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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Speculative Fiction

By Article by By Susan Condon, Writing.ie Crime Scene Reviewer ©. Posted in Book Reviews | Horror/Supernatural.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyster, and married to their Recreational Vehicles. But they live off the ‘steam’ that children with the ‘shining’ produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Following a childhood haunted by the time he spent with his parents at the Overlook Hotel, Dan Torrance has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles into a job at a nursing home in rural New Hampshire where his remnant ‘shining’ power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, Dan becomes ‘Doctor Sleep’.
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest ‘shining’ ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival . . .

Doctor Sleep takes fans of The Shining by the hand and brings them back in time so that they are privy to how life unfolds for Dan Torrance after The Overlook. Not too many pages and not too much information, yet just enough to jog the memory or set the scene, depending on whether you have already read The Shining or not. For me, these were reminiscent of The Shining which I read in my teens, and were some of the scariest pages in the book.

King has a knack of developing his characters so well that you feel as if you know them intimately. We learn of Dan’s flaws, feel his pain and we are there with him, urging him on to face his demons head-on. A drifter, for years, he eventually settles down, makes friends and begins to get his life into some semblance of order. King writes with such a sensitivity when he describes how Dan (Doc) sits with patients waiting to cross over that his empathy seeps from the pages and into our fingertips.
We are introduced to Abra Stone; a child with such powers that she puts Dan’s shining in the shade. Abra, at an early age, and over a great distance introduces herself to Dan. They strike up a friendship even though they have never physically met and you find yourself tearing through the pages until they do.

And then there are the True Knot – the unlikely looking villains in their RVs who travel the country in search of children with the shining. Their plan: to torture them and use their steam to ensure they continue to live long and healthy lives. But when they come across eleven year old, Bradley Trevor, things change. Soon their leader, Rose, becomes aware of Abra and how powerful she is. She know that Abra will be able to supply more steam than they had ever imagined and finding her becomes an obsession. But maybe Rose has underestimated Abra and her powers . . .

Doctor Sleep may not deliver the horror that many expect, but it is a riveting read with believable and beautifully formed characters that we wish we knew. Usually a fast reader, I found myself reading slowly so that I could savour each word and make the story last. After all, we’ve had to wait 36 years to meet Dan Torrance again; who knows if and when we’ll ever meet him again!

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His titles include The Shining, The Stand, Under the Dome and 11.22.63. Many of his books have been turned into celebrated films including Carrie, Misery, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. King was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives with his wife Tabitha King, in Maine.

By Susan Condon

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