This past year I’ve read two King novels: 11/22/63, about an alternate history to the Kennedy assassination and Doctor Sleep, a supposed sequel to the excellent The Shining.
The Shining was a fun, scary book to read. Dan’s father and mother take over as caretakers to the Overlook Hotel in Colorado where, by the way, a horrible murder by the father of the family of the previous caretaker occurred. They need Jack (Dan’s father) to take over.
Unlike the movie which ignores what the Shining is, Dan’s father, a recovered alcoholic, tries to kill his family and give his son over to the evil that lurks there.
OK, Doctor Sleep fast forwards to Dan’s life – he’s just like his father – alcoholic, abusive, criminal. His mother, never developed in this story, dies, and so does his mentor, a cook from the Overlook who also has the Shining.
The story drags on and on about Alcoholics Anonymous, Dan’s adventures along the East Coast seaboard, his near miss car accident and a mysterious thing on the road that is never explained.
After a couple hundred pages of this the reader is introduced to two characters: The True Knot, a group of vampire-like people who suck up the Shining of children – they torture and kill them, then suck up the Shining. Creepy. And this drags on and on. Do I really want the detail of every person in the group, what their hang-ups are, and so on? Really? A past history would have been better, but oh well.
Another is Abra – who as a baby freaked out at the same time as the 9/11 disaster in NYC. Turns out she has the Shining too, much more powerfully than Dan did.
After that intro we again go into Dan’s world. King drops the alcoholic nightmare stuff and briefly involves the reader in Dan’s hospice work, how he helps the dying go to the “other side” with the help of a psychic cat. Yikes!
Finally, finally, The True Knot, Abra and her parents and Dan meet and though somewhat anticlimactic, is a satisfying end to the tale.
You need the patience of Job to finally get to the end of this dragging behemoth of a novel. It does not have the pace of The Shining, nor does it have the interesting many-faceted characters from 11/22/63. What it does have is some interesting views of how an American teenager deals with her psychic powers – which was the most entertaining part of the book. Too bad I have to get to page 400 to find that out!
Three stars, Mr. King.