Twenty-seven years after its publication, The Shining remains a visceral, gripping read that showcases Stephen King's unfathomable powers to hypnotize and terrify readers, a power King had in abundance in the early stages of his career. Coming on the heels of Carrie and 'Salem's Lot, The Shining truly established King as a modern master of horror and an unequaled purveyor of a literary mirror into pop culture. If you've only seen the original movie starring Jack Nicholson, you really owe it to yourself to read the novel; Stanley Kubrick made a fine and scary movie, but he did not capture the essence of King's story, and his dramatization followed a different path than what you find in the original vision brought to life through the words of King. The more recent miniseries was more faithful to the novel, but it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that a made-for-TV dramatization is limited in terms of what it can get away with in a number of important areas. Simply put, The Shining stands just behind Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House as one of the best "haunted house" novels ever written.
The plot should be quite familiar to one and all by this point. The Torrance family embarks on a months-long retreat into complete isolation when Jack Torrance signs on to be the winter custodian of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Jack takes some personal demons with him to a hotel chock-full of malevolent, ghostly spirits; he is a recovering alcoholic who, in the last couple of years, lost his job and broke his little boy's arm in a state of drunken fury. He thinks the months alone with his wife and son will allow him to find peace - and to finally finish the play he has been working on. His long-suffering wife has some misgivings, but the only person really clued into the dreadful possibilities is his son Danny. Danny has "the shine," a gift which allows him to see and know things he cannot possibly know; it is a powerful gift which the Overlook (which really is an entity unto itself) jealously desires for itself.
As the days pass, the Overlook exerts more and more of an influence on Jack, exploiting his weaknesses, exacerbating his paranoia and persecution complex, and basically turning him into a murderous new tool at the hotel's disposal. Danny sees what is happening, although he cannot really understand much of it given his very young age. He can certainly understand the terror of the Overlook, however, as he sees images of the hotel's murderous past and very dark near future in a number of unsettling scenes interspersed throughout the novel. This is a harrowing tale of survival against incredible odds of a supernatural nature, and King brings every nuance of the story to vivid life, capturing perfectly the internalization and externalization of fear among exceedingly real, believable characters that the reader gets to know very well indeed. As has always been the case with Stephen King, it is his incomparable powers of characterization that make the supernatural elements of his story work so amazingly well. You can't help but be emotionally committed to these characters.
The Shining really isn't one of my all-time favorite Stephen King novels, but it is exceedingly well crafted and features some of the most harrowing scenes to be found in King's immense body of work. Even though I had read the novel before and was quite familiar with the story in both its literary and cinematic manifestations, I was completely caught up in the story as I re-read it - to the point that I found myself flipping the pages faster than I normally do for a novel completely new to me. When you talk about the seminal works of modern horror, you have to talk about The Shining - it's just that good a read.
on July 12, 2000
I saw the movie first, the Kubrick film with Jack Nicholson, and I thought that one was spectacular. But I am very serious when I say that the book is even better. Having read the original, terrying words straight from the pen of Stephen King, it almost makes me mad that Kubrick treated the characters so hollowly in his movie. In the movie, Jack Torrance is a man insane. In the book, Jack Torrance is a man fighting against the insanity. Wow! The characters are so real and handled so carefully, that being trapped inside the Overlook is no longer just a freaky experience. You run along with them, filled with dread, from all the horrible personifications of evil inside the hotel's awful walls. There were several times where I actually dropped the book and was too scared to pick it back up. Intellectually, you know it's not real. It's just a bunch of letters and words grouped together on pages. Still, whenever I go into the bathroom late at night, I have to pull back the shower curtain just to make sure.
on January 8, 2003
Stephen King has been called a great many things. The Master of Horror Fiction. Fascinating. Frightening. Hypnotic. Demonic. Tremendous. Spellbinding. His own bio blurb refers to himself as the "world's best selling novelist." One critic has even gone so far as to speculate that Stephen King is our era's Charles Dickens. Anyone who has read King would probably agree he's a writer with a tremendous range, a genius-level vivid imagination, and an understanding of human emotions both simple and yet rarely matched.
