I was about 15 years old when I read “The Shining” and I didn’t really take to it. I was looking for blood and gore and I found the book lacking in those elements. It took a second reading some 10 years later for me to appreciate the depth of horror that the book plumbed and realizing that terrified me. A such I enjoyed reading it immensely. I also liked Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation, which I know Stephen King didn’t.
Fast forward to last year when I saw this book advertised as the sequel to “The Shining” and I was instantly hooked.
One does not need to read “The Shining” to appreciate “Doctor Sleep”. First, the events and characters of the first book are heavily mentioned so one is kind of updated as the story moves along. Second, the main protagonist Dan is depicted here as a middle-aged man, and he’s so far removed from the adorable child that he was in the first book.
However, there are parallels between the two books. Instead of a haunted hotel, we have a man who is haunted with the psychic gift that seems to permanently connect him to the malevolent spirits that he encountered in childhood. It also shows that the ‘shine’ is passed on from one generation to the next.
The new characters are compelling: Abra, the girl who shares Dan’d gift but in enormous quantity, and the True Knot, non-humans who feed off the essence of children with the ‘shine’ who live among us disguised as RV and trailer folk.
“Doctor Sleep” is Stephen King at his best. There are melodramatic moments, especially in the revelation of Dan and Abra’s real connection but these can be forgiven because there is a profound sense of wonder and of course, horror in the story. I have read many horror books in between reading “The Shining” and “Doctor Sleep”; enough for me to not be so easily scared anymore.
So it makes me happy to say that in spite of this and both our advancing age, Mr King still manages to scare the heck out of me.