I should start by explaining that I adore The Shining, it wasn’t the first King book I read as a teenager but it was the one that stuck with me, so much so, that I make it a point to re-read my battered paperback copy of it at least once a year, it’s hard to pick a favourite King book but this one would be in my top three for sure. So when I heard the news that a sequel was to be written I awaited its release with much anticipation but also quite a mix of nerves too……what if it was an awful book? what if (god forbid) it completely ruined The Shining for me? So, I pre-ordered Dr Sleep with much trepidation, but I was also very excited by the thought of an update on Danny, Dick and Wendy.
Below you can find the interactive cover for the novel, featuring the cat Azzie – who can foretell when a person will die.
And so onto the book itself, I remember reading a critics review of the book who said that it was an ‘emotional roller-coaster ride’ and boy they weren’t wrong. The first section of the book deals with getting us back up to speed with Danny, Dick and Wendy and that part of the book was like putting on an old pair of comfy slippers for me, I loved it, one of my favourite parts of The Shining is the relationship between Danny and Dick and to revisit that was quite lovely.
Shortly after that, we start to read about Dan (as he is now known) as an adult and without spoiling it, this part was a very difficult read not because it was badly written but just because of how much I love Danny Torrance as a character, to see him go through something so difficult as trying to quit booze and stay sober was hard to read.
I nearly cried when he reached the bottom: stealing money from a woman he had just met in a bar – a single mom with a coke addiction…
I’m so glad I persevered because that’s when the story really kicks into a higher gear, it becomes a very fast paced, exciting, tense and at times incredibly emotional to read.
The characters as always are beautifully written so much so that you start to feel as if they are a part of your family.
The villains of the piece are “steam” vampires, living like wanderers, looking like ‘normal’ people, travelling around in their RV’s.
I called them vampires because they feed off people. They like special people – especially children – who show talents like pre-cognition, far-seeing and telekinesis. Basically, people who have the shining.
What they do, they find them using their trackers in the group and then they kidnap them, torture them to make the steam purer and they kill them.
Somehow this made them all the more scary because they didn’t look like monsters (I’ll never look at a camper van in the same way again) and I wonder if maybe Stephen King might re-visit the True Knot one day, there seems to be a whole lot more to their story. The leader of the villains is Rose the Hat, named so because she always wore a top-hat.
ABRA is such a child. When she was born, her great-grandma told everyone this kid was special and she was not wrong.
Both parents dreamed that the child was in terrible danger and when they woke, they found out that she would not stop crying. She cried and cried and no soothing will calm her. Even the people at the hospital did not know what to do. The crying abruptly stopped as soon as two airliners hit the World Trade Center in 2001.
As the child grew, she learned to control her powers and would only be showing them when something terrible happened (like when her momo fell down and broke her hip) or when she wanted to show off (like trying to imitate a magician on her 5th birthday and made all the spoons in the kitchen stick to the ceiling). One night, she was awokened by a terrible dream, where she saw a woman killing a child in a horrible way. They were the True Knot and they had just kidnapped and tortured a boy with the shining.
The little boy was powerful and managed to feed the entire group. But he also managed to give them a disease he had – measles – for which these ancient vampires did not have any immunity.
Very soon, Rose the Hat detected the girl and saw how powerful she was. She decided to go south, leaving her stem to mature so when they DID kill her, she would feed the entire group and also be enough left to fit into a few canisters for the pantry.
ABRA grows up and she has this imaginary friend called Tony who is none other than Dan’s own imaginary friend. Through him, the two get in touch and exchange hello’s on a blackboard. It’s only years later when they meet – when Abra desperately needs Dan to protect her from Rose.
When Abra took in the mail, she saw the boy she witnessed killed on the back of the newspaper, under the missing children section. She decides to find his killers and focuses on the picture of the boy. By doing so, she connects with Rose shortly and she sees what she is seeing while Rose is looking through her eyes.
The contact is short but powerful and Abra is so scared she causes a small earthquake in her neighborhood. Rose is now determined to find her and she only has a few clues to go by. One – she lives somewhere in the mountains, two – she is a girl of 12-13 years old.
So, she uses her group’s computer wiz to dig out pictures of mountains – and when they also find a report of a local earthquake at the same time the switch happened, they begin to form a plan on how to get the girl.
Abra reaches out to Dan and they meet up. They get really well along and Dan, who by now is an orderly at the local hospice, offers to help her.
His life was linked to Abra’s for years without any of them knowing,. He scribbled ABRA in big letters during his AA meetings, he knew about the chalkboard and they could talk telepathically.
He asks for help from a common friend – Dr. John – who knew about Dan’s talent – and also asks permission from Abra’s dad. He’s not very happy to use his only child as a bait, but he sees that this is needed in order to divert the vampires and get them to move on.
They plan an ambush on the attacking party and they manage to kill 3 of the vampires. What they did not plan for is a change in the attack – which split into two. The Crow manages to kidnap Abra from her house and also Billy Friedman, her guardian.
Dan gets some additional help from Abra’s momo – her life force which he stores into him – and they go to fight Rose on the old Overlook Hotel Grounds.
The final battle is amazing and once momo is released, the vampires choke on her mist and die poisoned. How Rose dies is for you to find out as I do not wish to spoil quite everything.
All in all, it is an extremely well written and entertaining book which I really enjoyed. I can’t give it 5 stars but that’s only because I consider The Shining to be a 5 out of 5 star book and this one, although a great sequel, it’s not The Shining!
A real must for any Stephen King fan and although it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t do this, I would recommend that you re-read The Shining first before starting Dr Sleep, it is a stand alone book, but it makes for a much better read if you read the books together.
Visuals from Vincent Chong Art
Buy on Amazon: Doctor Sleep (Shining Book 2)