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313 of 362 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2013
The return-to-form King displayed with 11/22/63 and the novella JOYLAND continues for the most part with King's long-awaited 36-years-later sequel to 1977's THE SHINING.

Picking up only a few years after the conclusion of events in THE SHINING, the prologue features one of the most memorable apparitions from The Overlook making a welcome return "haunting". From there, the novel jumps ahead a couple of decades, picking up with Danny at his lowest point in his late twenties before coursing ahead several more years. The pacing is a little disjointed at times and I was disappointed that some of Dan's arguably more compelling years (his teenage years) - and characters such as Wendy and Dick Hallorann - are never really explored to the extent or depth I had hoped they would be. A little more detail and padding here would have been welcome. However, King has often been criticized for his meandering, overlong style so many readers may relish this slightly more concise style.

The constant references throughout to even minor events in THE SHINING will have most readers inevitably comparing it to the earlier book (throwbacks to "REDRUM" and many other references abound). While DOCTOR SLEEP does work as a stand-alone novel, it works best as a sequel. There are two main threads to this novel: the exploration and expansion of the character of the now adult 'Doc', as he battles with his demons (alcoholism, his past, and his shining ability); and the new story and characters such as Abra, Chetta, Lucy, Doctor John, Dave, and The True Knot. The new characters, especially Abra, are well drawn but the villains come across as a little hammy and the overall plot pales in comparison to Dan's inner ruminations. The book's strongest point is the characterization of the original character and his expansion, with the main plot (new characters, new villains) being somewhat weaker but serviceable. As is typical with many King novels, the ending is a bit of a letdown - (small spoiler) it's not bad but it is a little predictable and the final showdown is rushed with its infamous Colorado setting underused.

King says that this novel is a "return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on scary horror" and eerie early scenes in the prologue and when Dan's Shining returns with a bang in Teenytown seem to promise this, but it never really manifests, and overall the novel is not at all scary or even particularly creepy. Unfortunately, while it is suspenseful, much of the tale is just not as compelling or terrifying as it could have been. It's more of a supernatural adventure than a horror - an enjoyable and entertaining adventure for the most part that also serves as a poignant story of redemption, exploring themes such as mortality, family, and second chances.

Due to high expectations, you may be disappointed - don't expect a direct sequel to THE SHINING, but view it more as a continuation of the character of Dan with a new story and lots of references to the original novel. Don't expect a horror novel either - view this as more of a supernatural adventure crossed with a poignant story of redemption. It's far from perfect (few sequels are) and it's not better than the original, but it does continue the tale of Dan Torrance in an effective and heartfelt manner, features a good (though not great) premise, and introduces some interesting new characters, while also being respectful of and paying homage to its roots. Despite its flaws, DOCTOR SLEEP is a solid work.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2013

After reading an author for as many years as I've read King, I have become accustomed somewhat to the writer's habits and other signature moves to the point where I can almost predict them. And when those habits and signatures aren't there, when a writer you've read for years is off his or her game, it becomes as palpable on the brain as the lack of salt feels almost injurious to a gourmet's palate.

That's how I felt when I read Doctor Sleep, the sequel to King's masterpiece to The Shining. I'm almost at pains to call it a sequel, because it feels so utterly separate from the mind and world in which the first book was written that one could easily read this book without having read The Shining and not miss much of a beat, but there is some bridging there between the first two books for those who have read The Shining.

That being said, the book started off very strong. Dan Torrance, once known as Danny or "Doc," has grown up and he's wrestling with the alcohol demon, in much the same way his father did, only he has his childhood nightmare at The Overlook as well as his often torturous psychic ability still riding shotgun. He's a bit of a nomad, drifting from town to town after he's burned enough bridges (usually thanks to the antics he gets up to while on a liquor binge) but he tries to make the best of things working as an orderly at various hospice centers where he helps to usher dying patients gently into the afterlife. This whole side of Dan's life is not given a whole lot of gravity or dimension, however, and it left me wondering what exactly he does for these people that is so special. That was my first cue that King was not entirely on his game here, but I'll get to that in a minute. At any rate, Dan finds a home in Frazier, New Hampshire, a sleepy little town populated by good salt of the earth types that we like immediately. Dan also starts going to AA meetings, and we start to see him climbing out of this black hole he's been living in most of his adult life.

