Like a lot of young readers, I grew up reading lots and lots of Stephen King. Then I found myself tiring of the genre. And then I starting thinking a lot of his books were, to be blunt: shit. “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” was the last straw for me. He clearly took all his shoddiest short stories and chucked them together to keep some publisher happy. There were a few decent stories but they were mostly tripe. That was the end of King for me, which was…. WOW! twenty years ago! Over the last few years I’ve grown curious. Particularly as I’ve heard lots good things about some of his more recent novels.
So I finally bit the bullet with Doctor Sleep.
Little Danny Redrum Torrence has grown up, and has clearly inherited from his father, both The Shining, and Alcoholism and this book deals with both demons equally.
King is still a master of the crafts he was always good at; he’s a great story teller, such a great turn of phrase, and he can carve great believable characters out of thin air. But then I hit a big bump. Quite early on he went bang into some really over-the-top supernatural woo. Over the years I’ve really grown to hate anything which promotes woo, and my eyes would not stop rolling in my head reading when he started rolling out the same old supernatural tropes; a load of puerile mind-reading-ghosty-vampire nonsense, turned up to eleven. I think he could have eased us in a bit, it got quite ridiculous, quite early. I was *that* close to sending it back via Audible’s wonderful no quibble returns policy.
But then he slowly won me over. Even though it’s ultimately the classic King trope in the form of an epic battle of good against evil. What King does best is to really get you rooting for the characters; namely the grown-up Danny and a young girl he befriends who Shines like a lighthouse.
Here’s something I found really interesting:
In Skagboys, the sequel to Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh described the characters in such a way that he made it clear that this was a sequel to the book, not the movie. But the characters in Doctor Sleep are clearly straight out of the movie; the way he describes that grin could only be Jack Nicholson.
That’s interesting. Considering he famously hated Kubrick’s adaptation, he still seems to have taken on board the collective King/Kubrick authorship of people’s collective memory of The Shining. No one can think of Jack Torrance without picturing Nicholson smashing through that door.
And he alludes to all this in an authors note at the end of the book, still getting a dig in saying “Plus, of course, there was Stanley Kubrick’s movie, which many seem to remember – for reasons I have never quite understood – as one of the scariest films they have ever seen.”
Personally I hate that The Shining is always rated in terms of scariness. I think it’s one of the best movies ever made, regardless of whether it is or isn’t one of the scariest horrors ever made.
So if you can get past the supernatural nonsense, it’s a great book, and if you are a fan of that stuff it must only be better.
Also – the narrator of this audiobook was one of the best I’ve heard. His scarey voice was chilling!