Thursday, January 8, 2015

Doctor Sleep (2013)

Not too many Stephen King novels lend themselves well to sequels (the number of people who want to know what happened after Firestarter ended is probably rather low) but The Shining is one of the ones that does.  Doctor Sleep starts off with a nicely creepy prologue that reintroduces us to what is left of the Torrance family.  Wendy and Danny have gotten a rather decent settlement from the owners of the Overlook Hotel but Danny is still haunted by ghouls from the first novel.

We jump forward to Dan in more or less the present day, now a recovering alcoholic (the description of his rock bottom point might be more squirm inducing than anything overtly supernatural that goes on in the rest of the book) who works at a small hospice where he offers comfort to the dying.  He ends up developing a psychic bond with a young girl named Abra who, like Dan, also has psychic abilities (to the point where she's even more powerful that Dan) and as a result, is being targeted by a roving band of pseudo-vampires known collectively as The True Knot.

The members of the group are both one of the novel's biggest strengths and also a bit of a weakness as while they're adequately monstrous (they torture kids with psychic abilities to get an essence called "stream" from them which keeps them young and healthy) the few times they go up against Abra and Dan, either separately or as a team, the end result is a bit of a curb stomping from the good guys.

Even the climax counts as the last member of the group is rather easily shoved off a cliff after putting up what I would call a bit of token offense given that she's going up against a psychic who has already wiped out her entire group in one move.  I do like the touch of them rapidly dying off because their last victim had measles. It's a neat bit and makes perfect sense.

Issues with the finale aside, there is plenty in the book to enjoy.  This is old school King in terms of plot mechanics (kids in peril, vivid descriptions of things designed to make you lose sleep) with the focus and control he's developed over the last few years.  King really gets into the meat of Dan's alcoholism (being a former addict himself, King can speak from experience) and keeps you interested without ever smashing you in the head with it.  That, as usual, he saves for describing gross stuff which is always fun.  The other characters are pretty solid as well with Abra coming off the best and for the most part, main villain Rose though as I said above, she does sort of go down like a punk at the end.

For the most part, this is a fine sequel to the original with some nice callbacks (there is a subtle cameo at the end I will leave to you to discover) and some great passages though the subplot about Dan helping the dying could have been fleshed out a little more (his nickname is Doctor Sleep and he basically just psychically comforts people until the end) and the climax, while pretty fun is a bit of a letdown.

Still, Doctor Sleep is one you should probably make an effort to not miss.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.