Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

December 5, 2013

doctor sleep Plot summary (from the publisher): 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, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the King canon.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • This book was only a “sequel” to The Shining in the sense that they both shared a major character (Dan Torrance). It is entirely possible to read Doctor Sleep as a standalone and not be lost or confused at any point along the way — which was great since I didn’t go back and revisit The Shining before commencing with this one.
  • I loved Dan and Abra’s relationship. The best parts of the book for me were whenever those two were working together or communicating without speaking. Their shared ability gave them a connection that ran much deeper than uncle-niece, and it was nice as a reader to experience their bond secondhand.
  • I’m thankful that the showdown with Rose the Hat didn’t drag out interminably, with first Abra getting the upper hand, then Rose coming back to push Abra to the brink before Abra summons all her strength and courage for one final assault that ends up winning the day. The fight was over rather quickly, which was fine by me.
  • I had mixed feelings about the overload of AA references in the book, but ultimately decided that since the whole thing was part and parcel of the Dan character, I would rather take it than leave it. It made sense for this character (given his father’s history), and I’m glad the author let Dan be one of the “miracles” instead of having him relapse.

Disliked

  • This really felt like two distinct books. The “Doctor Sleep” part seemed to encompass only what Dan did at the hospice (being a calming, reassuring presence as people exited this world and crossed over to wherever they go after death); the shining stuff with Abra and the True Knot seemed like a whole different story. I was expecting the two plots to somehow mesh, but they never did.
  • The True Knot characters didn’t seem all that scary. Yes, they were despicable, disgusting, etc. — but not in any exceptionally horrific way (save for the torture/killing of the Iowa boy). Otherwise, they came off as an ordinary band of bloodthirsty serial killers. (Yes, I realize how utterly absurd that sounds, but I’m talking about the fictive world of Stephen King here. He has had vastly more interesting/evil/original baddies than these guys.)
  • The story took a while to get off the ground and there were a couple of pretty boring patches along the way. Looking back, I feel a lot of scenes could have been cut to make the plot tighter.

Rating:

I haven’t read a lot of Stephen King in the past decade, but wanted to try Doctor Sleep because of its connection to The Shining. While I probably would have been disappointed if I were a huge fan of The Shining and wanted constant references to that old book, I didn’t mind the way Doctor Sleep actually turned out. It felt like a throwback to King’s better years, and while there were certainly some problems with this book, it was an entertaining effort overall. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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