Greetings, ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a 2013 novel by acclaimed horror author Stephen King and it is a sequel to one of his most famous books, ‘The Shining’ which had been released decades earlier in 1977. Like its previous instalment, ‘Doctor Sleep’ had also been adapted into a film which was shown in cinemas in 2019 and stars Ewan McGregor as the now adult Dan Torrance. To my understanding, this picture received a positive reception but there are notable differences between the movie and the novel as the adaptation follows on from the story told in Kubrick’s iconic film as opposed to King’s original work. While I was looking forward to experiencing ‘Doctor Sleep’ I was all too aware that it would be unlikely to live up to its previous novel and I believe that I was right in that assessment after reading through it. I do intend to watch ‘Doctor Sleep’ at some point despite not being the biggest fan of the story it is built upon and I hope that it can justify its rather long runtime.
The story begins shortly after the horrific events that had transpired in the haunted Overlook Hotel with Wendy and Daniel Torrance now residing in Florida. Wendy is recovering from the physical damage her former husband, the possessed Jack, had inflicted upon her with a Roque mallet while Danny has been psychologically traumatised by all that has occurred. Not all the ghosts that haunt him are metaphorical though. One night Danny is making his way to the bathroom when he discovers a putrefying figure in the bathtub. The ghoulish woman is none other than Mrs Massey, the horrifying spectre from Room 217. Knowing how dangerous these evil spirits could be, Danny and Wendy seek help from Dick Hallorann. Dick, the former chef at the Overlook, is also gifted or cursed with the powers of ‘the shining’ and helps Danny conquer the ghostly apparitions by instructing him to mentally visualise locking them inside a box.
This technique works when Danny next encounters Mrs Massey and he imprisons her in a box, sending her to the deepest darkest depths of his mind. The next ghost to haunt Danny, Horace Derwent, receives the same treatment and it seems Dan will no longer be tormented by the spectres with his new found powers. The years go by and a now adult Danny has followed in his father’s footsteps and has become an aggressive alcoholic. The drug helps numb his powerful shine but his excessive drinking and partying also leads him to live a turbulent life which he struggles to leave behind. In his journey to sobriety, Danny will encounter a little girl named Abra Stone whose powerful shine allows her to reach out to him mentally. Dan had never meet one so strong in the ways of the shine and, unfortunately for him and Abra, this powerful ability also attracts the dark forces of the vampiric True Knot.
While it has its moments, I would consider this to be one of the weaker King books that I have read so far and I would put that down to the fact that there are quite a few bland characters, particularly the relations of Abra Stone, who inhabit the book. Another big failing was that it had no sense of place which is especially true when you compare it to ‘The Shining’ which was primarily set in one location and took its time to make the Overlook Hotel a sinister environment. In this book the characters were constantly moving across states and it was hard to appreciate the atmosphere of the locations because of this. Additionally, there was a specific twist towards the end of the book which didn’t work for me and it seemed quite forced in my opinion. While I found ‘The Shining’ to have its fair share of unnerving moments that are to be expected in a horror novel, the villainous True Knot led by the loathsome Rose the Hat didn’t conjure up much scares in comparison to their ghostly counterparts. In spite of my initial criticisms, it was pleasant to be reacquainted with Danny Torrance once again in a new adventure.
Quote of the Day
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Gone with the Wind