Whilst I think Stephen King is one of the greatest horror writers of the time, I don’t tend to read his books. I have read a few of the classics in the past but I find he uses a lot of description to set the atmosphere and scene which I didn’t like. But Doctor Sleep caught my eye in a bookshop and I thought I would give Stephen another try.
Doctor Sleep tells the tale of Danny whose traumatic childhood has affected his adult life. He is a reckless alcoholic without a purpose in life but when he arrives in a small town he meets good people and starts to change his life.
Danny is not a likable character when we first meet him as he is drunk, gets in fights and sleeps around. Also he is a closed person with some serious issues. As the story progresses he starts to open up and we are willing him to sort his life, stick with staying sober as underneath all the issues we see a decent man who does care. His job at the hospice helps show this especially when he helps his patients.
In contrast we meet the True Knot who are mysterious individuals with some physic powers who have hidden in society in their camper van convoy. As the story progresses it is obvious that they are people who live on the ‘steam’ or essence of others. A bit like a vampire but worse as the more pain there is the more essence they get. Rose the Hat is the leader and is manipulative, a strong leader and sinister. I haven’t made my mind up if a point is being made that woman can lead centuries old groups as well and be good leaders. Rose is from a time when men ruled and usually stories have groups like this led by a man with a trophy woman on the side. So it is nice to have a woman in charge with no reliance on a man. Maybe it also signifies that women gained more equal rights over the centuries and so in today’s society they are equals. The closest man to Rose is Crow but even he has no real influence over her. However during the story she seems to lose her cool, collective persona and we see they are a weak group made up of outcasts of society and misfits. The True Knot represent the evil in the world and Stephen alludes to current issues such as missing children. They are creepy and make us think that despite a person looking harmless you never know their true self unless they show you.
The main theme of the book is good versus evil, not just True Knot against Danny but also a fight between Danny’s inner demons. Danny has a special power called Shining which he can use in various physic ways. Some of you may have read The Shining or watched the film and this book is a sequel. Little Danny Torrance in that story has grown up and his life is a mess due to his childhood. It does make me think about children who have traumatic childhoods and how it affects their future life physiologically. They may develop quicker mentally than other children and so surpass the other children their age but also they carry the physiological scars of events which can affect how they live their lives as they grow up – e.g. trust issues, addiction issues like Danny etc. So what help is in place? Abra is introduced with a greater shining than Danny and that’s where the True Knot, Danny and Abra start to cross paths.
This story is all about contrasts too – The True Knot’s weakness is their reliance on essence while Danny’s is on alcohol to forget his life. Both put their special powers to different uses e.g. Danny uses his to help people while the True Knot use it to track and kill people they want essence from. When we meet Abra who is in danger and Danny has to help she is another contrast as Abra gets help from Danny with her powers and has grown up in a loving family. Danny grew up in family of domestic violence.
Overall this is a great story and I would say one of the best books I have read by Stephen. He has dropped the pages of unnecessary description but still manages to achieve the backdrop to the story in our imaginations and create the intense atmospheres. He also alludes to the previous book as Danny has to deal with his past but there are some nice touches in the story to link it all together. We meet so many characters along the way and they could be people we meet in real life. Whilst it takes time to warm to the main characters, we are given time for them to develop and time to form our own opinions about them. The cat at the hospice is a mystery too but it alludes to the physic senses in this story and that animals can be very perceptive animals.
This book is sinister and scary in a psychological way as it is very real life and so well written. Our senses, imagination and emotions come to life while reading this book as the story progresses and we are captivated by Stephen’s amazing writing skills. If you are a fan of Stephen King or new to his work I would recommend reading this book. You don’t need to have read The Shining as you can pick up the story straight away. It is definitely one of my books of the year!
What other Stephen King books did you enjoy?