on 3 October 2013
I don't tend to review every single book I read otherwise Amazon would probably ban me for over-use, however when I come across a really bad or a really good book, I like to have my say about it and this book most definitely falls into the latter category.
I should start by explaining that I adore The Shining, it wasn't the first King book I read as a teenager but it was the one that stuck with me, so much so, that I make it a point to re-read my battered paperback copy of it at least once a year, it's hard to pick a favourite King book but this one would be in my top three for sure. So when I heard the news that a sequel was to be written I awaited its release with much anticipation but also quite a mix of nerves too......what if it was an awful book? what if (god forbid) it completely ruined The Shining for me? So, I pre-ordered Dr Sleep with much trepidation, but I was also very excited by the thought of an update on Danny, Dick and Wendy.
And so onto the book itself, I remember reading a critics review of the book who said that it was an 'emotional roller-coaster ride' and boy they weren't wrong. The first section of the book deals with getting us back up to speed with Danny, Dick and Wendy and that part of the book was like putting on an old pair of comfy slippers for me, I loved it, one of my favourite parts of The Shining is the relationship between Danny and Dick and to revisit that was quite lovely.
Shortly after that, we start to read about Dan (as he is now known) as an adult and without spoiling it, this part was a very difficult read not because it was badly written but just because of how much I love Danny Torrance as a character, to see him go through something so difficult was hard to read. So hard I almost stopped reading the book but I pushed past my emotional connection to Danny as he was and continued.
I'm so glad I persevered because that's when the story really kicks into a higher gear, it becomes a very fast paced, exciting, tense and at times incredibly emotional to read, one section in particular had me on the verge of tears. The characters as always are beautifully written so much so that you start to feel as if they are a part of your family, I don't know how he manages it but Stephen King always seems to be able to connect you emotionally to his characters.
There are emotional highs and lows throughout the story (again, some parts make for difficult reading if you loved the characters from The Shining) and as with a lot of Stephen King's books there are some wonderful tie ins to other stories and other worlds he has created. I loved the villains of the piece, the idea of 'normal' looking people travelling around in their RV's somehow made them all the more scary because they didn't look like monsters (I'll never look at a camper van in the same way again) and I wonder if maybe Stephen King might re-visit the True Knot one day, there seems to be a whole lot more to their story.
Only one part of the book made me think "oh Steve, that's a bit of a stretch!!" but I guess you will have to make up your own mind about that part, again I don't want to spoil it.
All in all, it is an extremely well written and entertaining book which I really enjoyed. I can't give it 5 stars but that's only because I consider The Shining to be a 5 out of 5 star book and this one, although a great sequel, it's not The Shining!
But it's definitely worth a read, like so much of his later work (from say 2000 onwards) this one is really well written so it's great to see that he is still writing incredible books and long may he continue. A real must for any Stephen King fan and although it doesn't matter too much if you don't do this, I would recommend that you re-read The Shining first before starting Dr Sleep, it is a stand alone book, but it makes for a much better read if you read the books together.
The Shining was the most scared I have ever been reading a book. This book didn't repeat that level of terror for me. However, I was seven years old when I read the original and the magic and terror of childhood can't ever be completely recaptured. This book was as great a sequel as could ever have been expected to follow up a story that holds that important of a position in our collective pasts.
Don't read this book if all you want is to return to The Overlook Hotel and crazy JackTorrence. Neither are revived except as a reference and recap of Danny Torrence's history. The Overlook Hotel blew up and Jack Torrence died. There are echoes from that past, redrum and others, but this isn't as much of a sequel as it is a new story starring old characters.
King briefly updates us on what happened to little Danny and his mother Wendy, as well as the old cook who shared the shine with Danny. That update was pretty d--- scary in and of itself. I won't give it away, but some re-visitations were made.
In Danny's adulthood the story becomes less insanely crazy/scary than the first book. However, King's storytelling and ability to scare are still powerfully strong. This is a different tale completely than The Shining, with only a little overlap. Don't expect to experience that same level of terror and you won't be disappointed.
