If you are not familiar with Danny Torrance, then you have inadvertently deprived yourself of experiencing an icon of the beloved horror genre, Stephen King’s The Shining. As a fan of the horror genre and that especially of Stephen King, I am excited to see a new surge of popularity and interest. Great stories, as they say, can span generations.
Doctor Sleep allows readers and fans to connect or reconnect with Danny, now known as Dan as an adult. He has had quite the journey in his life; one most will never experience; one none would choose for themselves. As a man, he has a better understanding of his father and his need for a drink. Unfortunately, Dan has become a drunk and is haunted by ghosts from his past and his guilt. In Frazier, a small town in New Hampshire, things seem to turn around for Dan. He manages to find some work with the condition that he joins the local AA. There, he meets another who shines just as brightly, if not brighter, than he did as a boy. But, just as before, a malevolent entity is not far away.
The story is written in a third-person point of view that allows readers to see the depth of the characters. The narrative reveals not only the actions and behaviors of the characters but the beliefs and motivations that drive them. For instance, Dan Torrance, in the beginning, was desperate and wanted to have a “normal life.” He had turned to alcohol to cloud his mind and escape his shine. The mysterious newcomer, Abra, is experimenting and still learning what her shine can do when she finds Dan. The malevolent entity, the True Knot, is forced to face its mortality form sickness and, like anyone, is looking for a way to save itself. Is it difficult to not relate to these characters, even those we are meant to loath and hate because we see aspects of ourselves within them.
Stephen King is undoubtedly an aggressive writer in that we cannot help but pay attention and get caught within the threads of his story weaving. He forces readers into suspense with vivid moments of flashbacks from Dan’s stay at the Overlook Hotel, drunken thought processes, and moments of rage that mirror those of his father, the ill-fated Jack Torrance. The mood created constantly changes from pessimistic to cheerful and cautiously optimistic to desperate and back again. It is, to use the old cliché, a wild ride. Dan is given a repose for a time in Frazier. He manages to build himself up physically as a groundskeeper while continually working to remain sober. His battle with alcoholism eventually seems to be one he can win with his new supports despite his recovering and mostly unsettling shine. It is the shine that Dan seeks to escape the most. We are continuously hopeful but uncertain on how well he will fare.
The imagery used throughout this story is powerful and gets into the reader’s face. We are forced into the character’s space with them and experience everything together. We marvel at what Abra puts on display. We cringe at the sound of a voice that gurgles, squelches, and sputters as it speaks. We feel a chill as we see the bloodless face of an elderly woman in her room and wait with her as death approaches. We feel the radiating fever and see the pale, damp translucent skin of a once healthy being, now brought low by a childhood disease. King not only horrifies and disgusts those within the story but readers as well. He makes us feel everything that his characters go through.
What I happen to enjoy about Doctor Sleep is that it is a story of self-growth and forgiveness. As sentient beings, we all had choices to make. The reasons for those choices do not matter. The fact is that we made them. Sometimes, those choices haunt us. We trap ourselves and dwell in a moment that we do not want to be. This story illustrates that mistakes get made. What’s done is past, and the best way to avoid repeating it is to learn from it. If it gets to be too much to bear, your support is there to lend a hand. Ultimately, what we feel about our past has to be let go to move forward toward our future. Even better, this story doesn’t make this theme nearly as preachy as what I just jotted down.
I will say this, Stephen King most certainly aims to scare the hell out of people. If he can’t terrify, he will scar or traumatize his readers in some way. He is not for the faint of heart. With that being said, he uses every element of horror in his arsenal to tell a great story. I urge all interested in this genre, be it in either television, films, creepypasta, or books, to read this story. I would also advise readers to find themselves with Danny at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining first. Although Doctor Sleep can be read as a stand-alone story, it is the sequel to The Shining.
Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep is available as an audible book, an e-book, and a physical hardback or paperback. Readers can find this book on Amazon, Barns and Nobel, and wherever books are sold. Also, your local library may have a few copies to lend as well.