Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is the sequel to his second novel, The Shining. This novel, which comes 36 years after the release of The Shining, shows what life is like for Danny Torrence shortly after he and his mom leave the Overlook and then fast forwards about 20 years and shows how history can repeat itself. Danny begins drinking heavily in spite of the problems his father had with alcohol, he makes some poor decisions that end up haunting him and after hopping from town to town he settles down in a New Hampshire town for the next 15 or more years. Still possessing the powers he had as a child, Dan connects with another talented and much younger girl, Abra, who he helps fight the forces of evil plaguing them in the 21st Century.
The author of this novel, Stephen King, is more than just a write of horror/psychological thrillers. He is a master at his craft. I was shocked to see how many novel and short stories Stephen King has written and even more surprised to see what percentage of those have been turned into either film or made suitable for television. There are movies that I had no idea were from a Stephen King novel, such as Children of the Corn, Firestarter, Shawshank Redemption and The Running Man (originally published under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman). Stephen King’s first novel was Carrie, which was just remade into a movie, his second novel was Salem’s Lot and his third was The Shining. To have such success in the beginning must have been a huge boost for the writer who stated later that he writes because he was born to do so and takes the career very seriously.
From what I learned from King’s biography, it makes sense that his novels, short stories and comics would have a dark, horrific point of view. It was said that his father, who had a drinking problem, actually did go out merely for cigarettes and never came back. As a young boy, Stephen witnessed one of his good friends getting hit and killed by a train. King suffered for more than 10 years from his own drinking problems, which were at their height when he wrote The Shining while living in Boulder, Colorado (the large city closest to where The Shining took place and Doctor Sleep returns to). In 1999, he was hit by a car and, among other injuries, almost had to have one of his legs amputated. This event caused King to contemplate retirement but in the end it merely slowed him down. So, it is no surprise that his topics would be of the dark nature.
I have read the novel, The Shining, and seen the movies based on the novel. I loved it all. The scene where Jack Nicholson chops a hole through the bathroom door and yells “Here’s Johnny” still bring me chills and the thought of that horrible lady in the bathtub makes my heart rate speed up a bit. I admit that I actually purchased Doctor Sleep without knowing that it was the sequel to The Shining but was pleasantly surprised to find that the new novel was just as awesome as its predecessor. In the epilogue, King explains that he depended quite a bit on someone whom he considered an expert on all things Shining. For this reason, the continuity between the two novels, even though 35+ years had passed was perfectly cohesive.
I can’t say too much about the novel without giving away some of its twists but I can say that those who loved the first novel would love this sequel and if you haven’t read or seen The Shining that you would still appreciate this novel (it is that good). While I physically read The Shining, I listened to Doctor Sleep and was very impressed and entertained by the narrator chosen for this book. The accents and voices of the various characters were very distinct and definitely did King’s work justice. As most of King’s novels are made into movie, I have already begun thinking about who I would cast in each of the key roles. I think Jeff Bridges would make a good Dan and Saoirse Ronan, that creepy, strong, yet innocent girl from The Lovely Bones and Hanna, would make a good Abra. I also would cast, although I’m not completely sure why, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rose, The Hat. Agree?