Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Adult, Horror
Publication.Date  September 24th 2013
Published By:  Scribner
AuthorStephen King

Doctor Sleep on Goodreads
My review copy:Purchased by me.
Where to get:

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

“The world was the Overlook Hotel, where the party never ended. Where the dead were alive forever.”
“The silence wasn't uncomfortable or hostile but exhausted--the quiet of people who have a great deal to think about but not a hell of a lot to say.”
“The Overlook was still not done with him. Written on the mirror, not in lipstick but in blood, was a single word:

“She thought that things could not get worse . . . but they always can, and often do.”
“You didn't get sober to be stupid, Danny. Keep it in mind the next time you start listening to that itty-bitty shitty committee inside your head.”

     I've no idea why it took me so long to pick up this book, written nearly 2 years ago, but I'm certainly glad that I finally did. It was such a great read! Stephen King's The Shining is probably one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it more than 5 times by now and memorized more than a dozen lines from it. I have also watched - and really enjoyed, which is rare with King's adaptations - both the Kubrick's movie version of it, and the ABC's mini series (which, by the way, is way more faithful to the book). 

     I guess I was reluctant to pick it up partly because I was worried about it not living up to the original, but then, in a way (I realize now), I was also worried that it would. And that scared me. It still kind of scares me, because despite its minor flaws, Doctor Sleep was almost just as thrilling, terrifying and completely hypnotizing as its predecessor. And I know it will stay with me forever, just like The Shining did.

    Now, let's get one thing out of the way. While this could probably be read separately, I strongly recommend reading The Shining first. I honestly can not imagine anyone being able to fully enjoy and appreciate this book without having met Danny, Jack, Dick Halloran and the Overlook Hotel with its ghastly residents before. And if you've read King's books before, you must know how much he likes to tie people and events together, always going for eerily fated, never accidental. (“Life was a wheel, its only job was to turn, and it always came back to where it started.”)

     Doctor Sleep focuses mainly on Danny. First, we meet him not long after the horrific events that took place at the Overlook Hotel, while he's still young and mostly innocent. While the Overlook Hotel has burned to the ground, it's far from being done with Danny. (“The world was the Overlook Hotel, where the party never ended. Where the dead were alive forever.” ). Dead people still haunt him, refusing to let go, and so he needs to learn how to lock them away in secure lockets in his head. (this is the prequel part - short and sweet)

Fast forward to the present day, and Danny is now Dan - a middle-aged, recovering alcoholic with  regret-filled past and some seriously dark secrets. It physically hurt me to read about the grown up Dan and seeing just how huge of a dark mark the Overlook left on him. See, Danny followed in his father's alcoholic footsteps because he figured out that drinking muffled the shining and kept the ghosts and dead people at bay (though if you'd ask him, Dan would tell you that he drank because he was a drunk, and that would be true as well). He drank because he didn't think he could survive being sober. He drank and he moved from one place to another, eating only enough to survive and spending whatever money he made at random short-lived jobs on booze. A vicious cycle that would take him straight to his coffin if he didn't happen across small New Hampshire town, where, for the first time ever, he had a real shot at not only surviving sober, but also living a meaningful life and doing some good. It would all come at a huge prize - Dan will have to face unimaginable and extremely powerful evil - but he would not be alone. Not anymore. 

     Doctor Sleep pulled me in almost immediately and if I didn't have chores to do and other mundane matters to attend to, I'd have finished it in one day. It was so incredibly well written and compelling, I really did not want to put it down, not even for a second. Being able to meet Danny again, after so many years, was a revelatory experience. How many of us have wondered what happened to our favorite characters AFTER the book has ended? I always do. I always crave more and have trouble parting with fictional characters. The Shining ended well for Danny, his mom and Dick Halloran, but have you ever wondered what happened next? Where did they live? How were they coping with the past? Have they ever truly put it behind them? Was it still haunting them? 

     In Doctor Sleep, Stephen King provided me with most of the answers to my burning questions, but he also did more than just that - if The Shining was a peak through a keyhole, Doctor Sleep is a view through an open door. It's a more in-depth look at what Dick Halloran called shining, yes, but it's also a whole new story with a whole new breed of evil. It's complex and magnificent, and oh-so-brilliant. It's creepy, brutal and it cuts you to the core. It's emotionally gutting and incredibly affecting. I was beyond exhilarated while reading this book. This was King at his best, the classic kind of King, with beautifully flowing monologues, scalpel-like precision, dark humor, full-on existentialism and fatalism, but also - amazingly - light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel hopeful King. Unforgettable and unmatched. 

     If you're already a Stephen King fan, you must read this book - no question about that. If you're new to King's cult, read The Shining first, but definitely read Doctor Sleep, too.  It's good enough to own multiple copies and rave about to your friends.

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