The Shining is one of the stories that stick with you – for a
really long time.
I’m talking about the book and the movie here – which are two
entirely different entities.
Stephen King has famously went on the record saying he hates
the movie adaptation of his source novel. I’m going to go on the record and I
say I love them both.
King has said he doesn’t find the movie scary. Even today,
decades after I first saw it, The Shining is one of the few films that still
manages to scare me.
The book is equally terrifying.
Like a lot of King’s work, The Shining leaves a lasting
impression on the reader.
That’s why King’s long anticipated follow-up to The Shining –
Doctor Sleep – was such a gutsy move by King.
The Shining is one of those (rare) books that has managed to
transcend time. If King didn’t deliver a good story with the follow-up, then he
risked tarnishing his original work.
Thankfully, for me at least, Doctor Sleep gripped me right
from the beginning and it didn’t let go until the final chapter.
Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrance – the son of Jack and
Wendy Torrance. As a quick review, Jack Torrance died in the Overlook hotel
when the boiler exploded (Doctor Sleep obviously follows the events of the
book, rather than the movie).
Doctor Sleep picks up after the events at the Overlook, with
a young Danny struggling with his
abilities. Dick Hallorann, the former chef at
the Overlook, comes to visit a young Danny to help him keep the creatures he
keeps seeing at bay.
The time spent on Danny’s childhood is brief – and yet
We are then reintroduced to Danny as an adult – but this is
not the Danny we expected (or maybe hoped is the better word) to find. His
mother Wendy has died. Hallorann has disappeared from his life. Despite the
frequent vows that he would not end up like his father, Danny is a falling down
After hitting rock bottom, Danny – now referred to as Dan –
sets up shop in New Hampshire when his long-forgotten invisible friend Tony
tells him to. It’s there that Dan not only finds the strength to quit drinking,
but the support system to make it stick.
There are three story threads going through Doctor Sleep
The first – and most important – is Dan and the life he has lead.
The second is a young girl named Abra. Abra also has the
shining, but she’s even stronger that Dan. While Dan and Abra don’t meet until
she’s in middle school – they are both aware of each other thanks to a shared
bond with Tony.
The final thread is the big bad of the novel: the True Knot.
I was a little leery of the True Knot people at first, until
I realized that they were just Stephen King’s commentary on RV people. The True
Knot are immortals (or at least very, very long lived individuals) that live
off of the magical steam provided by children with the shining.
All three stories eventually collide – as they must – in a
showdown of good vs. evil. Of course, the former denizens of the Overlook – and
Danny’s memories of the haunted winter at the inn – figure prominently into the
At its heart, Doctor Sleep is a novel about redemption and
living up to your potential. While Dan spends a number of years floundering, he
manages to find a happy balance in his life – where he uses the shining to help
people pass on.
I didn’t particularly find the book scary. To be fair,
though, I can’t remember the last King book I did find scary. His later work
has been a mixed bag for me. For example, I loved Cell
– but hated
certain entries in the Dark Tower
series and his short story compilations. I was
also torn on work like Lisey’s Story
and Under the Dome
For me, King’s scariest work came early on with Salem’s Lot,
It, The Shining and Pet Sematary. That doesn’t mean that Doctor Sleep isn’t
both poignant and gripping.
The magical thing about King is that even when he writes a
story that I don’t particularly like, he knows how to spin a good yarn. His
prose is always spot on – and he manages to sculpt beautiful characters that
stick with you.
After Doctor Sleep, I’m even more attached to Danny Torrance
(if that’s possible).
I still love the original source work (and I will always
love the movie, even if King doesn’t) but Doctor Sleep gave me a whole new
nightmare to think about.
What do you think? Did King deliver with Doctor Sleep?