Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):   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 spunky twelve-year-old 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. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

And here's what I thought:   I finished this book, choked up a little, and said, out loud to myself, Good Book.  Good Book!

If you weren't already aware, this book is the sequel to The Shining --- and while you don't need to have read the book (or seen the movie) to enjoy this book, it doesn't hurt to have some of that background knowledge.   At the end of the book, in the author's note, King says, "I enjoyed finding Danny Torrance again and following his adventures.  I hope you did, too.  If that's the case, Constant Reader, we're all good."     I have not read The Shining in several years, but that didn't stop me from remembering parts of it, and having enough to link things together in this book.

This book, like Joyland, reminded me of what I really enjoy about some of Stephen King's books: the great storytelling.   I find I get swept up in the characters, and the story, and the steadily increasing pace, and then time just slips away as I turn the pages.   I appreciate that King doesn't rely on blood and guts to relay the sense of horror.  I delight in how he conveys the sinister things that we may see just out of the corner of our eye, the shadowy bits just slipping around a corner, and the sense we have about some people that something's just not right.   I enjoy his characters, especially young women like Abra in this story, who are smart.    I like that the characters are often pretty realistic people (even if they might have some extra special qualities) and are fallible, and that their faults can threaten to undo them completely.   I appreciate the supporting characters, who often have more to them than meets the eye.   I'm always pleased that there are little bits of humor to periodically lessen the tension.

I also like that King gives me no guarantees.  There is no guarantee that all of the good characters will make it through the book unscathed, or even alive.   There is no guarantee that once they discover the bad person or people, that they will triumph in their first meeting.   I can't necessarily predict what's going to happen, and it keeps me invested, and turning the pages.

If you don't think you like Stephen King, try this book.   Well, maybe try Joyland first.  This book benefits from a read-through of The Shining (and don't think you can get by just on the movie alone .... while the movie is pretty good, it's nowhere near as good as the book).  I think anyone who thinks "Stephen King = horror" should perhaps try my spin on him: Stephen King = one helluva storyteller.

First lines:  On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado's great resort hotels burned to the ground.  The Overlook was declared a total loss.  After an investigation, the fire marshal of Jicarilla County ruled the cause had been a defective boiler.  The hotel was closed for the winter when the accident occurred, and only four people were present.  Three survived.  The hotel's off-season caretaker, John Torrance, was killed during an unsuccessful (and heroic) effort to dump the boiler's steam pressure, which had mounted to disastrously high levels due to an inoperative relief valve.

Note: this book goes towards fulfilling my goal for the Chunkster Reading Challenge -- at 528 pages.


Shirley said...

Your review has impressed me and made me think that perhaps I should read Stephen King again. Over the years I have developed an intolerance for horror in movies and books but maybe I can change that. I once loved his books.

Annette Mills said...

I can't even remember if I've actually read the Shining, although I've read almost all of his early books. They just kept getting longer and longer, and I haven't read some recent ones. I did enjoy 11/22/63 very much, though. I'm going to have to put this one on my "someday" list. Great review.

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