Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado's great resort hotels burned to the ground.

There are two ways to approach this review. Does this beginning hook those familiar with the The Shining (though they are probably hooked already), and does it hook those who have no idea what the The Shining is (assuming such a person exists)?

First, for The Shining aficionados. A little disappointing: we already know what happened in the first book. Does King really have to remind us? What follows is back story about the hotel burning, getting totally destroyed, adding, so no one will confuse Kubrick's film with what really happened:

The hotel's off-season caretaker, John Torrance, was killed during an unsuccessful (and heroic) effort to dump the boiler's steam pressure, which had mounted to disastrously high levels due to an inoperative relief valve.

Notice how King with subtle mastery notes that John did not freeze to death in the maze. So please, get that damn iconic picture of Jack Nicholson out of your brain, thank you very much. Beginning with back story (a recap of book 1) is a little surprising coming from King. There is no fresh Doctor Sleep hook in the first chapter.

Let's see what comes next.

Wendy Torrance and her son received a settlement from the corporation that owned the Overlook.

I'm not scared yet. But I am relieved Wendy and Danny got something for the hell they went through at the Overlook.

Because this is the sequel to The Shining it reeks of automatic hook. But for someone who has not read the first book and knows nothing about it, what do we have? A hotel has burned down and someone's daddy died being a hero. It raises questions, which is part of a good hook. Yes, it's good to be introduced to the Overlook right away, the uninitiated reader will be curious and ask questions like who this man was who saved the day at the expense of his own life. By the end of chapter 2, the ominous character of the Overlook begins to take form.

The novel introduces its own first hook in the third chapter (all chapters are short in the beginning which is cool and the reader navigates quickly from back story to forward story): The decaying woman from Room 217 is loitering in Danny's bathroom in Florida. If you don't know who the lady from room 217 is, you soon will. Dang, the ghosts from the Overlook are stalking the poor kid. Well, they need a home too, as there's no longer an Overlook to haunt. All this by page 5.

King continues dropping back story into his forward narrative, sprinkling tidbits along the way, on a need to know basis. He is highly skilled at inserting back story in an unobtrusive and painless way.

For those who are familiar with The Shining, this novel's immediate beginning starts with a summary and is a fail, but is salvaged quickly. For those who know nothing about The Shining it is a pass. 

Verdict: Pass (barely). 

Rudy Globird

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