I have mixed feelings for Mr. King. The first adult book I ever read was TOMMYKNOCKERS, and like a lot of people, I thought he was the bomb when I first came across him. But, eventually, and I am guessing you may just sense a bit of a negative tone here, but eventually I noticed certain patterns to his work, and from there started to notice certain failings of his. Most of the time, I find reading a King novel is an investment of a great deal of time and mental energy, which isn’t always a bad thing, but certainly isn’t always a good thing either. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of his work, but I also grow tired of the multitude of characters, side stories that lead nowhere, and a basic form of narration-procrastination. I don’t hate the guy, but have found myself a little reluctant to read his stuff, particularly recently.
How utterly wonderful for me, then, that I decided to read DOCTOR SLEEP. For those of you who don’t know, this is the sequel to The Shining, which was the main reason I decided to read it. (And here is one of those embarrassing confessions I occasionally feel the need to make: I haven’t read THE SHINING yet, but like anyone else who calls themselves a fan of horror movies, I have watched it many, many times (both versions actually)).
Doctor Sleep begins where THE SHINING departed, with the child psychic Danny Torrence, his mother Wendy and the beloved head chef of the Overlook Hotel, Dick Halloran, having survived the horrific last night of the hotel’s life, which culminated in the whole place exploding care of an ancient boiler left unchecked. King gives us brief snapshots of Danny through key moments of both his physical and psychic development. Danny, now the adult Dan, grew up to be a lot like his father – an alcoholic with anger issues and problems holding down a job. That is, until one day, he meets the right person at the right time, who introduces Danny to AA. This day also happens to coincide with the birth of another powerful child with the shining, a girl named Abra, who reaches out to Dan from the cradle with her powers.
As his sobriety grows, so does his psychic abilities, with Dan becoming known as Doctor Sleep at the hospice he works at for his ability to help the dying pass on in comfort, and thus the title of the novel. However, though Dan’s life seems to be going well, he can’t escape his past.
Sounds kind of standard so far, yes? What you would expect, no?
Cue strange psychic parasite RV people who eat children.
Well, they eat their powers anyway. Yep, a group called The True Knot, long living psychic vampires, have been roaming the world for yonks stealing kids with the shining, which they call steam, to torture and the kill in order to feed off their releasing powers. They have delightful names, such as Rose the Hat, Daddy Crow and Barry the Chink. One night, while the knot are happily torturing a victim, the young Abra Stone accidently manages to do some sort of astral projection, and sees the Knot at work. Unfortunately, the knot then becomes aware of her, and the extent of her power. Abra and Dan must join together to fight these parasites, and to do so means delving into areas of Dan’s past he would prefer to ignore, and returning to the place that was once the Overlook Hotel.
This book was excellent. There was none of the usual side plotting and meandering really, and it felt like all action. I certainly found it hard to put it down in order to do those bothersome chores like sleeping and eating. As always, the novel features a writer, but this time she is merely an important side figure instead of the actual pro/antagonist. And it is kind of creepy, really. But mostly, it’s nice to know what happens to Dan, even if it doesn’t start off so nice to begin with. Like many others, apparently, I always wondered what happened to that little kid who was almost killed by his dad. And now I know!
You do have to put up with a lot of AA praise, but it’s not so bad really, and most of the god aspect is left out. King has managed to write a convincing portrayal of a man who both loves and hates his father despite is abusive past. It’s well written, as you’d expect, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is already planning on turning it into a movie. If you prefer psychological horror over gore, this is a good one for you.
His eyes found Barry. ‘You said you were one of the good guys! I heard you! You said so!’
‘Sorry , pal’. Barry didn’t look sorry. What he looked was hungry.
‘It’s not personal’
Brad shifted his eyes back to Rose. ‘Are you going to hurt me? Please don’t hurt me’.
Of course they were going to hurt him. It was regrettable, but pain purified steam, and the True had to eat. Lobsters also felt pain when they were dropped into pots of boiling water, but that didn’t stop the rubes from doing it. Food was food, and survival was survival.
Rose put her hands behind her back. Into one of these, Greedy G placed a knife. It was short but very sharp. Rose smiled down at the boy and said, ‘As little as possible’.
The boy lasted a long time. He screamed until his vocal cords ruptured and his cries became husky barks. At one point, Rose paused and looked around. Her hands, long and strong, wore bloody red gloves.
Author: Stephen King
Story: 8 out of 10 stars
Horror Elements: 7 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Sian