Doctor Sleep – Stephen King

dr sleep

I’m not being fair I know. But when you write such novels as The Stand, The Shining and Salem’s Lot. Then you don’t get fair. Let’s not forget Pennywise in It. Seriously, my early years were spent being terrorized and loving it by the early Stephen King novels. The standard was set and all other writers; Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, etc. had to step up to it.

So Mr. King do you.

Recent novels by King have left me wanting. Pale efforts when compared to the early works. So why the four star review?

In Doctor Sleep, there are strong moments of the Stephen King that was. The prose and character development is strong and the flow of the novel rides like a riptide, pulling you in until you are sucked down so far that you will never find your way out unless it, of its own accord, releases you.

“…He was eight now, and capable of at least some rational thought even in his horror. Partly because, in a deep part of his mind, he had been expecting this. Although he had always thought it would be Horace Derwent who would eventually show up. Or perhaps the bartender, the one his father had called Lloyd. He supposed he should have known it would be Mrs. Massey, though, even before it finally happened. Because of all the undead things in the Overlook, she had been the worst…”

Little Danny Torrance is all grown up and though haunted by the events of his childhood and that one winter isolated with his mother and father and all the haunts of the Overlook hotel, he is haunted even more by his weaknesses. The disease that took his father has its own grip on him. Little Danny Torrance is a drinking man like his father Jack before him.

Torrance finds himself in the small town of Frazier where he decides its time to sober up. The Shining is still strong in him and he takes a job caring for the elderly and dying. It is here that he uses his gift to ease the suffering of the patients as they pass over in death. For this he is known as Doctor Sleep.

…”I don’t care either way.” Kingsley looked at him curiously. “Dying people don’t bother you?”
   Your mother died there, Danny thought. The shine wasn’t gone after all, it seemed it was hardly even hiding.  You were holding her hand when she passed. Her name was Ellen.
   “No,” he said. Then for no reason why, he added. “We’re all dying. The world’s just a hospice with fresh air.”

It is also here that he finally senses another Shining. A child who is in danger. A child much like he had been. Abra also has the Shining and she has become the target of a band of travelers who call themselves the True Knot. A group who live off the essence that leaves the Shining as they die. The more horrible the death, the stronger they feed.

Dan Torrance must find a way to save Abra as he battles the demons that haunt him daily. He must once again become the little boy who survived that dark winter in the Overlook.

King does a masterful job with characterization. The haunted and battling Dan Torrance is much more a reflection of the man his father was than the events of the Overlook. It is his father’s memory that Danny must overcome to defeat the True Knot.

Abra is strong and independent and a perfect foil for Torrance. He can see in her all the mistakes he had ever made waiting to happen all over again.

If there is a flaw in Doctor Sleep is that it just isn’t scary. Really, hard to understand but the sequel to one of the most terrifying novels ever written isn’t really scary. There is tension and it builds and there is danger but there is no fear.

Yet overall, it is a very good read and hopeful sign that King is regaining some of his form.


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