Book Review: Doctor Sleep

DOCTOR SLEEP | Stephen King
(The Shining #2)
09.24.2013 | Scribner
Rating: 5/5 stars

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Danny Torrance is all grown up since he experienced that terrifying winter’s stay at The Overlook Hotel in his childhood. The memories of that winter have stayed with him his whole life. Along with his ability, known as the shining, Danny can’t quite seem to leave the past in the past. Now in middle-age and attempting to get his life back on track, he begins to receive messages from a young girl named Abra. Their connection is instant and their fates are intertwined.

Flash forward a few years and we find a twelve-year-old Abra being hunted by a group known as The True Knot. These people travel across America in their RVs searching for children with the ability to shine. They feed on these children for something they produce in death known as “steam”. With the aid of this steam the group is able to live an immortal life. Abra has pinged on their radar and now the group is coming for her. With the help of Danny and a gang of rag-tag friends, the two groups will engage in a battle of good versus evil. Who will survive is anyone’s guess.

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Life was a wheel, its only job was to turn, and it always came back to where it had started.

Last month I read THE SHINING and absolutely fell in love with King’s portrayal of the Torrance family and their experience at The Overlook Hotel. I was cautiously optimistic going into DOCTOR SLEEP. So often sequels fall flat or they rely too heavily on the first book in the series to make the next one a success. Stephen King broke those sequel stereotypes. He created a story about Danny Torrance that stands all on it’s own. Of course there are glimpses back into Danny’s childhood, but this book is not a retelling nor is it reliant on those flashbacks. Instead these moments bring a sense of nostalgia to the reader without taking away from this new story.

DOCTOR SLEEP started off with Danny in an incredibly dark period of his life, living as an alcoholic, drifting to a new town each time his instability becomes clear to those around him. This part of the book launched slower than I was expecting and generally with a different life than I would have wanted for Danny. He eventually finds a town, people who embrace him, and a path to sobriety. While at first I was hesitant to accept this life for Danny. I eventually realized how important it was to multiple points of the overall storyline to have Danny experience the things he did.

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There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.

Speaking of characters in DOCTOR SLEEP, one of the first things I noticed was the length of the character list in comparison to THE SHINING. The focus of this book is about multiple groups of people, as opposed to THE SHINING, which solely focused on the Torrance family. I loved the new dimensions that this added to the complexity of the plot. The members of The True Knot were quite the gang of creeps. Each person in the group had their own abilities and while the story focuses on Rose the Hat and a handful of others, I was ultimately intrigued by the entire party. There are people who can read minds, people who can track other people, people who can put others to sleep with just a suggestion, and people who can almost make themselves invisible. The level of detail and uniqueness of the characters was a really special touch to this story.

This gang of deviants are clearly on the side of evil, while Abra Stone and Danny Torrance are fighting for good. Abra is one of those classic King characters where he takes a child, places them in an unbelievable predicament, and forces them to fight their way out. She is clearly gifted with her shining abilities and through her character King explores different elements of the power that we never saw Danny able to do in THE SHINING. While a group of people with mysterious powers and abilities can sweep a reader’s attention away, King comes through in his usual style of showcasing the extraordinary abilities of the average person as well. Abra’s parents, Billy, and Dr. John are all involved in this battle for good and while they might not possess the shining, they’re still able to assist in ways that call for going above and beyond the norm.

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Thanks to this man, she even had a name for it: the shining. It was a good name, a comforting name, because she had always thought of it as a dark thing.

I could go on for days talking about all of the small pieces of this story that I loved, such as Azreel and getting to hear from Dick Hallorann (a favorite from THE SHINING), but I’ll save that for you to experience for yourself!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Doctor Sleep

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