Monday, October 7, 2013

Doctor Sleep by Stephen KIng

Is Doctor Sleep as good as The Shining? No. Did I go in expecting it to recreate that experience? No. That would be silly. When you order thin crust pepperoni pizzas from Pizza Hut you expect the same thin crust pepperoni pizza every time. Books ain’t pizza. I would have been majorly disappointed if, in Doctor Sleep, Dan Torrance returned to a newly rebuilt Overlook Hotel with his own family just to find out that he’s his father’s son, then go nuts and try to smash everyone to pieces with a blunt object.

Doctor Sleep ain’t The Shining.

Instead, Doctor Sleep has more in common with Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. Both books have protagonists with special abilities who grow up to be raging alcoholics, who then learn to deal with their addictions, and get their special ability mojos back just in time to face down the bad guys. Both books feature kidnapped children as a central theme. The protagonists both have young relatives who must face the very same evil the protagonists themselves faced as a child. Both books feature cross-country pursuits. Both feature ancient ‘vampires’ of a very similar vein. The vehicles these ‘vampires’ drive are also key bits of characterization in both books. Doctor Sleep’s bad guys are like evil carnie folks, NOS4A2’s bad guy runs an evil carnival. The baddies in both books are over-the-top villains, almost cartoonish (which was a feature, not a defect, in my mind, for both novels).

By drawing the parallels above, am I trying to say something, to point out a King family conspiracy? No. Not really. It’s just interesting to note is all.

But none of this addresses the question of whether or not I liked Doctor Sleep. I did, by the way. I liked it very much. It was an engrossing page-turner, tighter than a lot of King’s later work. It has believable characters that you cared about, lots of action, and an ending that was satisfying (another somewhat rare find in a King novel). I also felt that it was a fine companion piece to The Shining, with enough ties and allusions to the original work to make it relevant, without being too referential or reverential (which would have been much, much worse). It wasn't a rehash, which I liked most of all.

 If I wanted the same pepperoni pizza, I’d call Pizza Hut.

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