Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Return to the World of "The Shining"

For fans of Stephen King, The Shining is one of his best loved & well-remembered novels. The story of Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy & their son Danny, who struggle with dark forces at The Overlook Hotel in Colorado, (where Jack is the caretaker) has become a modern classic of horror fiction. Danny has a power called “the shining” that the dark forces at the hotel seek to possess. Of course, the book was also adapted into the well regarded (though not by King himself) 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick, It was later turned into a 1997 TV miniseries with a teleplay by the author, which he felt was closer in spirit to the book. Now, King has returned with a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep (2013).

A grown up Dan Torrance is still haunted by his experiences at The Overlook, which ultimately took the life of his father. He’s gone through some dark times, including alcoholism, a series of low-end jobs, and bad relationships. His demons, like his father’s, threaten to consume him. But Dan makes a real effort to start over, and gets a job at a hospice in New Hampshire. He uses his power to help patients cross over to the other side in peace. Dan finds some new friends in town, and finds some meaning & contentment in his life. Things start to look up for him, and Dan hopes he's found his place in the world after all.

Meanwhile, a young girl named Abra Stone displays amazing powers & abilities, and also has ‘the shining,” though she appears to be even more powerful than Dan. She forms a link with him, though he is unaware of her identity at first. Abra also draws the attention of the True Knot, a group of people who feed off the magically talented; in a way they are “psychic vampires.” They want to drain Abra’s power, which they call “steam.” They've been alive for centuries, and have killed many other children over the years, in order to survive. Jack & Abra are about to cross paths, and will battle the evil of the True Knot together. Will Dan be strong enough to help save her…and truly redeem himself in the process?

King is a master of creating people we care about in his fiction, and writing dialogue that sounds very real. Billed as the author’s return to “balls out horror,” it’s the most old school of his recent work. Though not as strong as his 2011 success 11/22/63, or the Bradbury-esque coming of age tale Joyland (2013), it is nevertheless a powerful, compelling book. It’s great to see Dan Torrance and some of the supporting cast from The Shining again, and Abra Stone is a strong, fully realized character. There are some truly creepy scenes and “Rose the Hat,” the leader of the True Knot, is a formidable villain.

As always, there are references to other stories by King. and even a reference to a work by his son Joe Hill, peppered throughout the book. The conclusion is a bit rushed, especially after the strong buildup, and there are a couple of too convenient coincidences regarding certain characters & situations. But if you’re a fan of The Shining and King’s other works, you’ll find reading Doctor Sleep a rewarding experience. The book is now available in hardcover, and for computers, e-readers & mobile devices. Here’s a link to a trailer prepared by the book’s publisher:

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