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Sleeping Beauties: A Novel Hardcover – September 26, 2017
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“Stephen King and son team up for a beauty of a horror tale [that is] epic, ambitious, heartbreaking and, when it comes to its central horrors, all too timely. Sleeping Beauties melds the elder King’s talent for exploring the darker sides of human nature when people are thrust into terrifying situations with his youngest son’s gift for juggling multiple genres and complex characters. The final chapters bring all their skills together in a fast-paced, explosive finale and emotional aftermath. A thought-provoking work that examines a litany of modern-day issues.”-- USA Today
“It’s a violent, dystopian thrill ride that will leave you horrified– and hooked.”--People
“Entertaining. . . Sleeping Beauties is a bulging, colourful epic; a super-sized happy meal, liberally salted with supporting characters and garnished with splashes of arterial ketchup. This epic feels so vital and fresh.”-- The Guardian
“King fans who enjoy his blunt language and vivid gore will find lots to like.”-- Associated Press
“A fast-paced thriller [that is] ambitious and sympathetic, Sleeping Beauties is both a love letter to women everywhere and an incisive look at what drives men to violence, neatly wrapped in enough fantasy elements to soften the more caustic edges of the commentary. From “Carrie” to “Dolores Claiborne” to “Lisey’s Story” and beyond, Stephen King’s compassion for women is an identifying characteristic of much of his work, and “Sleeping Beauties” continues the trend. The Kings have created deeply textured women to populate their book.”-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Sleeping Beauties is an ambitious work that combines some age-old Stephen King themes with a distinctly sci-fi premise. Sleeping Beauties is no “take your kid to work” project on Stephen King’s behalf. Owen King is an accomplished author in his own right, and their collaboration reflects positively on both. No matter which King was tapping the keys, readers will enjoy a riveting novel with plenty of characters to root for, and to root against … and, in another King trademark, to root both for and against.”-- Bangor Daily News
“This delicious first collaboration between Stephen King and his son Owen is a horror-tinged realistic fantasy that imagines what could happen if most of the women of the world fall asleep, leaving men on their own. The authors’ writing is seamless and naturally flowing. Once the action begins, [SLEEPING BEAUTIES] barrels along like a freight train.”-- Publishers Weekly
“Another horror blockbuster, Mercedes and all, from maestro King and his heir apparent…In a kind of untold Greek tragedy meets Deliverance meets—well, bits of Mr. Mercedes and The Shawshank Redemption, perhaps—King and King, father and son, take their time putting all the pieces into play: brutish men, resourceful women who've had quite enough, alcohol, and always a subtle sociological subtext, in this case of rural poverty and dreams sure to be dashed…A blood-splattered pleasure.”-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Following the renewed interest in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and an increasing climate of wolf-whistle politics, this examination of gender stereotypes, systems of oppression, and pervasive misogyny within American culture feels especially timely…The large cast of characters allows for a multitude of narrative perspectives—from both the affected women and the men they’ve left behind. Violent, subversive, and compulsively readable. The true horror of this father-son-penned novel derives more from its unflinchingly realistic depiction of hatred and violence against women than from the supernatural elements.”-- Library Journal
“The novel provides enough action, thrills and humor to keep readers burning the midnight oil....There’s comfort to be found in tales such as this... Sleeping Beauties is a well-tooled horror thriller, a worthy venture from a productive family business.” —San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Sleeping Beauties (co-written with his son Owen King), End of Watch, the short story collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Finders Keepers, Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and now an AT&T Audience Network original television series), Doctor Sleep, and Under the Dome. His novel 11/22/63—a recent Hulu original television series event—was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures. He is the recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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Unfortunately, Stephen and his son, Owen King, just didn't live up to my expectations and hopes. While the premise is incredible, I found the execution to be sorely lacking. This book is a slog. It's slow, and the majority of its 700 pages present an awful lot of leaves to be bored by. This sucker is jam-packed with characters, most of them one-note and forgettable, while others are simply uninteresting. Dr. Norcross, for instance - one of the lead male figures and prison psychologist (an Appalachian women's correctional facility is the main locale for the majority of Sleeping Beauties), Norcross has a heck of a backstory with his youth spent in the foster care system. The events that have shaped and built his life are wildly intriguing, but the adult we're presented with is pretty damn dull, and his marriage is on the rocks thanks to some half-baked and cliched marital melodrama the Kings tossed in. I might have found to reason to care about the slippery slope the Norcross's marriage was sliding down, but frankly I didn't much care for his wife, Lila, the town sheriff, either.
