Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Shining and Doctor Sleep both by Stephen King

I was watching Daria on DVD the other day and there was an episode where she mutters, "redrum" as her family drives up to this huge estate. At the time I had no idea what she was talking about, but I knew she was referring to The Shining.  Of course, after reading the book and its sequel, I know very well what "redrum" means.  Alas, Stephen King has once again captured my imagination with his two novels, The Shining and its sequel, Doctor Sleep.

Two more books down for R.I.P. IX means that I am now done with the challenge - hurrah!  I have read my four horror books and must admit that they weren't as gruesome as I had feared.  Of course, they did manage to keep me up late at night - I just couldn't sleep after reading about the horrifying topiary animals in The Shining, or after learning about Pennywise in It (a book that disappointed me in the end, which is why I'm not posting about it).  Luckily, Doctor Sleep didn't really crowd my dreams with nightmares, so I was able to tackle that book rather easily. 

Alright, so lets begin with The Shining.  Jack Torrance is a pretty shitty dad, husband, teacher, provider, and man.  He's just no good.  He likes his alcohol a little too much and doesn't bother to hide it from anyone.  And he's got a bit of a temper - think, beats up a student and breaks his son's arm.  Yeah, he's not a good guy at all.  His wife, Wendy, knows this and for some reason remains with him, in spite of her desire to pack up Danny (their son) and leave Jack behind.  Of course, lack of money and love play huge roles in their lives - like, why Jack decides to accept a job as the caretaker of a huge hotel (the Overlook) in town (well, its actually a bit out of town, up in the mountains).  He's desperate to keep his family together and desperate to write a new book - he needs this job, because its his last shot at trying to convince his wife that he's turned over a new leaf.  The job will mean that Jack, Wendy, and Danny will relocate to the hotel and live there during the off season, when everything gets shut down due to the severe weather - think snow, snow, and more snow.  They will essentially be cut off from civilization for months and have to fend for themselves - thankfully, the larder is stocked and the boiler is working.  They are convinced that living at the hotel will be a breeze.  They don't know about the ghosts and evil that resides deep within the hotel.  Well, Danny knows.  You see, Danny is special.  He's got the shining, which means that he can see things no one else can - like dead people, the future, and he can even communicate with other folks who have the shining without even talking.  Yeah, he's a special kid alright and he knows that this hotel is bad news.  He knows that nothing good will come out of moving there, but he doesn't know how to tell his folks.  So, Jack, Wendy and Danny settle into their new digs and get ready to take on winter.  Suffice it to say, so much bad stuff happens that you can't stop reading about it.  There are bad dreams, bad sightings, bad experiences, and bad ghosts to contend with.  The Torrance family is at the mercy of this hotel and can't seem to find a way out of it.  Except, they don't all want out of it - Jack becomes convinced that his family is preventing him from achieving his goal and decides that they need to be taken care of - no matter what!   Suffice it to say, I loved this book and easily got caught up in all the drama, mystery, suspense, and creepiness that ensued.  I loved little Danny Torrance and his buddy, Dick Hallorann (he's my hero!) - they were the highlight of the story.  King did an awesome job of creating a chilly, spooky atmosphere within this story, along with characters that you couldn't help but care about.  His details were incredible and made reading the story richer and deeper.  I absolutely loved The Shining!  I plan on watching it later this month - yes, I'll finally get to watch Jack Nicholson's take on Jack Torrance. 

As for Doctor Sleep, well, it definitely kept me on my toes at times.  This book was an interesting way to explore Danny as an adult and also to look at another child dealing with the shining.  I didn't love the book as much as I loved The Shining, but I certainly enjoyed it.  In this story, we find that Danny is still traumatized after his experience at the Overlook - seems that the ghosts from that place still haunt him.  His mom calls their old friend, Dick Hallorann, to come and talk with Danny.  He teaches the kid how to create lockboxes in his mind where he can lock up these ghosts from his past (or present).  This is a great trick that will come in handy when he's an adult.  Of course, adult Danny is chock full of problems - a bad temper and an alcoholic.  You could say that he's a chip off the old block.  Anyhow, he winds up working at a hospice and gets the nickname, Doctor Sleep, because he has a knack for helping the dying leave this world with peace of mind.  He even has a cat who helps him by letting him know whose next.  As Danny settles into his new life as Doctor Sleep, he also gives up drinking.  His life is predictable and he likes it.  In a nearby town, a little girl named Abra is born and she's got a touch of the shining.  Her parents don't really understand what is happening to their daughter, so as she gets older she covers up her abilities.  Abra's pretty good at telekinesis and eventually telepathy (a gift she uses to connect with Danny).  The two form an unlikely friendship and wind up banding together when they catch wind of a terrible group called, The True Knot.  This group has a penchant for children (or adults) with the shining - they feed on their "steam".  When the group learns about Abra, they find their next victim.  In true King fashion, we get the small town, dynamic characters, supernatural forces, and a few horrifying scenes - all of which make for quite a good read.  Now, I'm not going to tell you whether or not Danny can help Abra defeat The True Knot, because I'm pretty sure you can guess that answer.  Just know that a trip back to The Overlook takes place and its integral in putting an end to this nightmare that has been haunting Danny for much longer than The True Knot. 

And there you have it, my thoughts on two of King's bestselling novels.  I have his next book Revival on my Books To Buy list and can't wait to sink my teeth into that tome.  King has definitely made a comeback in my reading repertoire lately.  I remember reading The Stand and The Tommyknockers years ago, but hadn't picked up any of his books since then.  Thanks to Ti's love for King's novels, I've developed a bit of an addiction to his stories lately and have to say that I'm really enjoying it.  So, thanks Ti! 

And now I'm off to read my copy of the latest O magazine.  Just looking at the cover, I can't help but want a white suit - Oprah looks amazing in hers! 


Beth said...

I didn't read the entire post on The Shining because I'm just over halfway through now and HOLY MOLY is it frightening. It's so scary in a psychological way. So I'll be back once I've finished because I want it all to be a complete surprise. So far... really enjoying it. I was thinking of adding Doctor Sleep to my list next year. I'll let you know! Happy reading!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Beth, I can dig it. I wouldn't want spoilers to ruin it for me either. You are so right about it being psychological - I love it! I swear King is awesome at writing books that explore that aspect and making it horrifying (because its real!). So glad you are enjoying it - can't wait to read what you think of it :) And definitely add Doctor Sleep to your TBR pile - its a worthwhile read.

Lark said...

Congratulations on finishing the R.I.P. challenge and surviving some of King's scarier books. (I still need to read both It and The Shining.) Love your reviews of his books. Makes me want to be brave and check them out of the library. :)

bermudaonion said...

I can read some Stephen King but not the really scary stuff. Great job on the challenge!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Lark, thanks! Yes, read them both! I'm so glad you liked my reviews - I hope they get you to read the books :) Cheers!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Kathy, thanks! I'm glad I was able to finish it as I haven't really been in the mood for horror books all that much. And I know what you mean, I much prefer his non-horror books, as well ;) Cheers!

Lisa said...

I've yet to read Doctor Sleep but did love The Shining when I read it years ago. I think it might have been the book that kicked off my King reading jag. It gave me the big willies!