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Friday, 16 December 2016

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (The Shining, #2) - Book Review

5/5 Stars

FEAR stands for fuck everything and run.
                                                                   - Old AA saying


Edition: Paperback
Pages: 482
Chapters: 20 (Plus a prologue and an epilogue.)
Publisher: Hodder

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

The Shining is a classic; that's undeniable. It was a defining moment in horror fiction that terrified children and adults alike (and that includes many of my family members, my Dad foremost in pushing me to read it). So, even though it's only been a few days since I picked up The Shining and sat spellbound by its supernatural thrillings, I was equal parts excited and nervous about Doctor Sleep.

Would it live up to its predecessor? Or is The Shining a bottle of lightning that can't be replicated?

Well, the answer to both is yes. The Shining cannot be replicated, but Doctor Sleep is a powerful continuation that haunts the reader in a similar way. It's horror, without a doubt, but I'd class it as more of a supernatural thriller. It's captivating and crooked, delving deep into characters just as well as its predecessor does. 

Doctor Sleep is a modern classic, with an author who's unafraid to tell the truth in its barest form and deliver thrills that no other can hope to match.

Synopsis

FOLLOWING A CHILDHOOD HAUNTED BY TERRIFYING EVENTS AT THE OVERLOOK HOTEL, DANNY TORRANCE HAS BEEN DRIFTING FOR DECADES.

Finally, he settles into a job at a nursing home where he draws on his remnant 'shining' power to help people pass on.

Then he meets Abra Stone, a young girl with the brightest 'shining' ever seen. But her gift is attracting a tribe of paranormals. They may look harmless, old and devoted to their Recreational Vehicles, but The True Knot live off the 'steam' that children like Abra produce.

Now Dan must confront his old demons as he battles for Abra's soul and survival...

Plot - 5/5 Stars

Doctor Sleep, for its first quarter, moves through several different times. We follow Danny as a young boy dealing with the demons that haunt him from the Overlook Hotel, the psychological and the very real ones that have followed him; from there we see the ways in which he deals, alcohol and violence, as he falls into the same traps as his father; and then the tale of supernatural suspense and redemption kicks off. They're all magical moments, conveying terror, realistic life development, and diverse human emotions.

And don't be worried. King amazes with his ability to naturally move the series' tone and atmosphere forward. The beginning, with Danny as a young boy, has the dark feel of The Shining, progressing into horror that's more ordinary than extraordinary before returning to the abnormal.

Danny settles in the town of Frazier, New Hampshire (although there is a lot of travelling around America within the story), and events come thick, fast, and heavy. It's unstoppable. Some developments are predictable, the kind that you're supposed to expect and want to happen, but King has some sharp surprises in store that'll send your brain cells into overdrive. 

With self-destruction, guilt, and redemption, King escalates the second half to mystical madness, providing a tense showdown that has evil hiding in every corner.

It's phenomenal, plain and simple.

Pace - 5/5 Stars

Despite Doctor Sleep's contemplative pace and subtle build, King ensures that every scene has its significance. Just like The Shining, you're never bored; whether it be physical demons on the loose or inner ones clawing to escape, Doctor Sleep stuns with its realistic representations of the unnatural and the painfully natural.

In simpler terms, the novel's flow is smooth, but the story and characters demand that you take your time.

It's a demand that I, as a reader, echo: Don't rush this experience (oh, and read The Shining first; it's not strictly necessary, but you'd be doing yourself and the story a disservice if you passed it over).

Characters - 4.5/5 Stars

Doctor Sleep has a few more characters than its predecessor, which is fine. Their developments are solid overall and there aren't really any duds. My only slight misgivings are the 'off-screen' deaths of Wendy and Dick (although it fits Danny's development perfectly), and the absence of an origins story for The True Knot (the bad guys).

Getting away from those, however, this is Danny's story through and through, and he is absolute gold. With shades of his younger self, his father, and Stephen King himself, the now adult 'shiner' is a diverse and troubled main character. It's another instance of a protagonist that's both his own hero and antihero, and the tales that King tantalises with echo Jack from The Shining.

Danny is haunted by guilt; he's haunted by fear; he's haunted by his vices. And, unless quenched with alcohol he swore never to touch, he's haunted by very real apparitions intent on his demise. I love the way King sets Danny on a path much like his father's. The way nature vs nurture collides and has the reader wondering if Danny will succumb to what inevitably was instrumental in his Daddy's downfall. The themes of identity, destiny, and choices are fascinating and intense as they explore trails that The Shining doesn't.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

To keep it succinct: So many plots, themes, and messages collide in a smorgasbord of sensations that it takes a transcendent talent to organise them all with such precision and passion.

Overall - 5/5 Stars

I don't know if Doctor Sleep is the last foray we'll have with this world and its characters, but I deeply hope it isn't. With this entry, King proves he can deliver a sequel without sacrificing any of the elements that make the original what it is. 

Doctor Sleep is tense and terrifying, magical and malignant, deep and daring, and completely worth your time and attention.


Previous Instalment: The Shining



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