through Vermont and where the rest stops are on I-75 in Georgia.
VERDICT: If you’ve never read a Stephen King novel in your life, don’t start with Dr. Sleep. If you’ve read King and like his style, pick up Dr. Sleep now. It’s some of his best horror to date, in my opinion. It’s straight to the point horror. And if you think it’s just my opinion, do some research. This book is an award winner, with the Bram Stoker award, Goodreads Best Horror Novel, and it was the top spot on NY Times Best Seller for both hard copy and ebook format for a few weeks. But I’ll let you in on a secret: I listened to the audio book and I HIGHLY recommend you do the same. It’s read by Will Patton who is not only a phenomenal actor, he’s pretty damn good at reading Stephen King novels. Check it out, you won’t regret it. That’s a promise. And when you’re done jump over to King’s site and show the book some love.