Sunday 5 July 2015

Reviewing the Evidence - Doctor Sleep

Title: Doctor Sleep (US Link)
Author: Stephen King
Genre: horror, paranormal
Series: The Shining

A few starting notes:

Doctor Sleep Stephen King
It's probably no great surprise to anyone by now that this is the sequel to The Shining. With that in mind, I do recommend that you read The Shining first - you'll just get so much more out of Doctor Sleep if you do. I'm going to keep this spoiler-free, with the exception of anything you can learn from reading the blurb for Doctor Sleep - because I think that's only fair.


Daniel Torrance is all growed up. Except, the problem when you had an...unusual...childhood is that it tends to leave after-effects.

But now he has something else to think about. Or, at least, someone else. Abra Stone is a girl with one of the strongest examples of the Shining the world has ever seen - and she's attracted some attention. The True Knot aren't human anymore, and they live off steam - the thing that kids with the Shining produce, their essence. The True Knot are coming, they're coming for Abra...

Best bits:

It's an almost universal rule that the sequel will never be as good as the original. This is one of the exceptions. I hesitate to say that it's better than The Shining, but it's certainly as good as its predecessor. I personally also found it easier to relate to - but that's probably because the world in which Doctor Sleep is largely set is one I recognise, one not lost to the time after WW2 but before I was born like The Shining was.

The prose, plot, and characters are sublime. King knows what he's doing. I wonder why people still doubt his awesome mastery of the art. The writing hooks you in and carries you along on the tide. The characters are recognisably real in that they have flaws - some pretty major ones - virtues, and a good dollop of everyday life.

Also, and the amount to which I was chuffed by this is probably a testimony to just how nerdy I am, Stephen King's books have cross-contaminated with Joe Hill's. As well as references to other portions of his work (a brief mention of the ever present Castle Rock, for example,) there are references to Joe Hill's NOS4R2 (or NOS4A2, depending on which version you have,) which you may remember my previous review of. I also remember the odd reference to Stephen King works in Joe Hill books - and I love it. They need to keep this going for as long as possible because together I reckon they're damn-near unstoppable.

Not so great bits:

This is a Stephen King book - there are going to be traumatic things. You need to accept this. King is rarely if ever gratuitous however and deals with such weighty issues as alcoholism, various types of abuse, and some pretty unpleasant things happening to children, with his usual measured blend of realism and tact. There is also swearing, again, as per usual.

I personally would've liked it if certain aspects of the story - can't go into too much detail on account of spoilers - were brought more to the fore. For example, the actual 'Doctor Sleep' persona. And the cat - there should be more cats in everything as far as I'm concerned. This is a matter of personal preference though - I really can't fault Mr King for going in the direction he did with this, even if I would've liked to see other avenues expanded and explored.


This is an excellent sequel to a book considered a modern classic. It doesn't fall into the trap of trying to replicate the original, neither does it strain too much under the weight of its predecessor. This is carried off with skill and power. If you've read The Shining, read this.

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