Angela's Reviews > Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King
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really liked it
bookshelves: speculative-fiction, fiction, horror

For reasons no one understands, women all across the world are falling asleep and generating silky white cocoons from which they don't awake. And if you do try to wake them, you are likely to find yourself horrifically mutilated or dead. At the same time, a mysterious, beautiful, naked woman has appeared in the small Appalachian town of Dooling, and it's slowly becoming clear to the town residents--from the Police Chief and her husband the prison psychiatrist, to the prison warden and her charges, to the young lady reporter and the town's hot-tempered dog catcher--that Evie Black, as she calls herself, is somehow linked to the bizarre "Aurora" sickness. Women struggle to stay awake; some men frantically protect their sleeping womenfolk while others pursue a cure at any cost. Stephen King-ishness ensues.

King co-wrote the book with his son Owen (who is credited with coming up with the central premise), but it definitely bears many of the hallmarks of classic Stephen King (a small, semi-rural town with a tight-knit community; day-to-day life suddenly disrupted on a global scale by the paranormal; driven as much by characters and their personal relationships as by events). The writing, pacing, etc. all read like classic King as well, so if you generally like his style, you'll probably like this as well.

What I was not prepared for in this book was how it's almost--well, actively feminist. There are many prominent women characters! Who are strong! And do stuff! And aren't one-dimensional tropey stereotypes! We get Police Chief Lila, prison warden Janice, ambitious queer reporter Michaela, tough-as-nails competitive arm wrestler and prison guard Vanessa, and a number of female inmates who are all carefully and thoughtfully fleshed out with their own unique personalities and back stories. They are diverse, satisfying gritty, and given real agency throughout the story, rather than serving mainly as plot points for the stories of men. Then, of course, there is the mysterious Evie, who although she is described as incredibly beautiful and spends most of the story either naked or in a prison cell, is still perhaps the most powerful and unsettling woman of them all.

Best of all, the feminism is baked into the bones of the story itself. To say anymore would be giving spoilers, but I give the Kings an awful lot of credit for confronting and wrestling with a whole lot of prickly topics around patriarchy and power dynamics between men and women in general. You don't often see male authors (particularly those better known for commercial fiction) venturing into the tricky, troubling mess of what it means to just exist in the world as a woman, let alone what it's like for those who are imprisoned or who have lived disadvantaged lives or otherwise lacking in agency & privilege. There were so many times when I thought, Wow, there is no way you wrote that paragraph without having had some very real and frank conversations with women. BRAVO, SIRS. Just being able to write a book like this which basically centers around the relationship between men and women, writ both small and large, and actually pull it off, says quite a lot to me about the character of the men who wrote it.

So, yeah. Stephen King, I was already a fan, but with this book you've definitely leveled up in my estimation.
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Reading Progress

September 26, 2017 – Shelved
September 26, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
October 30, 2017 – Started Reading
October 30, 2017 – Shelved as: speculative-fiction
October 30, 2017 – Shelved as: fiction
October 30, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 20, 2018 – Shelved as: horror

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