As the plot evolves, we met Abra Stone, a girl born with an immense psychic ability that dwarfs what even Dan experienced as a child. She's telekinetic, telepathic, can travel into other people's minds from great distances, and can even leave messages on a blackboard from miles away. The stuff this kid can do is pretty amazing, and as she grows older and starts to interact more with Dan (which is inevitable), I liked getting to know her and her family more. That's one thing I really appreciated about this book. King's signature for developing heartfelt and realistic relationships between his characters is as strong as ever, and it left me wanting more. It is the only thing that kept me reading.

Of course there is a third element at work here, and it is that of the True Knot, a band of psychic vampires who feed off of psychic energy called "steam" rather than blood. They travel the country in bands of RV's looking for their next victims. They are an interesting group, all with carnie names like Rose the Hat, Snakebite Andi, Jimmy Numbers, etc. They have a deep and abiding love for one another, but they are also monsters and child killers and they're desperate for more steam (times have been a little lean of late). After their leader (Rose the Hat) discovers her "white whale" of a steam head in Abra, they are determined to get her and here is where we start getting doses of actual conflict between the three stories King has been building.

And here is where things start to go off the rails. King for whatever reason begins to lose interest in his story. Perhaps it's because it's more plot-driven than a lot of his work, but when it came time for Abra, Dan, and company to face off against the True Knot, he pulled so many punches that he was in negative punch territory by the time it was over. Not once did I feel like Abra and Dan were in any sort of trouble, and that was the first problem. It's hard to thrill people when you don't get a sense of peril, and it is an odd mark to make against King, who normally (and with glee) will inflict pain and suffering upon his protagonists in order to elicit emotion from the reader. Second, when it came time for Abra to truly interact with her main adversary (Rose), King more or less pulls her out of the story, placing her halfway across the country from Abra while she sends her surrogates after the girl.

I tried to figure out why King would have made this decision, why he seemed to be avoiding conflict rather than running head-on into it like he typically does. I still have no good answers. If he was trying to make it so that Rose grew more and more furious with each loss suffered at Abra's hands so that when the two of them finally did have their showdown, it would be all the more perilous, he failed there too, dispatching the story's enemies with such ease that it was more of an anti-climax. Rose simply was not very scary at all to begin with, and all her power was sucked away by the time we reached the battleground. Abra was so strong that she had no one who could match her power. Everything about that climax felt tacked on. Everything rushed. It was almost like King couldn't wait to get this story done so he could move on to something more interesting. Maybe sequels just aren't his thing.

And that's what this book feels like by the end, like the obligatory sort of thing people write because other people want it, not because the author really wanted to write it. I know King still has magic in him. He blew me away with Joyland and 11/22/63 remains a modern masterpiece for him. But this book, like the steam it features between its pages, is thin and ultimately forgettable.
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218 of 271 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2013
Firstly - kudos to Mr King. As one of his early works The Shining has a mythical status of a classic from an era of horror that once was. Penning a sequel decades later is a challenge I don't envy.

So the inevitable comparison: Dr Sleep is much more modern than The Shining, a sort of supernatural adventure, coming of age, redemption tale mixed into one. Where The Shining was the quintessential insanity inducing haunted hotel story, Dr Sleep reads more like a superhero story rather than an out and out horror.

In common both tales are heavy on the gross style of scares (although that could be said about almost all Stephen King novels) and hinge strongly on the theme of violence caused by unnaturally induced insanity.

The beginning of Dr Sleep was by far the strongest part of the book. King initially brings us up to speed on Dan Torrance, then introduces Abra as a next generation 'Shiner.' While the first few chapters lack a sense of direction and tension, just the vivid experiences of Dan's recovery and Abra's struggling family are enough to carry the novel, and when the True Knot are introduced they are freaking creepy.

