When you're as prolific as horror writer Stephen King, you're bound to have a few misses among all the hits. After over thirty years King has released a sequel to one of his most iconic novels, The Shining. King's new novel, the weighty Dr. Sleep, follows Danny Torrance--now going by Dan--as he bottoms out in his alcohol addiction and builds a new life for himself working in a hospice. Another part of the novel follows Abra, a young girl gifted and cursed with the shining, whose plot eventually collides with Dan's. With very little content that seems to link this book directly with King's famed novel, it seems a stretch to consider this a sequel. With a grown man that barely resembles the troubled tot in the original work, the novel has its thrills, but ultimately lacks in lacking substance.
King's villains are some of his most iconic characters. In Dr. Sleep he introduces us to a group known as the True Knot, led by the exquisitely beautiful Rose the Hat. The Knot, as they're known, are a group of immortals that thrive on sucking the lives out of children--specifically children with the shining. This group has been around for thousands of years, and has the ability to sense the shining from great lengths. Why they wouldn't have picked up on the very powerful Danny in the original text shows just how much the two novels disconnect. And despite spending most of the novel hyping Rose's powers and setting her up to be one of King's strongest villains ever, the inevitable showdown lacks the tension from King's greater works.
The novel might have worked as an independent piece focusing on Abra. Sure, we've seen the psychic wunderkind before--it's a fairly common theme in King's work. It's worked well for him in the past, and seeing the little girl overpower an ancient group of baddies would have made for much more exciting, nail-biting reading.
Ultimately, the novel is very enjoyable as you read, but upon finishing it feels less than its parts. King's writing is solid from page to page, and his characters are always excellent. Some poor plotting and an underwhelming villain make this less a sequel than a bastard child to the iconic original.
You can find Stephen King's Dr. Sleep at your local chain bookstore, online or at an independent bookstore near you (click here for a list). You can also download the eBook to your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other reading device.