On December 1st, 2009, Stephen King posted a poll on his website asking his fans what book they’d like him to write next: a Dark Tower stand alone novel, or a sequel to The Shining. Voting ended on December 31st, with The Shining sequel coming out ahead, and yet King ended up writing and publishing the Dark Tower book first, called The Wind Through the Keyhole. And now, four years later, the fans finally get their Shining sequel, ominously called Doctor Sleep.
Our formerly young hero, Danny Torrance, is now fast approaching middle age, and has been spending the decades trying to forget and get away from his nightmare past at the Overlook Hotel through the medium of alcohol. Working at hospitals and nursing homes, he rarely keeps the jobs for long once they find out his daily unstoppable vice.
Danny eventually ends up in a small New Hampshire town where he finds a place to stay through a new friend, and is forced into AA for his own good. He settles down in this small town, working at the nursing home, helping the elderly, and working alongside a prescient cat who somehow knows to enter the room of those who will die that day. Danny then soon follows and aids the old-aged resident into a comfortable death with his shining ability.
Soon the years begin to fly by, but it’s a life for Danny and he’s happy and settled. And then he receives a psychic email from a young girl, Abra Stone, who he has been receiving mental snippets about through her years. She also possesses the shining ability, and it’s much stronger than Danny’s. Danny knows she’s important, just not how important.
When the two finally meet and communicate vocally in person as well as telepathically, Danny learns of the strange creatures that are after Abra and why. These beings are not human and are known as the True Knot; they have been around for a very long time and are semi-immortal. While they possess similar shining abilities, they are psychic vampires who hunt down children with the shining ability and then slowly torture them to death, absorbing their life essence that slowly dissipates from the dying child they call steam, keeping them young and healthy.
Only now the True Knot is very, very hungry. They are weakening and becoming sick and need a strong dose of steam, which will be provided by the slow death of Abra Stone. There will be a great showdown between the True Knot and Danny and ka-tet and it will take place at the only possible location it ever could and it will be a bloody and merciless one.
As with some King novels, Doctor Sleep takes a little while to get going, as the reader trundles through Danny’s alcoholic years, and the first third of the book could’ve used some editing, but once the story gets into its plot, things speed up and the reader becomes locked in until the last sentence. Doctor Sleep doesn’t come near to the original horror and fear of The Shining, but it’s a different story and has its own terrifying darkness and fear all of its own that will leave the reader looking over his or her shoulder for a while.
Originally written on November 13, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.
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