Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’: We’re playing those mind games, together

So who doesn’t remember “The Shining”?  Even if you didn’t read the book, or see Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie based on King’s novel, surely you recall that scene of a crazed Jack Nicholson chopping down a door with an axe and yelling “Here’s Johnny!!”  Well, what I’m holding here is the sequel to King’s original story—I just finished the book an hour or so ago, and I sorta feel like I just finished eating a big plate of spaghetti… it wasn’t a pot roast like the original, but filled me up with some good stuff just the same.

First things first; if you read (or saw) “The Shining” all those years ago, you’re good to go—King does a nice job of refreshing your memory of those events that unfolded in ‘The Overlook Hotel’ back in 1977.  I enjoyed the flashbacks here, but my favorites were with the hotel’s chef (who picked up on little Danny Torrance’s special abilities then, and told him what he had, and what to be careful of). 

But that was 35 years ago; the hotel has long since burned to the ground and Danny is now a middle-aged man, always a job or handout away from living on the streets.  He’s not quite the wunderkind he was then, but that’s a good thing; he’s managed to hide those inner demons from his past (and the ones that still appear in his bed or bathtub) with lots of cheap booze.  He’s as alcoholic as they come.

Meanwhile, halfway across the country exists a tight-knit group of middle aged folks who travel the highways and byways of America in a fleet of Winnebagos.  Not quite gypsies (as they seem to have all the money they need) they call themselves the “True Knot”.  Their leader is a sexy, vivacious woman named Rose who wears a top hat cocked jauntily on her head.  She too has “the shining” (well, they all do to different degrees but hers is strongest).  And you begin to understand that this caravan has been around for a very, very long time.

”Gather the troops, Crow; we need steam”  (this is just how I pictured Rose, the True Knot’s leader)

Steam?  Why yes, they keep metal canisters of it under the floorboards in Rose’s deluxe motorhome.  What is it?  Let’s just say that certain people possess it, some more than others.  Where does the Knot get theirs?  You don’t want to know.  (Well, you do but I don’t want to give away too much here.)

And finally, somewhere in New Hampshire, a little girl named Abra is both impressing (and frightening) her parents with her assortment of psychic abilities.  As a baby, she replayed old Beatles songs her dad tinkled on the ivories by “saving the musical notes from the air”.  She can read others thoughts, and even look through another persons eyes.  But lately, Abra knows someone has been looking thru hers as well.  Go look in a mirror dear, so I can see who you are...  Danny Torrance may be a flashlight (when it comes to the shining), and Rose a pair of headlights on high beams, but little Abra is a lighthouse.    

So you can probably guess what’s coming, how these characters connect:  it’s one of King’s favorite storylines, good versus evil, David vs. Goliath style.  We’ve seen this in ‘It’, ‘The Stand’, a dozen other of his titles.  (But at least here, he manages to make it subjective; its “our” good versus “their” evil.  Does a man-eating shark or black widow spider see themselves as bad guys?  No, but we do—does that make us right?   Depends on who you ask.)

What made this book special to me though (besides the reunion of sorts with the Overlook Hotel, the trippy ESP stuff, the surprising twists and turns) was the glimpses into Danny Torrance’s troubled mind, both his alcoholic thoughts and the cleaner ones of someone in recovery.  We’ve all known such people in our lives, and King reminds us that ultimately, the biggest battles we must face are not with characters in top hats, but with ourselves.


  1. Thanks for posting this!! ^^ and man, i LOVE that book. it's one of the best novels i've ever read! and the villains are pretty freaking interesting along with the heroes. I like Danny as an adult, and i also like his niece Abra. She's cool, and spunky when she needs to be. as for the baddies, my favorites would be Rose, Crow Daddy, Jimmy Numbers, Barry the Chink, and Walnut. everyone else is okay.

    That photo of Rose is freaking cool and hot XD lol she does look pretty badass there. Especially with her top hat, since that's what she goes by. hmm.. i wonder what would Crow and the others would look like.

  2. Wow, a truly awesome comment--thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about the book here, J!


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