Showing posts with label sleepalong. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sleepalong. Show all posts

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (#SleepAlong!)


Title: Doctor Sleep
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source: personal purchase

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.


My Review:

As you all know, I took part in the Doctor Sleep Read-Along hosted by Tif Talks Books and Charlene at Cheap Thrills.  You can read my first two check-in posts HERE and HERE (caution, some spoilers).  However, now that I've finished the entire novel, this is a SPOILER-FREE full review to recap my thoughts.

So, a sequel to The Shining.  At first, I must say I was unsure that it could be done well.  King admits as much in his note at the end of this novel, saying that The Shining is one of the top books fans mention to him when naming a list of his novels that scared the bejesus out of them.  How do you top that?

I wouldn't necessarily say that King "topped" The Shining here.  Doctor Sleep is not nearly as horrifying, in my opinion, and if that's your basis of comparison, you may be disappointed.  However, what King has managed to do is create an entirely different storyline that still brings in enough overlapping detail from The Shining to make the novels compliment each other perfectly.  From that perspective, I think King nailed this sequel.  He doesn't try to bring Danny Torrance right back into the world of the Overlook--I think that's an effort that would have bored fans and led to too much direct comparison to the first novel.  Instead, we get to see how the Overlook experience has changed Danny over time, while also bringing in an entirely new cast of characters.

And speaking of that cast of characters, I was captivated by them--especially the members of the True Knot, King's "bad guys" in this story.  Not quite humans, not quite vampires, they travel the country in RVs and hunt down little kids who have "the shining".  Creepy, eh?  Other than the interest I had in their particular brand of scariness, I also love how King took such an innocuous group of people (middle-aged RVers that travel the country relatively unnoticed) and turned them into this menacing force.  I'll surely never be looking at a Winnebago the same way again.  Muahahaha.

A few notes on the reading experience as a whole: the prologue of the book moves a bit slowly, and I know this has turned a few people off.  For me, I do think it took me a while to dive in at the beginning, but being familiar with King's brand of slow pacing, I hung in there.  By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked, and by the end of the novel, you'll see exactly why the prologue was important.

I was a little surprised that I predicted one of the biggest "twists" in the novel well before it was revealed.  I mentioned in one of my Sleep-Along check-ins that I had a prediction about a family relationship between two of the characters, and it ended up being spot-on.  Unusual for me (I NEVER see twists coming), but especially in a King novel.  I wouldn't say that this ruined anything in the book for me, but the amazement that comes with a big reveal was lost on me--something that I think other readers really enjoyed.  Ah well.  I guess I need to pay less attention next time?

One of the Sleep-Along questions this week was whether we feel it is necessary to read The Shining before reading Doctor Sleep.  Even though the storylines are so different, I would answer this with a resounding YES.  There are many small details that overlap between the two stories--for example, a quote during a job interview that Danny goes to is taken directly from a quote his father had during a job interview in The Shining.  Another example: Abra (the young girl in Doctor Sleep) has the same nervous tic that Jack Torrance had in The Shining.  Plus, the ending weaves in some very important information from Danny's childhood experience at the Overlook (details from the book, not the movie--so don't just substitute the Kubrick film!).  Is it imperative that you know these details before reading Doctor Sleep?  I suppose not...but your reading experience will not be nearly so fulfilling if you don't have this background beforehand.  If you want the full Doctor Sleep experience, get thee to The Shining first!

Final thoughts?  Doctor Sleep is the perfect compliment to its predecessor.  I love that it didn't try to repeat The Shining, but instead added on to it in a way that made many of the relationships from the first book (especially the one between Danny and his father) that much fuller.  It has a great blend of creeptastic-ness and suspense, plus a new world of characters that leaves you with more than enough to sink your teeth into.

Ever wonder what happened to little Danny Torrance?  Then you MUST read Doctor Sleep and find out.

Have you read Doctor Sleep?  How do you feel it compares to The Shining?  If you haven't read it but you did read The Shining, do you have any interest in the sequel...or do you want to leave little Danny as he was at the Overlook?  :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

#SleepAlong check-in THE SECOND!

Happy Monday, all!  Today is the second discussion day for the #SleepAlong, the Doctor Sleep read-along hosted by Cheap Thrills and Tif Talks Books.
**Just a warning: all Sleep Along posts are likely to contain spoilers for both The Shining and whatever part of Doctor Sleep we're reading up to that week!**

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 13, around page 360.  Here's the discussion questions:

In Part One, we get to know Abra mostly through her parents or other adults. In Part Two, we get to know her much better. What do you think of this extraordinary girl?

Stephen King obvious has a knack for writing excellent child/adolescent characters.  I think Abra is no exception.  She had to be a challenge for him to write, given her age, because even if she didn't "shine", she'd still be at a point in her life where she's showing more maturity, but is still really a child.  And with the shining mixed in, that makes her development even more complex.  I think (so far) he's reached a great balance between her childlike and more adultlike features.

