Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (from the archives)

 Originally written in 2017. Also on Goodreads. Sequel to The Shining.

I put off reading this one for a while because I wanted to wait until I had reread The Shining, and then after I had, I didn't want a sequel. The majority of King's books are stand alone, or if they are connected, it's usually more of an overlap than a sequel. I felt (and still feel) that The Shining is a masterpiece on its own and I was afraid that any attempt to follow it up would ruin it for me.

I have been one of King's Constant Readers for a long time now and will remain one the rest of my life I imagine, but there have been times when his books have missed the mark and disappointed me. I didn't want that to happen again. I should have known better.

Doctor Sleep is an excellent book. It follows the sad life of Danny Torrance and how the effects of his father's weakness and the evil of the Overlook Hotel never quite left him. Just like most of King's protagonists, Danny (now Dan) wrestles with addiction and we follow his descent to rock bottom and then his recovery through AA. His journeys bring him to New Hampshire and into the orbit of a little girl named Abra, who shares Dan's ability to "shine".

Hunting Abra is the True Knot, a group of creatures who feed off of children with the shining like a strange breed of emotional vampires. They want Abra because not only is she the strongest child they have ever seen, but because she holds the key to their survival. Dan teams up with Abra and together they fight the True Knot.

Calling the True Knot "vampires" isn't exactly accurate. It does describe their method of feeding and is easy shorthand for the reader, but they are different than vampires. For one thing, vampires tend to have a lot of complex rules and weakness - no garlic, sunshine, crosses, you have to kill them in a very specific way, et cetera. The True Knot lack these kinds of rules. They have powers and are stronger than humans, but no wooden stakes are needed, just bullets, knives or human diseases. I think they could have been more invincible. The final confrontation does take all of Dan and Abra's strength, but the only member of the Knot that ever seemed at all scary was the leader, Rose the Hat. Too many of the others are weak and disposed of quickly to ever feel like a real threat.

As I said, Doctor Sleep was a good book and it was nice to see a little boy from a broken home grow up and find himself a home and a family at last, but I would have liked more of an emotional core to the book. What made The Shining so powerful was the love between the broken man, Jack Torrance, and his little boy. The Hotel took that and perverted it. When I read The Shining, I wanted Jack to overcome his weakness and fight off the Overlook even though I knew it couldn't. With Dan, however, while he was in danger from Rose the Hat because she's strong and there is a moment where his father's temper flares through him, I never felt enough of an inner turmoil. The conflict, despite being through mind tricks, was more external than internal, whereas in The Shining, it's Jack's failings that are the real danger and the Overlook just amplifies them.

In the end, it is a good read and once I got into it, I breezed right through, but like mst sequels, it fails to live up to the (impossible) standard of the first.


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