Published by Scribner
The Shining is easily one of Stephen King’s most beloved stories. The tale of Jack Torrance’s descent into madness at the hands of the haunted Overlook Hotel as the snow buried the secluded Colorado resort is one of the most memorable in the history of horror. So why now, more than 35 years after the release of The Shining, would King go back and write a sequel to the book? As the author himself puts it in the afterword, he did it because he wanted to find out what happened to Danny Torrance.
King describes being asked “Whatever happened to the Torrance kid?” at numerous book signings over the years, and at some point he began wondering himself. It’s from that curiosity that Doctor Sleep was born. Doctor Sleep picks up about two decades after we last saw Danny Torrance, and the Dan we are introduced to in the early parts of the novel is an incredibly broken individual. But what else would you expect, right?
Doctor Sleep is not just the story of Dan Torrance. It begins as a triangular tale that involves Dan, a young girl who’s blessed with a shine even stronger than Dan’s named Abra Stone, and a murderous gang of essence-sucking vampiric creatures that call themselves “The True Knot.” The True (as they lovingly refer to themselves) is led by a powerful woman named Rose the Hat. Rose (who for some reason I picture looking like Susannah Hoffs of The Bangles and could definitely be played by Helena Bonham Carter should a movie version of Doctor Sleep arise) and her merry band of RV-traveling monsters are leaving a trail of children’s blood in their wakes, and Dan and Abra quickly find themselves on the True’s radar. Not a good place to be.
King, as always, weaves an amazing story. He blends Doctor Sleep in nicely with The Shining and the events that occurred in The Overlook Hotel, but he doesn’t dwell there for too long at any point in the novel. King uses The Shining to strengthen Doctor Sleep, but it never becomes a crutch the new book can’t do without. Doctor Sleep can, without a doubt, stand on its own as a great story. It’s a big story. We see Dan grow up. We are privy to much of young Abra’s life, and we get all the information on The True Knot and their heinous existence that we could want. Doctor Sleep not only does a nice job of tying up any loose ends from The Shining, but it also skillfully advances the story and brings it to a new level.
No, Doctor Sleep is not as good as The Shining. At some point you can feel the Stephen King formula kicking in. It’s like a story you’ve heard before. King will often set up multiple storylines in his novels and have them all slowly come together as the book moves along. There are aspects of Thinner and The Night Flier that feel very familiar in Doctor Sleep. But don’t take that as a negative at all. The familiarity is something regular King readers will recognize and embrace.
Incidentally, I experienced the audiobook version of Doctor Sleep, and Will Patton’s reading was outstanding. He’s worked with Stephen King’s material before and excelled, and Doctor Sleep is no different. Patton should be commended for a job well done as he truly brings the written word to life.
For fans of King and The Shining, Doctor Sleep is a must. Although it’s a bit depressing initially, the novel soon hits its stride and… ahem… it shines.
4 out of 5