Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Doctor Sleep'

The minute I get a Stephen King book in my hands, I stop what I'm doing and begin to read...and read...and read.  It's been that way with almost every book 'Little Stevie King' has written (there are a few exceptions, but they were still good).

'11/22/63' was the second to the last King book I read, and it was thrilling, despite the fact that some of his characters tend to go on  But that's okay. He has the right. He is 'The Master', and as long as he continues to publish his work, I'm with him all the way.

You see, it's a very rare writer who can grab my attention with such a commanding pull.

It was that way with one his early masterpieces, 'The Shining', one of the best ghost stories I've ever read, alongside Shirley Jackson's work.  That story scared the crap out of me, and there were many times when I went into the bathroom and checked behind the shower curtain before I did what I came in there to do.  It's crazy how a well-written work of paranormal fiction can jolt us out of our comfort zone, isn't it?

So, all these years later, King has written a follow-up to 'The Shining'.  And it is good. Really, really good.

It begins years after the incident at the Overlook Hotel, the place where little Danny Torrance and his mother were almost murdered by Jack Torrance, the alcoholic father and husband, a weak man gradually possessed by the hotel's malevolent spirits.

Dan is now nearing middle-age, and he has inherited his father's disease of alcoholism.  He is haunted by the spirits of the Overlook and blunts the memories with booze.  Drifting for decades, he finally lands in a small New Hampshire town, where he is accepted, given a job, and joins Alcoholics Anonymous.  Although it is still hard for him to avoid the 'siren song' of booze, he perseveres, thanks to the support of new-found friends. He gets a job at a hospice, where his 'shining' blooms anew, and he provides the crucial final comfort for those who are dying.  It is there that he earns the title 'Doctor Sleep'.

When he is contacted by a twelve year-old girl named Abra Stone, he learns that she has the brightest, strongest 'shining' talent he has ever encountered.  But the True Knot, a quasi-immortal band of RV travelers who live off the steam that children with the 'shining' produce when they are slowly tortured to death, discovers the talented Abra and are determined to find her.

They don't know about Dan.  But he knows more than enough about them.

'Doctor Sleep' is a totally satisfying read (and full of fantastic surprises), and while I was tempted to finish it in one sitting, I held back out of respect for the story. Chapter by chapter, page by page.  Slowly, but surely, I accompanied Dan and Abra until they finally met the epitome of evil:  Rose the Hat.  I get shivers down my back every time I see that name.  And so will you.

Thank you, Stephen, for a great sequel.  And if it is ever turned into a film, protect the story with all your might.  PLEASE have the right to choose the director.

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