Revisiting a famed story over 35 years after its original publication has to be terrifying for any author, even the King of Horror. However, King handled this with great aplomb and, though I was skeptical in the beginning, I feel that he did right by Dan Torrence. In his author’s note King said that this story spawned from two questions: “Whatever happened to that kid from The Shining?” and “What would have happened to Danny’s troubled father if he had found Alcoholics Anonymous instead of trying to get by with what people in AA called “white-knuckle sobriety”?” Through Doctor Sleep, we get answers to both of these questions, but with Danny himself standing in for Jack Torrence in the alcohol department.
“There are other worlds than these.”
Even after escaping the Overlook Hotel, Danny is haunted by both his past and the beings that plagued his stay at the Overlook. As an adult, Danny still has the Shining but adulthood and alcoholism have weakened it considerably. When he finally finds a place that feels enough like home to draw him away from his marauding, people are put in Danny’s path who help him sober up and stay that way. He manages to crawl out of the bottle and build himself a pretty good life, working at a hospice and helping scared people ease their way out of this life and into the next. When a child in the area begins reaching out to him telepathically, he lends out his own invisible friend from childhood. But when this Shining girl finds herself hunted by RV-driving vampires who feed on the death screams of children like her, Danny must not only come to her aid but face a past he had hoped was long buried.
“The Shining. It was a good name, a comforting name, because she had always thought of it as a dark thing.”
Both the secondary protagonist (a girl named Abra with a more massive dose of the Shining than anyone Danny has ever met) and the main antagonist (a beautiful vampiric woman named Rose the Hat, for the top hat that she always wears) are fascinating characters who King imbued with epic portions of personality. Dynamically crafted characters are one of King’s specialties, in my opinion, though their development throughout their stories isn’t on par with authors like Joe Abercrombie and Robert Jackson Bennett, for instance. Side note: I always thought this cover was weird, but now that I understand it I adore it.
“There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.”
King is also a master craftsman of unique plots, or putting unique spins on older ideas. In both cases, the man knows how to write a captivating story, even if he doesn’t always seem to know how to end them. I don’t have as much of an issue with his endings as some of his fans, but I’m also not the pickiest of readers. I did think that the climactic scene of this book was a bit too cut-and-dry, and that it wrapped up too neatly and too soon.
“I changed it. I had to. Do you know why?” She studied him, her eyes grave. “Because that was then and this is now. Because the past is gone, even though it defines the present.”
One of my favorite elements of King novels is the hunt for references to his other works. This book didn’t disappoint in that regard. Early in the story, King even referenced a villain crafted by his son Joe Hill in the book NOS4A2, which I thought was a very fun addition. It’s the inclusion of little references like these, combined with unique plots and interesting characters, that keep me reading King’s work. I can’t believe I was ever not a fan.
“Learning itself is a present, you know. The best one anybody can give or get.”
Doctor Sleep wasn’t perfect, but it was far from disappointing. I was completely enthralled from the first page to the last. As with his other works, reading this book just made me want to immediately read more novels from him, which is a wonderful side effect for a reading experience to have. I’m sure I’ll be looking askance at any RV I see for quite some time. If you visited the Overlook Hotel in the past and enjoyed your stay, I strongly suggest you pick up this book. Just watch out for beautiful women in raggedy top hats.
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