There was also a very human side of this story. Death and dying, the fight for sobriety, basically the life of an adult child of an abusive alcoholic -- who also happens to be able to read minds, see the future and communicate telepathically.
I listened to this book on Audible. The narrator did an excellent job although he was a tiny bit breathy. The reader, who in this case you must know for 18.5 hours, in an audio version is almost as important as the story. This narrator did a fairly good job of adding to the suspense of this book. The audio version won't disappoint.
Can Stephen King keep up his recent run of form not least following gripping books like the excellent 11/22/63? The answer is largely affirmative although with a number of caveats. By any standards "Doctor Sleep" as the follow up to 1977's "The Shining" has got the taste buds of the reading public in a state of heightened anticipation. The book was, of course, a much more sinister beast than the "hamming it up" which Jack Nicholson did in Kubrick's film version and it is generally understood that King was not a fan of its portrayal. The film lacked the sheer creepiness of the novel and it is this again which is the predominant atmosphere contained in this new book. This is not horror it is just plain scary.
"Doctor Sleep" returns to characters of The Shining, and it's main protagonist the now grown-up Danny Torrance, who remains deeply haunted by the terrors of the sinister wintry Overlook Hotel. "Dan" has since become someone, to use the British parlance, who more than enjoys "hitting the sauce". Equally the cat on the cover offers a number of clues harking back to earlier King writings and the feline Oscar, a therapy cat whose instincts predict the deaths of terminally ill patients in a nursing home by sitting on the beds of people who died shortly after (Note - you will be well advised to keep Kitty downstairs henceforth!). Danny works with the cat in a nursing home in a small New Hampshire town where he provides final comfort to the dying, becoming known as "Doctor Sleep.".
King also introduces a much more "strategic" plot to tantalize the reader of an another telepathic counterpart, a 13-year-old girl Abra who contacts Dan in turn is being pursued by some deeply unpleasant ancient beings under the banner of "The True Knot" whose every unpleasant hobby is to torture child physics in order to devour their "shining" and thus retain their relative youth. This crowd are a deeply creepy bunch and the best part of the book is when they enter the fray. Led by a despicable character Rose the Hat they travel the highways and byways of America and the book leads to an inevitable climax of good versus evil.
In truth, there are some parts of this book which don't always hold the attention in the way that the epic "The Stand" completely drew you in and owned you. That said the book does dive straight into the action and ultimately it's a largely gripping and very eerie tale. The sections in particular on the passage to death and alcoholic excess also contain some great writing. King is now 66 and has for years suffered inverted snobbery from the literati about being a mere writer of pulp fiction. "Doctor Sleep" proves again that he is, in fact, an excellent writer and a master storyteller. While King is not quite the twisted son of Dickens he is really great value. Whether "Doctor Sleep" will be viewed as one of his "classics" is a matter of the passage of time although this does not feel quite the complete work that "The Shining" was (This reviewer did miss the ghostly absence of the backdrop of the Overlook hotel). Alternatively, as a work in its own right building on an excellent foundation it does succeed and while King had doubts about a follow up this is a very worthwhile sequel and an enjoyable scary feast.
on 24 September 2013
Doctor Sleep is absolutely outstanding. Easily the book of the year for me. In fact, it's my book of the decade. It's a beautiful, captivating, terrifying and unforgettable read.
As a life-long Stephen King fan, I can't emphasise enough what an 'event' this novel is. It's more than a book, it's....an occasion, it's closure to something that became a big part of so many of our lives, so long ago. It's, quite simply, bloody brilliant. A book this huge doesn't come around very often, but when it does, it restores my faith in the Universe, it really does. I'm tired of seeing people getting over-excited and queuing endlessly for video games and shiny phones. I will never, ever get tired of seeing people rushing to get their hands on a book. There aren't many authors who can make that happen. Those who do, are Legends.
It's not easy to put this into words (clearly I'm no Mr King!), but because I felt I knew little Danny so well, being back with him after all this time was just an incredible experience. It was like being back with an old friend you never thought you'd see again.
Doctor Sleep kicks off not too far from the end of the action in The Shining, and if, like me, you did a re-read before starting this one you feel like you're carrying straight through, which is great as all your initial questions are answered pretty quickly. You're on familiar ground right from the start.
