Doctor Sleep – Stephen King

It was Doctor Sleep that made me want to read The Shining. So I set out to read the scary story of the Torrance family who hole up at the Overlook hotel for a winter and face all kinds of crazy stuff, like ghosts (horribly ugly ones), and a chiming clock (hello, Poe) and a fire hose that is a fire hose (but not really), and some scary hedge animals (now I think maybe “topiary” is a contraction of top scary). I loved The Shining, with all the love for horror I have in me, and I placed the book on a shelf with Dracula and The Oxford Book of Gothic Stories and thought, now that was one heck of a great scary story. Then I read the sequel.

Doctor Sleep - Stephen King It’s never a good thing to expect a lot from a sequel, and yet I did. Danny Torrance’s story was one I was looking forward to rediscover and there were so many things I was hoping to find. Would he end up an alcoholic like his father? Will he keep in touch with Hallorann, the one who saved him? And who will he save in return and from what? All the answers are there but no matter how hard I tried, I just could get into this new story – a group of ordinary looking people called the True Knot who wander across America hunting for children with the shining, only to kill them and feed on their dying breath, the steam. And a special little girl called Abra whose psychic powers make her a top priority for the group, especially now that they are sick and dying. Danny is the one who’s supposed to help her, just like Hallorann helped him, because life is a wheel and now it’s turning and it’s time to pay back.

The first part of the book was slow going – the story picks up a few years after the horrific experience of the Torrance family at the Overlook hotel. Danny’s gift, the shining, is both a blessing and a curse and as he gets older he makes some poor choices in dealing with it. He also uses it to assist the elderly patients of a hospice on their dying bed, and this is what brings him the name Doctor Sleep.

I liked all the references to The Shining and I think the book would have been less enjoyable had I not read these two one after the other. But the horror part was just a flicker, and not a very strong one at that, and I was left wanting more. Maybe one of his next releases for this year, Revival, will bring back that horror element that was so powerful in The Shining. I look forward to reading it.

My rating: 3/5 stars

* Read in March 2014

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8 Responses to Doctor Sleep – Stephen King

  1. TBM says:

    So the sequel isn’t really horror. That’s interesting. I read The Shining a year ago and had to keep the lights on for a few nights since my partner was out of town. I was surprised to see he has another one coming out soon. How does he do it?

    • Delia says:

      No, not really, TBM. It does have a tinge of the creepy but I got the feeling he was trying to actually make the bad guys seem less bad. Humanize them a little. It didn’t really work for me because when he did that, I wanted to know what made them what they were (some sort of psychic vampires) and why was I supposed to feel more forgiving towards them.
      I didn’t have to keep my lights on after reading The Shining but that novel was scary. Good to see you enjoyed it, too.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    Too bad that this was a bit of a disappointment. The plot does sound like it has lots of potential. Normally I would say that book from King or anyone else would not need to include all that much horror to be worthy, however I must agree that a sequel to the Shinning really needs to include a lot of atmosphere and horror.

    • Delia says:

      I like King’s books but some I really love, and the more horror, the more I love them. 🙂 I don’t regret reading it, but after The Shining, this one seemed really mellow.

  3. Vishy says:

    Nice review, Delia. Sorry to know that you didn’t like ‘Doctor Sleep’ as much as you had hoped too. Especially because ‘The Shining’ was so amazing. Sometimes when the original is so wonderful, it is hard for the sequel to do justice. Also, I think one of the reasons for the sequel not being as good is because of the decades that separated them. I think if Stephen King had written the sequel in the ’70s or the ’80s soon after ‘The Shining’ was published, I think the sequel might have been equally scary. I think as a writer he has probably changed a bit, especially in the last decade. Maybe that could have been the reason why ‘Doctor Sleep’ wasn’t as scary. This is my own personal opinion, of course. What do you think about it?

    Hope ‘Revival’ is better and you enjoy it more.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      You are right, of course, King has changed over the years, and considering that The Shining was published in 1979 and Doctor Sleep in 2013, that’s quite the gap. Even he says so in the author’s note at the back of the book. Still, it’s amazing how different the books are in terms of horror. The Shining was ripe with it.
      “Revival” is supposed to bring horror back. Maybe it’s named this way for a reason. 😉

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