A disclosure to begin with: I am someone who will read anything that Stephen King releases (even though there are still many of his books I haven’t yet had a chance to read). I love the man, and he could publish a grocery list and I would read it. He was the first author I remember reading that was writing books for adults rather than children, and I felt so mature reading him back when I was 12 or 13 and started. I have grown up reading him, and watched his writing change over the years, but think he is so talented. That said, I don’t always love everything he releases. I have written on this blog before that a lot of his books just annoy me in the end, because he has me enthralled with this unbeatable monster or supernatural being, and he builds its power up so much that I feel like, in the end, he himself doesn’t know how to defeat the evil he’s created, and the endings therefore feel rushed and disappointing. It’s hard for me to pick my favourite book of his, but I do enjoy his short stories a lot, so my favourite collection is Full Dark, No Stars. My favourite novel of his, though, is probably It because I was so young when I read it and it scared me so much, so I have a lot of nostalgia about that particular book. For a lot of people, his best book is The Shining, so I can only imagine the trepidation and anxiety felt when releasing a sequel to this much-loved book. For Stephen King lovers like me, though, the release of Doctor Sleep was an extremely exciting event.
Because of the huge amount of anticipation there are some reviewers who were perhaps a bit more harsh on this sequel than they otherwise might have been. Although it does help to be familiar with The Shining, it is not a necessity with this being a great stand-alone book containing enough explanation about things that had previously occurred.
The story begins with Danny Torrance’s childhood after the events at the Overlook Hotel of the first book, as he tries to not only confront the demons of the events but cope with his ‘shining’, a form of psychic ability, and the ghosts that haunt him both emotionally and literally. The story quickly develops and we follow Danny’s adult life, where he’s now known as Dan and is struggling with alcoholism – an addiction not only inherited but also used to help block his shining. He eventually settles into a town, gets a steady job, gets sober, and uses his power to comfort the dying, earning him the nickname of the book’s title. We eventually meet Abra, a young girl with immense power, and we meet the True Knot, a group of supernatural beings that live off the essence produced by children with the shining.
As always, I love Stephen King’s writing style. He truly is a master of writing compelling characters and getting the reader inside their heads, and has done this extremely well with the character of Dan. I also personally thought he did a great job with Abra, although I’ve read some reviews that say they think he wrote her younger than she actually was. We first meet Abra as a baby and see snippets of her life over a number of years until she becomes a teenager, so it’s inevitable that in some portions she will sound young, because she actually is. I personally felt that the teen Abra at the end of the book was written accurately as a young teen, and was no longer the childish Abra we’d been reading about.
My only complaint was that the True Knot, as the ‘great evil’ in this novel, were not as frightening as they could have been. I realise the irony of this complaint given my opening paragraph about what can annoy me about King’s stories sometimes, but they were just a little less scary than I’d hoped. Aside from that, I found this to be another of King’s page turners and it’s well worth a read if you like a bit of supernatural fiction, whether you’re a King fan or not.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King – 4 out of 5 stars.