That’s what she read: Doctor Sleep

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C. Jayne Trent

Photo Courtesy of Scriber Publishing

DoctorSleep_courtesyof

Stephen King’s thriller Doctor Sleep picks up years after the horrific events described in its predecessor, The Shining, in which young Danny Torrence and his family battled the ghostly remnants of the Overlook Hotel’s bloody past. Doctor Sleep features a grown-up Danny who has ironically contracted his deceased father’s affliction of alcoholism. Danny’s mother, Wendy, and old friend Dick Halloran are dead. Danny, teetering between rehabilitation and rock bottom, begins to sober up on account of another beckoning fight with evil. This time, Danny must save a precocious little girl gifted with psychic powers, much like himself, coveted by a coven of ancient, vampire-like creatures called the True Knot. Sounds promising, no? Another child who “shines,” more other-worldly creatures to battle, and a chance to revisit beloved characters of yore.

Although I truly expected to love Doctor Sleep having loved (and having been scared silly by) The Shining, I found Doctor Sleep to be anticlimactic. King, as expected, has written some wonderfully nuanced, flawed and sympathetic characters. His description of Dan’s descent into alcoholism and his battle to sobriety is wrenching. Dan’s work environment, a nursing home, is deftly and believably rendered. And Abra Stone, the psychic youngster at the heart of the story, is another in a long line of King’s capably drawn adolescents. Although the novel’s level of intrigue was convincing enough for me to get through it, I would have enjoyed this novel more had I not burdened myself with the expectations of it living up to or even surpassing the greatness and terror of The Shining. Admittedly, The Shining is a hard act to follow; a relentlessly atmospheric, taut tale of terror, one of King’s best books. At the very least, I was curious to hear more about the years immediately following the Overlook’s infamous demise, and certainly more about Wendy and Dick Halloran. I was not surprised that Danny became an alcoholic, but I believe fans of the series would have liked more detail about his early, post-Overlook years. Additionally, the villains in Doctor Sleep, the immortal True Knot denizens, are certainly creepy but by no means terrifying. The story fell short of suspense, an essential convention to the thriller novel, in that at no time did I doubt that Dan and Abra would prevail over the villains.

I still recommend Doctor Sleep but only to a serious Stephen King fan. And if you haven’t yet read The Shining, do so immediately. Preferably during a serious snowstorm.