I am immensely interested in why Abra has the same type of "tic" that Jack Torrance did in The Shining!  She rubs her mouth as a calming technique, something that Jack often did to the point of making himself bleed.  I have a very faint prediction about a family connection between Abra and Dan (due to the fact that Abra's grandfather is unknown), but we'll see if that pans out.  If it does, it could explain a lot of things...

Do you have any speculations on what the True Knot are? We know how they sustain themselves, and we've seen the way they die. They're not, as Abra calls them, "ghostie people," but they aren't really human either.

I don't know if I have a specific category to place them in.  My guess is that they are meant to be a villain all their own, just like vampires, werewolves, etc. are all in their own "species".  I do wonder if the True Knot is the only band of people like themselves...are there others out there?  Or is Rose's group the entire population?  I do like the fact that they are extremely flawed.  I think about books like Salem's Lot, where the vampires really ran the show all the way up until the very end.  Here, we see the True Knot tripping up quite a bit, which adds a lot of unpredictability to the plot.

I also want to know how they are connected to the spirits in the Overlook--there HAS to be some relation there.

Considering that Chapter Thirteen is one of the most intense in the book so far, did anyone actually stop reading here? Or could you not wait to race on ahead?

I did stop reading there!  Mostly because I just finished it this morning and have not had time to go on.  Haha.  But I am looking forward to jumping back in ASAP!

How's Doctor Sleep treating you so far, readers?

Monday, October 7, 2013

#SleepAlong check-in THE FIRST!

Happy Monday, all!  Today is the first discussion day for the #SleepAlong, the Doctor Sleep read-along hosted by Cheap Thrills and Tif Talks Books.
**Just a warning: all Sleep Along posts are likely to contain spoilers for both The Shining and whatever part of Doctor Sleep we're reading up to that week!**

This week we read up to the end of Part One, around page 195.  Here's the discussion questions:

Doctor Sleep picks up not long after the closing of The Shining. For those who have recently read The Shining, do you think it proves to be helpful in diving into the sequel? If you have not recently read The Shining, do you feel you are missing out on some of the details?

I love the fact that Doctor Sleep picks up when Danny is still a boy, even if it is only for a few chapters.  I recently re-read The Shining, and this continuation really makes Doctor Sleep feel like a true sequel.  I think it would be very disorienting to go from Danny at 6 years old in The Shining, immediately to Danny as an adult in Doctor Sleep.  The introductory part of Doctor Sleep is, admittedly, a little slow-going plot-wise, but I think a necessarily element in bridging the two novels.

Plus, I love that I did a re-read so recently!!  There is an overlap in some small details that I would have never picked up if I hadn't had the first novel fresh in my mind.  (Ex. when Dan is in a job interview as an adult and thinks of his interviewer as an "officious pr*ck"...definite overlap from Jack Torrance's job interview at the Overlook.)

Danny has now become Dan. In Part One, we watch his transformations from learning to live with the horrors of The Overlook to succumbing to the drink (like his father) to his road to sobriety and earning the title of Doctor Sleep. What do you think about the journey King has taken Dan on thus far?

It was, honestly, a little hard for me to stomach all of these changes at first.  Danny changes to Dan quite rapidly between the introduction and Part One, and it's a little hard to see how he jumped from innocent pre-teen to drunken 28-year-old so quickly in the novel.  Part of me almost wishes there was a little bit more detail about his teen/early-20's years to provide better transition.  (Ex. I would love to know what a struggle he must have gone through when he first started in with alcohol, especially knowing how horrible it was for his father.)

However, with Part One ending at a time when Dan is sober (and has been for quite some time), I am very curious about how his battle with alcoholism will escalate when he encounters the True Knot...

We are also introduced to the True Knot in this first section. What do you think about this group?

Terrifying and fascinating all at once!  I didn't know what to think of them at first, but by the end of Part One, I was sufficiently freaked out by their activities and their very premise.  It's obvious how their story is going to clash with Dan and Abra, now it's just a matter of waiting for the showdown.  I also enjoy how King has chosen a seemingly innocent group of people that we've all encountered (RV-ers) and made them into eternal child-killers.  GAH.

Overall, what do you think so far? Have you completely fallen into the story? Or, has it taken a bit longer to get back into the life of little Danny Torrance?

At first, I was slow to get into the novel.  As I mentioned, the intro didn't pack a lot of punch for me, even if it did provide good background, so I wasn't feeling completely absorbed as I started Part One.  However, as I got a better sense of Abra's story and the intentions of the True Knot, I found myself getting sucked in.  Can't wait to see what else is in store.

How about you, readers?  Anyone else have thoughts on Doctor Sleep so far?
 
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