Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Little Danny Torrance is all grown up and guess what?  He’s a booze hound just like his dear old Dad.  Following the morning-after-from-hell, Dan decides to kick the bottle and lead a life of sobriety.  Taking a job as an orderly in a hospice, Dan gets the reputation of being able to ease the dying over to the other side.  While he’s content to live a quiet life, Dan still struggles with his unique gift (or curse depending on when you ask him) and when he’s mysteriously contacted by a fellow shiner, a 13 year old named Abra Stone, he’s determined to protect her against a group of murderous nomads who prey on those who “shine” brightly.

After being constantly bothered by people demanding an update on “that little boy from The Shining”, King buckled under the pressure and knocked out a 530 page answer.  A simple, “he’s still pretty screwed up” would’ve sufficed, no?  Then again, where’s the fun in that?  Besides, how could he resist the temptation to live up to the impossible expectations in writing a sequel to one of his most popular books?  Given all that he was going up against, it almost seemed like this book was doomed to disappoint before King even wrote the opening sentence.  While it didn’t exactly let me down, it didn’t particularly blow me away either.

Earlier in the year, King knocked my socks off with his Hard Case Crime novel, Joyland.  Despite how much I loved that book, I was worried that I was reading a rewrite of sorts with Doctor Sleep.  Both novels share similar beginnings as they feature a directionless guy taking a job in a tourist attraction of sorts and renting a room from a kind older lady in a large home.  However, after that, the similarities end as King goes full force into supernatural territory.

As the story progresses and King plays out the war over Abra’s soul, I found myself missing King’s musings about Danny’s battles with the bottle.  While I felt the story triumphed in Dan’s struggles with alcoholism and his never-ending tug of war over his sanity with the shining, it seemingly stumbles with the antagonistic True Knot.  Don’t get me wrong, King definitely paints them as a force to be reckoned with and while they do give Abra and company a run for their money, they more often than not come across as amateurs.  That being said, King does acknowledge that they’re used to taking their prey down easily so it’s not a shock that they would be unprepared in the face of someone willing to finally push back.  I guess I expected them to be a little smarter given the way they’ve been able to survive undetected for so long.

When it comes down to it, I’m not saying it’s a bad book, there’s a lot to like here (including a beautiful moment in which King describes the passing of a patient through Danny’s influence), I just feel my expectations may have been a little too high.

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