The long anticipated review of Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” is here. I have to say, although I usually expect great things from Stephen King, I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing “Doctor Sleep” turned out to be. “The Shining” really is a classic, so there was all that extra pressure on King to produce something as amazing if not better in the sequel. In my humble opinion, he exceeded expectations.
If you haven’t read “The Shining”, there will be some spoilers so beware!
“Doctor Sleep” picks up shortly after “The Shining” left off. Danny is still a boy and he has found that despite the fact that the Overlook Hotel has been destroyed, some of its inhabitants have followed Danny down to Florida. He discovers this early one morning when he walks into his bathroom, “She was smiling the way you do when you see an old friend. Or, perhaps, something good to eat.” (Doctor Sleep, pg 5). Dick is contacted and he teaches Danny just how to ward off these unwanted visitors. The story then flashes forward.
Danny is now an adult and has followed in his father’s footsteps when it comes to drinking. It was a little upsetting seeing Danny – a sweet little boy who everyone cheered for in “The Shining” to be reduced to an alcoholic drinking away the pain. He goes by Dan now and his alcoholic mind is an interesting one to say the least. “Dan eyed it with morbid fascination, reflecting (not for the first time) that the hungover eye had a weird ability to find the ugliest things in any given landscape.” (Doctor Sleep, pg 41). I liked this quote because it was so true, and I really liked the way that Stephen King wrote this sentence. As an adult, Dan finds himself reflecting on his father and what was the reason that he drank. Dan drank because it made the shining a lot duller. “It was strange to feel sympathy for a man who had almost killed you, but the sympathy was there.” (Doctor Sleep, pg 68).
Dan finds himself wandering from town to town, working wherever he can find the work and moving on as he gets the urge. He really has struck rock bottom and although Dan seems to know that, he just doesn’t care. For the first part of the book, Dan goes from place to place just waiting to die it seems. His go-to place for work? Hospice care. That certainly says something. I’ve never been an alcoholic or an addict of any sort really, but there have been times when I felt I was at my lowest and I felt myself identifying a lot with Dan. There was this one quote that I really liked because it was insightful and true. “Drinking was undoubtedly a part of it, but when you were down, some guys just seemed to feel an urge to walk up your back and plant a foot on your neck instead of helping you to stand. It was lousy, but so much of human nature was. Of course when you were running with the bottom dogs, what you mostly saw were paws, claws, and assholes.” (Doctor Sleep, pg 68-69). I love this kind of raw humor and it can frequently be found in King’s works.
Around this point in the book, Dan gets to a new town and meets some people who are the complete opposites of the awful humans described above. He makes some friends and is dragged to his first AA meeting. This dramatically changes his life. As he is getting sober, Dan makes a friend in the oddest way. A girl, Abra Stone, is born with the shining and they communicate via a blackboard in his bedroom. This unexpected friendship is another thing that will dramatically change Dan’s life.
While all of this is going on, the reader is also learning about the bad guys in the book. There is a group of individuals who are similar in a lot of ways with vampires, they call themselves The True Knot. They are nearly immortal and they survive by sucking the life out of children with the shining. We read about the terrible things that this group does and soon they come to the attention of Abra and Dan. They soon realize that if they don’t stop The True Knot, then Abra will become their next target. The book only gets better from there. One last quote that I just thought amusing and wanted to include, “Perhaps kids really did come into the world trailing clouds of glory, as Wordsworth had so confidently proclaimed, but they also shit in their pants until they learned better.” (Doctor Sleep, pg 123)
Would I recommend this book? Most definitely! I think that any Stephen King fan would enjoy reading “Doctor Sleep”. I also think that even if horror isn’t your favorite genre to read, you might enjoy reading “Doctor Sleep”. It was very well done and I am glad that Stephen King took the risk to write a sequel. It would be amazing if he continued the series following Abra next. I’m already dying to read it again.