Stephen King greatly succeeds with ‘Shining’ sequel ‘Doctor Sleep’Posted on September 25, 2013 | by Charlie Spector
What can possibly be said about Stephen King that hasn’t been said already over the last four decades? King stands as one of the most literary and culturally prolific authors in the history of American letters — any new work that he publishes is often regarded as a sparkling edition to his astounding literary canon.
This tradition is more than fulfilled with “Doctor Sleep,” King’s long-awaited sequel to “The Shining.” A popular work of horror in both cinematic — thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s wonderfully surreal 1980 film adaptation — and literary spheres, the book manages to take us to dark places we never thought we’d go, and King’s bold yet familiar style guides the way.
King starts the readers out right where the Torrance family left off in the original 1977 novel. In the prologue, the effects of a harsh winter in the Overlook Hotel have left Wendy, Danny, Dick Holloran and even poor little imaginary Tony shocked to their cores. Their various reactions to their time in the Overlook are all touched upon, but it’s eventually Danny that the book settles its focus upon.
Early on, Danny realizes his shining will never disappear. This realization causes him to drown in alcoholism. Here is where the book eventually finds a middle-aged Dan, with several arrests on his record and an Alcoholics Anonymous tour across King’s favorite playground — New England. Hoping to start fresh, Dan eventually finds a job in a New Hampshire hospice using his shining to comfort the elderly as they pass on, thus acquiring the position that gives the book its title.
Meanwhile, across the country, a teenager named Abra Stone is also developing the shining — although neither she nor her parents have any idea what it is and simply classify it as a childish matter that will cease as she grows up. While both of those stories are being explored, King also takes the reader on a tour of elderly RV owners that may not be as innocent as their quaint motor homes designate them to be.
Little more can be said without spoiling the tale. Indeed, the twists and revelations that the book brings about are both familiar, such as the recurrence of “The Shining’s” infamous “REDRUM,” and surprising. You’ll never think of the word “steam” the same way again.
King outdoes himself with “Doctor Sleep.” He takes the reader on a ride that spans decade, several states and thousands of miles with dozens of characters. It’s an ensemble piece combined with a massive juggling act that King accomplishes with a surprisingly nonchalant air. Moreover, the book touches on what it means to be different, and how that can affect a person in a variety of different circumstances — whether it’s dealing with unpleasant people in your community, reliving past childhood traumas, crazy fathers or repeated cries of “REDRUM.”
Adrenaline-packed and breathtakingly surreal, “Doctor Sleep” further establishes two long-standing traditions about King. First, he’s not giving up his “King of Horror” mantle anytime soon, and second, his books should be read with as many lights on as possible.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 25 print edition. Charlie Spector is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.