|I was very fortunate to see Stephen King speak at George Mason University a couple of years ago (thanks Cuz!). He talked about writing Doctor Sleep, and he read from it. He said he knew it was risky to revisit the remains of the Overlook Hotel because, as he wrote in the author's note to the book, “I like to think I’m still pretty good at what I do, but nothing can live up to the memory of a good scare, and I mean nothing, especially if administered to one who is young and impressionable.” |
I say Amen to that. I was a young, impressionable secretary when I first read The Shining. It scared the willies out of me. Working part time in a one girl office, I was all alone when I read it. And even though it was full daylight, I was quite certain the woman in Room 217 was coming for me every time the branch of a tree scratched across the old tin roof of my little freight company office.
But Doctor Sleep isn't that kind of a scare. In this one, Danny is grown, but he has suffered. And now he is being visited by a young girl who shines even harder than he ever did. And she needs his help to stop a pack of vampiric killers who prey on other kids with the shining.
The name Doctor Sleep comes from Dan's (no longer Danny, he's grown now) ability to help folks cross over to the other side--peacefully.
This is where King shines. Check out this passage from one of Dan's moments of helping an old guy cross over (I even marked the place, something I never do in books). This is King's version of seeing someone's life flash before his eyes--since he is connected to the patient, he sees what the old guy sees:
“He saw Charlie’s wife pulling down a shade in the bedroom, wearing nothing but a slip of Belgian lace he’d bought her for their first anniversary; saw how her ponytail swung over one shoulder when she turned to look at him, her face lit in a smile that was all yes. He saw a Farmall tractor with a striped umbrella raised over the seat. He smelled bacon and heard Frank Sinatra singing “Come Fly with Me” from a cracked Motorola radio sitting on a worktable littered with tools. He saw a hubcap full of rain reflecting a red barn. He tasted blueberries and gutted a deer and fished in some distant lake whose surface was dappled by steady autumn rain. He was sixty, dancing with his wife in the American Legion hall. He was thirty, splitting wood. He was five, wearing shorts and pulling a red wagon. Then the pictures blurred together … At times like this, Dan knew what he was for.”
And this, my friends, is why I gave the book 5 Big Stars. Especially that line about the rain in the hubcap.