What a ride! What an amazing, exciting, horrific and gruesome ride! Having just finished turning that last page, I find myself unable to unglue my thoughts from everything that happened in this book. It’s as if I am still there, taking a ride in a wild roller-coaster, sliding down the tracks at an amazing speed, seeing (huge hedge animals come to life, fire hoses moving by themselves, a dead and bloated corpse yearning for a throat to strangle) all these weird things and being afraid of them all and loving that feeling of fear because it’s also mixed with a fascination akin to being hypnotized.
Of all the King novels I’ve read over the years, and there have been more than forty I think, this one was right up there with Salem’s Lot, Cujo, Desperation and It, in terms of scariness. My memory might be a little foggy but I don’t remember being so shaken by one of his books in a long time. It is also true that the ones I’ve read last were Full Dark, No Stars, 11/22/63, Joyland and The Wind Through the Willows and it’s also true that none of them come even close to the horror of The Shining.
The Shining is the story of the Torrance family, Jack, Wendy, and little Danny, only five years old. Financial strain, also Jack’s quick temper and alcohol problems, force the family to go and live at the Overlook Hotel, where Jack had managed to get a job as a caretaker for the winter. Bright hopes are pinned on this job – Jack will get sober, he will finish writing a play he’d been working on, get himself together, start again. But the Overlook is not just your usual hotel and the things that inhabit it have a plan. A terrifying, murderous plan.
To say that I loved the book would be a gross understatement – every little detail was worked into the story with perfect precision, making me dread turning the page and yet yearning to because I just had to know what happened next (and will Danny be ok, that’s what I wanted to know) and what twisted unimaginable act of terror was going to plague the characters next. I never thought I’d be so terrified of a fire hose, yet that scene, built with exquisite slowness, was almost scarier than the one of the dead woman in the tub, because a dead corpse is scary, yes, but it’s obvious-scary, while an ordinary thing such as a fire hose could turn that terror into a mind-numbing experience. There are a myriad of possibilities for horror in a hotel with a tainted history such as the Overlook – the elevator cage with its rusty doors where party streamers come floating out, the basement with an old boiler patched up so many times, and whole boxes filled with old receipts and a strange poem written on old-smelling stationery paper, the attic with its promise of rats, the roof shingles with a dangerous wasps’ nest. Loneliness, winter, cold.
I loved the literary references, from Poe’s chilling “The Masque of the Red Death” whose unusual clock makes time unravel like a spool of thread and cries of “Unmask!Unmask!” that echo throughout the story like a timeless horror, to the more playful “Alice in Wonderland” to name just two. I do not doubt that this is also one little detail that made me like the story even more, as Poe is one of my all time favorite writers.
I am glad that I waited so long to read this novel because now that the sequel, Doctor Sleep, is out and on my nightstand, I can read them both one after the other. Being already half-way though the sequel, all I can say is that so far, The Shining is definitely more horror-driven. Or maybe I just didn’t get to the good part yet.
My rating: 5/ 5
*Read in March 2014