I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw The Shining. I’m guessing I wasn’t that much older than little Danny Torrance from the film. When I got older, and I got into Stephen King books for the second time, I went back and listened to (I’m a huge audio book fan) The Shining, and while it was a very different book from the movie, it was still really good. I’m not sure which I prefer better, but they were both excellent in their respective ways.
Most Stephen King books end with me wanting more. I usually want to know what happened to the characters after they’ve endured the madness the author subjects them to. Both versions of The Shining left me wondering what happened to young Danny Torrance after all that he experienced at The Overlook Hotel. Over the years Stephen King thought about that same question, and he came up with a pretty good answer in Doctor Sleep.
Doctor Sleep is a direct sequel to The Shining and starts out not too long after the first book ends, but it doesn’t stay there for long. Most of the book is about Danny as an adult, dealing with several issues including heavy bouts with alcoholism, and hitting bottom. Danny winds up doing some pretty despicable things that I won’t spoil right now, but a large chunk of the book is about him dealing with his actions. Danny struggles with trying to forgive himself and move on with his life as he fights to stay sober. To be honest, once he performed the act I’m not going to spoil yet, I had a hard time listening to Doctor Sleep. I stopped for nearly a month before I finally went back to it and started the book over from the beginning. The second time I actively skipped the parts that I knew bothered me and just continued on listening. Stephen King has always been great with pulling emotions from his readers to make you really feel something. It was a psychic punch that left me dazed for a while. Danny flogs himself about the act for years to come, and never lets it go. I felt like doing the same to him, even after he seemed to feel redeemed.
While Danny is flawed, he’s far from being a complete asshole in the book. He spends most of his time going around helping people with his abilities. Without going into too much detail, Danny finds a girl that needs help in the same way Dick Hallorann found Danny and helped him when he was a child. As Dick puts it “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.” There are beings that eat children that possess the shining, for their powers, and Danny needs to help Abra, a girl powerful in the shining, before it’s too late.
While I really liked this book I did walk away with a few issues that I can’t get into without spoilers. My biggest issue is what Danny does at some point in his life, and the resolution/redemption he receives later. One of the first scenes you get of an adult Danny involves him waking up in bed a strange bed next to a girl he doesn’t remember after an alcoholic black out. He realizes he spent all the money in his pocket on blow for the both of them (mostly for her because he doesn’t really do the stuff). He needed the money to pay the rent which he was overdue on. While he was at this girls house, it was clear that she was poor, and didn’t have much herself, but he saw money sitting on the table and decided he was going to take it to make up for the money spent on the blow. While doing this he sees that she has a toddler that is awake, and walking around. Danny then wrestles with the idea of taking all of this girls money and leaving her with the food stamps he’s found, or just getting out of their with nothing, and sorting out his other problems. In the end he decides to rob this girl he doesn’t remember, and leave her with her food stamps. This decision is something that weighed on him for years to come and was very difficult for him (and for me too) to deal with. As time goes on Danny sobers up and joins AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), but this event was the one thing he refused to tell anyone about until the end of the book when he’s 15 years sober. On his 15th anniversary of sobriety at AA he finally decides to let go and retell the story of what happened. At the end of it, no one judged him or thought of him any different. Most people were bored by the story because they have heard worse, and everyone in AA has a bad “hitting bottom” story. This kind of stunned Danny because he felt that what he did was so harsh. What bothered me about this particular item is that Danny has been in AA for 15 years, hearing all sorts of stories. He should have known by now whether his story really was that bad or not. It just seemed weird to me that he wouldn’t have known how that was going to go over after being hearing horrendous stories for 15 years. Maybe after 1 or 2 years I could understand, but 15? It just seemed out of place for him to be so surprised by the crowd’s lack of reaction.
Another problem I had with the book involved the location of the villains of the story, the True Knot. They were located in walking distance to the former location of Overlook hotel, and by all accounts it seems like they had been there for a long long time. So I don’t understand why they didn’t already know about Danny. It just doesn’t seem likely. It also seemed odd that they were unaware of the ghosts of the former Overlook, or why they hadn’t had any issues with them until Danny came back. This just seemed a bit too convenient for me.
With the exception of some nit-picky items, I really loved the book. It fits right into the “King-dom”. There are a few small references to The Dark Tower series, and there is even a tie in with his son’s last novel NOS4A2, where the main villain Charlie Manx is brought up by Dick Halloran near the beginning of the book. I really hope Stephen King revisits more stories of Danny Torrance, and/or Abra in the future. Thirty Six years was way too long to wait, but it was well worth it.
For Halloween, several theaters across the country will be screening The Shining on October 27th, and October 30th. Enter your zip code here and see if it’s playing near you.