Here is the thing about Stephen King. He tends to start the climax of his books with a good three hundred pages left. I understood that we were just getting to the exciting bit and it was going to stay that way for a significant chunk of the book. Neil just finished Carrie and said it was the same way. It seems to be a King habit, and Doctor Sleep was no different.
I was a little wary to read Doctor Sleep. As you know, I just finished The Shining and I felt very protective of it. It was terrifying, but it was also unbelievably good: well written, exciting, evocative. I tried to watch the Stanley Kubrick film version and was completely turned off. Jack is more of the main character of that movie and the background is mostly ignored, while what I think makes the book great is the focus on Danny, his abilities, and the family’s history and dynamic (also I hated the weird Tony voice finger thing in the movie).
When I was talking to Neil about starting the book, he said he guessed it might feel like Shining fanfiction, which I was worried about. I don’t know why I ever doubted King. I should know by now that he is a master storyteller through and through.
Doctor Sleep catches up with Danny the man: Dan Torrance, troubled alcoholic. Despite the murderous and dangerous effect Dan saw alcohol have on his father and his family, he has become a slave to the bottle. It helps to dampen and mute his shining, which as he’s grown has been more curse than blessing. He also recognizes that he might just be a drunk through and through, a view that is made concrete as he seeks help.
After a time of drifting and drinking from town to town, Dan settles in the mountain town of Frazier in New Hampshire, unable to run from the mistakes of his past. There he falls in with a good sort and an Alcoholics Anonymous community that helps him fight his addiction and became the sort of man we readers believed Danny Torrance would and could become. He works for the local hospice, where he uses his unusual talents to help ease the passing of the dying and earns himself the moniker Doctor Sleep.
And all is well and good except of course for the undercurrent of evil misdeeds that are eventually going to sweep Dan away. These come in the form of the True Knot, a group of quasi immortals who prey on the essence that purified when children with the shining are tortured mercilessly. Abra Stone is one of these children. She has a shining unlike any Dan has ever seen before, stronger and more powerful, which makes her a target.
Abra, or Abby as she’s called, is a scrappy, bubbly girl. She’s vivacious and even at times overconfident in her abilities. The relationship between her and Dan is sweet and begins from a very young age. Abra can feel his own shine even before the age of five and reaches out to him years before they ever inevitably meet.
I went into this story with trepidation, but I came out a believer. King has written another wonderful novel full of complex characters and unnerving situations. Dan is dedicated to redemption and saving Abra’s life. It’s nice to see how little Danny Torrance turns out. As always, a wild ride courtesy of Mr. King.
Also can we talk about how fantastic the cover art is? Delightfully unnerving!
Until next time.