Dr. Sleep Review: Part 1 (of 3)
When Stephen King first announced he was hard at work on a Shining sequel, he spilled some details that made a lot of people—including myself—raise an eyebrow. Apparently, the book was going to feature a tribe of shining-hungry psychic vampires who traveled around the country in RVs. Meanwhile, Danny was now all grown up and had become a recovering alcoholic/Dr. Kevorkian-type known by some as “Dr. Sleep.” The latter I could buy.
After what happened to him as a kid, there was no way Danny wasn’t going to go through some serious growing pains. But the psychic vampires? I thought: what do psychic vampires who drive RVs have to do with the universe we explored in the original novel? I mean, that’s one screwed up universe, then, isn’t it? Hotels filled with murderous ghosts, killer fire-hoses and blood-thirsty garden topiaries are bad enough; but now there’s also tribes of vampires commuting back and forth across the United States, huffing shining “steam” directly out of kids’ heads?
Oooookkkaayy. Just tell me one thing, Stephen King: when are the space aliens showing up? The ones that use repurposed shining-juice as fertilizer for their prize-winning potato gardens back on Remulack?
Though there are no Dark Tower references in this novel (thank Gan), it still smells of Stephen King’s fixation with the whole multi-universe concept, which basically places all of his novels in the same fictional world. Like I said: that’s one outrageously messed up world. It’s a wonder the entire population of the planet doesn’t just commit mass suicide to spare themselves the horror of encountering EVERY MONSTER IMAGINABLE.
Needless to say, I didn’t have the highest of hopes for “Dr. Sleep.” Stephen King had apparently, once again, gone off the reservation. It seemed to me like this new book wasn’t going to be much of a sequel to the Shining at all, seeing as how there was clearly going to be a serious shift in tone and perhaps even genre. Though they share many of the same attributes, ghost stories aren’t necessarily the same thing as “horror” stories. Ghost stories are a well-defined, unique sub-genre of horror.
This was going to be one of those sequels in name only. Specifically, the name “Danny Torrance.” Yes there’d probably be more than a few references to the first book, but it would kinda be like Indiana Jones reminiscing about the Ark of the Covenant while holding a crystal skull in his hand.
Turned out I was right on the money. “Dr. Sleep” starts off as a direct sequel to the events of The Shining. We discover what Wendy and Danny got up to in the days and months following their adventures in the Overlook Hotel. Though it felt a little rushed–as if King just couldn’t wait to get it over with so he could start blathering on about the brain-vampires–it served as a satisfying and believable coda to the first novel. We even get some Dick Hallorann thrown in the mix (though he wasn’t as lucky in Kubrick’s film, Hallorann managed to survive the original Shining novel).
Then we jump ahead in time. Wendy Torrance has been dead for a while. She’s done—no longer a factor in the book. Hallorann is presumed dead (and the presumption proves to be correct). Danny’s in his thirties now, and he’s a self-destructive alcoholic just like dad used to be. His inability to quell his rampant shining ability has led him, believably enough, to alcohol; which sort of dulls the shining’s edge and gives him a measure of peace. Because of his addiction he has become a wanderer, a self-destructive boozer unable to pull his act together.
Until, that is, he finds himself in a peaceful New Hampshire town called Frazier. He meets some folks who take a liking to him and, soon afterwards, get him to join AA. He gets on the wagon. His new life begins. Fast forward another few years. Danny’s still on the wagon, and working at a hospice in a Dr. Kevorkian role, using his “shine” to help dying patients ease into death. Danny is much-loved in this new role and has finally found peace and comfort sans alcohol.
But then all of a sudden he gets a wi-fi shining transmission from some little girl named Abra, who desperately needs his help. Turns out she has an even stronger shining than Danny did when he was at the height of his powers back in the Overlook days, and because of this she’s now become the target of a tribe of psychic vampires known as the True Knot. They want to catch her and torture her to death, because that’s what releases the Shining “steam” that they use for sustenance.
Here I am laying out the whole plot. Let me stop. I hate that type of book review. Either you’re going to read the book or not. If you do read the book, you don’t even need or want a synopsis because you’ll freakin’ read the book. And if you have no intention of reading the book, then why should you get to know what happens?
Continue to Part 2.
To tide you over, and to make things fair, check out this third-party Dr. Sleep Review.