Somewhere about the middle of the book things started to stagnate, Dan's alcoholism becomes more of a token flaw as opposed to an important part of the story. Abra's difficulties with her psychic power are largely tamed, and the conclusion feels like the end of a lesser B grade action flick, it seems Mr King was too timid to hit us with a tragic or at least traumatizing finale and let things end without surprise or unfortunately any excitement.

In total Dr Sleep is a good book, but will likely be remembered as just another Stephen King book rather than an equally classic piece as its predecessor.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2013
Having been a Stephen King fan for almost 40 years, I may be a little more critical than most. But, I believe King missed the mark with grown up Danny Torrance. Aside from the "shining," there was nothing connecting the younger and older Danny. Also, could never truly see the True Knot as a threat. I could not shake my image of them as polyester-wearing, Bingo-playing seniors. They never really scared me. Also, King has a habit if rushing the ending. (See Pet Semetary.) He did it again here--taking an easy way out. Definitely not one of his best.
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142 of 180 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2013
Apparently I'm in the minority when it comes to being very disappointed with this book. I've read a great deal of King's work, and consider the Dark Tower series to be his best. I re-read The Shining immediately before Doctor Sleep was released, and was eager to resume the story of Danny Torrance. I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I got was an overblown AA story (Danny's a drunk just like his daddy was -- surprise, surprise) filled with useless (and distracting) pop culture references (Amy Winehouse? Really?) in what I can only assume is an attempt by King to stay current, one-dimensional characters, a predictable plot, and cartoonish, extremely non-scary vampires for villains who may well have been the Night Flier's bastard offspring, only they putter along in RV's instead of a Cessna.

The dialogue was terrible, particularly between Dan and Abra. One moment she's an innocent adolescent and the next she's swearing like she's on shore leave. I hated the True Knot -- they were about as ridiculous as their goofy pirate names. Usually King is excellent at creating an atmosphere within his novels, a sense of foreboding, and a real fear of the villains he's created. Doctor Sleep has none of that. It drags on for more than 500 agonizing pages and the big showdown between Abra and Rose was trite and predictable. I didn't care about any of the characters because, with the exception of Dan, Rose, and Abra, I could hardly tell them apart.

There's nothing here. Imagine your own ending for Danny Torrance, because he deserves a better story than this. Save your time and money for something else. King will continue to churn out 500-page tomes and people will continue to buy them because he wrote them. But for the first time in my thirty-odd years, I will not be among them. This once-constant reader is done.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 4, 2013
Back in the late 1970s I read my first King novel, "The Shining". It was absolutely fabulous; I read the entire book in one sitting, on a dark and stormy night (literally!). It scared the bejesus out of me. I loved it!

Back in those days he was in top form, and came out with a panoply of excellent books. "It", "The Stand", "Salem's Lot", "Dead Zone", "The Tommyknockers", etc.

But as time went on, the scary fire in his novels started to dim, especially as he started into the non-horror efforts. I felt his works were becoming more hit and miss, and the level of horror and fright factor seemed to be fading. They often lost focus, or became meandering and tedious. Not always, but more and more often. I started skipping some of them altogether.

When I read that this book was coming out and that it was a sequel to one of my absolute favorites, "The Shining", I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and pre-ordered it (from the competition, I have to admit).

Well... this book just goes to show that some things should be simply left where they were.

The end of "The Shining" left us with an image of the young boy and his mother having barely survived the catastrophe at the Overlook, and young Dan and his mentor in the skill of shining - Dick Hallorann - having established a lasting relationship that one simply knows will go on forever.

Only to find out in this book that Dan turned into a drunk and a lout, and his mother slid into a low-rent life of self-pity.

Okay, that's not good, but that doesn't prevent the book from building from that basis into something taking the essential elements of "The Shining" and incorporating them into the current story. I can see where that may have led to a fascinating sequel in itself. A story of salvation and rehabilitation. Which King actually attempts here, I think.

Problem is, this book just doesn't have the necessary elements to carry it off.

First of all, if I hear one more thing about Alcoholics Anonymous any time within the next week, I'm just gonna barf. Enough, already! Dan's a drunk. Got it. MOVE ON.

King mentions in his Afterword that he was a boozer. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad AA worked for you. That doesn't mean the rest of us want to be bored to tears with an almost endless recitation of AA trivia and dogma.

