Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep HeaderHow the heck do you write a sequel to The Shining?  Is some other family going to be haunted within the walls of a new hotel that was built on the haunted grounds of The Overlook?  Because that’s how horror sequels usually go.

How dare I doubt Stephen King.

Decades after the events of The Shining, Danny has grown up to become a man quite like his father; at least where thirst is concerned.  Not that he can be blamed for the want of dulling the memories of what he went through years ago when his father lost himself to his job at The Overlook, as well as the powers that allow the haunting to persist.  But this isn’t just his story: Dick Hallorann let Danny know long ago that he was far from the only person to have the shine turned on, and Danny might have come across the shiniest girl out there yet.

King expands this world of the supernatural as he moves away from the haunted house feel of The Shining, choosing to villainize a new group of people far more corporeal this time around.  Definitely evil in their murderous actions as they move across the country in the search for children with the shining, but they’re far from scary in comparison to the ghosts of The Shining.  Reading that first novel was a fuller experience in how I felt like I was being watched as I read in my dark room late into the night, and that feeling was not recreated here.  This is not to say that Doctor Sleep isn’t a good story, far from it; it’s just that it is definitely different than the book that lead to its conception.

The slow building feeling of doom isn’t mimicked here either, and even though I was invested in the characters, I was never really scared for them, even when they are actually in danger.  I just had complete faith in Abra, the child of this story, as she is far from the helpless little boy that Danny often seemed to be when he was in danger.  Even the hallway fire hose seemed like a legitimate threat to him, whereas the big bad of the True Knot didn’t seem like a real threat to anyone, no matter how many times King worked in sentences like “this was an assumption he’d come to regret.”  This lack of a foreboding danger in my perception of the story does make the climax a little lackluster, but there is a fantastic callback in these later moments that makes it hard to be truly disappointed in what happens.

I can say in the end that I do wish that the experience of my own paranoia of there being a monster in my closet while reading The Shining had somehow been recreated, but this just isn’t the book that King is going for.  And that’s OK, because in the end I am still glad to know what happened to that little boy who almost fell victim to the mirror image of REDRUM.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5     

Have Something to Say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s