Have you ever wondered what happened to little Danny Torrence and his mother after the destruction of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining? Well, Stephen King has finally answered that question 35 years later for his fans with his latest novel, Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep is the long awaited sequel to one of King’s most popular books, The Shining. One word of caution though… If you have only seen Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining and not read the original novel, there are several differences between the two stories including the ending and some major characters. So be sure to read The Shining before starting Doctor Sleep.
We pick up with a grown up Danny Torrence who is struggling with many demons of his own. Unfortunately for Dan, alcoholism runs in the family. He finds himself fighting the same battle his father lost all those years ago. Dan can not just stop at one or two drinks and this leads him to do some terrible things that he regrets later very much. Some of the ghostly guests from the Overlook Hotel still haunt him, and Dan finds the best way to deal with them is to drink to excess. Stephen King portrays a struggling alcoholic with a realism that only a writer that has experienced it first hand can describe so well. After hitting rock bottom, Dan is able to control his addiction by attending AA meetings regularly and lots of help from friends that support him.
Dan eventually settles down in a small New England town and begins work at a hospice helping dying patients pass on peacefully. He still has the shining but it has dwindled to only a small glow now because the shining decreases with strength as he ages. Dan becomes psychically linked to a young girl in town named Abra. Abra is very young and has the shining as well, only her gift is much stronger than Dan’s ever was. She is being terrorized nightly by visions of a horrific death of a young boy with the shining. Abra is able to reach out to Dan for help dealing with the nightmares. They figure out together that there is a troupe of vampiric gypsies called the True Knot that roam the country in search of children with the shining. When they find them, the children suffer a long and agonizing death because the True Knot feeds off the steam created by their suffering. The True Knot has been in existence for hundreds of years and is run by a woman called Rose the Hat. Each True Knot member has a special ability and Rose’s ability is to track down children with the shining. Rose the Hat knows about Abra and is coming to get her. It will take everything Danny and Abra have to fight off the ruthless True Knot.
I am sure what you really want to know is whether or not the sequel lives up to the original? That’s a hard question to answer because the two books are not really that similar at all. The Shining was a classic ghost story mixed with the story of a man slowly going insane. Whereas, Doctor Sleep is more of a thriller that ends with a showdown between good and evil. After all, Stephen King was a very different person when he wrote The Shining all those years ago. What Doctor Sleep lacks in scares it more than makes up for in suspense. Make no mistake, Doctor Sleep will make a great movie some day filled with complex and unforgettable characters that are begging to be brought to life on the big screen. It is a must read for any Stephen King fan.