For me though, the point this one really ramps up and gets its claws into you is the point at which the title is explained. From then on, I could not put this down for love nor money. I was blown away by how deftly King demonstrates what a destructive force alcohol is. It's fascinating to see how Danny's Dad's drinking had affected him, and how drinking in turn affects The Shining, and how they both pull the older 'Dan' in different directions. I want to try and keep this as low on spoilers as possible, but the 'canny' incident with little Tommy, when Dan was at his absolute lowest was completely and utterly heartbreaking. It still haunts me even now, as I believe it will every single parent who reads it.
It's interesting to see how alcoholism is woven as a theme throughout the novel. Every aspect of its portrayal is authentic and convincing. As the Danny we knew becomes the Dan we don't, there are so many changes we go through with him. I felt like family reading this. The drink, the drugs, Tommy and rock bottom, and his gradual climb up and out the other side.
His connection to Abra is heart-warming, and she's such a beautiful character to be added into the mix. Ten years old when Dan is ten years sober, they make an incredible team. Hallorann's prophecy comes true in the most poetic and co-incidental way;
"Someday, Danny, it will be your turn to be the teacher. The pupil will come."
The portrayal of animals here was interesting too. I enjoyed how dogs can see straight through the True Knot folk, whereas people were instantly taken in by them;
"They don't like dogs, and dogs don't like them. You might say dogs see through them."
If you couple this with the strange power Azzie the cat has, you see a respect here for domestic animal instinct that will delight all pet owners. Of course, the Azzie situation isn't an original idea, but the way King writes it, it feels unique, he puts his own stamp on it and it's thrilling. The added twist of what Dan can do for the patients Azzie visits makes the whole situation completely his own.
Doctor Sleep, for me, wasn't terrifying in the same way that the Shining was. It's a more intense, darker menace that causes the fear here, with the intentions of the True Knot being both so clear and so sickening. The battle of wits between them, Dan and Abra is exciting and stressful and all too much in places. And there is, of course, a nice twist at the end. I didn't see it coming, although really, I should've done, I was just too wrapped up in the overall awesomeness of everything else that was going on.
Was this a picture of a future I'd hoped for for Danny? No, not at all, a million miles from it, in fact. But it was an incredible journey, and getting to know him was something I won't forget in a hurry. It was nice to finally see him with good people. Dan deserves good people.
In short, Doctor Sleep has all the hallmarks of a King classic, multiplied tenfold for linking back to one of the greatest novels of all time. For me, this isn't one for the freezer like The Shining. In The Shining you're scared witless and all you can do is shout for help and run. Doctor Sleep is a book to keep by your bedside, because it demonstrates how to fight back, even from rock bottom.
I could not have loved it more.
on 2 May 2014
I am a fan of Stephen King and have read all his books down through the years. I've noticed a steady decline in quality over the last few years, with the odd exception. When I first heard the premise of 'Doctor Sleep' I cringed. A sect of travelling soul vampires intent on sucking the shining from a child, a cat that predicts when someone is going to die, and Danny Torrance from the Shining. It sounded like a mash-up of 'Sleepwalkers' meets the cat from 'Cat's Eye' meets that annoying kid from the TV version of 'The Shining' (the one with the ridiculous haircut). It didn't make any sense.
But I approached the book with an open mind, ready to be proved wrong and willing to get lost in a great story. Unfortunately this didn't happen. The book starts out OK (page 1) and then deteriorated from there. I just didn't find any of the characters scary. Rose the Hat was a joke. The only semi-scary scene when they kill a young boy was glossed over. I found the constant AA references slightly annoying and cliched, and there was a real lack of insight into anything from the previous book. Jack Torrence was written off as a violent alcoholic, so that was a nice and handy way to pigeon-hole him with a simple tag.
Also at one stage King describes clouds as 'fluffy' and when I saw that kind of lazy description I lost all respect for this book. The final showdown is boring and anti-climatic and helped me go to sleep.
Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen King's books (most of them) but can not pretend that I liked this book.
