What the critics are saying about Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining

Doctor Sleep follows a grown-up Danny Torrance as he attempts to save the life of a fellow shiner under threat from sinister gang True Knot

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Fans of The Shining have waited 35 long years to find out what became of the wife and son Jack Torrance attempted to murder. Stephen King’s sequel, Doctor Sleep, finally offers some answers, catching up with a grown up Danny as he attempts to leave his psychic abilities in the bottom of a bottle. He soon sobers up and gets a job as a hospice orderly, but finds his powers called upon by the discovery of children all over America who also possess “The Shining”. Unfortunately that makes them the targets of sinister gang True Knot who can stave off death with an essence secreted by young Shiners’ corpses… 

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Jake Kerridge in The Telegraph gives the novel four stars, praising King for both his sequel and his recovery from the alcoholism he has publicly battled with. “It is all of quite a different order from The Shining,” he writes. “There isn’t the same claustrophobic, elemental terror that has caused so many people over the years to develop a phobia of hotel lifts. The members of the True Knot are a memorably loathsome bunch, but having brought them vividly to life King cannot make them as frightening as the more nebulous beings that terrorised Jack Torrance.”

He continues, “The Shining was a yell of despair from the darkest of places. Doctor Sleep is a warm, entertaining novel by a man who is no longer the prisoner of his demons, but knows where to look when he needs to call on them.”

Vulture‘s Kathryn Schulz describes her experience reading Doctor Sleep as “strange fun”. “It’s less scary than The Shining, and, bluntly, less good—but also funnier, slyer, and less genre-bound. This is a novel where the so-called hero starts out a derelict and ends up mostly just a mensch. 

“What a strange and interesting book Stephen King has given us: a work of horror that promises, of all things, a good night’s sleep.”

The New York Times commandeered novelist Margaret Atwood to review King’s latest effort. She calls it “a very good specimen of the quintessential King blend”, warning readers that “by the end of this book your fingers will be mere stubs of their former selves, and you will be looking askance at the people in the supermarket line, because if they turn around they might have metallic eyes. King’s inventiveness and skill show no signs of slacking: “Doctor Sleep” has all the virtues of his best work.”

According to The Scotsman, “The Shining, book and film, were claustrophobic; Doctor Sleep is expansive but thinner.”

“This is indubitably a page-turner, but it might not be a re-reader,” writes Stuart Kelly. “I was horrified and impelled, aghast and aching to get back to the story. That said, King is not and has never been a wordsmith – there are passages where cliché and easy simile would stand out were you ever to read it again. But that’s not, in many ways, what we are there for. The simple dash of the prose is there because the plot is more important.”

And finally, Esquire‘s Chris Jones writes, “Doctor Sleep, in some ways, reads like a tearful AA confession, like a letter from a father who wants to apologize for the curses of genetics, for the well-intentioned failures of family. It’s as though Danny Torrance is Stephen King, or vice versa, a man who has been followed all these years by his mistakes and terrible visions and wants finally to be free of them, made innocent.”

Doctor Sleep is published on 24 September 2013

 


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