Worse yet, the horror aspects aren't really ... well... horrifying. It seemed like he was trying to recapture certain plot stylings of "The Stand", what with cross-country nemeses being psychically aware of each other and ultimately crossing the country for a final confrontation. But boy, it simply does NOT work in this book.

What did work were the parts that focused on the young girl protagonist Abra, a fascinating character. But protagonist Dan was, once again, needlessly and unfortunately diluted by all the AlAnon preachifying, to the point that it was way past annoying. And more unfortunately, the antagonists, the True Knot, were simply... pedestrian. Easily killed, it turns out. Where was the sense of impending doom, the sense of almost invincible paranormal power that makes them memorable? Or at least formidable?

Nowhere to be seen.

For me, this was a vastly disappointing book. A very generous 2 stars.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2013
As someone who was riveted to 11/22/63, I just can't get into this one. King's books have never been for the faint of heart, but in this one he seems to wallow in grime. Every time I pick it up, I want to bathe afterwards.

I'm not that far into it, and maybe there will eventually be enough of a payback that the beginning will be worth it. But right now I'm not seeing it. If things change, I'll amend this -- gladly. I've always been a King fan, and it pains me to loathe one of his books. Heck, it pains me to even mildly dislike one of his books.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2013
You know you are in the hands of a master storyteller when you start a book at 7 a.m., before breakfast, and suddenly realize 150 pages later that you have been reading for three hours and that you have not yet eaten anything and that you are still in your pajamas. This was my experience.

No matter what literary and/or intellectual pretensions you may have, I challenge anyone to quit reading this novel after 20 or 30 minutes. The action and characters suck you in so that it is almost impossible to stop reading. I read a great many novels at varying levels of literacy and enduring values, and my opinion is that Stephen King (when at his best) tells the most absorbing stories among modern writers.

This is the story of Dan Torrance, the little boy in The Shining, when he is all grown up and has hit rock bottom in his attempt through alcohol to block remembrance and feeling. After tentatively eluding the demon of addiction through AA, Dan has come to be a valued employee of a hospice residence as Doctor Sleep, capable of guiding the dying to a peaceful end. Then he is contacted by Abra, a young girl with even more capability of "shining" than he ever had, and he is drawn into conflict with the True Blood, a group of semi-immortals who feed vampire-like off of children, not from their blood but from of the essence of their "shining," their paranormal abilities.

In less capable hands, this could be only a suspenseful and scarey story of good versus evil, but King makes it much more.

It's about family--dysfunctional families, loving families, families formed without regard for blood connection. And it's about inheritance--what comes to us through genetics and what we choose to do about our inherited tendencies.

And it's about substance addiction and Alcoholics Anonymous and its ability to help those who have trouble helping themselves. Those familiar with Stephen King's life story can readily see that this part, at least, is reflective of his life experience.

In addition to moving along his suspenseful story, King inserts numerous little asides which seem to be such true aphorisms that one is tempted to be believe that they are folk sayings. For example: "Your mind was a blackboard. Booze was the eraser."; and "When you couldn't sleep, when you were afraid to look around because of what you might see, time elongated and grew sharp teeth"; and "She was eighty-five and her sleep was as thin as her skin."; and "...the good thing about being old is that you don't have to worry about dying young."

An additional plus: King's narratives of the guidance of Dan Torrance as he assists dying patients are especially perceptive. They are tear-worthy, but more importantly they seem true.

For Stephen King fans who were looking for scarey, this one is not that frightening, but still you will never look at an RV park in the same way again. It is more theme-driven and contemplative than designed to provide chills in the night. I consider it to be one of King's best ever.
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55 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2013
I am floored by the number of people who gave this book positive reviews.

Mr. King has written some books that I have truly enjoyed. He has also written some real clunkers. In my opinion, he has always been a writer in dire need of an editor who won't suck up.

Someone just should have nixed this whole book. It is just a bad book. The characters are poorly written. They are one-dimensional, amateurish, and ridiculously named. I mean cringe-worthy. Abra? Really? Abba-doo? And all the vampires have cute nicknames as well. All of them. It's just stupid. It left me no possibility of suspending disbelief.

