Lovers of Stephen King’s The Shining may be questioning if King’s new sequel, Doctor Sleep, is up to par. With Jack Torrance’s fierce alcoholism and the surreal setting of the desolate Overlook in Colo., along with a cast of characters that may or may not be real, The Shining stands as a testament to the horrors of the mind and the past.
Doctor Sleep returns with Danny Torrance years down the road, with alcoholism and demons shadowing his every move. However, along with possessing “the shining”, his psycho-intuitive power, he can help those who are about to die, leading him to work in hospices all over America. Being able to peacefully “transition” people into a peaceful death sleep, he earns the nickname Doctor Sleep.
Danny then meets Abra, a young girl with a shining even more powerful than his. As it so happens, she’s about to be in trouble — big trouble. People who may or may not be living are looking for her, troving the nation in overly cheerful t-shirts. While readers may see Abra and Danny’s relationship as a cheap play off of the mentorship of Dick, the chef from Overlook who first explained to Danny what the shining was, it works. Abra is fierce, intelligent and full of a vivacity that makes her character a wonderful one to discover.
Stephen King admits that he understands the task in making a sequel to one of the most revered horror stories ever written. However, he also discusses how his books reflect happenings in his life — when he published The Shining, he was an alcoholic himself shaping out his demons. In Doctor Sleep, he’s coming back to that murky past and wondering what happened to the family he dropped into it.
Doctor Sleep brings the darkness, horrible imagery and terror in equal doses in Doctor Sleep, but it’s different. Doctor Sleep recalls the epic story of Jack Torrance, a man seemingly doomed from the beginning, and hints that his son has the same opportunity to go off a twisted path as well, but under different, and perhaps even more awful circumstances. However, the book distances itself from The Shining, with a whole new set of villains as well as a New England setting that feels much more familiar for King. While some of the plot turns feel almost a little too dramatic and at some points it feels like King is struggling to make things work, it stands alone as a compelling book that has its fair share of dark corners and secrets.