Friday, October 18, 2013

DOCTOR SLEEP - A Literary Review by Rg Lovecraft

Oooooh Stephen King. How's it been goin', old friend? I feel like we haven't sat down and had a good adventure together in quite sometime. 

It should come as no surprise to you guys that I love me some Stephen King. He's one of those guys over whom I would squeal like a little girl if I was to see him in a grocery store, or pumping gas at the local Chevron. The sad thing about King is that his novels are never properly adapted for the big screen, it's something I've grown to accept. I don't believe that King's writing style can ever properly be conveyed in a visual format, he has such a personal, internalized writing style. Being that the Moretz fronted Carrie remake is hits theaters today (and the reviews are far from flattering) I thought today is a good day to focus on the man himself, the man behind the scenes, and his latest novel Doctor Sleep

I have been hotly anticipating this one for a little over a year, when I first heard that it was happening. A sequel to The Shining, and thank the heavens that it was Stephen King doing so and not Warner Bros. It says a lot about the faith and trust that I have in King that I can hear something like this, and not have a second thought. Just pure and complete excitement. I mean, we finally get to see what happens to Danny Torrance (now simply Dan), and how he copes with the aftermath of the tragedy in Sidewinder, Colorado. 

Now, if you're not familiar with the The Shining in it's true, original state, there will be some spoilers. If you don't care, or have read the novel, just highlight over those blank portions. 

The novel picks up after those terrible events, The Overlook has burned down and Danny and Wendy have escaped it's wraith, but Danny is still haunted by Mrs. Mackey and Horace Derwent. Not only have they followed him halfway across the country, but after some help from Dick Hallorann, Danny has found a way to use the shining to his advantage and lock them up in mental lockboxes for safe keeping. From here on out, we are taken many years into the future. Dan Torrance is now an adult, leading a life addled by alcoholism and poor decisions. He drinks to block the shining, which has haunted him his entire life. 

After a terrible encounter involving copious amounts of alcohol, cocaine and a curious toddler, Dan hops a train and heads north where he eventually ends up in a small sleepy town in New Hampshire where he not only finds work, but he begins his path to sobriety and finally finds some semblance of normalcy and purpose in life. He gets a job working for a local hospice in which he uses his talents to help the elderly guests (they are not patients in the Helen Rivington Home, but guests) pass onto their next spiritual journey. This is when he meets Abra, a girl who shines even harder than he did as a child, and the group of vampiric immortals who feed off of children who shine as a form of sustenance, but only after it's been purified through their pain and torment. What follows is a suspense trip unlike any other I've read in a King novel.

Something that a lot of people might find disappointing about this novel is the drastic stylistic differences between it and it's predecessor. It reads nothing like The Shining, and aside from the main characters name, you might never guess that it's a sequel to the supernatural novel. While The Shining was a tortured read of psychological terror and horror, this was more a suspense crime novel, wrought with psychic battles, telekinesis and telepathy. Does this make Doctor Sleep  a bad read? Absolutely not. Stephen King still has his touch, and it's just as much a page turner as anything else of his that I've read.

While I will say, The Shining is still the better of the two, King's character development is still spot on, especially in the case of young Abra Stone. One aspect of King's writing that has always amazed me is his ability to write children. He captures childlike innocence in such an amazing way. I am in no way a "children person", I steer clear of them and vice versa, however he is able to evoke emotions in me that I am sure are the very same that parents feel when staring at their beautiful little creations. King has definitely always had an affinity towards writing about children as well. The Shining, Pet Sematary, IT, etc. all prominently feature children, or the dynamic between child and father. Doctor Sleep is no different. 

I could go on for a while longer, but I'm bordering on analyzing King's writing as a whole (but that's for another post), but I will start to wrap things up now. Doctor Sleep is a great read, it's fun, it's engaging and as always, a page turner. While it does not compare to it's predecessor, it is important to keep in mind when reading this that not only is King in a different head space (it's been 30 years, and he's sober) the book is different. It is beautiful in it's own right though, there is the surface story, but the true underlying current is that of Dan Torrance and whether or not he will be able to finally let the grip that his father, and The Overlook has had on him all these years go. In that sense, it's a beautiful novel.


- Rg Lovecraft

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