First off: Doctor Sleep is not scary. It’s pure horror story though, reaching for a dreadful atmosphere that builds with intensity as the characters stumble and try not to fall. Very few horror novels are actually scary so I don’t judge them on this basis alone. Is the writing at a high level? Yes. In King’s new novel, his writing hasn’t been this good in a long long time. Are the characters compelling? Yes, because fans of The Shining (please read that first, by the way, because Doctor Sleep begins right where The Shining ends, not where Kubrick’s film version ends) are already familiar with the Torrance family, and are rooting for Doc. Is the plot complex enough to keep me turning the pages? Yes, even though there is very little King hasn’t done before with this kind of set-up.
There are different ways to read horror novels, and many different ways to write them. Some readers of horror novels expect to be scared, and place all expectations in this happy fearful basket. What is interesting about Stephen King’s books is that the author wants to scare readers, but he’s also content with telling a horrific tale that has dread in the center of the heart of the book—some of his books are not scary at all, but are horror tales that push all the right buttons. The Shining is my favorite scary horror novel, and it truly does scare. When I return to the Overlook Hotel, reading the story of the doomed Torrance family, I know what to expect, but I am scared once more. And so, it was with a wonderful feeling of surprise that I picked up the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, which finds Danny Torrance all grown up. He’s now Dan or Daniel, or called Doctor Sleep because he helps hospice patients during their last moments on this earthly plane, soothes the next step on the journey.
Doctor Sleep is not scary the way The Shining is, and there’s a bit more science fiction or paranormal activity added to the mix (more similar to the make-up of the characters in Firestarter actually). The villains, while showing compassion for their own kind, are stock characters who are evil to the core. The best monsters are always selfish and cold. King writes wonderful iconic villains and Rose The Hat will grow as one of his best creations. But, even though Doctor Sleep is not scary, it is horrific.
The Torrance family story begun so long ago in the 70s is steeped in abuse, and specifically, child abuse. King continues this theme in Doctor Sleep. He hits it hard, and it becomes a repeating drumbeat throughout. Children in peril is something King knows well . . . look at Cujo, Firestarter, Carrie, It, The Body, and so many more tales. Alcoholism also plays a strong role, as Danny fights this demon he inherited. Will he overcome his addiction? It’s part of the structure of the tale so I won’t say. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
Doctor Sleep is King’s best book since It, which was published in the 80s. The writing is better, and also made me recall how quickly I would whip through the early work of King and how I struggled to finish much of his 90s oeuvre.
Now I can see King revisiting a few other characters he created a long time ago . . . he did a knockout job. If you loved The Shining, you will love the sequel because he ties into the atmosphere of doom almost immediately, and Wendy and Dick do make appearances. The end was a bit predictable, but this didn’t detract from the story whatsoever.
To read about another King pick, among 5 other horror authors’ top books, click the link here: 6 Classic Modern Horror Novels
enjoy your scary reading for Halloween,
Please Subscribe or Follow A Writer’s Life Blog and sign up for my newsletter to the right. For signed copies, please hit the link to the right.
To buy the Green Darner Press paperback or download a free sample of Sandcastle and Other Stories or The Conversationalist for kindle readers or for iPad, PC, Mac, or iPhone with the kindle app, click HERE. While at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, or Kobo, please hit the Like button. It’s a great way to show support for your favorite authors and their books. And please leave a review if the book hits you well.
Subscribe to the e-Magazine In Classic Style for tips on Travel, Dining, and Entertainment.
For Apple/Mac IT, WordPress wrangling and multimedia Publishing/Editing Services, please contact the company I use: Convenient Integration.