Doctor Sleep is a book too far and I don't believe he should have revisited the world of The Shining at all, or until he had a damn good story that complemented the original. I wonder what's next: Christine 2, when the car gets recycled as a fridge and freezes people to death.
My medical opinion:Take two paracetamol and pretend you never read it and call me in the morning.
on 7 October 2013
Let me start by explaining my love for the shining, I've read that book at least once a year if only to enjoy that sheer terror that I get every time I read it, Even though I know what's coming.
It's a classic book and one that people will read for many years to come.
When I heard S.King was writing a sequel I was as excited as I was nervous.
This book always had a huge act to follow and there in lies the problem.
As I picked up this book I expected great things, and I don't think it delivered, only because my expectations were so high.
This isn't like the Shining and could really be a stand alone book were it not for the protagonist Dan Torrence.
That said, it doesn't entirely disappoint. The book draws you in picking up so nicely where the shining ends. Describing what happened after the horror at the Overlook with a few of our favourite characters back in for good measure. As the story develops and were introduced to a cult like group called the true knot it looses it's way slightly and becomes a little bit more predictable, with none of the scares and anticipation that I'd hoped for.
The characters become likeable though not likeable enough that you dread anything happening to them and their are no twists and surprises to really engage you in the way that the likes of 11.22.63 etc have done recently (which really reminded us that this guy can write, and write very well)
Read it for yourself , but manage your own expectations and you'll enjoy this book.
Just don't expect it to joint the likes of Carrie, IT and The Shinning amongst the greats.
on 3 October 2013
Dan Torrance works as an orderly in a hospice in a small New England town, in which he pitched up a decade beforehand, as an alcoholic, looking for somewhere to start getting his life back together.
He has "The Shining", King's term for a mixed bag of telepathic and telekinetic abilities, which he puts to philanthropic use helping his dying patients cross over into the great unknown.
Abra (as in Abracadabra, geddit? Yes, I know, I groaned inwardly also) is a 13-year-old girl who also has The Shining, but to an even greater extent than Dan. Her parents became accustomed to the various manifestations of her abilities when she was a toddler but believe, erroneously, that they have become quiescent.
A large group of psychic vampires, calling themselves the True Knot, pose as itinerant retirees, travelling across America in their RVs. They sustain themselves by torturing and killing children, inhaling their essence (or "steam") as they die.
Children with The Shining are of special interest to the True Knot and they soon become aware of Abra. Dan, too, becomes aware of Abra. The narrative tracks the growing bond between Dan and Abra, leading to the final battle with the leader of the True Knot.
As with most of King's novels, Doctor Sleep is very well written. There were a few clumsy passages but, on the whole, I couldn't complain. I especially enjoy his characterisation and, in many of his books, he often spends some time sketching in all the details of some of the more minor characters. In Doctor Sleep, only Dan appears to merit this level of scrutiny. We learn a little about the other characters but not a lot, and about this I felt a little let down.
I also very much liked the structure of the book. The flashback sequences were handled well - and I can get easily irritated by this type of narrative device - and there were a couple of nice reveals in the last third.
I also enjoyed some of the references in the book - to Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy. As a big Jack Reacher fan, I smiled at the line where one of the characters says, pointedly "Either he will or he won't" which seemed to me to be a nod to the big man (but won't seem like much of anything unless you, too, have read Reacher).
King, as you would expect after all these years, knows how to pull the right levers and the heart-strings, and I must admit to having had to wipe away a couple of tears when reading the epilogue.
Sadly, Doctor Sleep has some major faults: the True Knot, Abra (the 13-year-old girl with The Shining) and the ending.
The True Knot, as painted by King, is, frankly, just silly. The leader is an egotistical drama queen who repeatedly underestimates Abra's powers. If she's really been leading the Knot for decades you would think she'd be a bit more clever than this. And the Knot just isn't remotely frightening. As described they're a bunch of bumbling fools.
