Review–Doctor Sleep by Stephen King


Redrum pretty much sums up the gist of this book, or murder for the uninitiated. There is a group called the True Knot, who are unassuming old geezers traveling around in RV’s who murder young kids that have the shining for their steam. In this way, the group are like modern vampires who feed off children’s essences in order to grant themselves immortality.

But they’re running low on this steam and they need to hit a payload fast. Their leader, Rose, catches wind of one of the more powerful children she has ever encountered, Abra Stone. And the race is on to capture this girl, torture her, and collect this steam in a jar that will sustain them for months, maybe years. Abra has protectors, though, including Dan Torrence, the little boy from the Shining. He’s all grown up and is a recovering alcoholic. In that sense, just as Abra is facing off with her demons in the form of the True Knot, as well as her unbridled anger, Dan is facing his own. An alcoholic is never free, right? The urge is always there, and Stephen King writes this aspect brilliantly.

This is not a true sequel to the Shining. It might feature some of the same characters, might make reference to the Overlook Hotel, and it ends in the same location as where it all began, but the similarities end there. Not only was the Shining written better and more focused, it was scarier.

I feel as if Doctor Sleep lacks focus. Is the story about Dan’s bout with alcoholism or is it about the ultimate battle between good and evil? There actually isn’t much of a story here. This is evident in the fact that King shows us Dan’s back story from him being a child to suffering from the same disease as his father(alcoholism) to when he is able to finally turn the corner in his destructive habits via some friends and AA. Doctor Sleep also shows us Abra’s journey from a baby to a teen and the special powerful gift she has. The point is that these two main character’s journeys take up roughly half the book. It’s filler material for an almost non-existent story. I feel as if the book is split into two halves. The first is their back stories, and the second deals with their struggle with the True Knot, if you can call it a struggle.

The True Knot are the least scary villains I have ever read about. A hero is only as good as their villain, and Abra is stronger than them, even Rose. There is a lack of tension here. It becomes even more absurd when SPOILER measles can kill them END SPOILER.

Stephen King needs to learn structure. Gasp! I’m telling the great Stephen King how to write? Yes. His latest works are not as good as his earliest works. I think I read somewhere that King is a pantser, not a plotter, meaning he just writes without bothering to plot it out beforehand. This is really evident here. Know what keeps us on the edge of our seats? The villain getting the upper hand and we wonder how the hero will overcome such odds. There are no setbacks here, except one, which they quickly get out of. Abra, Dan, and their little gang are constantly one step ahead of the bad guys. Because of that, there is no tension, no immediacy, no edge-of-the-seat late-night reading. The heroes will win, and King makes that clear every step of the way.

I can’t recommend this book, except to die-hard King fans. The only reason I’m giving it a 2 and not a 1 is because I usually reserve a 1 for a book I cannot finish. I finished this book. He’s not the worst writer I’ve ever read. Patterson, anyone? I think with a stronger focus, a better structure, and more horror, this could have been something special. As it stands, it’s just mediocre.

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