Author: Stephen King
Pages: 496 pages
Year of release: 2011
Dan Torrence, the little boy from the original Shining novel, is now an adult and struggling to come to terms with his life as the horrors of the Overlook hotel and the shadow of his alcoholic father loom over him. Dan must learn to battle his own demons in order to save Abra, a young girl gifted with the most powerful shining Dan has ever encountered. Unfortunately her gift has caught the attention of the True Knot, a large group of vampires who torture and murder children in order to feed off their shining. They are coming for Abra and Dan Torrence is her only hope for survival.
The original Shining is consistently voted one of the scariest novels ever written and is largely responsible for Stephen King’s reputation as one of the finest and most popular horror novelists of his generation. I read the Shining some years ago and it did have some hair raising moments. It certainly made me a life long Stephen King fan. So when it was announced that King was writing a sequel to one of his greatest novels there was a lot of expectation from myself and his fans.
Unfortunately this book failed to deliver the scares the original book provided.
My biggest mistake going into this was that I was expecting another horror novel by King. Sure it referenced events from the original Shining such as the ghost lady from the hotel and characters such as Wendy and Dick Hallorann. Overall though the scares were just not there. It doesn’t help that the book was advertised by King as a “return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on scary horror”. Doctor Sleep, as a novel, works best if you consider the story as more of a thriller than a horror story. Once you realise this, I think you will enjoy the novel a lot more.
The story begins shortly after the Overlook Hotel explosion as we follow Dan from childhood to adulthood. Unfortunately for Dan, he never embraced his shining ability so he turned to alcohol to try and repress it. Alcohol was the same demon that took hold of his father so it was interesting seeing the son battle with the same addiction. Although I made the case earlier that this book was not a horror book, it did have some “horrifying” moments for lack of a better word. This is evidenced early on as we witness Dan succumb to his addiction and literally hit rock bottom. Some of the things Dan does while either drunk or hungover the following morning makes for uncomfortable reading. In fact, I would make the argument that the strongest portion of the book is the beginning as we see Dan cope with his addiction, guilt and eventual rehabilitation. We also get the introduction of Abra, a young girl with the strongest shining ever seen. Doctor Sleep is as much Abra Stone’s story as it is Dan Torrence’s story. We quickly begin to cherish Abra and her family as they struggle to cope with her abilities.
As a writer, one of King’s strongest attributes is his characterisation. King takes the time to develop and provide an insight into each character in the book. He does an excellent job developing Dan and Abra’s relationship. King does such a good job that we begin to worry for the characters as the imminent danger soon approaches. Unfortunately the weakest portion of the book is the “danger” itself which comes in the form of the True Knot, a cable of vampires that prey on children who have the shining ability. The problem with the True Knot is that they are not particularly terrifying as the main villains of the book. The members of the True Knot are either uninteresting, extremely annoying or both. In fact, any time they appear in the book you find yourself hoping that their story would end so we can get back to Dan, Abra and the gang. This is a major problem for the book as the main story relies heavily on the True Knot. While reading the book, in particular the latter half of the story featuring the final showdown, I could get the sense that even King was beginning to lose interest in the villains as they were poorly developed as characters and eventually dispatched with ease. In fact, most of the dispatching isn’t done by either Dan or Abra but rather by
- [+] spoiler
- measles as, one-by-one, members of the True Knot quickly succumb to the disease
The story had its ups and downs but overall it was an enjoyable read. It was great to revisit Dan Torrence and hopefully we get to see more of Abra Stone in a future novel. Overall, Doctor Sleep will go down as just another Stephen King novel rather than one of his masterpieces.