Stephen King: Doctor Sleep (Guest Review by Theresa Braun)

Theresa Braun has a Master’s degree in English and lives in South Florida where she has taught literature and writing for almost 20 years. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her short stories have appeared in several horror and speculative fiction publications. Later this year her novel Fountain Dead, based on her experiences living in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota, will be released by Unnerving Magazine.

Master storyteller Stephen King’s terrifying sequel to The Shining—an instant #1 New York Times bestseller that is “[a] vivid frightscape” (The New York Times).

On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the Stephen King canon.

Theresa Braun Review.

After reading The Shining a couple of years ago, I was really interested in delving into the sequel. I’m embarrassed to say I was exposed to Kubrick’s film long before I read King’s book. Both are works of genius in their own right, much to King’s dismay. But I digress. Going in to Doctor Sleep, I kept my expectations low. Had the novel been shorter, I probably would’ve attacked it much sooner. But I’m glad I got around to it.

Even if you’ve never read The Shining (or tragically, never seen the movie; shame on you, if that’s the case), you can have a full-bodied experience with Doctor Sleep. In other words, you can read it as a stand-alone. It showcases many of the qualities that fans love about King’s stories. Now, this is going to sound like a back-handed compliment, but I marvel at how King can milk scenes and draw them out. Many writers rush us through a novel (myself included at times), speeding us to the ‘good parts’. Not King. He takes his sweet ass time, and I loved him all the more for it. He does this without beating any details to death, or without lingering too long. He uses the right pace to keep baiting us along. Another thing that froths to the top of this novel is the unique and specific characterization and dialogue. There were times I didn’t need dialogue tags to figure out who was speaking, as he or she had a distinct voice. That’s mastery right there. In addition, the plot elements unravel effortlessly, with a few twists and turns you might not see coming. Even if you do, they are still fun nonetheless. My last bit of praise—I thoroughly enjoyed cringing one minute and laughing the next at a line that seems to come out of nowhere. The surprise humor really hit me in the right place. Bravo!

So let’s take it down a few notches for a minute. Is this the best book I’ve ever read? Probably not. Will some readers disagree with me and think King dragged parts of this book on too long? You bet your sweet bippy. Will there be someone who rolls their eyes at some of the ‘big reveals’ at the end of the book? Sure. As long as you chomp on this novel bit by bit and don’t expect it to be a gourmet meal you will want to read again, you’ll be fine. It’s good stuff.

Many writers dream of being in the position of King, being able to write something that fans are eager to gobble up. But I’m sure it comes with a lot of pressure, too. Sometimes people make him the god of horror, which he is in many ways. Don’t get me wrong here. I just think we need to allow writers to be the down-to-earth human that King seems to be. He’s definitely a living legend in more ways than one.

Rating: B

You can buy Doctor Sleep from Amazon UK & Amazon US

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