The title is Dr. Sleep, but sleep was not what I wanted last night. I wanted more of Danny Torrance and his “shine.” You may remember Danny Torrance f...moreThe title is Dr. Sleep, but sleep was not what I wanted last night. I wanted more of Danny Torrance and his “shine.” You may remember Danny Torrance from The Shining. You may have wondered what happened to him after a haunted — well, it was much worse than haunted, I suppose; more like possessed — hotel and its denizens tried to make his father kill him. I wondered. What would a kid who had been through something like be like as an adult?
“Things” which affected us in our childhood tend to follow us throughout our lives . Most of the time, these things are emotional or psychological. Sometimes they are those things and more. And sometimes they lead one, even as an adult, to even worse “things.” If one read The Shining, s/he knows about the things that affected little Danny: an alcoholic and abusive father, a codependent, enabling mother, the pure-D evil at the Overlook hotel — which of these followed Danny into adulthood? And what new evil does the poisoned ground at site of the historic Overlook Hotel attract?
Dr, Sleep is one of King’s best novels in a very long time. It didn’t scare me as much as Salem’s Lot or It, but then no book has. But it did engage me to the point of being in the book and that has not happened for me for a very long time. I confess, I am a Stephen King fan — I’d read his grocery list. Unfortunately, some of his more recent work has felt like that was, indeed, what I was reading. I couldn’t finish Lisey’s Story or Duma Key. Gerald’s Game and The Gunslinger series held no interest for me. Under the Dome caught my interest, but then lost me abo.t halfway through; it was like an expanded variation of one of his short stories. It was the same with 11/22/63, though I did manage to finish it. “It” — that ineffable quality that allowed Mr. King to reach in and grab my heart and squeeze until the terror made my eyes pop — hasn’t been there for me in his work since I read It.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m jaded, like a horror “junkie,” ever seeking the next “scare high” which simply cannot compare to that first time of feeling the hair raise on the back of your neck, the goose bumps rising, breath coming in short gasps as you will your heart to beat quieter, so “IT” that unamed and unnameable scary thing that will be watching, waiting … won’t hear it find you under the covers with your book and your dying flashlight.
I get that Mr. King may want to write something more literary than The Lawnmower Man. Anyone who has read Misery and The Dark Half could infer from the protagonists in those stories King’s own desire to be known for more than just horror. He certainly has the skill and the talent. His books, regardless of the subject, are just plain well-written. For a while though, it seemed that King had merely tossed in gory details as a substitute for true horror.
Then, a simple ghost story with a cover reminiscent of a gaudy, mid-20th century detective magazine hit the shelves. Joyland did indeed bring me joy. It was like reading a story he had written years ago. The quality of his older works was there. Now Dr. Sleep has completely brought back that ol’ time King feeling. The story is told from both Danny — now Dan — Torrance’s point of view and, I suspect, Mr. King’s own autobiographical voice here and there — some old fiends (no, that’s not a typo) and a new character which bears watching (since we know King recycles) I am hopeful that Mr. King has his horror groove back. And that my next fix will be in stores soon … (less)