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Book Review: Doctor Sleep

Author: Stephen King
Published: 2013
Publisher: Scribner
Number of Pages: 531
My Rating: 4

Summary from
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.

Well, well, well. What do we have here? A sequel to one of the most famous horror stories there is? Bingo.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 40 years, I'm sure you have read his books or at least heard of author Stephen King. And if you haven't read his books, there is a high possibility you have seen a movie based off of one of them, even if you didn't know it. In my opinion, one of his most well-known novels over the years has been The Shining- a story about a young Danny Torrance and his family as they enter the crazy world of the Overlook Hotel. (If you haven't read that one, I would recommend doing so before reading this book as it will help certain aspects make more sense. And because it's awesome.) 

Now, if you are familiar with The Shining, you were probably like me and wondered what became of Dan and how the experience of having a drunken father slowly become crazy due to a haunted hotel affected him. And, yes, he is just as screwed up from it all as you would expect. Doctor Sleep is technically a sequel to this book, following Dan throughout his years after the horrific situations at the hotel, and seeing what becomes of his gift, the shining. I feel like it was inevitable for Stephen King to write this as so many people were curious about Dan Torrance and would not let this story go. I'm so happy he finally gave in.

The interesting thing about this book that is worth noting is that it's almost like two separate stories for awhile. It obviously follows Dan from town to town, job to job, and explains how he tries to deal with all of those demons leftover from his traumatic childhood. It also follows a group of psychic-vampire type people, The True Knot, who are after children with the shining, namely a little girl named Abra, who shines brighter than anyone they've ever seen. 

There was a lot of focus on The True Knot, older looking people who travel in a group of RVs across the country, feeding off of the shining and essentially being able to live forever because of it, and at times it almost seemed like too much information. While the group was intriguing, they really weren't all that scary. There is suspense as they begin to hunt Abra, and she and Dan come together to try to prevent this, but it was not the horror I was wanting to feel from a typical King novel. He does a good job, however, intersecting these two stories and making it interesting, but I would say I was much more interested in Dan and his battles with the skeletons in his closet than all of the psychological not-actual-humans-going-after-innocent-children stuff. 

One thing that was slightly disappointing about Doctor Sleep is the fact that it didn't really serve as a "true sequel" to The Shining. I was anticipating the same scares and claustrophobic fear that the first book elicited in me, and I didn't really feel the same way while reading this one. It was nowhere near as scary and I would say it was definitely more of a psychological thriller than a horror story. Still good, just very different than what I was expecting. 

Overall, I do believe this book is worth reading and if you are a King fan at all, I'm sure you will enjoy. Just beware that while it does tie up some loose ends about Dan Torrance and The Shining, it is truly a new book in itself and can almost stand alone. Bravo, King! As always, great book. 

-Busy Brunette


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