And the AA stuff? Good Lord, I felt like I had been jumped by a pack of Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm happy if AA helped, but keep it to yourself. It's not fun, it wasn't approached well, and I didn't find it interesting or entertaining. It was boring and repetitive and just came off as a half-assed attempt at fleshing out a poorly drawn character.

As a matter of fact, if you squint, all of the characters read the same, and are practically interchangeable. King is always at his worst when he tries to draw characters that are too far out of his range. He seems to have the most trouble with female characters and ethnic characters. He tries so hard to be sensitive, understanding and yet, entertaining, that these two types just come off as embarrassing, tokenistic cliches. He is at his worst in Dr. Sleep. The character development comes off as juvenile, pretentious, self indulgent and babyish.

The plot? Not compelling. Parts of the novel are so over-written, I can only feel that somewhere in there King realized how badly the book sucked and was trying to pull out all the stops to recover from it. It never works. Once again, a good editor should have told him the truth, and at the very least whittled it down to a crappy short story.

Again, I am befuddled that there is even one good review, let alone thousands. Like I said earlier, I think Mr. King has written some great books, right alongside of some dreadful crap. If you loved The Shining, Misery, Thinner, The Long Walk, Pet Semetary, The Gunslinger, and Dead Zone, skip this book. It will just piss you off.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2013
I`ve noticed a trend lately with Mr. King. His new books start out well. You could even be fooled after reading the first couple chapters of Doctor Sleep into thinking this was actually a sequel to The Shining, rather than a completely unrelated dull project that King slightly modified in order to market it as a sequel.

We catch up with Danny, Wendy and Dick in the aftermath of the Overlook, and at first it felt like a smooth transition. Then, we fast forward several years and Danny is a pathetic drunk who`s sleeping with random ladies, puking on turds and stealing money from purses. It`s almost comical, but at least Danny has some character here and is forced to make difficult moral decisions. He feels kind of real.

And from here, all the early momentum breaks apart. Danny goes through rehab, we read through chapters and chapters of AA meetings, most of which can be removed and would have absolutely no effect on the book. Yes, Jack Torrance was an alcoholic, I get that. But in The Shining, we saw how it played out, how it strained his marriage and his job, and eventually his own sanity. In Danny`s case, he starts out a loser (briefly) but then goes to his meetings and all ends up well for him. It`s basically King writing about his own experiences as an alcoholic in recovery.

Which is one of the biggest problems for me. Perhaps I`ve read too much of Stephen King`s novels and essays at this point, but while reading this book I just feel like I`m inside of Stephen King`s head. Kind of like Rose "The Hat" (groan) gets inside of Abba-doo`s (oh god no) head, except I`m no psychic. And I want out. Everything this guy does now is paint by number and so boring.

I imagine his thought process goes like this:

Hmm... I need to make a new character. Let`s see... how about this? He lives in New England. Yes, that sounds good. Next... what does he do for a living? Oh I know! He`s a writer! And he uses a Macbook Air! Ok what else... he likes to drink beer! Yes! And he likes the Boston Red Sox!

He writes himself into every character. I think he needs to get our of his house in Maine and meet some new people... badly. Maybe try a party or something. This is especially painful when he tries to write about younger people. King loves to add pop culture to his books, but given that his knowledge of pop culture doesn`t extend beyond the 1970`s, it`s hard to believe that every twenty of thirty-something is fascinated with the Beatles and Rolling Stones. It worked before, but not so much anymore. I love classic rock as much as anyone, but let`s get real. Times change.

Characters are dull and interchangeable, villains aren`t scary. Pretty much every scene involving Rose The Hat was sexualized in some way. I`m no prude, but does she need to be nude, engaging in foreplay, or watching porn all the time? Okay, she`s a sexy vampire woman, yup. But does she ever do anything interesting? Can`t she and Crow Daddy just watch television or eat dinner together sometimes? Maybe go for a walk?

I`m giving this a generous two stars. King really needs to take a break, meet new people and come up with some new ideas.
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