And what is it with the psychic vampire plot anyway? King's son, Joe Hill, used the same device in his disappointing novel NOS4R2 (Nosferatu, geddit? Is puerile wordplay becoming a familial trait?) to which King makes several references in Doctor Sleep. Just as Hill's chief villain, Charles Manx, was, essentially, ludicrous, so is King's villainess, Rose. The whole plot device smacks of King thinking that the notion of the bad guys being a bunch of RV-driving `seniors' was hilarious and, instead of leaving it on the drawing table he picked it up and ran with it, far past the point where it stopped being funny.
I also had significant problems with Abra. As King portrays her, she's a cross between Hermione from the Harry Potter books and Indiana Jones's long lost daughter. She's beautiful, articulate, wise, insightful, clever, and able to repeatedly win psychic arguments with the leader of the Knot. In essence, she's like no 13-year-old girl I've ever encountered and I speak as the father of two teenage daughters and someone who, professionally, has to deal with examples of this particular sub-species on a regular basis. New writers are encouraged to write what they know. I suspect that, in his 60s, King is just a little too far removed now to write convincingly about girls of Abra's age. Contrast this with the fantastic characterisation of Dan and his various issues with alcoholism. King obviously (his past problems with the demon drink are well known) has detailed, intimate knowledge of such issues, and this comes across very clearly.
Lastly, the ending was just stupid. I won't spoil it by describing in any detail. It wasn't quite a "With one giant leap..." scenario but it was close. Worryingly, it was actually similar to the end of Hill's NOS4R2, which I found similarly laughable. If you're going to have a preternatural villain with decades of experience then why can they be killed with a metaphorical poke in the eye?
I am not one of King's more rabid "constant readers" but I have read about two thirds of his novels. The publication of Doctor Sleep was announced months ago, allowing me the time to re-read The Shining (originally published in 1977) to which Doctor Sleep is a direct sequel. The Shining was fantastic, even 35 years after publication, and rather puts Doctor Sleep in the shade.
King did have a very poor patch - from the early 90s to the mid 2000s - but his most recent books have been highly enjoyable. Under The Dome was very good. 11.22.63 was one of his best ever. Doctor Sleep is much better than Cell and From A Buick 8 but, ultimately, proved, for me, to be something of an anti-climax.
on 24 September 2013
The return-to-form King displayed with 11/22/63 and the novella JOYLAND continues for the most part with King's long-awaited 36-years-later sequel to 1977's THE SHINING.
Picking up only a few years after the conclusion of events in THE SHINING, the prologue features one of the most memorable apparitions from The Overlook making a welcome return "haunting". From there, the novel jumps ahead a couple of decades, picking up with Danny at his lowest point in his late twenties before coursing ahead several more years. The pacing is a little disjointed at times and I was disappointed that some of Dan's arguably more compelling years (his teenage years) - and characters such as Wendy and Dick Hallorann - are never really explored to the extent or depth I had hoped they would be. A little more detail and padding here would have been welcome. However, King has often been criticized for his meandering, overlong style so many readers may relish this slightly more concise style.
The constant references throughout to even minor events in THE SHINING will have most readers inevitably comparing it to the earlier book (throwbacks to "REDRUM" and many other references abound). While DOCTOR SLEEP does work as a stand-alone novel, it works best as a sequel. There are two main threads to this novel: the exploration and expansion of the character of the now adult 'Doc', as he battles with his demons (alcoholism, his past, and his shining ability); and the new story and characters such as Abra, Chetta, Lucy, Doctor John, Dave, and The True Knot. The new characters, especially Abra, are well drawn but the villains come across as a little hammy and the overall plot pales in comparison to Dan's inner ruminations. The book's strongest point is the characterization of the original character and his expansion, with the main plot (new characters, new villains) being somewhat weaker but serviceable. As is typical with many King novels, the ending is a bit of a letdown - (small spoiler) it's not bad but it is a little predictable and the final showdown is rushed with its infamous Colorado setting underused.
King says that this novel is a "return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on scary horror" and eerie early scenes in the prologue and when Dan's Shining returns with a bang in Teenytown seem to promise this, but it never really manifests, and overall the novel is not at all scary or even particularly creepy. Unfortunately, while it is suspenseful, much of the tale is just not as compelling or terrifying as it could have been. It's more of a supernatural adventure than a horror - an enjoyable and entertaining adventure for the most part that also serves as a poignant story of redemption, exploring themes such as mortality, family, and second chances.
