Book Review: "Doctor Sleep" by Stephen King
- by Señor Editor, 20 December 2013
Stephen King is a busy man! “Joyland” was a great read this summer, and one of the best books of the year, but it’s probably the other novel, the one that came after it, that was the most anticipated by King fans. I’m talking about “Doctor Sleep”, the sequel to one of the author’s most well-known books and his earliest bestsellers – “The Shining.”
As you can see, there’s quite a lot going on here. The part of the book that takes place before Dan Torrance gets to New Hampshire establishes what happened after the events of “The Shining” and features the most familiar elements. The book starts off very promising. It’s been almost 40 years since he first wrote about the Torrances, but King managed to capture some of the creepy atmosphere of the original book in these opening chapters. The transition from Little Danny to Dan the Mentor is a natural one, and is set up very well. The True Knot, though nowhere as creepy as the ghosts that made Danny start drinking, are decent antagonists and make some sort of sense in the world of this story (I guess). They’re not scary at all, but they can be interesting.
So what went wrong here?
Well, it seems to me that there’s a little TOO much going on and King loses focus somewhere in the third quarter of the book. We got chapters presenting three points of view – Dan’s, Abra’s and the Knot’s. There’s a lot of interesting ideas, but somehow, tying all of them together results in a mess, and it seems less would indeed be more in this instance. There’s one part of the story that made me stop reading for a while, because of how unnecessary it seemed - I'm talking about what Dan learns about his and Abra’s family. It seemed less like a “whoa, the story goes full circle now!” than a “well this connection doesn’t really bring anything interesting to the story and just pushes everything over the top.”
The alcoholic/abusive father theme is one King is keen to explore here, but at times it’s very ham-fisted and predictable, particularly during the final confrontation with the True Knot. Maybe it's just me, but the story started looking really clumsy in the second half of the book, and that’s not something I’m used to with King books (his last few saw him back to top form). There’s not a lot of tension here, instead there's a whole lot of clichés.
“Doctor Sleep” is an entertaining read, and has some good moments, but it’s a far inferior story to “The Shining.” Of course, it’s also a very different type of story, but with all the shared characters and references to King’s old bestseller, it’s impossible not to compare the two. It’s not a bad book, but it’s one of the least interesting ones King wrote in recent years.
Well, Señor Editor took his sweet time to review that one... What did you think of "Doctor Sleep"? A worthy sequel? An entertaining read? None of the above? Sound off in the comments!