The Shining is probably his best known novel and of the first twenty or so novels that he wrote, and it seems to me the one he wrote at his happiest. He wrote part of it at the Stanley Hotel near Estes Park, Colorado when he was young enough not to be a commodity and old enough to know what the hell he was doing. Compared to The Dead Zone, Cujo, Pet Semetary, Misery it just seems like a book he enjoyed writing more than any of the other early works. The irony is that The Shining has become synonomous with horror fiction.
And that's the way "The Shining" works on you. Jack Torrance is a flawed man with a drinking problem, a violent temper, but a sense of humor and a genuine love for his wife and child. He's a guy we want to root for! And that's why his descent into madness is so powerful. (and so chilling) To some degree, we all can relate to him.
Room 217. The Overlook. Grady. The hedge animals. The isolation. And the shining. All of these devices work so well together in the novel that it's hard not to picture Stephen King writing this thing at points -- a maniacal captain aboard a hotel trip into hell. The guy just gets a kick out'a writing and as simple as that sounds it's actually kind of rare in this world.
Enough can't be said of the creative power King exhibits in The Shining. I'm sure scholars have already begun studying the "role of Wendy" as a modern woman and the "psychological trauma of Danny" etc. etc., and scholarly work on "The Shining" will probably continue long after we've all kicked off this earth. That's the world we live in.
The novel is not without its flaws. At times, Danny thinks more like a thirty-year-old man writing as a five-year-old boy than a de facto five-year-old boy. At times, The Shining is melodramatic. The character Wendy might have been a more fully realized character. But for a "flawed" novel, it is -- to me -- the most thoroughly READable flawed novel I've ever read.
I highly recommend "The Shining" to damn near anyone who enjoys reading and, of course, I hope this review is helpful to you.
Thanks so much.
Author of CLAWS available for 80 cents
on July 11, 1998
Untill this book I had never been afraid of what I read. But Stephen King made it. "The shining" is thrilling since the beginning to the very last page. It's the story of an ex-teacher thrown out of his job for beating up a student. But the life of Jack Torrance is a complete mess. Not only he's unemployed, he's also a drunk. And in between he's got to take care of his wife and his enigmatic son, Danny. Ah, almost forgot: he has a dream of writing this masterpiece script, a book that will reach the top of the bestselling list. How he can do all this? His companion in booze and master offers him a job as a caretaker of a famous hotel in Colorado during the winter season. The Overlook Hotel is famous not only because of its great view of the country, but for his shaky story. Built early in the century, it has passed through various owners, all faded with bankruptcy, Mafia murders and scandals. The present time of the story is the first year in many that the account books aren't closed in read ink. And Jake has to keep the integrity of the place during the long winter. It's the oportunity he asked for. Now he's got time for his family and his script. But... His son Danny has some special gifts, discovered when he arrives at the Overlook and meets the old black cooker and is told that he has "The shining". A power to view what other people can't normally see. That usually is something very nice, if you know how to use it in your favor. But that's something hard for a five-year old. And when the powerful forces that hide in the shadows of the Overlook decide to play with your gift, the long and easy winter may turn into a white-snow nightmare. Stephen King was able to create some very complex characters. Jake is a booze addict with a very hard past relationship with his folks, and his tendence is to loose it with his family. His behavior gets worse when he discovers the history of the Hotel in some newspapers at the basement, and what happened to the last winter caretaker. ! Danny is the central point of the plot. The Overlook uses him to "comunnicate" with the Torrance family, using his shine against him. Danny can see with his eyes all the terrible things that took place in the hotel. Wendy is the powerless wife, sees his husband loose his mind, take it over her son, and has her hands stoped with fear. Her construction is also very complex, even if it's hard to see. She has ger own family problems and loves her husband too much to do something against him. But when it comes to Danny... She transforms into the main character and her actions give road to the continuity of the story. But the most vivid and terrible part of the book is played by the Hotel Overlook... HIMself! Yes, I think that we can make it into a person, for he thinks, decides what to do, has a past background, everything that a real person would have. Because, in fact, he's the personality and the will of Stephen King. He overlooks his entire work, his imaginary Boulder, his characters and his plots. Only a writer like him could imagine the scenes with the grass animals. "The shining" is a unique piece of writing. Among King's works, it's only compared with the grandeur of "The stand".
on September 22, 2013
So I re-read The Shining over this weekend (21st/22nd Sept 2013) in preparation for Dr Sleep - the sequel - which landed on my doorstep on Saturday morning, all shining (pun intentional) and new. Reading The Shining first seemed appropriate and was like having the best homework assignment ever!
Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a `shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.
Do you know I adore Stephen King novels and yet I hate reviewing them - why? Because each time I just want to yell "Its brilliant damn it, its King. Just read the darn thing you don't need to know anymore!". In fact the temptation to leave it at that and just go and dive headlong into the next part of Danny's story is a burning need right down in my reading soul right now but hey, I'll squash that and do my best...
Stephen King. Words are his Power. Yes they really are - now I'm aware that he is not universally loved, and even many of his constant readers have been disappointed in his later novels, but that isnt the case for me. They have all held me captive for the entire reading experience. Yes, even the much maligned "Cell". The Shining of course, is an older release and generally well loved by fans of Mr King, so for them I can't say anything they don't already know...
For those of you who have not yet dipped a toe into the weird and wonderful world of King, this may well be a good place to start. It is one of his better novels (yes even me, unapologetic fangirl that I am, will say that some of his books are better than others). Its a haunting tale - haunting because Danny is haunted and he is just a child. A child who will have to grow up before his time and understand what he is seeing, feeling and hearing, in order to survive whats coming...
The creeping sense of menace that pervades the pages of "The Shining" starts immediately. Mr King does not molly coddle his audience - despite the rather mundane situation Danny is in when we first meet him (sitting on a kerb, waiting for his Dad to return from a job interview) we immediately become aware that he is different..not your average 5 year old boy. Oh no indeed.
I expect you have all seen the film. Jack Nicholson rocked that movie, but it wasnt The Shining. Not really - not for me. The Shining is a tense, creeping, emotional tale that grabs you by the throat and will not let go....the sudden "shocks" of the horror movie version will not happen here...but slowly and surely you will feel more and more nervous. Hedge animals. Aaargh! I'm hiding. No really I am....keep that axe proof duvet handy...
The Overlook Hotel sneaks up on you...what it hides behind its facade would affect the most mentally stable of people and Jack Torrance, Danny's father, could never be described as such. As he descends further into the mire, the sense of apprehension is tangible...clever clever writing.
So I loved it. No surprise there. This must be the fourth or fifth time I have read it and its still as terrific as ever and still compels me to read every word and not skip a thing. Ok. Thats the best I can do. I hope it helps. Now...Doctor Sleep is calling....
Happy Reading Folks!
on June 27, 2006
Warning: some spoilers ahead
I'm sure it's been said by countless other reviewers, but this book does in fact provide a far more nuanced and compelling portrait of the main character Jack Torrence than the famous and unforgettable 1980 Stanley Kubrick screen adapatation would suggest.
I like what King said in his own recent comments on the book-what made the book truly interesting was the idea that Torrence goes insane from a combination of factors-not just a haunted hotel but his own inner demons. That is suggested in the movie, but my impression is that in the movie Nicholson plays Torrence as someone already on the edge and there is no implication that he had deep love for his family, also no mention of his own abuse at his father's hands. It's hard to feel that he suddenly went from loving Shelley Duvall to hating her-he seems to have hatred toward her in the beginning of the movie. The movie works, of course, and has become so iconic it is hard to read this book without thinking of it, but it is very different from the book, enough so to be someone else's story.
This is a major problem with the movie and what makes the book so much more effective, moving, and tragic-in the book Torrence truly loves his wife and son and that makes his descent into madness more frightening and depressing.
This is really King's gift, to tie horror to recognizable reality and family life, to express some of our own deepest fears through terrifying metaphors, and he does it very well here. It's also, like most of his books, very exciting and a good page turner.
I especially appreciated his character Dick, the African American cook, for some reason in the movie this character was far less important or appealing. In the book he has real warmth, compassion, intelligence, and a sense of humor-and he doesn't die, unlike in the movie (I wanted to point that out, that's why I warned of spoilers). I think that's important-he's a survivor, like Danny.
