Vigilant fans of my book posts will note that this is the third post dedicated to Stephen King, or offshoots thereof. It won’t end here either; I’m currently launching onto my second Classics Club book, The Stand! But no more of that now. It’s Doctor Sleep’s day in the sun.
Given the resurgence of The Shining in my life, this seemed like a highly opportune release. Before I reread The Shining last year I hadn’t read any Stephen King for at least a decade. It’s the first new Stephen King I’ve read for ages and I was nervous. I was happy to have re-established that bond, and I didn’t want anything to ruin that. Temptation was far too great though…
Doctor Sleep is Danny, now Dan, Torrance, a grown man still haunted by events at the Overlook and still shining on. After a turbulent few years, he has settled down and is working at a hospice, helping people to pass over. Life is good, mostly uneventful, until a brilliantly shining girl called Abra burns her way into his life. She has dreamed a murder of a particularly brutal kind, committed by a group called the True Knot. The True Knot are neither human nor supernatural, but something unearthly in between, creatures who travel around America in camper vans. They sustain their existence by feeding off shining kids, who shine especially hard when they are tortured. Now they know of Abra, and they are coming for her.
I’ve heard that Doctor Sleep wasn’t received particularly well in all quarters, but I thought it was great. Stephen King is a fantastic author, his characters so well rounded they literally leap of the pages, and his settings drawn so accurately yet so skilfully that you don’t notice the peculiarly creative metaphors they are built on unless you happen to stop in the right place.
Perhaps some people object to a sequel, or they struggle with a continuation of the story that goes from where the book left off, rather than the film. Honestly, though, this book could stand alone without The Shining, although I would recommend reading them in order if only for the fact that it will ruin events in The Shining. Abra is a very different child to Danny, a bit older for starters but also from a good family, an intelligent girl, benefitted by the modern age in which she lives. She knows who the enemy is and how she wants to fight her, rather than poor little Danny Torrance, confused and surrounded by ghouls. She is a fascinating character, and her altercations with Rose, the leader of the True Knot, are my favourite parts of the book.