Doctor Sleep

by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep CoverI really don’t know how I feel about sequels. I sometimes feel as though it would be great if authors were able to just let stories end, to move on to new, unique things, but I understand the draw of providing more of something you love. And then there’s the business side of things, whether an author tossed out a quick sequel to extract a bit more money from his rabid fans, or something more thoughtful, a “necessary” sequel. From the way King tells it in his note at the end of Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining in this vein was something that he considered for a long, long time and worked hard to give it the care it deserved. With that in mind, imagine the awkward spot it puts me in when I didn’t really enjoy it.

But, I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Doctor Sleep is about Dan Torrance, the young boy from The Shining, who is now a middle-aged man and recovering alcoholic. He ends up working in a small New Hampshire town as a hospice orderly, acquiring a reputation for helping people pass on gracefully in their final days. While Dan is busy piecing his life together, a dangerous group called the True Knot travels the country feeding off the psychic essence given off when children with gifts similar to Dan’s are tortured and killed. When one such child with a much stronger “shine” than Dan gets targeted by the True Knot, she reaches out to Dan to help stop them.

King comes across as an author who knows his fan base very well. In reading Doctor Sleep, the things I really disliked––the clichés, the pop culture references, the frequent references to the first book, the time spent explaining things and justifying specific plot points, the formulaic story progression––strike me as things that a frequent King reader must enjoy. For that reason, I don’t really begrudge the author for writing how he does; I just find myself out of his target audience. (And, you know, Doctor Sleep remains hugely popular on Goodreads.) So, I’m left me with some very simple thoughts: If you’re a fan of Stephen King, and The Shining, in particular, you’ll probably love this one. If your taste in literature is anything like mine, however, you can probably skip this one and not lose any sleep over it.