His story makes the entire novel more interesting and I'm not sure why they made him sort of an idiot in the movie although I could speculate. I'm sure this isn't true of the 1997 Stephen Weber/Rebecca DeMornay version, since it is said to be closer to King's original vision, but I have yet to see that. Another positive point of the book is that they give more background to the ghosts, whereas in the Kubrick movie they just show up (e.g., naked elderly woman in tub). It's scarier if we know their stories, and King tells us them.
It was a good read, but if I had some criticism it would be that it dragged on at times and sometimes got too verbose. King is a very talented writer and very interesting to read but he does tend to veer off into certain overly verbose passages that make my eyes glaze over. But it's a 600+ page book, and about 400 pages are great, so who are we to complain? Definitely worth the read even if you've seen the movie, is the point.
on October 30, 2014
I finally read this book. It is sooo good! It has so many eerie moments that gave me goosebumps. I can only find time to read before bed, so you can imagine how those nights were for me. I had the feeling that someone was watching!
The characters are impossible not to love. Danny is sweet, and very kept to himself. He understands way too much for such a young kid, and you can't help but feel sorry for him and this gift he has, which in that Hotel is a curse. He was so well crafted with this mix of maturity and innocence. He is perfect!
Jack Torrance is a troubled man who is trying to put his life back together. But he is sincere in his efforts and loves his family, especially Danny. You can tell he is doing his best. He had so many quirks it brought him alive, and you can see how he slowly begins to give in to The Overlook (the Hotel). It is a very subtle process. His character development is the strongest. I think Mr. King created this character brilliantly!
I felt so much empathy for Wendy she is also a rather distressed woman, who is trying to do what's best for her family. She is sweet, and attentive, and her biggest concern is her child. She does have an opinion of her own regarding what is best for Danny. She is a very present mother. I loved that she believed in Danny's abilities since the beginning, and that she wasn't scared of confronting her husband. She isn't the strongest woman, I'll give you that, but considering all she's been through, she came out as such a flawed and real woman. I loved her.
Finally, the Overlook is a character of its own. You cannot tell at first, but as things start to happen, you sort of guess it. It has a mind of its own, and a personal agenda, which is in fact the scariest thing about the book.
Overall, the book is one of the best I've read ever! Seriously Mr. King you lived up to your name.
on July 5, 2000
I first read this book in 1980, at the recommendation of a coworker. I'd stayed away from Stephen King ... too popular for my advanced tastes. Anyway, I decided to take a look at the book about 10 PM (on a work night). Finished it about 7 AM the next morning. No book has ever taken over my imagination like this, before or since.
Since then, I've read all of King's work, and consider him the contemporary Dickens. But having just reread the Shining for, perhaps, the fourth time, it remains my favorite, and a modern masterpiece, in my opinion.
But I recognize this is essentially personal. I've not identified with any other character is literature as I do with Jack Torrance. I'm now more than ten years into sobriety and recovery, and I've often recommended this book to men that I sponsor. The depiction of the alcoholic personality, the combination of fear and resentment and self-pity, at war with Jack's very real love for his family and desire for goodness, is expressed in a way that makes it clear that King is writing of something he knows all too well on a personal level. Jack Torrance is one of literature's great tragic figures. I can only say, "There but for the grace of God go I."
[By the way, this is why I can't abide by Kubrick's interpretation. There's no tragedy or complexity in Nickleson's portrayal of Torrance. Kubrick's detachment from the human delemma ultimately doesn't work for me.]
I do believe that there is a coherent force/power of evil/darkness in the world, though it is not as powerful that the force/power of good/light. But I think one of King's most basic points (in all his work) is that we ignore the power of darkness at our own risk, that this is one of the real problems in the contemporary Age of Therapy. Central to the Shining is the way the force of the evil in the Hotel is able to utilize Jack's weaknesses ultimately to turn him to its purposes--to destroy what he love the most. I find this very, very realistic (viewing the supernatural stuff as kind of window dressing).
Having reached out for help in a way that the Torrance character couldn't, I'm now blessed with a life happier than I could imagine. But this book now reminds me of how much Divine Grace is involved for anyone blessed with the ability to build healthy loving relationships with those around him/her, especially family members, one day at a time.
on February 11, 2000
If you need blood and guts every few pages to stay interested in a book, you will be dissapointed. If your definition of drama is the murderous villains lengthy monologue before his final, grisly defeat, you will be dissapointed. If you're looking for a clone of the movie in book form, you will be /very/ dissapointed.
