“There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.”
This is a sequel. This review contains no spoilers for The Shining, aside from giving away the survival of one character.
Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King
sequel to The Shining
Scribner, September 2013
531 pages (hardcover)
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.
Now that our Sleep Along is wrapped up, I feel like I can finally write my review. It’s hard, though, to dial back… from being able to discuss anything and everything, to keeping this spoiler free for those who haven’t read it. But I shall rise to the challenge.
Simply put, Doctor Sleep is a great story. I’d almost call it more of a companion to The Shining than a sequel. Yes, it takes place after the events of the other book. Yes, it has one major character in common, with several others mentioned or playing a small role. Yes, there is a lot in Doctor Sleep that may pass you by if you aren’t familiar with The Shining. I’m not saying, don’t read The Shining before you read this, because I do highly encourage it.
But it has more to do with expectations than anything else. Sequels tend to do one of two things – either they continue the story of the first book (in the case of a planned series) or they take the familiar characters on a new but similar adventure (in the case of an open-ended, ongoing series). I’m sure you could find sequels that don’t fit one of those two formulas, but they’re in the minority.
Doctor Sleep is one of these sequels.
The story itself pretty much stands on its own. And Dan Torrance can hardly be considered the same character as the little boy he was in The Shining. His alcoholism is much more important to the story than anything he lived through at the Overlook. We have a new supporting cast. New villains. The connections are there, but I do think this would be a good read even if you hadn’t read The Shining. Maybe even a great read.
Like a lot of Stephen King, this one gets off to a somewhat slow start, but unlike many King novels, I felt like the tension continued to build and pretty much kept going right through to the end. There were quite a few surprises – a couple major twists, some minor – and I was thoroughly satisfied by the conclusion.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King… well, there’s a good chance you’ve already read this, or at least have it on your TBR already. If you haven’t read King before, I don’t know that I’d suggest this as a starting point… but I wouldn’t discourage it either.
Does this sound like something you’d pick up? Has there ever been a sequel that you’ve anticipated as highly as King fans were anticipating Doctor Sleep?