Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining scared the daylights out of me when I saw it at the age of 11. A few years later, when I felt I could handle it, I read the book (which is nothing like Kubrick’s movie), and once again was scared witless. In a good way, of course, and those of you who are fans of horror novels will know what I mean.
So when I heard King was writing his first ever sequel, focusing on Danny Torrance all grown up, I knew I had to read it. However, I finished Doctor Sleep a few weeks ago, but have been putting off writing up the review, because I was somewhat disappointed.
Doctor Sleep first tells what happened to Danny in the few years after his father’s death, then jumps to Dan as an adult alcoholic, doing whatever it takes to get his next drink. Dan eventually ends up in New Hampshire, where he finds sobriety thanks to AA, a job in a hospice where he helps ease the suffering of the terminally ill, and a little girl named Abra who shares his gift – or curse – of the shine, as he calls his ability to read minds. Dan and Abra team up with a small group of friends and family members against the True Knot, a group of vampire-like beings who seek out children who shine and steal their essence, or as they call it, steam, which is obtained in a brutal and lethal manner. The True Knot is after Abra initially for her shine, then because she knows what they do, and finally as revenge.
Doctor Sleep starts out strong, with some of the creepiness from The Shining. But it soon falls victim to King’s tendency to verbosity and long-winded sidebars. The True Knot are more cartoonish than menacing, with biker-wannabe nicknames that are somewhat ridiculous. Not much is known about them other than the fact that they’ve been around for hundreds of years and need this steam to survive. Telling the story from their side seems to be a way to gain sympathy for them, but I was just kind of bored. Same for Dan and Abra; Abra’s extraordinary shining abilities and their ability to switch bodies was intriguing but I just couldn’t invest any interest in them.
The reviews on this book are mixed, so if you’re at all interested in reading the book, I say go for it, especially if you’ve read The Shining — seeing Kubrick’s movie doesn’t count, and King even says in his Author’s Note that this is a sequel to the book he wrote, not the movie that’s loosely based on it. I’ll admit that I read The Shining a long time ago, but I don’t think a recent re-read was necessary.
Notes on the audiobook: I wonder if part of my lack of enthusiasm for this book comes from the narrator. He did an adequate enough job but just didn’t grab me.