Dr. Sleep by Stephen King Review


Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 24, 2013)

 

Review by: Alicia Banks

 

Synopsis: 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 tween 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 hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

 

Our Thoughts: Oh, Danny; there you are. I was wondering what had happened to you.

 

For years, Stephen King was asked by fans and interviewers alike, “So, do you know whatever happened to little Danny Torrance?” And over the years, King took note of where Danny was in his life, how old he was, what he was doing, but only in his head. Finally, as Dan approached his 40th birthday, King decided it was time to share that story with the world.

 

And so here we are. King gives us the backstory. The spirits of the Overlook Hotel eventually followed young Danny Torrance. Dick Hallorann comes to his aide once again to show him how to stop them. Danny grows up, and Wendy eventually dies from the cancer sticks she couldn’t stop smoking. Danny starts drinking at the age of 14 and becomes a raging alcoholic. Like father, like son.

 

We watch Dan reach bottom and hang out down there for awhile. And then we see him get off a bus, spy good old Tony in a hospice window, and turn his life around. I’d say, “spoilers!” but this is simply the setup for what ends up to be a fantastic story and a well-written book.

 

King introduces a whole new cast of characters: Abra, a baby born with the shine, who “predicts” the 9/11 fall of the Towers, Billy, a friend and father-figure to Danny, Dr. John Dalton, Abra’s pediatrician and Danny’s fellow AA buddy, and Rose the Hat, a most excellent villainous creation, drop dead gorgeous with a jaunty tophat affixed to her head, smart, and lethal. We have a new landscape, a beautiful little area in New Hampshire, as well as some old regular haunts as well.  In addition, we get that signature pop-culture addition to the story to add to the verisimilitude of it all, something I’ve always appreciated about King. Lastly, we get the classic shout-outs to other king novels (‘Salem’s Lot and The Dark Tower series to name a couple) as well as a tip of his hat to his son, Joe Hill, and his new novel NOS4A2. Can you dig it?

 

The story is rich and well executed, pulling you in with its initial reminiscences of that old King story and carrying you away into this new world of vampire RVers and a child that’s Carry, Charlie, and Danny all rolled into one. She’s the ultimate shiner, the ultimate breaker, and she can turn that wheel like nobody’s business (read the book). “Ka is a wheel.” Indeed. A nice added bonus… I loved King’s ending in this book. There were lots of little, hidden surprises throughout, ones once revealed that made you go, “Duh! How did I not see that coming?”, and the climax, the epic battle was a good one. Go, Stevie!

 

If you have only seen the Kubrick film of The Shining, I implore you to read the book before you take on Dr. Sleep. Sure, you can get away with going from movie to new novel, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice in my opinion. In order to really understand the Torrance Family, you need the book. The movie will not cut it. The horrors of the Overlook are not fully conveyed in the movie; the simple yet crucial differences between an ax and a roque mallet or a hedge maze and a topiary make all the difference. Take the time to read it. 

 

Ten out of ten on this baby. Check it out.

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