Jason Kane's Reviews > The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King
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really liked it

So in anticipation for the movie sequel to 1980’s horror masterpiece The Shining, I decided to pick up Steven King’s 2013 book on which it will be based, Doctor Sleep. However, in my research I kept seeing comments by readers mentioning that King explicitly stated that Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the novel The Shining, not the Kubrick film. Having never read The Shining and wanting very much to appreciate Doctor Sleep, I picked up the classic 1977 King novel, and got to work.

I know the old stories about King’s mixed reactions to the Kubrick film, but I expected this comment about The Shining novel being critical to enjoying the follow up mostly lip-service. However, right from the start my entire schema for these characters based on my love of the film was thrown out the window!

The basic idea of The Shining in general, is very similar to its cinematic portrayal. A recently unemployed, troubled author, Jack Torrance, takes a job as caretaker, along with his wife Wendy and 5-year-old son Danny, at an isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies. The hotel’s secret, disturbing history is revealed as the caretaker’s son, who possesses some telepathic abilities, begins having frightening visions.

Right, so why so much ado about two mediums with essentially the same central story? It comes down to the characters. Since the basic premise has become iconic, I won’t dive too deeply into that, but instead focus on some of the nuance that I found fascinating in the novel. The first thing that really rocked me in this novel is the cycle of abuse Danny experienced at the hands of his alcoholic father. In a drunken rage, his father broke Danny’s arm when he was three, and he was dropped on the ground by his drunken father when he was just a baby. The film version merely hints at this abuse, almost passing it off as negligence more than a cycle of abuse. I will not continuously compare the film and novel in this review, but I do want to highlight this difference as King’s novel makes sure to frame the character of Jack right from the start as a deeply troubled, violent, and self-serving individual who was also the victim of a cycle of familial abuse, and while he is taking steps to better himself as an adult, he’s damaged, and deep down inside he hates himself.

That being said, this is, at its core, a ghost story, and King does a fine job of exploring such a tale. He invokes Edgar Allen Poe, and without expressively laying out the supernatural rules to this haunted hotel, he provides enough details for us to gather them and understand the dangers and the effects these ghosts can and will have on the inhabitants.

The novel is composed of 58 chapters, each one craftfully delivering one small step into madness until after 58 steps, we realize the immensity of the decent. The final act describing Jack’s pursuit of Wendy and Danny is terrifying and masterful storytelling. All of the layered symbolism gleaned from the descriptions of wasps, masks, bicycles, and a roque mallet blooms to emphasize a powerful climax that haunts and satisfies. King uses the English language itself to build tension and nuance, even through his use of pronouns (“you’re it, not him”)! At the close of the novel, I was left breathless and pensive. I am eager to jump right into Doctor Sleep to see exactly what King has in store for Danny Torrance in the years after the horror of The Shining.

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Reading Progress

April 28, 2019 – Started Reading
May 6, 2019 – Shelved
May 7, 2019 – Finished Reading

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