March 2020 The Stephen King page - this month: Doctor Sleep...
  Books Monthly's Stephen King page...
  by Paul Norman


Stephen King: Doctor Sleep (UK version published by Hodder & Stoughton)

An epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

Following a childhood haunted by terrifying events at the Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance has been drifting for decades.

Finally, he settles into a job at a nursing home where he draws on his remnant 'shining' power to help people pass on.

Then he meets Abra Stone, a young girl with the brightest 'shining' ever seen. But her gift is attracting a tribe of paranormals. They may look harmless, old and devoted to their Recreational Vehicles, but The True Knot live off the 'steam' that children like Abra produce.

Now Dan must confront his old demons as he battles for Abra's soul and survival...

As far as I'm concerned, Stephen King's novels fall into three categories: superlative, second tier, and not very good at all. I won't bore you with my list of superlatives, but it includes The Dark Tower series (but not The Wind Through The Keyhols), IT, The Stand, Joyland, 11:22:63, Bag of Bones... and now Doctor Sleep. One day I'll publish my categorisation, but you might want to know that my "not very good at all" list includes such turkeys as Cell, Gerald's Game and Sleeping Beauties... My second tier includes The Colorado Kid, Insomnia, for example, and Rose Madder... but I digress!

Doctor Sleep is sometimes billed on Amazon as The Shining #2. In some respects I suppose you could call it that, but it's only a sequel in as much as it features two characters from The Shining - in other respects it's as different as, say The Green Mile is from The Stand. I was never that much of a fan of The Shining, and I am aware that King himself didn't much like Stanley Kubrick's cinema version of the book. The film of The Shining isn't one I'm keen to revisit, having watched it probably 35 years ago. When Stephen King announced that he was bringing Danny Torrance back for a new "adventure", I didn't know what to think, because, as I say, The Shining didn't move me in the way that later novels like IT, The Stand and 11:22:63 did. I hoped that the now more mature King who had given us the sublime Dark Tower VII would continue in this more mellow vein and give us something better than the first book. I wan't disappointed.

After my total disappointment with Cell and the comparative disappointment with UNDER THE DOME, it was time for King to reassert himself as the undisputed King of Horror,  and with Doctor Sleep squeezed between the brilliant 11:22:63 and the excellent thriller series that began with MR MERCEDES, I was hoping for something rather special, and the result exceeded my wildest dreams. Doctor Sleep is crammed with super-special characters, especially the mature and complex Danny, and the superb teenager Abra Stone and her parents; it has a brilliant storyline that involves an apocalyptic battle with the True Knot - they're very much like vampires, only they live off other people's "shine". This is definitely one of Stephen King's better novels. The UK Blu Ray version of Doctor Sleep is released on March 9th - I can't wait!

Next month: The Dark Tower series, and how bad those graphic novels were...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

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Next month on the Stephen King page: The world of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series - the books, the comics, and the film.