Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Book Review: Doctor Sleep
Author: Stephen King
Source: Personal Collection
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.
I tiptoed up to this book cautiously, for two reasons. The first is, The Shining is so spectacularly amazing, how can there possibly be a sequel that compares to it, and the second more obvious reason, is that it will probably scare my socks off. I don't know how I ever doubted the master of horror's abilities, but he definitely delivered in this book - there is no reason to fear this sequel. And I was right - this book certainly instilled fear and inspired nightmares. But of course, isn't that the reason you would reason a King book? For me, yes, yes it is, but it is still smart to proceed with caution, right? When you get a tattoo you know it is going to hurt, but you still want it.
While reading this book, I was reminded almost immediately of the thing that terrified me the most in The Shining - the woman in room 217, Mrs. Massey. When I read The Shining, she made me afraid to go into the bathroom, or pull back the shower curtain; in Doctor Sleep, we are reminded of her by a young Danny Torrance, and again, she made me a little afraid of bathrooms, especially if you have to get up in the middle of the night. I know this for a fact. Everyone I talked to had a different "scariest part" - my brother and his best friend were both freaked out by the "redrum" parts - and I feel badly about this, since I am positive I used to say it all the time to both of them, while moving my finger like in the movie. (Sorry guys) Others cited the moving topiaries, others the bartender. Whatever the flavor, we all agreed that The Shining was splendidly horrific. Doctor Sleep is a little different. It's not as in your face, except for a few places. It has its moments, but mostly you are just genuinely horrified by what could happen. At least this was the case for me.
We are reunited with Danny Torrance as an adult. Has he survived the terrors of that winter at the Overlook Hotel unscathed? Mmm not so much. And he is creating his own moments as an adult - one especially becomes the defining moment of his adulthood, the one thing he is trying to get past but can't get out of his head. He has some new ghosts now, blowing around in his mind.
The villains this time are not confined to a hotel and its grounds - they instead roam free over the country, in RV's, motor homes, Winnebago's, and campers. Honestly, I won't look at someone driving one the same way again. Or at least, I might think twice. They call themselves the True Knot, and they are some crazy scary freaks. Their leader, Rose the Hat, is smart and wily, and psychotic and selfish. Interesting note here - Rose the Hat and her crew have dumped their actual legal names, which they call their rube names, and go by nicknames. Like pirates or vikings. And Danny has an alter ego as well, just in a different way. I just thought it was interesting too since in Joyland, King also refers to people not in the game as rubes.
We also meet Abra Stone, a magical young girl who has the shining, like Danny - or Dan as he is called in this book. Her powers are huge, and are attractive to the True Knot, for their own awful reasons. I don't want to give much of anything away, there is just so much story in this book, all the characters have their own thread, until the moment they start to intertwine, and the plot picks up its pace, running through the pages, with reader following like a rabbit after a carrot. There are surprises, revelations, and an ending that will blow your mind.
I absolutely loved this book, and King remains one of my favorite authors of all time.