Monday, December 16, 2013

Book 115: Dr. Sleep

Dr. Sleep by Stephen King
This is what I get for being so behind in reviews - instead of being one of the first to review this, I'm simply going to be repeating what everyone else has already said about this novel.  I should probably admit now that The Shining wasn't one of the my favorite King novels (though after reading other articles on it, I feel it might be time to revisit it), and I have never seen the Kubrick film.  Despite having very fuzzy memories of the previous novel, I decided to dive into this without a reread, and I think The Shining is a big enough part of our pop culture, and that King did a good enough job of explaining the past, that I was able to immensely enjoy this novel on its own.
The novel follows Dan, or Danny from The Shining, as an adult.  Though as a child he hated his father's alcoholism, as an adult he too has become dependent on alcohol and the occasional drugs, sometimes to deal with this past and sometimes to suppress his abilities.  Eventually, Dan finds himself in a small town and on the wagon, working at a hospice where he earns the nickname Dr. Sleep because he helps the dying cross over peacefully.

The other main character in the novel is Abra, a young girl, with a shining so strong it dwarves Danny's abilities (which grow less with age).  I really enjoyed Abra's great-grandmother, the published poet and professor, who is the first to acknowledge Abra's gift.  Abra and Dan are aware of each other early on, linked through their abilities though they won't meet until she is in her tween/teens.
King actually references Charlie Manx of NOS4A2, just like his son's novel mentioned the True Knot, this novel's group of villains.  While I thought the group set up was fascinating, I would admit that the villains were the novel's weaker spot (at one point, the villains wonder why it is so much harder for them to find children with the shining - well, if you've been killing them for centuries and feeding off their energy before they have a chance to reproduce and pass the shining on to their children, it would make sense that they are becoming extinct - sometimes I think I may be the only one that reads these novels and comes up with scientific reasons for things).  For example, even when the group becomes aware of Abra and her immense powers, I can't say I was overly concerned for her safety.  I naturally expected a show down, but I can't say I was very scared of what might happen.  However, I'm completely willing to overlook this, because I liked the main characters so much and I wanted them to succeed.  I have George R.R. Martin for when I want gut wrenching deaths of my favorite characters, so sometimes it's nice to have a story where good triumphs over evil.  
And the best part - Stephen King pulls off an ending!  There aren't any super crazy explanations, no aliens show up, it's a simple yet effective show down between two forces.  As a result, this is easily among my favorite or the favorite of the recent King novels I've read.  I had some issues with Under the Dome and 11/22/63 but this one was just fun and populated by characters I liked spending time with.

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