Book Review: Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep: Rewarding Sequel to “The Shining”

Author: Sherry Helms

Doctor SleepThe Global monarch of horror fiction-Stephen king- is back with the sequel to his best-selling third novel- The Shining, comes out of 36-years of wait.  The major difference between the two is that how quickly he now plunges into the action. At the time, King penned down “The Shining,” he was a committed alcoholic but this time he is a recovering alcoholic, and in Doctor Sleep, we find a more nuanced view of the cause and the treatment of alcoholism.

Conceptually, there are many similarities in the Stephen’s new novel Doctor Sleep and the latest by his son Joe Hill- N0S4A2- as both books open with the protagonist’s childhood comes across with the terrible ghostlike creatures. “Doctor Sleep” picks up the story of Dan Torrance who survived both his evil-infested dad, Jack Torrance, and the malignant spirits of the gruesome Overlook Hotel when he was a little boy. While he escapes the hotel of horrors, he can’t shake the visualizations he sees by his psycho-intuitive powers to perceive the energy of other psychics. Finally, he settles in a small New Hampshire town, where he finds friends, an AA community that sustains him and a job at a nursing home where his remnant supernatural powers provide ease to the dying earns him the name Doctor Sleep. But his peaceful life is ripped apart when he telepathically meets the evanescent 12-year-old Abra Stone, who also has “the shining”, and who is a target of a clannish bunch of ­shining-eating paranormal beings called the True Knot.  Led by Rose O’Hara alias Rose the Hat, this gang of almost immortal travelers needs the psychic powers (which they call “steam”) of children to stay forever young.

In the author’s note that concludes “Doctor Sleep,” the remarkable new sequel to “The Shining,” Stephen King shows his bafflement with Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation – regarded by many people as the best horror film of all time. The author has faced a particular challenge in writing this follow-up to “The Shining” because he has not only to inscribe a convincing and satisfying new tale from the bones of “The Shining”, one of the most terrifying novels of the twentieth century, but he must also wrest control of our reminiscence of that small boy-Danny.

In spite of its many horrors, “Doctor Sleep” is more of a paranormal adventure crossed with a moving story of redemption, mixed with themes like family, mortality, and second chances. King’s latest won’t make you forget Jack Nicholson’s manic performance, but it is still enthralling and will offer you a fresh case of the creeps, and introduce some electrifying new characters.  

The strongest point of the novel is the portrayal of the development of the main character- now adult ‘Dan’, as he struggles with his own lingering demons (his past, alcoholism, and his precognitive ability),  with new characters like Abra, Chetta, Dave, Doctor John, and The True Knot. However, King took about 500 pages to develop the characters, yet the accessible flow of story and plenty of twists and turns along the way will grasp the reader’s attention until the end.

In overall, Stephen’s latest installment, “Doctor Sleep” is a well-crafted story of good and evil that keeps the pages turning and will thrill the millions of dedicated fans of The Shining and entertain anyone new to this icon in his canon.

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