If, however, you appreciate one of those rare novels that leads you into the story step by step, immersing you with effortless grace into the world in which it occurs, a world that is, on the surface, plain and even non-descript yet brimming just beneath with murky, brooding awareness, then this one might be for you. If you appreciate full and starkly realistic characters painted in bold and brilliant strokes of emotion and personality, you may want to have a look. Finally, if you can accept Steven King as something more than "The Horrormeister", and instead as a natural story-teller who is as capable of capturing the subtles and nuances of terror as the hack and slash aspects, who can blend it perfectly into a familiar yet hauntingly awry world of ghosts darkness and ordinary people struggling against not only such mundane horrors as abuse and acoholism but horrors of a decidedly more supernatural nature, then you might be ready for this book.
I was captivated by the plight of Danny, a very unique young boy, struggling against unimaginable forces out of pure, unconditional love for his father. Likewise, Jack Torrence is not merely the bloodlusting maniac of the movie, but a man who is hounded by his alcoholism, all the way into the heart of the Colorado Rockies where he attempts to come to terms with his personal ghosts and heal the rift that is threatening to pull his family apart. Despite his best efforts, however, the sinister awareness that has infested the Overlook, an awareness birthed by years of murder and tragedy, slowly twists him to it's evil ends in a heart-breaking struggle of wills.
This book is full of disturbingly memorable imagery, moments of slow and creeping terror that will keep you turning pages deep into the night. The ending is a satisfying as it is tragic, bringing the grisly drama to a gut-wrenching climax and exorcising the tortured prisoners of the Overlook in a curtain of purifying flame.
As King books go, this is one of his finest. As far as any book goes, this is one of the scariest I've ever read.
on May 15, 2006
This is the first book by Stephen King I have read, and if the quality of writing on offer here is anything to go by, it sure as hell won't be the last. This isn't just a high point of the horror genre; "The Shining" could well be one of the best works of fiction seen in our time.
The Shining is a work of brilliance in almost every possible way, in plot, characterisation and atmosphere. The fact that there are only three major characters (well, four towards the end) would make you think that the story would be a little slow to get off the ground. However, Stephen King incorporates so many layers into his writing - Jack and Wendy's ailing marriage, Jack's alcoholism, Danny's "gift"... the list is near endless - that "The Shining"'s grip on you never lets up. The suspense present in the writing is omnipresent, and only grows stronger and stronger as the story goes on. The sense of isolation present in the Overlook gives the Shining its near-tangible atmosphere. As the reader, you are bound to become paranoid, always looking over your metaphorical shoulder for something just out of sight. King's style and lushly descriptive writing can make even remotely unusual events chill you to the bone. And what's more is that you are well rewarded for sticking with the story: "The Shining" has, in it's pages given me the kind of scares that I previously didn't think were possible to get from a book.
And amidst all of this atmosphere, King doesn't compromise on characterisation. On the contrary, Wendy, Jack and Danny are three of the most three-dimensional, inately human characters I've ever had the pleasure to read about. Jack in particular was an interesting one. Seeing his progression from loving father and husband to a malevolent killer, due to the seduction of both his alcoholism and the supernatural forces at work in the Overlook, was a fascinating experience. There is an obvious parallel between Jack and Shakespeare's Macbeth, a famous literary character. Both were basically good people, but both were moulded into something evil by outside forces, ultimately leading to their demise. Wendy and Danny are both interesting to read about too: Wendy playing the role of the protective mother and suspicious wife, Danny the role of a child who'se eyes have seen things someone his age should never have to. All fit their roles like a glove thanks to King's subtle writing and cleverly event based character development.
And even amidst all of this atmosphere and character building, King never becomes lost in needless description the way a lesser author would. He keeps events in the Overlook moving at just the right pace; not so fast that the reader can see what's coming, yet not so slow that we can't see that the situation in the Overlook is growing progressively worse.
OK, I can see that by this point I'm probably just rambling. Even so, I've barely scratched the surface of "The Shining"'s excellence. It's harsh, dark, and sometimes terrifyingly suffocating, and yet still lush and inately human. I honestly can't reccomend it enough, and I'm certain that it will live on as a classic in generations to come. Praise be to Stephen King.