I would rate this 3.5/5 but as that is not an option, I had to choose either 3 or 4 stars. I feel 3 is a little low so I chose 4. Due to high expectations, you may be disappointed - don't expect a direct sequel to THE SHINING, but view it more as a continuation of the character of Dan with a new story and lots of references to the original novel. Don't expect a horror novel either - view this as more of a supernatural adventure crossed with a poignant story of redemption. It's far from perfect (few sequels are) and it's not better than the original, but it does continue the tale of Dan Torrance in an effective and heartfelt manner, features a good (though not great) premise, and introduces some interesting new characters, while also being respectful of and paying homage to its roots. Despite its flaws, DOCTOR SLEEP is a solid work.
The True Knot are an association of ghouls who travel the highways and byways of America abducting small children (who else?) and feeding on their souls (what else?). Their current inventory will take them to Colorado and the site of the Overlook Hotel (where else?). Meanwhile, Dan Torrance, a recovering alcoholic is working as a nurse in a cancer hospice in New England. I guess it's almost inevitable that there's going to be a showdown, isn't it?
While attending a book signing in 1996, someone asked Stephen King what became of Danny Torrance, the young protagonist of King's third novel "The Shining". It took him a while, but "Doctor Sleep" is the answer to that question...
"Doctor Sleep" is classic King. You got your soul-sucking vampires (check), got your tortured alcoholic hero (check), got your psychic teenager (check), your grizzled Midwesterner father figure (check), your cataclysmic, James Bond-esque denouement (check). You know where you are with The King. You get a big old book, swollen, but full of interest; replete with character development, crammed with back-story, dripping with homely sincerity and oozing apple-pie Americana. Fortunately, though, King managed to avoid chucking in a whole squadron of flying saucers this time but I was surprised not to see a visit from Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
So there you go. A worthy (if long awaited) follow-up to The Shining. Different in character but consistent in plot. More "It'' and "Insomnia" than "Dreamcatcher" or "Dome". To say much more would be superfluous. If you like King, you'll like this. If you love King, you'll read it in one long, gritty-eyed session.
on 11 November 2013
I give this book 3.5 stars.
When I was younger I was addicted to Stephen King books, and devoured 'The Shining', loving every page of it.
Before reading 'Doctor Sleep' I decided to re-read 'The Shining'. One, to recap on what happened, and two, to make sure my memories of it were realistic (I've found over time my thoughts on books change). It was still fantastic.
So, 'Doctor Sleep' had a lot to live up to. And for me it didn't quite make it.
'The Shining' is a horror story, and it was terrifying. 'Doctor Sleep' isn't scary in the slightest.
I really wanted to find out what had happened to Danny as he grew up, and this story was exactly what I wanted. Many have complained, but I thought it was a great idea to have Danny struggle with alcoholism. I very much enjoyed King's writing of Danny's story, it definitely filled the hole I had.
I also loved finding out about the other characters from 'The Shining', seeing where they are, and if they're still around. The references to Joe Hill's NOS4R2 was great too.
My problems with this story started with the True Knot. To me they were boring. I had absolutely no interest in them, and just wanted them to be destroyed. Which was a shame, I should have an interest in the bad guy. I need to hate them, want them to suffer. The description of Rose's 'true face' was more funny than scary. For some reason I had an image of Ziltoid the Omniscient in my head, with his snaggletooth. Not scary at all.
So, the whole idea of this being a horror story was lost on me.
I enjoyed Abra's story, and was very interested and invested in her. My problem was that she was just too powerful. There was no way she was going to lose. Danny was a scared, innocent child in 'The Shining'. He had no idea what to do, or how to do it. Abra just kicked ass. And she had help!
Also, what happened to Tony. He appeared at the beginning of the book, being around Abra. But, then he disappeared. Was he not needed anymore? That was a bit disappointing.
I've glad that this book exists, and I'm glad I have read it. But, it had too much to live up to, and it failed.