Now. For those of you that have not been reading long enough to have seen this, let me make a confession. I am a Stephen King nut. I wouldn’t go so far as to Kathy Bates it, that I am his “biggest fan”, but I do geek out about King quite a bit. Which means that the latest King roused my King geekiness to a new level. See, Dr Sleep’s main character is none other than Danny Torrance, the little kid from The Shining. The Shining is often considered one of King’s best novels. Because of the excitement of this, like Dave said in last week’s post “We mentioned in our initial posting that we might deviate from our normal format from time to time, i.e. not just reviewing a book from The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. One thing we said we might do is occasionally look at a book that isn’t from The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books.“, I decided it was time for me to veer off of the Top Ten for one blog entry.
Now, for my second confession: I was so excited about this book that I pre-ordered it on Amazon. So, pretty much within a day of it being released, I had it in my hot little hands. If I was any geekier, I would have probably hugged it to my chest and sang “Glorious Day! Beautiful Day!”. Instead I just Snapchatted the cover to the couple of friends I have on Snap Chat.
I began to read. And I will make a third confession: I was a little disappointed at first. Either King’s writing wasn’t up to its usual standard or my reading ability at that point couldn’t click with the story. Possibly, it was a combination of both. Whatever the reason was, at first I was disappointed. But, other than the first time I attempted Lisey’s Story, I have always finished a Stephen King novel, I kept on reading. And suddenly, a quarter of the way in, I was hooked.
First, the book covers Danny Torrance’s growing up years, the years in between when The Shining ended and Dr Sleep really begins. Danny Torrance grows up to resemble his father quite a bit, an alcoholic with a temper. He started drinking to tamp down the “shining” (his psychic ability) and then just kept drinking to drink. Finally, he hits rock bottom, and joins AA. At about this same point, a little girl named Abra is born and begins her growing up years. And her shining? Well it’s out of this world. It’s one of the biggest shinings to ever exist. She begins communicating with Danny when she is barely born. When she is a few weeks old, she communicates with her parents via their dreams about September 11th, which happens a day later.
At the same time, a group, called the True Knot, is traveling the countryside. They appear to be like any other RV community, mostly elderly people with a few younger ones thrown in. But they’re different. Very different. They are all at least a hundred years old (barring a couple of newer members). They stay that way by taking in “Steam”. Which is only obtained by torturing children who have anything from a little to a lot of the “shining”.
As you can probably determine from the points I put above, the novel becomes about a battle. Danny and Abra must battle it out with the True Knot. At the same time, Danny must battle his own past, in a shadow Overlook.
Most of the book is tight. However, there was a plot point that just came out of nowhere and, to me at least, it wasn’t very well connected. I can’t tell you what it is, as it becomes a major part of the plot 3/4 of the way through the book.
Stephen King says in the afterword that the man who wrote The Shining is definitely not the same man who wrote Doctor Sleep. And that’s obvious. King’s writing style has definitely evolved over the years. In the days of The Shining, he was still attempting to prove something (in my opinion) and attempted to write in a provocative and literary style. King, today, has come to know his own writing style and to live comfortably in his own skin.
Some things I thought of while reading this:
1. King tends to write a lot of stories about children who fight evil and win. It, The Shining, Firestarter, The Talisman, the Tower series (to an extent, as one of the main characters battling evil is Jake, a young boy), In a lot of other ones, children are the target of evil, with adults doing the major part of the battling for them.
2. Psychic powers play a HUGE part in most of his books. Now, while that may be common in the horror genre, King’s approach really isn’t. Much of the evil in books centers around these psychic abilities, with those that have them being targeted (again, see the list above, as well as Hearts in Atlantis and Bag of Bones). Even Duma Key deals with the ability of one of the main characters, when she was a little girl.
3. Stephen King only officially wrote about vampires a couple of times: Notably, Salem’s Lot and Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower. However, unofficially, he writes about vampires a lot of the time. Doctor Sleep, Hearts in Atlantis, Bag of Bones, and The Shining are all examples of this. All of the entities, the “bad guys”, the “monsters” in these books want to consume parts of the characters, most of the time psychic ability.
So. In conclusion, this book, while not on my top five favorite King books, did two things. First, it satisfied my desire to know what happened to Danny Torrance, _after_. Second, it provided me with a very engrossing read. This second is so important as for the last two months, I just haven’t been reading as much. Sometimes this happens to me. And I always wait impatiently for it to end. Hopefully, Doctor Sleep began the beginning of the end of this time for me.