This sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining returns us to the life of the gifted Dan Torrance almost right from where the original story finished. Throughout the beginning of the book we see Dan, haunted by both real and emotional ghosts from his past, fall down the same abyss of alcoholism that plagued his father.
After spending decades homeless, drunk and desolate, Dan gets himself in a situation that forces him to reevaluate his life choices. He moves to a new town, joins AA and begins work at a hospice where, with the help of a prescient cat, he uses what’s left of his supernatural mental abilities (“Shining”) to comfort the dying patients.
As he settles in his new life, Dan begins to pick up mental signals from a girl named Abra. A girl with the strongest Shining Dan has ever encountered. A girl who has witnessed things she shouldn’t have witnessed. A girl who desperately needs Dan’s help to stay alive.
It’s not very often a sequel matches the quality of the original, especially in horror, but Stephen King has accomplished it with Doctor Sleep easily and without feeling forced. The story of a young and scared Danny Torrance becoming Dan Torrance, the tortured shell of a man struggling to make himself whole again while saving a young girl with demons of her own, is masterfully developed.
Doctor Sleep is without a doubt the best book I have read this year. The story was engaging, making it impossible to put down. The main protagonists were likeable, if somewhat tragic in their own ways. The antagonists weren’t quite as terrifying as the Overlook Hotel’s “residents” in The Shining, but were still sinister enough to make them a real threat to Dan, Abra and their crew.
As a relatively new fan of author Joe Hill, King’s eldest son, I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle nods to Hill’s latest book NOS4R2 (USA title: NOS4A2).
My copy of Doctor Sleep is the standard Hodder & Stoughton UK hardcover with a picture of Azreel and wisps of entwining smoke. At 482 pages (excluding Author’s Note), the book manages to tell the whole story, without feeling drawn out or overlong. It’s not what I would consider a fast paced novel, but it’s not filled with fluff either.
Highly recommend Doctor Sleep for fans of Stephen King’s work; people who enjoyed The Shining and want a “where are they now” mixed with a new adventure; or horror fans looking for a good read. However, if you haven’t already, I would recommend reading The Shining before Doctor Sleep. The sequel can be read as a stand-alone novel, but it is this reviewer’s opinion that having read The Shining first makes Doctor Sleep much more enjoyable.