Author Stephen King has done something he rarely does: written a sequel. And not just any sequel, this one has been 36 years in the making. Doctor Sleep picks up the story little Danny Torrance from King’s 1976 classic The Shining. In Doctor Sleep, we finally find out what happens to Danny after he and his mother escaped the demented and possessed Jack Torrance at the snowbound Overlook Hotel.
King admits to being nervous about writing a sequel to The Shining. Not, of course, that it was something he could not do; honestly, it’s Stephen King, he’s scared us with a toy monkey, a clown, and cars for goodness’ sake. The doubt came from the question: was it something he should do. The Shining is after all a benchmark of horror literature that also did well in the Stanley Kubrick adaptation starring Jack Nicholson. King’s wife Tabitha convinced him the sequel was worth doing, and the result of that support is Doctor Sleep.
The novel picks up after Danny and his mother, Wendy escape from the Overlook Hotel in Colorado and move to Florida. Danny finds that the dead from the hotel have followed him, and his mother reaches out to Dick Halloran, the old chef from the Overlook who discovered Danny’s “shining”.
After learning what he can from Halloran to control the visions, Danny’s story leaps forward several years and we see him as Dan Torrance, a recovering alcoholic –as his father was- seeking peace and redemption in a small town. He’s working at a retirement home where his shining helps the elderly patients cross over into a peaceful death, earning him the title nickname “Doctor Sleep”.
This story is not just about Dan, however. It also involves Abra Stone, a girl whose shining is more powerful than any ever seen. Abra has been showing signs of supernatural abilities since she was a baby. Her ability seeks out and makes contact with Dan as a toddler, though neither of them fully realize exactly what that contact means until later.
What’s a good King novel without monsters? In classic King style, the child Abra is being hunted by a group of RV-housed pseudo-gypsies called the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat. They feed off of “steam” the psychic essence of humans. They congregate at disasters to feed because sudden death by violence creates quite a bit of steam. Their favorite most filling meal however, is the steam of children with the shining. In a truly King-esque twist, the True Knot feeds from shining children by slowly torturing them to death. Dan must protect Abra from the True Knot, but the True themselves have an enemy hunting them. Knot leader Rose the Hat believes Abra and her steam are the key to the True Knot’s escape from the predator.
Doctor Sleep is available in both hard and softcover as well as audiobook. King has spent 40 years scaring the hell out of us in both print and film, and we can’t get enough. We look forward to whatever work King brings forth next with appropriately grim relish.
- King publicly dislikes Rubrick’s adaptation of his novel The Shining because key elements of the story that were important to King were cut. King produced a TV mini-series in the 90s that stuck more closely to the novel.
- The city of Castle Rock where many King novels take place is completely fictional.
- King is a recovered alcoholic and cocaine addict.
- King’s wife Tabitha and all three of his children are also writers.
Written by: Brandi Tasby