I was a huge Stephen King fan when I was a teenager. I think Dead Zone was my first, which absolutely scared the beejeezus out of me, and then I slowly worked my way through the lot – always finding something new at the library or a secondhand bookshop. I always had a preference to the novels I read back in the heyday – Salem’s Lot, Christine, The Shining, It… Some of the later novels weren’t really my cup of tea, so I stopped seeking them out. But hearing that Doctor Sleep was a sequel to The Shining was enough to get me back on track, and this book is absolute classic King.
Doctor Sleep is the story of Danny Torrance, now a grown man. His psychic abilities – his “shine” – has lessened now that he is older, but he is still haunted by memories of his experience as a child, and embraces alcoholism in an attempt to block everything out. This of course creates new demons and Dan is in a self-destructive spiral. Now working as an orderly in a hospice, Dan uses his abilities to assist the passing of the residents, and gains the nickname Doctor Sleep.
Abra is a young girl with a very strong shine. She is being pursued by members of the True Knot, a vampire-like group who feed on “steam” which emanates from children with shine as they die. The True Knot travel constantly across the US in an RV convoy, searching for their victims. They appear as completely harmless seniors, totally escaping notice. Abra becomes aware of them and reaches out to Dan to help her.
Because this is a Stephen King book, there is obviously a whole lot more than that going on. This is a fast paced book that really sweeps you along. There is a real sense of peril, compelling characters and great dialogue. I loved a couple of the throwaway references to other books – nicely played. I’ve read a lot of negative reviews about this novel, basically coming down to the fact that this isn’t as good as The Shining. To me, I think that I have a sense of nostalgia about all of King’s early novels that will always make them seem to be the classics, but I did find this to be an enjoyable read.