on 6 August 2015
Personally, I consider Shining (the novel) as one of the best horror stories ever written. But the horror is completely psychological, not physical, so don't expect a great deal of action. In the physical sense, I mean. If I had to summarise the plot of The Shining, I would go like this.
"An ex-alcoholic with his wife and young, telepathic son takes up the job of a winter caretaker in a remote mountain hotel full of malevolent spirits or supernatural forces, which slowly force him back into a kind of alcoholic haze, and then try to make him murder his family; a black chef in the hotel, also telepathic, responds to the boy's mental summons and rushes back to the hotel, managing to save the wife and the boy, though the father dies when the hotel's boiler explodes and the hotel burns down."
That is sum and substance of the story, told in about 90 words. I think it is a truism that most, if not all, of Stephen King's novels can be easily summarised in less than 150 words (or less). The number of characters in his books is usually small, which rather limits the scope for action, I suppose. Nor do his novels always have completely happy endings of the variety "and finally, they got married and lived happily ever after". In fact, many of them happen to end with the partial/complete destruction of the protagonist's life and/or that of his family.
Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Shining, Pet Semetary, Thinner, to name but a few examples...
But what his fans love is the way he builds up the characters, the fine detail in the situations, the accurate portrayal of the American way of life, and the various situations that his characters go through. Add to that the relentlessly growing tension, the feeling of being utterly lost and helpless, and of triumphing (sometimes) against nearly insurmountable odds, and you have a classic recipe which often works beautifully for King.
In fact, the somewhat unhappy endings to his stories don't make them unappealing to his readers. Au contraire, they only serve to add to the gripping realism of the stories (aren't real lives often a mix of happy and sad events, rather than one or the other exclusively?), and make them more plausible, and "real". Thus, the reader is drawn into the story/novel, and is soon lost in it.
I think, in general, assessing his books boils down to this. If you are a diehard action fan, and expect each chapter to bring up gripping, racy or relentless set of activities, you aren't going to be very satisfied with King overall. Don't expect a great deal of bloodbath or gore either, or a large cast, or amazing events. Instead, be prepared to accept the novel the way it is, "yield" to it, and wait for the thrill, the tension to build up. Most of the times, you won't be disappointed.
I think King subscribes to the philosophy (like many of his fans) that it is all in the mind. Real horror is when you FEEL it, when your mind is absolutely pulverized by a feeling of terror - even though nothing much may be happening in the outside world. I think his short-story "Gramma" epitomises this approach. It is easily the scariest short story I have EVER read, but the action in it is as close to ZERO as it can possibly get in a story! All that happens is that a eleven-year old boy sits alone in the house, drinking his milk and eating his cookies, and RECALLING things in his mind, while his evil-witch grandmother dies in the adjoining bedroom and strong winds rage outside. That's it, folks.
But, oh boy, when you finish the story, does the tension, and the gripping fear, leave you totally drained!!
That is the beauty of King's books. The Shining is probably the best example of this.
on 11 January 2014
I avoided Stephen King for nearly forty years because, snobbishly, I believed him to be 'just' a horror writer. Despite the exhortations of three of my well read children, I stubbornly refused to read anything he had written. I finally gave in and read '11.22.63' and the result? Totally hooked. He is a man who can bring a character alive in just a few strokes of his pen, an author who can pin you to the back of your chair until you have finished. 'The Shining' is a remarkable book, totally stunning. There's horror, yes, but real vulnerable people faced with credible horrors, some of their own making, some in the creative mind of this man of great talent - The hotel, the snow, the lift, the hedge animals, little Danny with his psychic gift... read it as soon as you can. And if you haven't read Stephen King before, throw away your prejudices before you start.
on 4 December 2013
After watching Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining, I decided to give the book a go, thinking that it would be quite similar. As it turned out, I was completely wrong... and I'm glad!
This, magnificently written and wonderfully descriptive, is completely captivating and enthralling. King's use of italics, the inner thoughts of the character, really get you up real close and personal and deep inside. You can picture everything that's happening- you can feel it.
The only thing I can criticise is a few minor editing errors, but apart from that I can find no other faults in this horrifying masterpiece; truly the King (pun intended) of all thrillers!
Buy it. You won't be disappointed.