So prepare yourselves. My review of Dr. Sleep is going down.
First remember I have been a King lover since I was in the third grade when I read Fire Starter.
I have read 90% of his work and I’m about to get real nerdy real quick. I’ll try to keep any serious spoilers to a minimum.
Short version I really enjoyed the book and felt it is a fitting end to the story that started with The Shining.
We start out with Dan Torrence all grown up. He is in rough shape when we meet up with him. First we find out the fall out from what happened at the Overlook. When I re-read the Shining as an adult these were things I wondered about because we don’t get to know these things in most horror novels.
Life for Danny is real bad. Logically if we follow the thread from the trauma at the Overlook, the trauma of life with his dad and everything else we can’t be surprised.
In the first part of the book the exposition of what is going on with Danny is beautiful and painful. It is so sad, and King as usual features the tension between the rational and the irrational so well. It’s a fine line to tread when you’re dealing with regular people who have extraordinary gifts. Too little of the rational and shit gets old, too much and you ,miss the supernatural elements.
Further in we start to see Dan get his life unfucked. The book is a bit heavy on AA aphorisms and culture, that’s okay. If you don’t have addiction issues or are unfamiliar with the culture some of the book may pass you by a little bit but, it’s not insurmountable.
When Dan settles down we start finding out about the antagonists. The True knot. I love how King handles them, the leader Rose in particular with her tusk. The imagery of this beautiful ultimately awful inhuman creature is pretty great.
Let’s get nerdy. As far as horror goes, my favorite horror gets to the gristle of what makes humans cringe. Shit, the smell of death, the idea that someone could and will destroy everything you are by barely lifting a finger. This is one of my favorite things about King’s work overall. Way back when it was free I read an essay about writing by Chuck Palahniuk that talked about writing on the body. See a bit of that here at Litreactor.
This is something I feel like a lot of modern horror lacks. The real touch as it were. Some of the horror I’ve read in the past few years relied very heavily on the gross out. Ew fat people, ew the ghetto, ew periods. Being that I’m old enough to have seen quarts and quarts of blood coming out of my vagina and don’t ascribe to the ew fat people are gross mania that tends to be lost on me.
From a writing standpoint I believe in the body. Whether it is horror or not there are things that happen in the body tht when we write about them, we give our readers a bit of sure knowledge. I feel like it is empowering and gives writing serious urgency.
Back to Dr. Sleep.
Overall the first portion of the book drew me in very efficiently.
Dude, Mr King. Come ON man.
The one trope King hits like a hammer came up but not in a huge way. The Magical Negro. We get to see Dick Halloran again and much as he was necessary it did remind me that I need for the Black folks in his books to not always be the kind of Old Magical Blues Man trope.
I do like that he tries to include Black characters in many of his books and has done so for a long time.
I don’t like that they are not just folks, or just magical folks without hitting those magical negro tropes so hard. The major Black characters are Magical Old Negroes full of wisdom who guide the White kids towards something.
Do we still have to do that?
The other thing is that there is always some hint at AAVE without t being full on AAVE. There is always some patois that feels to me like a yappy little dog jumping up and down while some human yells BUT LOOK THE ARE BLACK! LOOK HERE’S THE BLACK PERSON! LOOK LOOK.
It takes me out of the story.
Pro tip for White writers.
You can just say a character is Black and mention it periodically in a longer work, and that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to make them into the Magical Negro or change their speech pattern.
So through the book including a minor female character there were those moments that made me stop reading to roll my eyes.
Beyond that, I do love where Dan’s life starts to go. This is going to be vague but um…shit okay.
So remember Tony? His little voice. He comes back and I was afraid would be overused but actually King used that voice very effectively.
Next we meet the next iteration of a kid with the shining Abra, is a nice kid who has mega power. I like how he wrote her from birth.
I am awful at reviewing without spoilers.
I will point to the way Abra as an infant totally loses her baby shit because she knows something awful is gonna happen. It does put me in mind of infants I have cared for who seemingly totally lost it to the point of me panicking. For parents it’ll be a moment you know and probably remember with dread.
Can we talk about the villains?
The True Knot is a nightmare. If you don’t shine you’re not really in danger unless they rook you but they are fucking scary. It is way scarier to me to think of evil beings who look and seem like average Americans.
So basically it is pretty good. I think the end went a bit long for my taste. There are also a few spots where I felt like the pacing was a bit dodgy. But if you want to know the end of the story started in The Shining read it.
Now okay, under this I’m gettin real nerdy. Spoilers. You’ve been warned.
So one of the things about King’s work we know I love is that he has interwoven his many worlds in very subtle ways that for me are like Easter Eggs.
At one point someone, DannyI think says “there are other worlds than these” if you are a Dark Tower lover you’ll recognize this as something Jake says to Roland as Roland drops him. That gave me chills.
If we extrapolate that Danny has this Shining, we can guess he’s gotten glimpses of this other world. But was it the Tower? Does he serve the Beam?
So that s great for me.
This long drawn out so much of his work being interconnected just kills me. I want to do that.
Other nerdy shit.
One of King’s other skills is poking that atavistic human fear of things that look human but that we feel aren’t. I love it. There is something so lingering about the thought that the pretty lady flirting with you in the bar might only want to use some power on you to scar and rob you, or that your special shining child might be spiritual food, for near immortal evil.
The touchon ancient evil living in RVs in Amerca is really great. I love non monster accessible horror.
In spite of some of some of the parts that made me cringe or that dragged, this book hit all my nerd buttons.
The end was a let down. It felt kind of maudlin for King. A little too heavy handed along with the AA stuff was a bit bash you over the head.
I know he has a long histoty of recovery and whatnot but at a few points I just rolled my eyes. I don’t really like tht sort ofthing but whatever.
And then again the Magical Negro. I just want to grab Unky Steve and shake him and yell STOP IT JESUS CHRST. Because really not all of us have a particular TV Negro accent. There are lots of them and lots of us and a Black character can just be a dude without wisdom or blues singing type story lines or sassy Black ladyness. During those parts i had to skip ahead a bit because it’s too much.
I stll love the man and hs work though.
So that’s all.