It’s a great premise: Danny, the little boy from the Overlook Hotel who has a touch of “the shine” (the special blessing/curse that allows him to read minds and see people who are no longer living but aren't quite dead yet) is all grown up now. Doctor Sleep picks up a few years after the disaster at the Overlook and Danny continues to see the slimy creepy crawly corpses he used to see during that winter at the hotel. His mother, Wendy, calls in Dick Hallorann, the chef from the Overlook, who acts as Danny’s mentor when it comes to all things “shine.” Dick imparts some special wisdom about controlling the shine and King plants the seed for the rest of the plot.
Danny, who goes by Dan as an adult, struggles with alcoholism as he ages because alcohol muffles the shine that he has come to resent. King’s own rocky journey with alcohol and drug abuse peeks through not-so-subtly in the descriptions of Dan’s “rock bottom” scene and his experiences in AA.
Meanwhile, our other main character is born nearby. Abra, as in “cadabra” King points out, is a little girl with even more shine than Dan – one of the most powerful shines anyone has ever seen. As an infant, Abra predicts the 9/11 attacks and tries to warn her parents via disturbing dreams and hours of screaming. And that’s just the beginning.
Dan and Abra must embark on a grand journey to eradicate the Knot because, in true villain form, the Knot won’t stop until they’ve been killed. Overall, the story is engaging and Dan is a deliciously flawed but lovable protagonist. And as always, King captures the essence of his kid characters spectacularly well. King returns to his common theme of family in this book as well; however, a random, unnecessary familial tie is where King lost me completely and took the plunge over the precarious pop fiction edge.
About half way through Doctor Sleep, King falls into the trap that frustrates readers to no end- keeping them out of the loop. Common in crime novels, this tactic is full of clandestine meetings that the reader is not privy to. It includes lots of summarized dialogue that tells us how characters are laying out intricate plans to catch the bad guys, but don’t let readers in on it. The significant difference between pop fiction crime paperbacks and Doctor Sleep is that King employs this infuriating method for about three hundred pages – the size of a small novel itself. Personally, I resorted to gritting my teeth and bearing with him, simply because of the credibility King already has.
But once the plan is revealed, if you've read The Green Mile, you’ll recognize Dan’s kill shot as a technique taken directly from John Coffey’s playbook. Is Mr. King recycling plot devices? You tell me.
All of these aspects combined with a few extremely recent cultural references – one member of the Knot threatens one of Dan and Abra’s friends; to “kill him as dead as Amy Winehouse” – that seemed like desperate attempts to stay relevant, made this book grate on my Stephen King-loving nerves a little.
I did wonder multiple times why King pushed back the release date from January to September of this year for “revisions” and if these revisions were really just 200 extra pages – nevertheless, I enjoyed it as I always enjoy King’s work.
If you’ve read The Shining and are curious about Dan’s fate and this new super-shine preteen girl, I suggest picking this one up. It's possible that I set my expectations a little to high for King to meet, but that doesn't mean Doctor Sleep isn’t a great read.
The one thing I missed most was the lingering sense of being haunted. I wasn't scared to close my eyes and see The Knot like I was scared to turn corners in dark hallways for fear of The Shining’s Jack Torrance. Although, to his credit, I’ll never be able to look at my grandparent’s RV club the same way.
Megan Tripp is a senior Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College. When she's not writing, she drinks copious anounts of coffee, watches Netflix, and thinks about what she wants to write next. Contact Megan on Twitter.
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