King (Stephen, at least; I haven't read any of Owen's work previously) is a master at building memorable characters, and yet I struggled to find any reason to sympathize or care about any of the what felt like hundreds of names dropped into this sucker. Even the central antagonist, Evie Black, with her cell phone video game obsession, penchant for sleeping above the covers, and Biblical fantasy roots, is a pale threat. If you're looking for personalities like Stuttering Bill, Roland, Pennywise, or Leeland Gaunt, you'll be sorely disappointed. I doubt Sleeping Beauties will be making its way to the top of legendary King titles anytime soon. Instead, it's more redolent of lesser King works, particularly Under the Dome, which I hated. But while Dome felt an awful lot like a remix of better, more memorable King hits, Sleeping Beauties merely feels redundant, hitting on a lot of the same derivative elements. It's a better book than Under the Dome to be sure, but once the women of the world start falling asleep and chaos ensues, Appalachia feels almost identical to Chester's Mill.
It's not all bad, thankfully. There are a few moments, here and there, that impressed me and convinced to stick with this book (and honestly, if it were anybody other than King, I would have quit this book pretty damn early on). Without spoiling too much, the polar opposites between Appalachia and Our Place were really well done; as one world burns, another is built, and those moments were intriguing as all get out. The nature of the cocoons enshrouding the sleeping women, and what happens when their sleep is disturbed, presented some fantastic moments of horror. And the last hundred pages or so showed the Kings hadn't forgotten to put some gas in the tank after all, giving us some pretty solid action to wrap everything up.
I've seen other reviewers comment on this novels' political nature and how the Kings were standing up on a soapbox. It's not an impression I walked away with, but this is a book about the sexes and what happens when the balance between men and women is significantly altered. The disparity between sexes is inherently political, but I never found this book to be extreme in its presentation of political ideas one way or another. Frankly, if Stephen and Owen had been more polemic Sleeping Beauties might have been way more interesting for it. As it stands, it's merely tepid at best.
1) I always get a kick out King's collaborative works. When you read a copious quantity of books by the same author over several years, you really become familiar with the variations of that autjor's narritibe voice in your head. This is why I think it's so much fun to try and tease out the places where King's voice is unquestionably there and the places where someone new and unfamiliar has stepped into the old story telling circle. Owen's contributions certainly add a new texture to the experience and my only complaint is that so would like to hear more from m him and get a chance to know his unique groove a little better. (It slays me how how much writing talent this family has!)
2) Yes, this book follows specific King narrative shape or formula that will be very familiar to his fans- the old "oh my god that's a deliciously disturbing conflict and now here's 400 pages of 'the shit's hitting the fan' followed by heroics and tragedy for a huge cast of messed of characters all presented in this freaky epic suspense melodrama" yup, that one. I happen to be really crazy about that exact genre of King so...this book hit the spot for me.
3) I have read some reviews about Sleepings Beauties where the reader expressed being turned off by the "politics" of the book. Maybe the all the questions about gender politics that are raised here make them uncomfortable or perhaps they find the influence of 3rd wave feminism upon their popular fiction to be distasteful...fair enough..but I would like to point out that King has never been shy about his progressive politics and reverence for the power of women. Those are themes that you pretty much need to get down with if you are going g to read King.....and Owen too apparently. (Nobody tried to sneak any subversive liberal agendas into a horror story)
WELCOME TO MY BOOKSHELF OWEN! I look forward to reading more of you and seeing you shine on your own.