When I was at summer camp between 7th and 8th grade, a friend told me that she was reading The Shining, a book I had never heard of, by some guy from Maine named Stephen King (please note, I am super old, so this was when King was sort-of-famous, but not yet a global literary force to be reckoned with). I loved Maine and I loved to read, so I immediately got on board and read this book in about 2 days and very, very long nights. And I was hooked. That same summer, I read The Stand, Salem’s Lot, Pet Semetary, and Carrie. And I was hooked. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written ever since.
Last year, I had the chance to go see King speak nearby. He talked about the changing publishing industry and he talked a lot about himself and how his writing had changed over the years, and how he was trying to get back to basics. And then he gave a reading from his upcoming sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. Wouldn’t it be cool, he said, if we had a chance to peek in on Danny Torrence’s life right now, and see what became of him? Find out what kind of man he was?
And the answer is yes. It was pretty cool.
Whatever was “wrong” with King’s writing in the early 2000s has clearly been fixed. Remember Duma Key, Lisey’s Story, Dreamcatcher, Cell, and the horrible, awful Song of Susannah? The stories were pretty good, but the endings. My god, the endings. Terrible. Under the Dome? WORST OFFENDER OF THEM ALL. He simply could not end a story.
And then, he went and published some more short stories (always his forte), a short Dark Tower novella, Joyland, and 11/22/63. And he really nailed the ending with those last two, and all was right in the world again.
And luckily, I think Doctor Sleep continues on that path. The story was good — yes, thanks, Stephen, it was interesting to see what kind of man Danny had become — and the ending worked. Of course, I did have a few “meh” moments. TEENY TINY SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. For one, I thought it was too long (a familiar complaint with King, I’m sure). And secondly, I admit, I think King was a bit soft when it came down to the “big battle” section of the story. Old Stephen, like Joss Whedon, would have killed off a few of the supporting good guys (our favorites, of course), and thought nothing of it. But this time, everyone I pegged as a potential sacrifice for the greater good made it out alive. I definitely thought Doctor Dave and old Billy would be casualties of the fight with the True Knot, and was seriously surprised to find them more or less alive and well at the end.
I know not everyone here in Cannonball land agrees with me — looks like reviews of this have been fairly divided. But I really enjoyed it, and devoured it over the course of a weekend. Which, when you have three little kids, birthday parties, homework, sports, etc to manage, is actually quite a feat.