The Shining – Stephen King

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.

The Shining 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

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8 Responses to The Shining – Stephen King

  1. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, Delia! So glad to know that you loved ‘The Shining’. I loved your sentence – “But the Overlook is not just your usual hotel and the things that inhabit it have a plan.” I want to find out what that strange poem contained and how that wreaked havoc in the hotel.

    I have seen only the movie version of ‘The Shining’ and liked it, but after reading your review, I feel that the book is better and I should read it sometime. It was interesting to know that ‘The Shining’ is one of the scariest Stephen King novels that you have ever read (You have read more than forty Stephen King novels? Wow! So impressive!). I have ‘It’ and ‘Salem’s Lot’ out of the ones you have mentioned. I hope to read them sometime. If you do get to watch the movie version of ‘The Shining’, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    Hope you enjoy reading ‘Doctor Sleep’. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it. Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      It shows how much I liked the book, doesn’t it? 🙂
      I’d love to watch the movie now, so curious to see how it compares with the book. There’s a “30 Seconds to Mars” video that’s based on The Shining and I always wondered why is there a man wearing a dog costume in it. Now I know.
      I think there must be around forty novels that I read, I went and looked up a list of all King’s work and checked them out.
      Salem’s Lot is one of my favorites, great vampire story. I hope you get to read it soon.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    It has been years since I read this one. I myself am considering a reread and then moving on to Dr. Sleep. It is good to know that this one still hangs on to it’s dark charms. I remember that the depiction of the Overlook was so menacing in an artistic way.

    • Delia says:

      That sounds like a good plan, Brian. if you do re-read it I’ll be curious to see if you like it just as well the second time. It’s definitely a good thing to read the sequel straight after, as King makes many references to it in Doctor Sleep.
      The Overlook was terrifying, and those hedge animals….my heart beats faster just remembering them.

  3. Priya says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how perfectly you’ve described reading The Shining, only difference was, it was my first Stephen King. I wish I could read it for the first time all over again, for that feeling of being inside the book “taking a ride in a wild roller-coaster, sliding down the tracks at an amazing speed.” From your review of Doctor Sleep, it seems it didn’t stand up to your expectations. Had I read it immediately after The Shining, even I would have felt that. But mostly, because I liked reading how Danny turned out, I think of it as a long, well written epilogue for the book. How could anything have beaten the epic-ness of The Shining?

  4. Delia says:

    I guess you’re right, Priya, The Shining was such a great book that it was inevitable no other book could be that great, not even Doctor Sleep. I found the sequel to be so much more toned down, and whereas the story in The Shining seemed so real, so possible somehow, the one in the sequel was just not that believable. King is my favorite author and I’m happy to read his books, but I just couldn’t help comparing these two. 🙂
    I’m glad your first introduction to King was through The Shining, this book does make an impression. I hope you get to read many more of his novels and short stories. They are truly great.

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